Continuing the series with the other 2010 World Series team, the Texas Rangers
Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba versus Jonathan Lucroy
Torrealba is listed on the Rangers official site's depth chart as their starter at catcher but they also traded for Mike Napoli this winter, and an argument could be made that he should be the starter over Torrealba. Torrealba has been oft-praised for his great defense, and Napoli could be one of the best hitting catchers in the majors. No matter which one is playing, the Rangers production at the position should be greater than that of Jonathan Lucroy in Milwaukee.
Follow the jump for the rest.
1B: Mitch Moreland versus Prince Fielder
Prior to the 2010 season, John Sickels rated Moreland as the seventh best prospect in the Rangers system. In 173 major league at bats last year, he managed to hit .255/.364/.469 (.357 wOBA) after a career .313/.383/.509 slash in the minors over four seasons. Nonetheless, Moreland has two seasons in the minors with a wOBA over .400 (in A and A+ ball)--Fielder has two seasons over a .400 wOBA at the major league level. Moreland will be a very good hitter, but Fielder is a potential MVP candidate.
2B: Ian Kinsler versus Rickie Weeks
On Baseball-Reference, guess who Ian Kinsler's highest similarity score is? Guess who Rickie Weeks' third highest similarity score is? If you guessed they were each others, you don't win a prize! Because it was pretty obvious! But that should show you how difficult it would be to choose one player over the other. I can't even take a the easy way out by picking the younger player because they were both born in 1982. Both players have been injury prone, their career OBPs are .356 and .355, though Kinsler has a career SLG% 37 points higher than Rickie, and Kinsler has been slightly better defensively according to UZR. Last year, in 103 games, Kinsler's power fell off as he hit just 9 HR and had a .412 SLG%, however he had a career best .382 OBP. Rickie Weeks played his first full season in 2010, hitting for his second highest career OBP (.366) and second highest SLG% (.464), though his career high year came in 2009, when he only played 37 games. Kinsler has been better over his career, Weeks was better last year. So it becomes a question of which is more telling of how they'll play moving forward. Personally, I prefer Kinsler's career showing.
SS: Elvis Andrus versus Yuniesky Betancourt
Andrus is one of the bright young stars at the position--he is a wizard defensively, has blazing speed, and gets on base at a decent enough rate. His only negative, really, is his complete lack of power. Betancourt's only real positive is some pop in his bat, so I think it's clear who the choice is in this match up.
3B: Adrian Beltre versus Casey McGehee
Beltre is a long time removed from his 2004 48 home-run season, but he still has more than enough power hitting between 25-28 HR four out of five seasons beginning in 2006. He's always been a very good player, but last year was his best since that incredible 2004 with the Dodgers. With the Red Sox in 2010, he hit .321/.365/.553 and had 7.1 fWAR. Beltre is one of, if not the, best defensive third basemen in the MLB and has a career UZR/150 of 15.3 at the position. Casey McGehee, who hit .285/.337/.464 last year, has been a great surprise for the Brewers after they picked him up from the Cubs on waivers, but any Brewer fan who wouldn't trade Casey for Beltre is being ridiculous.
LF: Josh Hamilton versus Ryan Braun
Josh Hamilton's career path has been well-documented. From his career being derailed due to drug addiction ten years ago to being the 2010 AL MVP, his is a story that will probably someday be made into a movie in the vein of "Remember the Titans" and "The Blindside". Hamilton now has two full, healthy major league seasons under his belt (in 2008 and 2010) and has been outstanding in both. In 2008, he hit .304/.371/.530 for a .385 wOBA and in 2010 he hit .359/.411/.633 for an outstanding .447 wOBA. In 2007 and 2009, Hamilton was only able to play a total of 179 games. Hamilton's career line is .311/.371/.544 (.391 wOBA) and 93 total HR. Ryan Braun has a career line of .307/.364/.554 (.394 wOBA), which is very similar to Hamilton's career slash numbers. In Braun's best years in 2007 (his rookie year where he played 113 games) and 2009 he hit .324/.370/.634 and .320/.386/.551. They can both be among the best offensive players in the game, but Braun has never had a year where he came even close to the 8 fWAR Hamilton produced last year. Braun's biggest advantage is his relative health to Hamilton, though Hamilton has also been an above average defensive player in left field for the Rangers. Like I said, over their careers they have very similar numbers, but Hamilton's 2010 was unlike anything Braun has been able to do yet and, if he stays healthy, he can certainly come close to recreating those numbers.
