Making the April Grade (Part I)


The first month of 2012 is in the books and Texas sits atop the AL West. Before we really leave April behind, I thought that we would do well to look back on the month that was.

The record in April was a robust 17-6, but how did everyone perform on an individual level?

I’ll quickly sift through the roster, handing out grades and a few thoughts on each position player. That should give us some idea of what we saw from everyone through the first month of the season.

(Most of this will be based on the ol’ eyeball test. I’ll leave it to some of my cohorts to chew on some advanced statistics if they so choose. It also only includes games in the month of April, so ignore those three losses at the start of May.)

We’ll start at catcher.

Mike Napoli — B

Napoli has looked out of sorts so far. He looks uncomfortable at the plate and has struck out more than any other Ranger. He’s watched a ton of pitches go by, the sorts of pitches that he crushed all over the yard in 2011. He did blow up against Boston and Detroit, but seemed to lose his rhythm after sitting out the second game of a doubleheader.

There’s no doubt we can afford to wait for Napoli to heat up, assuming that he’ll eventually heat up at all. He does get extra points for the way he handles the pitching staff, which has been great.

Yorvit Torrealba — B-

No one expects Torrealba to be much of an offensive force, but I’d still like to see a bit more out of him. I’ve also begun to wonder about his ability to handle some of the younger pitchers. During Derek Holland’s start against the Yankees, ESPN flashed splits between starts where Napoli was the catcher and starts where Torrealba was the catcher.

If I remember, Holland’s ERA was almost 3 runs higher when Yorvit was behind the plate. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it’s certainly a concern if a pitcher and catcher have trouble getting on the same page.

Mitch Moreland — C

Some people want to act as if Moreland is a huge liability at first base. While he isn’t All-Star caliber at the plate, he’s good enough to hold down the position. He’s better defensively than other players that he platoons with and he doesn’t strike out a lot.

If he can make solid contact, which he’s been doing over the last week, then he’s dangerous. For whatever it’s worth, he’s been of far more value to the Rangers than Albert Pujols has to the Angels.

Ian Kinsler — A

What can really be said about Kinsler?

His batting average has gone up and half of hits have been for extra bases. You might like to see more stolen bases and less errors, but it’s a solid effort all the way around.

Adrian Beltre — A

The defense is always there and he was swinging well to start the season. The biggest concern at the moment is health. Had he not missed over a month in 2011, Beltre could easily have been MVP. We’re in that same boat again and can only hope that he stays on the field through the summer months. This team needs his bat in the line-up and his glove in the field.

Elvis Andrus — A+

Andrus committed no errors through the entire month of April. He seems more focused and has been bailed out less times by his first basemen. He got off to a slow start offensively, but his bat is coming around. He’s starting to see the ball well and has been making a lot more solid contact.

Unfortunately, some of that contact has led to hard-hit outs. With his legs it would pay to hit some in the gaps, which he is doing more consistently.

David Murphy — B-

He’s hitting the ball well and has played like an everyday player. I’m still not sure I trust his glove, legs, or arm, but his bat was always the biggest knock against him and he seems to have remedied that for the time being.

Josh Hamilton — A+

He’s hitting everything all over the place. I don’t much care for his free swinging ways or the fact that he’s diving/sliding more than he needs to in the outfield, but you can’t argue with results. So far he’s avoided freak injury, though he is dealing with those back spasms at the moment. Much like Beltre, health is the biggest concern. He needs to stay on the field.

Nelson Cruz — B-

Cruz is coming around, I’m sure of it.

A lot of the stuff that he usually deposits in the seats is getting fouled off or missed entirely, but I think he’s going to start making solid contact in the next week or so. Granted, I said that two weeks ago, but it should only be a matter of time.

I’ll also note that Cruz has played in every game this season. My concern is that he gets overworked early and suffers another hamstring injury, but so far there have been no red flags to speak of.

Michael Young — B+

Young has seen time at second base, third base, and DH. You can always count on his hitting to be there and he’s doing it again in 2012.

He did scuffle a bit towards the end of the month, but don’t expect his slump to go on for very long. He’s still Michael “Leadership Face” Young, after all.

Bench (Craig Gentry, Alberto Gonzalez, Brandon Snyder) — B

All three have been good enough.

They can play in a pinch and haven’t really cost Texas any wins. Personally, I like Gentry in center field more than Jamilton anyway.

You’d be in trouble if the other two were everyday players, but they’re not. They can plug a hole if you need it, which is what your bench is for.

There are my grades for the month of April. Truthfully, I expected them to be a little bit lower across the boards, but there’s not a lot to be unhappy about right now. I’ll do another post sometime soon where the pitching staff will receive similar grades.

Press on, Rangers fans.

(Leave a comment or find me on Twitter @BleacherSeatsTX. As always, thanks to Baseball Reference for their invaluable resources.)