Hope springs. (photo by djwu100/Flickr)

Prediction: The Texas Rangers Will Not Win the 2014 World Series

That is not an especially bold prediction. Always take the field. Vegas’ favorite to win the Major League Baseball championship is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but you’d be wise to bet that one of the other 29 teams will beat them out too.

Today’s Opening Day at the Ballpark in Arlington (I know that’s not the official name anymore.) First pitch is at 1:05 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Rangers of this year look quite different from the team that took the field in 2013. Gone are┬áNelson Cruz, Craig Gentry, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, and Joe Nathan, among others. In are headliners Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. They will be a competitive team, so long as they can tread water well enough while their many injured players heal. The earliest they can hope to have the full strength of the roster that they’d hoped to have this season is late June. It could be a long first half.

Expert predictions indicate the Rangers could finish anywhere between first and third in the American League West. Thanks to the rebuilding Houston Astros there’s no risk of last place, but the Angels and the Athletics both have the potential to be just as good as, or better than, Texas.

Of ESPN.com’s 44 experts, 21 of them pick the Rangers to win the division, while five others think they’ll make the playoffs as a Wild Card. Baseball Prospectus’ computer simulations slot the Rangers for a third-place finish, giving them a 32% chance of making the playoffs and a 2.9% chance of winning the World Series. Each of the five experts at CBS Sports say the Rangers will finish third. Three of the six Sports Illustrated experts pick Texas at the top of the AL West. And none of the fellows at Yahoo! Sports figure the Rangers as a factor in the playoffs. Same deal at Fox Sports.

Last year, I correctly predicted the Rangers would finish second and miss the playoffs (though they won four more games than I said they would.) Two years ago I was correct that they would finish second and make the playoffs (never mind that I said it’d be the Angels and not the A’s beating them out.)

So, this year: I think the first half is going to be too rough for them, with too many injuries to key contributors. They’ll get hot once they’re back to full strength in July, but it’ll be too little to overtake both the A’s and the Angels for the division crown. No playoffs, 83 wins.