CF: Julio Borbon versus Carlos Gomez
Two defensive minded speedsters is what we have here. In just 179 PA in his rookie 2009 season, Borbon came out and lit the world on fire, hitting .312/.376/.414, but in 468 PA last season, he hit .276/.309/.340. In his minor league career, he had always been able to maintain a fairly high OBP, so one would think that he should be better than he was last year in that department. Then again, his counterpart here, Carlos Gomez, has a career .340 minor league OBP but the highest number he's recorded in that category in the majors was last years .298. Still, in 150 fewer plate appearances in 2010, Carlos Gomez gained just .2 less fWAR than Borbon. Then again, in 170 fewer plate appearances in 2009, Borbon was worth the same amount of fWAR as Gomez. With both players being heralded defensively, I would bank on Borbon being the better of the two offensively next season. He likely won't be anywhere close the the numbers he had in 2009, but I can certainly see him being around an average .330 wOBA.
RF: Nelson Cruz versus Corey Hart
Former Brewer farmhand Nelson Cruz has flourished in Arlington, hitting 55 HR in the last two seasons, though he's only played 128 and 108 games over that span. Last year was the better (if shorter) of the two as he hit .318/.374/.576 with 22 HR. Cruz also steals his fair share of bases, with 37 in the past two years. In his career, he has a slash line of .273/.336/.502. Contrast that to Corey Hart, who has a career line of .275/.329/.483. Last season, he hit .283/.340/.525 with a career high 31 HR and 102 RBI. Hart has a -4.3 UZR/150 in RF over his career, Cruz has a 9.9 UZR/150 over his. Hart's big advantage is his playing many more games over Cruz, but in a full season from each I would prefer Cruz.
1SP: CJ WIlson versus Zack Greinke
After four years in the Rangers bullpen, where he had mixed results, Texas switched Wilson to a starting role; something he hadn't done since 2005. It's safe to say it worked out well last season as he had a 3.35 ERA and 3.56 FIP. He had a decent 7.50 K/9, but a pretty high 4.10 BB/9. He gave up less than half a home run per nine innings, and had allowed a low .266 BABIP. In addition, if I were the Rangers, I would be worried about his arm in the upcoming season. He pitched 204 innings in the regular season, than 24 more in the postseason as he helped the Rangers reach the World Series. He hadn't pitched over 100 innings since 2005, and had never pitched more than 136 innings in his career. I don't think there is any way he is as good as Zack Greinke will be for the Brewers. Greinke had a 4.17 ERA and 3.35 FIP last season, just one year removed from his amazing 2009. As I've said in the other parts of this series, he should have a renewed focus on a postseason contender. That, coupled with him moving from the AL to the NL made this an easy choice.
2SP: Colby Lewis versus Yovani Gallardo
Another player who had primarily been in the bullpen prior to 2010, he also found success in a starting role last year. In 32 starts, Lewis had a 3.72 ERA and 3.55 FIP. He had very good peripheral stats, and was worth 4.4 fWAR last season. Prior to that, he had never had an FIP under 5 in his major league career. Yovani Gallardo was outstanding last year, with a 3.84 ERA and 3.02 FIP. He also had great peripherals--he did give up more walks than Lewis, but had a lower HR rate. Gallardo was worth 4.6 fWAR in 16 fewer innings than Lewis. I can see Gallardo being even better than he was last year. I can't say the same for Lewis. Even if they stayed around the same as last season, Gallardo is the choice here.
3SP: Matt Harrison versus Shaun Marcum
Originally, Brandon Webb was penciled in for this spot but, due to another injury, he has been replaced with Matt Harrison who, ta-da!, had been used mostly out of the bullpen last year. Over his career he has a 4.87 K/9 and 3.71 BB/9. Both of those numbers were up slightly last season. Shaun Marcum had a 3.64 ERA and 3.74 FIP last season with the Blue Jays and should be even better this year, especially with the move out of the AL East. Marcum's an easy pick.
4SP: Tommy Hunter versus Randy Wolf
Hunter has actually been a starter his whole career! He doesn't strike out very many hitters, but doesn't walk very many either. Last season, he had a 1.48 HR/9. All told, he ended up with a 3.73 ERA and 4.99 FIP in 2010. He had a better 4.40 FIP in 2009, but his xFIPs were relatively similar (4.79 and 4.70) the past two seasons. Wolf also doesn't strike out many hitters, and walks more than Hunter. He also had a lower FIP (4.85) and higher xFIP (4.90) last year. Both his ERA (3.23) and FIP (3.96) were under four in 2009. They were worth the same fWAR last season, though Hunter pitched almost 88 fewer innings. Hunter is only going to be 24 years old and has a better chance to see a big improvement, so I'll take him.
