Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Over the weekend we analyzed the Texas Rangers’ new look offense. Today concludes the series with center field, left field and designated hitter as well as a final overview.
10 Homeruns; 92 wRC+; 6.1 WAR
Texas center fielders hit slightly below average in 2013 but still managed to post over 6 wins above replacement. Rangers’s center fielders provided this by way of amazing defense, which will be somewhat diminished with the Craig Gentry for Michael Choice trade. Gentry had more WAR with half the plate appearances of Leonys Martin. Gentry also out hit Martin if you go by wRC+. Gentry posted a 108 while Martin posted an 87. Readers of my work will know that I have spent a lot of time pleading with Texas to start Craig Gentry. That ship has obviously sailed but Texas fans should not be overly disappointed, Jon Daniels believes that Leonys Martin is destined for big things.
Martin’s 87 wRC+ last year was a little disappointing based on high expectations but being reasonably close to major league average in his first full year is a decent start. Martin needs only to pick up 5 wRC+ this coming year to replicate last year’s total center field production. Even a conservative projection of Martin’s improvement would be likely to see a greater improvement.
An improving Martin could easily bring roughly league average offensive production and a slight increase overall center field offense.
26 Homeruns; 95 wRC+; 4.5 WAR
Craig Genty’s production gets counted again towards left field production in Fangraphs so these numbers are skewed but even with Gentry’s 108 wRC+ left field production was below major league average. The two other main contributors were David Murphy and Jeff Baker, whose production is also counted both towards first base and left field. Murphy’s 478 plate appearances resulted in 73 wRC+ in 2013 and only 0.4 WAR. Murphy was barely a replacement level player in 2013 and was sub par offensively.
Shin-Soo Choo steps into left field following his large seven year deal with Texas. Choo brings an absurd 151 wRC+ from last year and his career wRC+ has always been well above average. Choo has only had one year near 100 wRC+ (106 in 2011). Otherwise, Choo has been substantially above 130 wRC+ including three years near 150 wRC+.
Choo represents a massive upgrade in left field, which was Texas’s position of greatest need.
6 Homeruns; 91 wRC+; 0.1 WAR
The designated hitter role saw many players in 2013 but Lance Berkman took the most concentrated amount of plate appearances. Berkman was not good, hitting 6 homeruns, producing 90 wRC+ and a had a negative WAR. Now that Fielder is in Texas Mitch Moreland will slot in nicely at designated hitter. Moreland is hopefully good for a similar wRC+ as 2013 designated hitters, although his production may fall if he has to face left handed pitchers. Texas is likely to find Moreland a right handed companion to take some plate appearances. This may be Michael Choice or other internal option but it may be a cheap veteran pick up. A Moreland and Choice combination may have trouble producing 91 wRC+. Choice is not likely to step in and produce league average offense and Moreland is unlikely to be sufficiently above league average to bring the combination’s production up to average. Berkman’s baserunning was atrocious in 2013 so Moreland and Choice will improve on that easily.
I always hold out hope that Moreland will channel his inner Chris Davis but realistically designated hitter may take a slight hit in production for 2014.
The Texas Ranger lineup appears poised to improve dramatically. I have been reserved in my expectations for the Rangers offense in 2014 but Texas has potential to improve substantially in two positions, first base and left field, as well as see a small improvement at shortstop. Perhaps only designated hitter and second base should be expected to decline but neither one should see large fall offs. Other positions, particularly center field, third base, and catcher have potential to improve somewhat. Much remains to be seen but Texas fans should applauding the Rangers’ front office so far.