Series Preview: Texas Rangers (8-5) at Chicago Cubs (4-8)

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Team Overviews

Here are how the teams stacked up in 2012. Respective league ranks in parentheses.

  Rangers Cubs
wRC+ 105 (4th) 80 (16th)
BSR 1.0 (8th) -8.1 (14th)
UZR 13.7 (5th) 30.5 (2nd)
DRS -6 (10th) -7 (7th)
SP FIP- 90 (2nd) 108 (13th)
RP FIP- 83 (2nd) 116 (16th)

The Rangers are a great team. They lost a few key players from last year's team, most notably Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster. Less notably, Scott Feldman. They also traded long-time player Michael Young, who kept getting squeezed from seemingly every position on the infield by better players since signing his megadeal with Texas.

Injury Updates

Darwin Barney is back with the squad today. Juding from his 5-10 performance (with a ton of walks) on his minor league rehab, it seems like his knee isn't bothering him now. The pitching staff breathes a sigh of relief. Ian Stewart, on the other hand, has gone 0-fer and struck out roughly 232 times in his AAA stint. He says he'll be ready to return in a week or so, which is ahead of schedule. Matt Garza has been throwing bullpen sessions, and hopefully he'll start a rehab assignment soon and face live hitters. No announcement as to when that will happen.

The Rangers are pushing back Yu Darvish's scheduled start to the next series due to some minor blister problems, as well as not wanting him to bat in the cold weather at Wrigley Field. The only other injury of note is SP Matt Harrison, who is out with some back problems. The Rangers have a ton of pitchers on the shelf with TJS, including Joakim Soria, who could be back in a few weeks.

Random News

In today's mailbag column, T.R. Sullivan of mlb.com had this to say about Jurickson Profar, who is the top prospect in the minors but is blocked by Kinsler, Andrus, and Beltre:

With the Rangers anxious to lock Elvis Andrus up to a longer-term deal, do you think the Rangers are waiting on the Rays or Marlins to put up David Price or Giancarlo Stanton on the trade block, so they can send a package of players led by Jurickson Profar?
– Joel S., Murphy, Texas

If the Rangers can get either one of those two players for a package led by Profar, they will do it in the blink of an eye. Price can't be a free agent until after the 2015 season and Stanton until after '16, so neither player will be a rental.

As far as I can tell Price actually only has one year left with the Rays, but even if it were two I would guess that the Rays execs to be sprinting to the phone if they offered Profar. Someone out of that group of four Rangers is certainly going to be traded this season.

Fun with small sample sizes

MO favorite Lance Berkman has been hitting the cover off the ball, posting a .222 ISO and also walking in 18.2% of his PAs. I thought the Berkman signing was a steal by the Rangers. None of the Rangers pitchers have been hit particularly hard so far this season, and I don't see that changing for the next three days.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Derek Holland, LHP (4.67, 107, 4.14, 4.42) vs Travis Wood, LHP (4.27, 120, 4.32, 4.30), 7:05 PM CT

Holland looked like an up-and-comer when he first broke into the majors with the Rangers. He had solid numbers in 2010 and 2011, but was hammered for a ton of home runs last year (1.64 HR/9). Obviously that luck should even out, but I'm not sure why ZiPS seems to dislike him so much. The other systems on fangraphs have him closer to a 4.0 FIP, which is similar to how he performed in those first two seasons. From what I remember, he was a name that was being kicked around in trade rumors last year, but I can't remember if that was just wishcasting by Cubs fans.

Travis Wood looked pretty good again in his second start. He gave up three runs in the second inning, but in all fairness he needed five outs to get out of the inning thanks to shoddy infield defense.

Wednesday: Justin Grimm, RHP (SSS, 5.44) vs Carlos Villanueva, RHP (4.16, 113, 4.09, 4.02), 7:05 PM CT

Grimm was rated the Rangers #5 prospect going into last season, which says something considering how good that system is. However, most of the projection systems agree that he's probably not developed enough to pitch in the show yet. He's filling in for the injured Matt Harrison. He had a shaky first start against the Mariners, giving up two runs, striking out two, and walking three in four innings. 

Villanueva continues to look great, and the Superfriends must be pleased with how his draft stock could be improving. It's just two starts, though, and there's plenty of time for those numbers regress. Villanueva took a shutout into the eighth inning in his last start only to watch erstwhile closer Kyuji Fujikawa blow it in the ninth, just before being placed on the DL. 

Thursday: Alexi Ogando, RHP (3.27, 84, 3.58, 3.69) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.81, 89, 3.38, 3.36), 1:20 PM CT

Ogando was nails coming out of the bullpen last year, and has seemingly been in the discussion for joining the rotation since joining the club. I was surprised to find that he had only started a single game in the bigs going into this year. He's looked great in his three starts so far, but hasn't gone particularly deep into the games. Not too surprising for a guy transitioning from the pen. 

Shark got the job done in his last start, striking out five and giving up two runs in six innings. The Cubs brought the score to 3-2 in the 6th and mustered a teaser rally in the 8th against the suddenly hittable Jeremy Affeldt, but couldn't seal the deal with the bases loaded and one out. 

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