SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder said getting pitcher Yu Darvish back from elbow surgery in June will be like signing a big-time free agent.
Fielder does have a point. The Rangers will be a much better team if Darvish returns to peak performance.
The Rangers would also be better if Fielder returns to peak performance in 2016. He was everybody's Comeback Player of Year after hitting .305 with 23 home runs and 98 RBIs in 2015. It was quite a year considering he missed the final four months of 2014 with a herniated disk in his neck.
But there may be more in that bat, which is why Fielder could be the X-factor on the Rangers in 2015.
"Sure, I guess, why not?" Fielder said.
Fielder has averaged 33 home runs and 105 RBIs for every 162 games in his career. He also has career highs of 50 home runs and 141 RBIs.
"If you told me Prince is going to do what he did last year, I will sign up for that," manager Jeff Banister said. "If he gets back to where Prince was, I'll sign up for that two or three times. We didn't have anybody in that category. There aren't but a handful of guys in that category. Guys who have won MVPs have those numbers."
An extra year after the surgery should help. It also can't hurt that Fielder is sleeping much better at night after being diagnosed with sleep apnea. This is his 12th season, but he is only 31.
"I'm healthy, that's something I am happy about," Fielder said. "I can't take that for granted. Plus, we still have a great team. We didn't get to where we wanted to go, but we've got the same team and we've got Yu coming back.
"We have a lot of things to look forward to. For me, it's just getting into a great hitting position every time. I can't control the results, but I can control my approach and getting into a good hitting position. If I can focus like that every at-bat and be ready to hit, that's when you have great numbers ... extraordinary years."
Fielder has had those kinds of years before. Last season was admirable, but the Rangers know the potential is there for something even better.