Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Rua takes over left field from… well, who can really remember who was out there last? Maybe David Murphy? Rua came up for the 40 man cup of coffee last year when the front office wisely decided that the last half of the season would be better spent seeing young talent against real competition. It wasn’t pretty, but there were flashes, and Rua seems to have put those game experiences to good use. His spring battle with Jake Smolinski for the left field spot was a joy to watch.
Watch For – An honest to goodness major league left fielder. Rua is a home grown Rangers 2011 draft pick who has steadily advanced through the system and performed at every level.
Watch Out For – There’s always the chance that AAA was his peak, but his work this spring and mopping up last year was solid.
Rougned Odor seems like he should be a veteran but this is the first year he’s even old enough to have a beer on road trips. He stepped into the swirling black hole that was second base and stabilized the right side of the infield with effort and ability well beyond his years. Nobody was saying, “Ian who?”, but this could be the season Odor makes that happen.
Watch For – Glove work at the pivot. Hopefully Rangers fans could be getting in on the beginnings of a really good double play combination as the Elvis and Odor show gets comfortable turning two. Plus, Odor already has half as many career homers as Elvis, in fewer than 120 games.
Watch Out For – The sophomore slump, but it didn’t seem to be an issue in Surprise this spring.
Robinson Chirinos caught just 3 games in 2013 and then came into his own when pressed into service last year as Geovany Soto had his share of on and off field issues. (There’s a joke somewhere about groin injuries and marijuana arrests, but let’s not try too hard.) Chirinos stepped up, hit the ball, unveiled an arm that can shoot down base runners, and generally showed he was the man for the job.
Watch For – As Chirinos, Andrus and Odor get some time with a regular rotation of pitchers, it should become harder for base stealers to move up.
Watch Out For – Chirinos will have a have his first real year to work with a steady rotation, how he handles the pitchers will have a lot to do with how a staff down its Ace can move through the season. Catching is just flat hard and there are a lot of moving parts. Fortunately, there’s a guy named Pudge in the front office who is available to offer a few tips.
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