i.e. transitioning from nowhere to contention?
I think so - possibly as fringe contenders in 2010; as 800 lb gorilla contenders in 2011. Holland and Feliz and Diamond and Madrigal and C.J. Wilson will make sure of it, with Main and Beavan and Marpez (and Boscan! and Wieland! and more!) on the way.
Feliz could become dominant #1 quality; the four other starters could become #2 quality; therefore Rangers wouldn't have a #3 quality or below starting pitcher on the staff. And I might be selling those starters short. In my dreams: Holland, Main, Marpez, and maybe Beavan become #1 quality starters in a murderer's row of starting pitchers.
Meanwhile, opponents will peek at Kinsler/Hamilton/Cruz/Davis/Max Ramirez*/Justin Smoak and tremble. What if CF Julio Borbon's offense fulfills it's promise? PO....TENT. Ron Washington becomes heralded as the new Earl Weaver? Jon Daniels becomes heralded as, um, the guy who has compromising blackmail info about Tom Hicks' income taxes?
This pundit is thinking the same way (except the blackmail part).
*Am now rooting for Max Ramirez to become the Rangers starting catcher in 2010 - or to at least split time with Teagarden, and to DH during much of the time Teagarden is catching.
Also rooting for Chris Davis to play 50 games a year in RF (especially in the smallish RF in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), plus 50 games a year at 1B, plus 30 games a year at 3B (which won't happen, but I wish it would).
Hank Blalock is about to kick these ZIPs projection 2009 numbers: .272/.335/.454 in the derriere. Big time. For starters, I say Blalock hits for .290 BA without any reduction in power.
Blalock has had two problems, and they are related:
1. Weakened right shoulder musculature due to lack of blood flow(since corrected via surgery)
2. Consistently tried to pull ball too often, due to
a) immature approach
b) weakened right shoulder musculature which caused Blalock to sense he was more effective when left shoulder dominated and he was pulling the ball.
Blalock sat out for a long time while recuperating. I say he had time to see the big picture and thus reject his previous immature approach. In 2009, expect Blalock to willingly spray the ball to all fields.
Now that his right shoulder is strong again, expect Hank Blalock to wreak havoc upon the AL. He was already outstanding upon his return in Sept 08 - probably more outstanding than at any time in the previous 3 seasons. Blalock is a dangerous hitter, a coiled snake, and he will prove it.
Rangers almost have to trade Blalock at the deadline. Free Agent compensation (Type A, Type B, etc) is determined by production over two seasons. This is why Milton Bradley was a Type B free agent instead of a Type A. Blalock will only have production to show over 1 season + Sept 08. Blalock will be a Type B free agent and therefore return the Rangers only one draft pick. If Rangers can trade him for an A+ prospect, along with another decent prospect, then Rangers come out ahead.
If Nelson Cruz, for instance, regresses as a hitter and turns out to have merely been enjoying a year long hot streak (which I DO NOT expect to happen), then Rangers might consider signing Blalock long term instead of trading him. Or, if Julio Borbon falters, then Blalock could be valuable. Blalock's legs still work. If his arm comes back, he could play some 3B; some LF; some 1B; mostly DH.
1. Kinsler 2B
2. Young 3B
3. Hamilton CF
4. Cruz LF
5. Blalock DH
6. Maximus Ramirez C
7. Chris Davis RF
8. Justin Smoak 1B
9. Elvis SS
Rangers should consider keeping this batting order together for 5 years or so. It's devastating. Why, really, would the Rangers not put this line-up together? I'm thinking they should. If Borbon succeeds, he can rotate in and out of the OF. Add the speedy Vallejo in a utility role. Add Teagarden. That's a really, really good team. 1993 Dallas Cowboys. Michael Young is the wizened Thomas Everett.
In the above lineup, every hitter except Smoak is protected. Smoak is known to be a selective hitter. He's the perfect batter to front Elvis (also, Teagarden is selective and could front Elvis).
I expect Elvis to be a good major league hitter. I just don't know how quickly it will happen. Hopefully quick; maybe not.