With the end of MLB's regular season coming next week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Texas Rangers.
What went right
• Adolis García was a human highlight film on defense and brought big power in making the All-Star Game as a 28-year-old rookie.
• First baseman Nathaniel Lowe performed at the plate as well as Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Mountcastle and Jesús Aguilar, and better than Miguel Sanó, Trey Mancini and DJ LeMahieu.
• Catchers Jonah Heim and José Trevino are among the top pitch framers in the league.
• Isiah Kiner-Falefa is second to Carlos Correa of the Astros in defensive runs saved among shortstops.
• Right-hander Kyle Gibson blossomed in his ninth big-league season and made the AL All-Star squad.
• Ian Kennedy was a shrewd free-agent acquisition who pitched well before they traded him for an interesting prospect in right-hander Spencer Howard.
What went wrong
• They've topped 95 losses for the third time since 2014, with two of the five worst seasons (by winning percentage) in franchise history happening in 2020 and 2021.
• Nick Solak had a disappointing season, batting .234/.304/.359 with 11 homers in 483 plate appearances through Wednesday. His career numbers aren't much better through 850 plate appearances.
• Willie Calhoun, still plagued by injuries, did not rebound after slugging .524 in 2019, his first full season.
• The Rangers won't be dead last in runs scored (thank you, Pirates) but they are last in the AL. Their wOBA is 30th. Their K/BB ratio is 28th. Their ISO is 28th, and that's with having Joey Gallo and García mashing for the first 100 games or so. They are tied for 24th in hard-hit rate.
• The pitching performed a little better by comparison. The Rangers aren't too far from a middle-of-the-road ERA. Their K% is near the bottom but they're not far from the top 10 in BB%. Something to build on.
Kiner-Falefa and García are elite defensive players at important positions.
Right-hander Dane Dunning posted a 4.34 ERA in 23 starts through Wednesday, as the team remained cautious with his usage following Tommy John surgery 2 1/2 years ago. Dunning no doubt looks forward to when the restrictions can be eased.
Reasons for optimism
• The farm system is looking better, improving from the top 25 to the top 10-15 (via MLB Pipeline) thanks to the draft and recent trades. Top-100 prospects Josh Jung (3B), Cole Winn (RHP), Justin Foscue (2B) and Sam Huff (C) should be ready soon, and top-15 right-hander Jack Leiter will be worth the wait.
What needs work
• Garcia slumped big time after the league got a thicker book on him. He's still among the best in exit velocity and barrels, but his chase rate and poor selectivity at the plate are in the bottom 5-10 percent of the league. His strong first-half numbers and his elite defense (he has a great chance to win a Gold Glove) give the Rangers plenty of incentive to keep working with him at the plate.
• When the Rangers traded Gallo, team president Jon Daniels was blunt about why: Because the rebuild wasn't going to happen as quickly with him as it would with the prospects he brought. So Rangers fans must wait for the system to bear more fruit. Help is on the way, but the Rangers are looking at another tough season in the standings in 2022.