5SP: Derek Holland versus Chris Narveson
Holland was one of the Rangers top prospects and has been outstanding in the minors. He wasn't met with much success in 2009 when he pitched in 33 games (21 starts) and had a 6.12 ERA and 5.10 FIP. In 57.1 innings last season, Holland was much better with a 4.08 ERA and 4.02 FIP. He has always had very high strikeout rates and won't kill himself with walks, either. Narveson has had a 4.22 FIP both of the past two seasons. He strikes out more than you would think (7.83 career K/9) and also won't walk high amounts of hitters. He's likely to stay right around where he has been--pretty average. Holland has a decent shot to be very good in 2011. I've always been a sucker for potential.
Bench: Rangers versus Brewers
For the first time, I don't get to include Chris Dickerson as a part of the Brewers bench. David Murphy is the primary backup outfielder for the Rangers, and he's a pretty good one. He hits well, with a career .282/.342/.460 slash line. He has some pop, with 47 HR in 440 career games and should be good for double digits in 2011. Craig Gentry doesn't have much major league experience, and was never anything special in the minors until 2009 and 2010 when he had OBPs of .378 and .393. He doesn't have much power, but he is speedy and had 49 SB in AA in 2009. With Corey Hart out at the beginning of the season, the Brewers will likely have former Ranger Brandon Boggs, Jeremy Reed and Mark Kotsay on their roster for a short time. Boggs has had very good OBPs in the Minors, and has flashed intermittent power. In 1369 major league plate appearance, Reed has a slash line .253/.311/.356. I don't really want to acknowledge Mark Kotsay's presence. The Rangers bench infield looks like it will be Michael Young and Andrew Blanco. Young will be a supersub and will likely start a good amount of the time for the Rangers at various positions. He can still hit pretty well (.335 wOBA in 2010, .385 the year before), but at this point in his career he won't be very good defensively, no matter which position he is in. Blanco has a .260/.306/.332 slash line in 572 ML plate appearances. He seems pretty average defensively. Right now, the Brewers bench infield looks like it will be Craig Counsell and either Luis Cruz or Erick Almonte. Counsell is Counsell: He'll be fine defensively and will be an OK slap hitter off the bench. Almonte wasn't very good with the Yankees in 2003, but may have won a spot on the bench with his great spring. He's had good OBP's the last few years in the minors, but doesn't hit for much power. He also won't be worth very much defensively. Luis Cruz has been praised as a great defender, but he can't hit at all. I think the Rangers top backup in both the outfield and infield is better than the Brewers, while the second backups will end up being pretty even.
Bullpen: Rangers versus Brewers
Neftali Feliz is an outstanding talent who will be a great starter for the Rangers next season, as he was in 2010. He has a 2.82 FIP in just over 100 major league innings. A rookie last season, Alexi Ogando pitched very well with a 1.30 ERA and 3.05 FIP in 40 innings. Darren Oliver, who has been in the major leagues since 1993, has been fantastic the past three seasons. Since 2008 he has not had an ERA over 2.88 and his FIPs have been 3.53, 3.32 and 2.64. Arthur Rhodes has also been in the league for many years and has similarly been outstanding out of the bullpen the past few seasons. Darren O'Day has a career 2.63 ERA and 3.37 FIP. The Brewers, on the other hand, have three pitchers (John Axford, Takashi Saito and Zach Braddock) who were under 3.00 with their FIPs and ERAs last season. I've heard some analysts worry about the top of the Milwaukee bullpen, but I don't think any of those three will have huge regressions. I'm not sure if Kameron Loe will be used quite as much next year with a new manager, but he pitched well (2.78 ERA, 3.71 FIP) last year in 58 innings. A returning Latroy Hawkins helps solidify the Brewers pen. Both these squads have a good chance of being extremely good, but I think the Rangers players, with more long-term success, have a better chance at replicating their stats from last season.
That's 11 positions where I gave the advantage to the Rangers compared to just 4 for the Brewers. It hurts the Brewers that, other than first base, for the offensive positions where they are strongest (LF, 3B, 2B, and RF) the Rangers have a player who is at least slightly better. The Brewers dominance at the top of the rotation is a big boon, though. I feel like the remaining Rangers pitchers overperformed for the most part last year and the loss of Cliff Lee really hurts them. If I had moved Matt Harrison down to #4 or #5 for the Rangers instead of going by the depth chart, the Brewers would actually probably have a 4-1 rotation advantage.
There isn't much more to say about this than what I have. I was surprised just how many positions the Rangers had an advantage in, but like I said, the two teams mirror each other pretty well offensively. They both have strengths at the same positions, and the Rangers have clearly better players at shortstop and catcher.