The 2012 Opening Day roster has been set, with the final positions on the bench being given to outfielder Craig Gentry, infielder Alberto Gonzalez, and Brandon Snyder, who kind of does everything.
By this point we’re all pretty familiar with Gentry. Had the injury which handcuffed him during spring training not been so blatant and omnipresent (to the point where he was missing games and being completely ineffective when he did play), he likely would have been the center fielder the Rangers went into the season with. Instead, he’ll be the 4th outfielder, likely spelling David Murphy when Texas is facing a lefty.
Alberto Gonzalez, 28, spent the last four years in the National League (three with the Washington Nationals and most recently last year with the Padres). He’s never hit much, but made several flashy plays in the spring that certainly caught the eye of the organization’s higher-ups. His role in Texas will be quite minimal, serving as the backup shortstop when Elvis Andrus gets a day off.
Brandon Snyder came over from Baltimore for cash considerations right around the time the new year turned over. He’s still young, only 25, and can play both corner infield and corner outfield positions, as well as serving as a third emergency catcher for the Rangers if the need ever arrises. With an already stellar infield and outfield setup, and with Craig Gentry and Michael Young as more sure bets to see playing time in the field than Snyder, his role will essentially be as significant as Alberto Gonzalez’s. Luckily, the Rangers are really good and will end a lot of games early on, so these two may see a healthy share of mop-up time, lightyears more than if they played for a team like Baltimore, for example.
The Rangers are currently a franchise blessed by depth and overwhelming frontline talent, so much that its bench is constructed of mostly no-name passers-by in the limitless baseball universe. Some benches — more pragmatically, National League benches — are counted on night after night to help contribute to the outcome of the game. In Texas, all the bench is asked to do is what each individual excels at most, whether it’s Craig Gentry playing superb defense and stealing bases, Alberto Gonzalez seeing a game at shortstop every two weeks, or Brandon Snyder making the most of his six at bats a month. I’m not discounting that this bench can carry some solid reserve value, but it’s evident that it will not be counted on to turn losses into wins, and likely won’t see enough daylight to turn wins into losses. This is a very good thing for us.
Skimming through the team’s original roster, I do feel I’d be remiss not to mention Julio Borbon’s exclusion from it. Sure, he hit for a pretty good average in the spring, but ever since Ron Washington called him out through the media for not getting two bunts down with a man on third and nobody out (an at-bat that ended in a strikeout and and an inning that ended with the runner still stranded on third base), he seemed like he was living off borrowed time with the Major League club. It’s one thing to handle a situation privately, but when a players-manager to the maximum extent like Ron Washington voices his displeasure aloud to the media, it is essentially the death wish of the player of interest. I’ve been dry on Borbon for quite awhile now, which is fairly clearly outlined in this article from March 15th.
The left-handed Borbon, who has still yet to translate his projectable profile and skills to actual in-game application, will continue to sharpen his tools down in Round Rock for the Rangers’ AAA affiliate. At least that’s where he’ll start the season. He’s a safe bet to be moved elsewhere at some point during 2012, and I can’t say I’d be all that disappointed if that indeed happens. He’s just had so many chances to prove himself here.
Otherwise, I’m happy for Craig Gentry receiving recognition for the sometimes critical production he’s given us over the last two postseasons, and having that correlate into a little faith from the organization to let him work out his current kinks. The same for Alberto Gonzalez and Brandon Snyder, who may or may not have gone through the most difficult challenge of all spring training challenges: cracking the Rangers loaded Opening Day roster.