May 17, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers former second baseman Michael Young is honored before the game between the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
This continues a short chain of articles evaluating the top three individual offensive seasons by Texas Ranger players, by position, in the last 15 years (2000-2014).
Third Place: Michael Young, 2003 Campaign. 2003 was Michael Young’s third season as the Rangers starting second basemen and a big year in his development as a player. As a 26 year old, Michael finally began to tap into his ability as a hitter posting a .306/.339/.446 slash line, which was good for a .785 OPS at a light-hitting second base position. Considering each of his two previous seasons resulted in sub-.700 OPS totals, 2003 was a year in which Texas’ trade with Toronto for the California Native and subsequent willingness to stick with him was rewarded. Young played all but two regular season games (his durability would endure too) and collected 206 hits for the first of five consecutive seasons. 56 extra base hits and 106 runs scores made Young part of a very formidable infield consisting of himself, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, and Alex Rodriguez.
2003 would be Young’s last season as a Ranger second basemen. He would redefine himself as a shortstop the next season in response to the Rodriguez-Soriano Trade, which sent Alfonso Soriano to Texas to hold down second base. Would Texas have made that trade had Michael Young failed to perform as well in 2003? Almost certainly. Regardless, Texas surely felt better about shipping Rodriguez to New York with a steadily improving bat, in Michael Young, to replace Alex at his position (that’s not to suggest the Rangers expected 50 homeruns and 130 RBI’s from Young as Rodriguez had roughly produced in three seasons).
Second Place: Alfonso Soriano, 2005 Campaign. 2005 was Soriano’s age-29 season and his second of two years with the Rangers. He posted a quality 30/30 season with the Rangers with 36 homeruns and 30 stolen bases (a total made more impressive considering he was caught just twice). Soriano added 45 more extra base hits along with his longballs to give him 81 in total on the year. His speed and power translated to 4.0 oWAR according to ESPN.com and just 6 GIDP’s on the year. Still, Soriano could have made his year better with additional patience. He saw just 3.66 pitches per plate appearance and had .048 walks per plate appearance for a total of 33.
2005 was Soriano’s last season in Texas as he was subsequently traded to the National’s in exchange for Armando Galarraga, Terrmel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson. This trade could have been made for several reasons. First, Soriano’s production in his first two season with Texas was down from his last two in New York; Soriano was productive for the Rangers, but his poor on base skills and near-atrocious defense limited his strengths. Second, Soriano made 7.5 million in 2005 and would make 10 million in 2006, this expense compounded with his age (he was the oldest, at 29, of the Rangers strong infield core) might have made him expendable in the eyes of upper management. Lastly, just as Rafael Palmeiro found himself out of Texas following a strong year, Soriano did as well with another top prospect (Ian Kinsler anyone?) knocking at the door in the upper minors.
First Place: Ian Kinsler, 2008 Campaign. This season embodied everything that the Rangers hoped Ian Kinsler could be capable of on a consistent basis. Kinsler was always ripe with potential, but his capabilities really led fans to expect a great deal from him that might have been, in retrospect, too much. In just 121 games Kinsler made is age 26 season one to remember; he slashed .319/.375/.517/.892 and had already scored 102 runs before getting injured toward the seasons end. Kinsler had 63 extra base hits (good enough to average more than one for every other game he played) to go along with 26 stolen bases at a 92.8 percent success rate. Kinsler’s speed and gap power made him nearly as important as Josh Hamilton, who was having a tremendous season of his own, in the Rangers lineup.
As aforementioned, there always seemed to be looming great expectations for Ian Kinsler in Texas. The fans knew he had power, speed, intensity and potential. But too many injuries (only twice in Texas did he play 150 games in a season) and a propensity to seemingly over-swing resulting in pop up after pop up vilified his talent in some fans eyes. Sure there were better seasons on Kinsler’s part as far as WAR is concerned (‘09 and ’11), but 2008 stands out as his best season as a pure hitter to me. Might his .319 batting average and .517 slugging percentage (numbers he has yet to replicate) given people a reason to expect too much from a player who was producing high-quality numbers regardless. To me, it seems as though Kinsler’s expected future value always cast a shadow on his present value; 2008 may be one reason for that.
Honorable Mention: Luis Alicea, 2000 Campaign. Alicea posted a put together a quietly solid season as a 34 year old in 2000 for the Rangers. He numbers were overshadowed by the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Rusty Greer, and Rafael Palmeiro in the Rangers order, but he still posted a respectable .294/.365/.404/.769 slash line in addition to quality K:BB numbers with 75 strikeouts to 59 walks. Additionally, Alicea posted his career high for RBI’s in a season that year with 63.
Summary: By taking a step back and observing Rangers’ second basemen from a distance, it becomes clear that Texas has actually been quite fortunate over the past decade plus. A bridge consisting of Luis Alicea (’00), Michael Young (’01-’03), Alfonso Soriano (’04-’05), Ian Kinsler (’06-’13) and finally Rougned Odor (’14-?) last year makes a line of productive second basemen for Texas. Sure, Jurickson Profar’s shoulder is incredibly unfortunate given his opportunity to seize the reigns as Elvis Andrus’ double play partner, but Rougned filled in admirably as just a 20 year old this season.
In relation to the Rangers first base situation where eleven players split time just last year and no man has really held the job for years at a time following 2007, five consistent second basemen in a fifteen-year stretch seems pretty fortunate. Of the four players that succeeded Alicea in 2000, two (Michael Young and Alfonso Soriano) were picked up in trades and two (Kinsler and Odor) were scouted. It is a testament to Texas’ management that talent is always pursued regardless of depth, because second base would likely have been manned by Josh Wilson (.239/.271/.299) and Donnie Murphy (.196/.268/.330) for the majority of last year had that middle infield “problem” not been an issue.