Rangers Offseason Guide: 2B/SS

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Part three of our Texas Rangers Offseason Guide brings us to the middle infielders.

Two starting spots. Four viable middle infielders.

Given the abundance of major league and farm-system talent at the middle infield spots, I will assume Jon Daniels and company are not looking at free agents. However, anything and everything can change. Let’s discuss.

Elvis Andrus endured a rough 2014 campaign, posting the worst batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of his six-season career – even dipping below his meager output as a 20 year-old rookie in 2009. Andrus additionally displayed his second lowest homerun production (2), second lowest stolen base total (27), second lowest walk total (46), and fewest triples (1) of his major league career.

On the defensive side of the diamond, Andrus collected 18 errors (third most in his career) and recorded a -7 total fielding runs above average (worst of his career), which is a fancy way of saying how many runs the defensive player was worth based on number of plays made.

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All this to say: Elvis Andrus left his “A game” at home last season.

During the 2013 offseason, Andrus took October off from baseball activities and failed to start a throwing program over the winter months. As a result, Andrus showed up to Spring Training in mid-February out-of-shape, out-of-practice, and with an Abe Lincoln beard flowing in the wind.

Elvis played most of the 2014 season at 220 pounds, which he contributes to his lack of range in 2014. Consequently, Elvis vowed to return to 205 pounds by Spring Training 2015 with a stricter offseason regimen.

Seeing that Elvis will be paid $14 million or more for the next 9 seasons, elite offensive and defensive production is mandatory.

On the opposite side of the high-priced, underwhelming player spectrum is Rougned Odor, the bargain bin, overachiever the Rangers desperately needed after Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar could no longer offer their services.

Much ink has been penned in the local and national media to cover Odor’s meteoric rise from unknown Frisco star to everyday major league second baseman. Odor’s ability to consistently improve every facet of his game over the course of 111 major league games is what left a mark on coaching staffs and fans alike. At the age of 20, Odor never seemed overmatched or underprepared, much like how the high-profile rookies Machado, Trout, and Harper appeared in their debut seasons. Despite not having the same level of impact as the rookie phenom trio, fans and coaches could tell Odor had the palpable grit and tenacity the Rangers needed to set the tone in the clubhouse.

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Odor will be an All-Star and valuable cog on a contending major league team – it’s just a matter of when.

On the opposite side of the fan-adoring, overachiever player spectrum is Jurickson Profar, the former #1 overall prospect who draws criticism from fans for being the player who chased Ian Kinsler out of town and for not showing meaningful improvement in a short period of time. Some of the criticism is justified; some is not.

Profar suffered an injury to the teres muscle on his throwing arm in the early stages of Spring Training, which hampered his development and sat him out all of the 2014 season. In most cases, an injury to the teres muscle needs 12 weeks of rest followed by rehabilitation. Not the case for Profar. A few seasons ago, Profar dislocated his shoulder sliding into a bag, which complicates the healing process of the teres muscle. After giving the muscle 12 weeks of rest, Profar re-aggravated the injury and gave it more rest. The most recent setback – about two weeks ago – will shut down Profar until December from any type of throwing. What’s most unfortunate is, according to Jon Daniels, there’s no “cut and dried” surgical solution to healing the muscle. As a result, the Rangers and Profar are in a continual holding pattern waiting for good news.

Profar, a consensus #1 overall prospect a few seasons ago, has the raw talent and tools to be an All-Star infielder. Don’t give up on him yet.

Lastly, the underdog in the group: Luis Sardinas, an unheralded shortstop prospect who made the leap from AA to the majors then got sent back to AAA and finally returned to the majors for a solid September.

Sardinas and Profar have the position flexibility that Andrus and Profar lack. Sardinas can play both middle infield positions and third base on occasion, whereas Odor is limited to second base. While Sardinas has the flexibility and toolset to start at either middle infield spot for the majority of major league teams, odds are against Sardinas starting for the Rangers in 2015 with the gluttony of talent ahead of him.

In sum, the Rangers have four major league-caliber middle infielders and only two starting position. I do not believe any of the candidates will be traded before the 2015 season begins for several reasons:

  1. Trading Profar would qualify as the biggest “sell-low” bargain in the history of baseball. Jon Daniels will not take on the risk of Profar turning the corner in another city or give up a quality asset for below-market return.
  2. Seeing that Profar is questionable for the 2015 season and has not played in nearly a full-calendar year, Andrus is unlikely to be traded to make room for a rusty Profar in a contending, bounce back season. Profar has only played a handful of games above the AA level and without meaningful baseball in months, Profar would provide growing pains the Rangers are likely not comfortable with in such an important season. Plus, the importance of team chemistry will not be overlooked by Jon Daniels again and trading Andrus would constitute a massive hit.
  3. Odor will be a Ranger for a long, long time.
  4. Sardinas has the best chance of being traded for a pitching prospect in a need-for-need trade. However, with the uncertainty of Profar and the youth of Odor, reliable depth is a necessity.

So, who do I see in the Rangers’ Opening Day 2015 lineup?

2B: Rougned Odor

SS: Elvis Andrus

What about the Round Rock Express lineup?

2B: Luis Sardinas

SS: Jurickson Profar

Getcha popcorn ready.

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