It’s fitting that pitchers and catchers are reporting imminently, because just how the starting lineup is essentially set (give or take a Nelson Cruz suspension), and 4 of 5 starting rotation plots have been filled, the main spring battles will be unfolding in the background to decide who will be on the bench and in the bullpen. Later on today I’ll be getting into the various bullpen assets and their odds of making the big league club come Opening Day, but right now I’ll be focusing strictly on the offensive and defensive makeup on the roster — the bench.
Right now, we can safely presume Geovany Soto will be A.J. Pierzynski‘s backup, and, more specifically, Yu Darvish‘s “personal” catcher. So that’s one bench spot. A second spot is virtually guaranteed (barring some unforeseen injury) to whomever isn’t starting in center field (whether that be Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin). With some combination of two of those aforementioned three, that’s half the bench right there.
So to recap, we have our 2nd catcher and 4th outfielder in that mix. That means we’re lacking both (a) a backup corner infielder — preferably one who could also play some corner outfield — and (b) a backup middle infielder. Some of the more obvious candidates for section (a) include LHP-masher Brandon Snyder, top-100 prospect Mike Olt (who, according to T.R. Sullivan, is “preparing for move to [the] outfield”), or, if we’re looking at a sleeper player, outfielder Joey Butler has received some preliminary Spring Training buzz. Another guy to keep an eye on is Jeff Baker, whom the Rangers claimed on waivers a few weeks ago.
As far as (b), it’s a little more murky. The Rangers seem content to keep #1 Minor League prospect, Jurickson Profar, on a path to begin the season in AAA. So if he’s out, then who? I know another sexy name that’s been tossed around is Leury Garcia, but being that he’s only 22, are the Rangers comfortable giving a handful of at bats each month to someone who’s yet to see a pitch about AA? Wouldn’t they rather tuck him him away at triple-A with Profar, as not to thwart his development?
After those two guys, the cupboard is pretty bare, which is what makes me believe the backup SS/2B is not yet in the organization.
All this said, the safe assumption is that the Rangers bench will seldom be used beyond Soto and Gentry/Martin. The 24th and 25th spots will be primarily inconsequential — unless it’s a guy like Olt or Profar — so we’re probably talking about players who will see 15-20 plate appearances per month and some late-inning defense. Their primary roles will be to show error-free glove work, or perhaps be used as a late-game pinch-running replacement for Lance Berkman when he draws another glorious base on balls.
If I had to guess right now, I’d say Geovany Soto and Craig Gentry are locks. The 3rd spot will go to Brandon Snyder (due to his prowess vs. LHP and the ability to play all four corners), and the last will belong to Ryan Theriot. Clearly, Ron Washington has proven he prefers his starters to play the bulk of the innings — rarely utilizing his bench — so it’s hard to project definitively what each of these guys will provide from a WAR perspective, so for this, I’ll opine what I hope they add in value combined with the player they’ll be spelling.
Catcher — Soto/Pierzynski: 4.0 fWAR.
Center Field — Gentry/Martin: 4.0 fWAR
And if the 24th and 25th men accumulate one win between them, I’ll be cool with it.