The Rangers’ Annual Question Mark At First Base


In this recent article, Eric Reining dissected why going forward with Mitch Moreland as the starting first baseman is not a good idea. Now, I am essentially doing the same, because, well, Moreland deserves more dissension than, well, Yu Darvish, you soulless, clutch-demanding monsters!

Ever since the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007, first base has existed as an annual question mark for the Rangers. Just in the 2013 season alone, the Rangers had seven different players play the position (Mitch Moreland, Jeff Baker, Lance Berkman, Jim Adduci, Adam Rosales, Robinson Chirinos and Chris McGuiness). The fact that I mention that the Rangers employed seven different players to play first base during the 2013 season is not to make a point, more so to expound upon the fact that first base has presented a certain lack of stability for the Rangers.

Of course, many will point to Chris Davis (6.8 fWAR/167 wRC+/.421 wOBA) as the one who got away, but that is nothing more than a blatant example of hindsight bias. The fact remains that the Rangers have struggled to find an everyday first baseman regardless of Chris Davis’ presence within the Texas Rangers organization.

Currently speaking, Mitch Moreland, the Rangers’ latest fist base experiment, has dwindled mightily under the demands of playing the position on a daily basis — simply put, Moreland is not everyday first baseman.

Need evidence?

Since 2010, the year that Moreland got his first taste of MLB, he has accumulated only 2.1 fWAR, which ranks 33rd out of 50 first basemen with a minimum of 1,000 PA during that timespan. Furthermore, Moreland’s wRC+ of 99 ranks 42nd out of 50 qualifying first basemen within that same sample. Now, if you prefer more archaic statistics, Moreland’s career triple slash line of .253/.318/.440 is as equally uninspiring.

Moreland’s ineptitude as an everyday first baseman is made clear by all sides of baseball analysis, but it is clear however, that Moreland is the Rangers’ best option within the organization to man the position, which is a damn depressing thought — that is of course if you do not count Ian Kinsler.

But even there, Kinsler presents somewhat of a question mark himself. Sure, it is quite certain that Kinsler would provide some level of offensive improvement in comparison to that of Moreland, but would it be at the cost of the production that Kinsler provided while at second base? Essentially, would it be worth it?

With that question, arises yet another question: Is Jurickson Profar ready to be an everyday MLB second baseman? If so, sliding Kinsler over to first base is a no-brainer. If not, what is worse: Improving one position of weakness, only to weaken a position of strength, or vice-versa?

In terms of probabilities, it is quite certain that Moreland won’t find an offensive epiphany, it is however very certain that Profar will improve — only at the expense of time, which is always uncertain in its inevitable arrival. Then of course there is Kinsler, who will very likely provide more production than Moreland at first base.

Were you counting the “will” there?

Let me reiterate: In terms of probabilities, launching Moreland into the sun in order to clear space for Kinsler at first base and for Profar at second base is the most logical move at this point in time looking forward to the 2014 season.

Then again, the Rangers could end up signing Jose Abreu, rendering everything that I have just said as null.

But regardless, begone, Mitch Moreland and for that matter, the Rangers’ annual question mark at first base as well — hopefully.