I thought I would continue off of what David wrote here about catchers and continue with a look at who the Texas Rangers may look at to be their starting left fielder for 2014. The Rangers had David Murphy as the everyday left fielder when the season started, and as usual Murph started out slowly. But he never had that patented Murph surge late in the season, and as much as I personally like David Murphy, he is not going to make my list of possible everyday left fielders going into the 2014 season.
Like David did, I will rank these guys from no. 5 to no. 1 in the order I hope the Texas Rangers pursue them.
5. Craig Gentry – in 287 plate appearances in 2013, Gentry had a line of .272/.344/.375, jacking a monster two home runs while stealing 24 bases. He also crossed the dish 39 times in 2013. Gentry really came through in September with a batting average of .354. So he ended the season well. Gentry has above average speed, he has an above average arm, and his batting average over 50 points higher than David Murphy’s .220. While his power is basically non existent, he makes up for in with said speed and arm strength.
4. Carlos Beltran – I put Beltran so low on the list because I believe the Cardinals are already attempting to re-sign him, and may be successful doing so. Beltran is a good power hitter but his defensive skills have diminished a bit. I feel like he would not be much of an upgrade from Nelson Cruz in the outfield as far as his ability to go a long way to catch a ball. Good arm strength and he still has some pop at the plate, posting a .296/.339/.491 line with 24 jacks and 84 runs batted in. Beltran would be a short-term option, but he would be a good option.
3. Nelson Cruz – Although I would much rather see Cruz come back and be the everyday DH for the Rangers, he still has skills in the outfield, although speed is not one of those skills. Rangers fans like me still like Cruz, but is probably because we have blocked out game six of the 2011 World Series. Cruz, in a suspended shortened season, produced a line of .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. Nelson would not be my first choice, but I think he is just as good if not better than Beltran and his teammates already like him. And the Rangers have already made him the qualifying offer of $14.1 million.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury – Coming off of a World Series title, Ellsbury is an intriguing outfielder. He has speed, he has an arm, but like Gentry, he is a little short on the power. But he makes up for it in speed. Ellsbury stole 52 of the 56 bases he attempted to swipe in 2013, and we all know how much Ron Washington values base stealers. Ellsbury’s line of .298/.355/.426 is not to bad for a guy who only hit nine home runs during the season. He also seems to be a bit injury prone, but I would take him in a heartbeat. Speed, a good arm, and a good teammate by all accounts, Ellsbury would be a welcome addition to an outfield that would include Alex Rios and Leonys Martin.
1. Shin-Soo Choo – Again, we all know what gets Ron Washington going, and besides speed, it is getting on base. Choo’s .423 OBP would make any manager smile. Choo has always irritated me with his ability to work the count playing against the Rangers, I would really like to see him playing for the Rangers. Choo hit 21 home runs with the Reds last year, so he has the power as well. He would be a great fit on this outfield if you ask me, and I hope the Rangers make a serious run at him.
Minor League Honorable Mention:
Engle Beltre – His sample is way to small at the major league level to judge him, and he made a few bad decisions on throws while he was with the Rangers, but the kid has a future in the outfield in Texas. I don’t think it is this season, but he does have a future. Lets look at his AAA numbers and see how he fared at Round Rock. Engle had a line of .292/.340/.398 with seven home runs. He has a decent arm and is neither as fast as Gentry or Martin. He is young (24 on November 1st) and has some growing up still to do, but in a pinch he would not be a horrible fourth outfielder choice. If Gentry is picked as the left fielder and gets hurt, he may the Rangers option going into the season.