Yes. I know. It’s been over a month since my last post. This is supposed to be a blog about the Texas Rangers, and Spring Training has been going on for weeks now and I haven’t had a thing to say about it. That last part’s not true. I’ve had plenty to say about it. I just haven’t had the time to put those thoughts in a post. So, here is my all-encompassing spring training up until now post.
Jeff Baker has had a phenomenal spring and should be given an opportunity on the Ranger roster. Baker is predominately a second baseman, and frankly, he’s put Ian Kinsler to shame this spring. Of course all that means is that Ron Washington will dig in his heels and insist even more that Ian Kinsler will be the starting second baseman and leadoff hitter. It’s sad that it really seems Kinsler’s position becomes more secure the better his rivals for the position plays. Right now, Baker actually leads the TEAM in hitting with a .429 average. Kinsler has managed to hit .226 with an OPS of .654. Baker’s? 1.022. Baker has an on-base percentage of .464 while Kinsler, THE LEAD OFF HITTER is at .295. I could spout several other numbers to you, but they all say the same thing. Jeff Baker has had the BEST spring of any Ranger player and he didn’t have a chance from day 1 to compete for a starting position. Kinsler could have struck out every at bat this spring, slept with Ron Washington’s wife, and set little kittens on fire, on the field before every game, and he would still be the starting second baseman and lead-off hitter, because that’s how baseball go.
Look, I know that spring training is ALOT different than the regular season, but has Kinsler really proven to be that good even in the regular season? He’s one of the worst lead-off hitters in the league (I’ve already discussed this previously), and he’s also a sub-par second baseman. For Major League 2nd basemen, last season, Kinsler ranked 13th in hitting, led both leagues in errors, and had the worst fielding percentage at the position. So yeah, that sounds like someone who should have definitely been inked into the opening day lineup with permanent marker before the spring even started (sarcasm). And yet, that’s pretty much what is going on.
Mike Olt is NOT meeting expectations. He had a horrible spring, hitting .194 and leading the team in strikeouts. He was cut and sent to AAA Round Rock on the 19th. His brief stint with the Rangers last season was also not very impressive. He’s the Rangers’ second best prospect, but it seems every time he’s been given an opportunity with the big league club he’s come up short. He reminds me a lot of another highly touted 3B prospect who just never seemed to meet expectations. Brandon Wood was drafted with the Angels’ first pick in 2003 and immediately tore up the minor leagues setting a California League record of 43 homeruns in a season. He was the Angels’ number one prospect for several seasons, but could just never make it in the bigs. Eventually, he ran out of options, was picked up by the Pirates, released, picked up by the Rockies, released, picked up by the Royals, and was recently cut and sent to their AAA affiliate after a somewhat decent spring, but still not measuring up to those lofty expectations after that stellar minor league year, in 2005. It’s still too early to tell if Olt will go the way of Wood, but the parallels are eerie. Wood had a huge problem with strikeouts, and that seems to be Olt’s problem right now, too.
Jurickson Profar hasn’t shined either this spring, hitting only .250 and striking out just one less time than Olt. He will be optioned to AAA soon too, especially with Jeff Baker’s performance almost guaranteeing him a spot on the roster as a back-up infielder. Profar still has tons of potential and he will probably make the club later on this year, but the Rangers’ top two prospects did not show much this spring and that’s a little discouraging.
On the other side, Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin, Julio Borbon, and Craig Gentry all had excellent springs. Martin and Gentry have created quite a decision for Ron Washington. One of them is going to be the every-day centerfielder and both of them have given him every reason to pick either one. I’m guessing he goes with Martin, but Gentry has been on a tear lately. He’s on a four-game hitting streak with triples in his last two games and he’s even popped a couple of homers this spring showing a new power stroke that we haven’t seen before. Martin has played just as well, if not better. So, it’s nice to see that the team has some very good options at center after losing Hamilton to the Angels. Of course this leaves Borbon out of the discussion entirely and he’s had a wonderful spring training too, hitting .360 which is actually better than both Martin and Gentry. He may stay on as an extra outfielder, but with the play of Martin and Gentry, he’s not being considered for the CF job.
The pitching hasn’t caused any waves so far. That’s a good thing. The starters have been fine. Matt Harrison is slated to pitch opening day, while Darvish will pitch second. They will be followed by Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The big decision is still the fifth starter spot. Management is leaning towards Nick Tepesch. But Tepesch hasn’t faired very well this spring sporting a 6.50 ERA and leading the team in runs given up. Michael Kirkman might be a better option. He’s solidified a place in the bullpen, but he’s had an incredible spring. He’s yet to give up a run and opposing batters are only hitting .103 against him. The Rangers stretched him out in a minor league game this past Friday night and that was on purpose. We will see what happens. It looks like they will only need that 5th starter for a couple of months. Colby Lewis is still scheduled to come back from the DL by June.
Right now, I’m predicting that Yu Darvish will win 20 games this year. He’s shown the signs of a seasoned veteran this spring, and I think he’s finally dropped into a comfortable spot where he’s poised to become one of the best pitchers in the league. If he’s not the Rangers ace by the end of the season, I will be very surprised.
Lance Berkman looks pretty good. With Mitch Moreland taking a permanent place at 1B, Berkman will be the team’s primary DH. I think he will succeed there. In his interviews he’s appeared to have a good attitude and I think he will add some veteran leadership to the clubhouse. Along with Pierzynski, I think they might be able to take up some of the slack left by Michael Young’s departure. Oh, and on Michael Young, he’s going to hit over .300 this year for the Phillies. Just sayin’. That doesn’t mean I think it was mistake to lose him. I don’t. But, I think he’s going to have a good year. He’s that kind of player and he’ll be in a good hitter’s park.
That’s all for now. Hope this post was worth the wait. Probably not, but expect more to come as the season is about to take off.