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Know Your Enemy: Texas Rangers

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The Rangers were a surprise division titlist in 2015.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers increased their win total from 2014 to 2015 by nearly as many wins as the Cubs did. The Cubs were 24 wins better, the Rangers (who had a 95-loss year in 2014) won 21 more games in 2015 and won the A.L. West by two games.

They did all this without Yu Darvish and with Josh Hamilton injured much of the year and unproductive. (Hamilton's probably going to miss the start of this year, too.)

How did they do it? Prince Fielder had a nice bounce-back year. Shin-Soo Choo produced a 3.5 bWAR season and Adrian Beltre, despite posting just a .788 OPS with 18 home runs, put up 5.8 bWAR. Beltre is quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career. He's only a bit more than one year away from 3,000 hits (233 hits) and is 87 home runs short of 500. No third baseman in big-league history has ever reached both milestones.

Joey Gallo, who played high school ball against Kris Bryant in Las Vegas, has a chance to be the starting third baseman for this team. Some think he's a better hitter than Bryant. That remains to be seen.

Their second baseman, the oddly-named Rougned Odor, has a younger brother in the Rangers system. His name is also Rougned Odor. No, I am not making that up.

The Rangers recently signed Ian Desmond to play left field. Desmond, mainly a shortstop, hasn't played outfield since he played one game in right field in 2010. I have no doubt he can handle left, but he had a poor year with the bat in 2015 and he'll have to do better than that.

Darvish, returning from Tommy John surgery, has just begun throwing bullpen sessions and likely returns in late May or early June.

That will bolster a rotation led by Cole Hamels, who the Rangers acquired one start too late (for the Cubs' purposes, anyway) last summer. Colby Lewis had a solid year for Texas in 2015 and they have a solid, if somewhat no-name, bullpen led by closer Shawn Tolleson (35 saves, 1.147 WHIP) last season.

Some people are picking the Mariners to win this division but I don't see the Rangers going away easily. They'll be a contending team all season, and if Darvish returns at full strength their rotation will be very strong.

The Rangers will visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series right after the All-Star break, July 15-16-17, all day games as the schedule is currently constituted.