While most of the focus in the upcoming weeks will be on Josh Hamilton’s return to the Texas Rangers, the key cog in the team’s recent offensive upswing has been first baseman Mitch Moreland. The left-handed hitter’s return to the lineup following elbow surgery has helped spark the Ranger’s recent surge that has the team now only two games under .500.
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On May 8th, I posted an article stating that Moreland might be the odd man out when Hamilton returned to the lineup. My theory was based on the fact that Moreland is less versatile in the field than other players such as Kyle Blanks and Carlos Peguero who were both hitting well at the time.
However, both Blanks and Peugero came back to Earth resulting in Peugero’s demotion to AAA Round Rock while Blanks currently sits on the 15-day disabled list due to a cyst on his tailbone. Enter Mitch Moreland.
Prior to his DL stint, Moreland was the only Ranger other than Prince Fielder hitting over .300 in the team’s woeful April. Since his return to the lineup on May 13th, the former Mississippi State Bulldog has picked up where he left off.
This month Moreland has hit .318 with three homeruns and six RBI in only 11 games. During Moreland’s 14 games on the DL, Texas averaged 4.5 runs per game while amassing a record of 7-7. With Moreland back in the lineup, the Rangers are averaging over a run more per game more and have gone 7-4.
It must not be overlooked that the Rangers have also seen the improvement of key hitters like Shin-Soo Choo, and Adrian Beltre as well as the emergence of center fielder Delino DeShields Jr. However, Moreland’s return has provided power and production to the middle of the Rangers’ lineup.
The question now becomes whether Moreland can be a consistent hitter. Throughout his career he has been a streaky player prone to long slumps. At other times he has looked like one of the best hitters on the team. What has seemed to derail Moreland is the injury bug.
In past seasons, Moreland has struggled to regain his form after an injury. However, this year seems to be different. Moreland is hitting for a higher average since his return to the lineup making Rangers’ fans optimistic that Moreland can be a steady force in the lineup.
The Rangers are also a better team with Moreland playing first base. Prince Fielder is a below-average defensive player who belongs at the DH position. Moreland gives the Rangers a stronger defense, which is necessary to backup the unpredictable Rangers pitching staff.
While most baseball fans will be tracking the progress of Josh Hamilton, Rangers’ fans should pay close attention to the performance of Mitch Moreland. Hamilton can’t be expected to be an All-Star as soon as he returns to the majors for the first time this season making Moreland’s production even more important. When he went on the DL, I had given up on Moreland and hoped to see him traded. However, he has proven me wrong by showing how much his presence can improve the 2015 Rangers.