Delino DeShields is hungry (MLB Gif)

The Yankees host the Rangers for the first of two September series with the AL West foe.

Their Story So Far

At 67-71, the Rangers are 12.5 games back of the second wild card, no longer having realistic postseason hopes. The team is coming from a 3 p.m. start in Texas for the 1 p.m. start today. That means the Rangers won’t be entirely fresh on Labor Day.

The Rangers are headlined by starters Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, who will both face the Yankees this series. Both veterans have peaked this season in Texas and drew significant trade interest. Slugger Joey Gallo has star potential, but he’s out for this series.

The Yankees play the Rangers in Texas to end the season. That will close out Texas’ current park, and the Yankees visit there next April for the new one.

Injury Report

The Rangers are missing some key hitters, namely Joey Gallo (hand surgery), Hunter Pence (back strain). Nomar Mazara (oblique) is back for this series.

Meanwhile, pitchers Jesse Chavez and Nate Jones are out for the season, while Jesse Biddle and Taylor Hearn likely are, too.

Player Spotlight: Nick Solak

The Yankees traded two prospects in a three-way trade to acquire Brandon Drury during 2018 Spring Training. One of those prospects was Solak, who went to Tampa Bay before he was traded to Texas.

Is Solak the most interesting player on this roster? No. Gallo, Lynn and Minor are borderline great, while Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Willie Calhoun are intriguing/fun to watch. However, like J.P. Crawford with the Mariners, Solak is the type of player the Rangers need to hit on to get out of their reload/rebuild.

Solak is a bat-first infielder, who has primarily played second base. He doesn’t have prodigious power like many prospects, but he has good walk and strikeout rates. The Yankees didn’t and wouldn’t have room for him; The Rangers have all the playing time to hand him and see what he can do.

The Rangers can be back in the postseason soon if they hit on a few players like Solak and fill out their pitching staff. That new stadium could attract players who were put off by their current park exposed to the elements. But veteran signings only get you so far; You also need to build from within.

Projected Lineup

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, DH (.263/.369/.453, 112 wRC+)
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS (.275/.313/.401, 79 wRC+)
  3. Nomar Mazara, RF (.268/.318/.464, 94 wRC+)
  4. Nick Solak, 3B (.333/.451/.524, 152 wRC+ in 51 PA)
  5. Willie Calhoun, LF (.275/.315/.550, 114 wRC+)
  6. Danny Santana, 1B (.288/.315/.550, 112 wRC+)
  7. Rougned Odor, 2B (.194/.272/.397, 65 wRC+)
  8. Delino Deshields, CF (.250/.335/.347, 78 wRC+)
  9. Jeff Mathis, C (.161/.214/.225, 5 wRC+)

Rangers have a packed bench with Sept. call-ups. It’s composed of backup catcher Jose Trevino (58 wRC+), 1B/INF Logan Forsythe (76 wRC+), 1B Ronald Guzman (68 wRC+), C/INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa (64 wRC+) and OF Scott Heineman (44 wRC+). Guzman had a 3-homer game against Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees last August.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1:05 p.m. EDT): Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Rangers) vs. Mike Minor (vs. Yankees)

Minor leads American League pitchers in Baseball Reference’s WAR with 7.0 bWAR so far this season. At 31 years old, Minor has pitched to a 3.25 ERA over 174.1 innings, striking out 175 in a career year. He hasn’t been as effective in the second half, sporting a 4.71 ERA and allowing 10 homers in 57.1 innings.

The left-hander is in the second year of a three-year contract with the Rangers and is a first-time All-Star. He would be a prime trade candidate this offseason, though the Rangers may want him to pitch Opening Day at their new park.

Minor attacks with a low-90s fastball with a 99th percentile spin rate. He plays off of it with a changeup, as well as a slider and curveball. The changeup is his most-used and most-effective offspeed offering.

Minor (Baseball Savant)

Tuesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): James Paxton (vs. Rangers) vs. Ariel Jurado (vs. Yankees)

Jurado is a 23-year-old right-hander and part of the younger contingent in the Rangers’ rotation. In 112.2 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, he has a 5.19 ERA, which is good for a 99 ERA+ in this run environment and pitching his home games in Texas.

The right-hander has a low strikeout rate and allows a well-above-average 88.8 avg. exit velocity as well as a high hard-hit rate. He throws five pitches, leading with a low-90s sinker and fastball, before mixing in a slider, change and curve.

Jurado faced the Yankees last year and gave up four home runs to players not on the active roster: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar and Neil Walker.

Jurado (Baseball Savant)

Wednesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): TBD vs. Lance Lynn (vs. Yankees)

Remember Lance Lynn? The Yankees had the right-hander for the final two months of last season before he joined the Rangers on a three-year deal in the offseason. He comes into today with the best Fangraphs pitching WAR in baseball thanks to sterling peripherals while pitching in Texas.

Lynn has a 3.77 ERA compared to a 3.01 FIP as he’s struck out 202 and walked 50 in 176.2 innings. He leads the AL in batters faced and has been a workhorse, all while limiting homers. In all, he’s the same fastball-heavy pitcher he was with the Yankees, just more effective with higher velocity.

The right-hander uses variations of high-spin fastball about 85 percent of the time with occasional curves and changeups.

Lynn (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Here’s who they have in the pen:

RHPs: Emmanuel Clase, Luke Farrell, Ian Gibaut, Taylor Guerrieri, Jonathan Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Rafael Montero, Adrian Sampson
LHPs: Brett Martin, Jeffrey Springs

Shawn Kelley leads the team in saves with 11 while the team traded relievers Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin. Chavez is out for the season, while LHP Brett Martin leads active Rangers in games pitched out of the bullpen.

The guy to watch is Emmanuel Clase, a 21-year-old flamethrower with a 3.46 ERA. He averages 99 mph on his fastball, which is often a cutter, and backs it up with a 91-mph slider. He’s far from a finished product and doesn’t have elite strikeout rates yet, but the stuff is electric. Here’s a glimpse of a 100-mph cutter.

The rest of the bullpen? They needed a full bullpen game yesterday, so they’re going to be tired. There aren’t really any other standouts in the bullpen right now and there’s a whole bunch of them with Sept. call-ups.