Will the AL West title return to the Texas Rangers?

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Texas Rangers Lance Berkman and Mitch Moreland chat during spring training drills.
Lance Berkman and Mitch Moreland need to deliver for the Texas Rangers in 2013. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

For the 2013 Texas Rangers, a new season brings about a whole new list of possibilities as well as a few new faces.

No longer will Josh Hamilton roam center field or answer questions about drinking too much caffeine. No longer will Mike Napoli be the battery mate for the starting rotation or hear the chants of NA-PO-LI every time he steps to the plate.

Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Scott Feldman won’t be coming out of the bullpen to make sure every lead they take over ends that way every time they take the ball.

And the longtime face of the franchise, Michael Young, won’t be wearing a Texas Rangers uniform on opening day. Instead, he now calls the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, home.

Instead, A.J. Pierzynski will be the veteran behind the plate and aging designated hitter/first baseman Lance Berkman will hope to make up for some of the power lost by the departed Hamilton and Napoli.

There are those who don’t believe this team will do much of anything. In fact, they believe Texas won’t even finish in the top two in the AL West division, choosing instead the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland A’s.

They can say what they want, but there’s something different about this Texas Rangers team. There’s something that has the feel of a team lying in the weeds just waiting for its time to prove everyone wrong. I might even go as far as to say there may be a small chip on the Rangers’ shoulder that they’ll end up using to their benefit.

One of the biggest questions going into this season is whether or not Nelson Cruz and the rumors of performance enhancing drugs will be a distraction to this team with every monstrous home run he hits. Will it bring even more questions from Major League Baseball, and what will the Texas Rangers do if he’s suspended for 50 games? Who will step up big in his absence?

Then, when July’s trade deadline creeps closer and closer, how many trade rumors will be floating around about shortstop Elvis Andrus? Will Texas look to trade him and get the best package they can for him, or do they believe more in him than they do Jurickson Profar regardless of him being named the best prospect in baseball?

And what about that guy at first base?

Say what you want about Mitch Moreland, and I know there are a lot of fans who would rather see him riding the pine than getting an everyday opportunity to be the team’s starting first baseman, but don’t count this young man out. He has a ton of power and hasn’t gotten the chance to really be the starting guy. Yes, his numbers may not look great when he faces left-handed pitchers, but they are a tad bit deceiving seeing as he hasn’t had a consistent opportunity.

What most are questioning, and for good reason, are the arms coming out of the bullpen. With Adams being replaced by Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers or even new acquisition Joakim Soria, will Texas have a strong reliever to hand the ball to closer Joe Nathan? Will another new acquisition, Derek Lowe, be better as a long reliever than Feldman was? Will Robbie Ross succumb to the sophomore slump?

Then there’s the starting rotation. Matt Harrison will be handed the ball on Sunday against the Houston Astros as the opening-day starter for the Rangers. The 27-year-old left-hander looks to have a big season as the number-one guy in front of the guy most believe is the team’s “ace” of the future, Yu Darvish.

Speaking of the Japanese right-hander, Darvish did something most didn’t expect him to do. When most pitchers, especially in their first season in the big leagues, are fading in the second half of the season, Darvish was doing the exact opposite.

Can Harrison and Darvish carry the rotation, and will Derek Holland finally have a consistent season? More importantly than that, what kind of pitcher will Alexi Ogando be and will first-year starter Nick Tepesch be impressive or disappointing?

Now you can see why most have a lot of questions surrounding this team. Not to say that I don’t, but I just see the Texas Rangers doing more than a lot of others.

I don’t see them winning 80 to 85 games or even getting to 87 wins before October rolls around. In fact, I see this Texas Rangers team winning at least 93 games. My official prediction? How about 93-69.

You’ll get big years from the most unlikely players, stepping up into roles they’ve been waiting to play.

Don’t be pessimistic about the 2013 Texas Rangers. They just might end up surprising you.

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