Texas Rangers Looking to Win Rookie of the Year

jmccormick
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After 53 games of the 2015 season, the Texas Rangers have had six different players make their Major League debut. Of the six, only one is not currently on the roster and that is Logan Verrett who gave up six runs in his nine innings. Looking across the MLB, the Rangers are the only team not in the NL East to have six or more players make their MLB debut this season. Not only have the Rangers played a lot of rookies, they have been playing rookies that are finding success in the big leagues.

One of the lesser talked about rookies headed into the year, Delino DeShields, was selected as the AL Rookie of the Month for May. In 27 games in May, DeShields managed to hit .296/406/.395 with 22 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. DeShields was taken by the Rangers in the 2014 Rule 5 draft this past December from the Houston Astros. Prior to the Rule 5 draft, Kiley McDaniel from FanGraphs ranked DeShields as the 25th best prospect in the Houston Astros farm system. Completed after the draft, Baseball America ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the Texas Rangers farm system. These rankings reflect how DeShields has far outperformed his low expectations and has been a vital part of the resurgence of the Rangers in May.

Hanser Alberto has played just four games at the major league level but is already having success. He is hitting .375/.375/.500 in his 16 at-bats after hitting .303/.321/.421 for Triple-A Round Rock. Alberto’s hitting so far is a major plus for a player who is more known for his defensive skills than his hitting. In 2014, Alberto won the Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award as the best defensive shortstop in all of the minor leagues. The Rangers will likely use Alberto at second base but will also be a utility player once Rougned Odor returns as he has played shortstop, second base, and third base in his career.

The first major debut of the 2015 season belonged to Chi Chi Gonzalez and he displayed all the promise expected of him. Gonzalez threw 5.2 innings, giving up just two hits and no runs in a win over the Boston Red Sox. The only problem Gonzalez experienced in his first start was giving up five walks while striking out just two. Gonzalez had struggled so far with Round Rock with a 4.15 ERA in eight starts after his best season in 2014 in which he had a 2.67 ERA across two levels. This level of success is likely not to be sustainable, a prediction backed by his 5.05 FIP, although on a positive note Gonzalez had his success against a dangerous Red Sox lineup. Gonzalez will make his next start against the Kansas City Royals as he will face off against Edinson Volquez tomorrow.

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The most exciting debut this season belongs to the team’s top prospect Joey Gallo. Filling in for the injured Adrian Beltre, Gallo debuted on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox and performed better than many would have predicted. Gallo went 3-for-4 and fell just a triple short of a cycle, including a massive home run to right field. The only out for Gallo was a strikeout against the left-handed relief pitcher Dan Jennings. While the plan was for Gallo to return to the minors when Beltre returns, it will be difficult for the Rangers to send him down if he has more games like his debut. Gallo has already proven all he can in Frisco, having hit .314/.425/.636 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in 34 games. The biggest hurdle for Gallo continues to be his strikeout percentage, having struck out in 33.6% of his at-bats in Frisco this year.

Now to ask the big question, can any of these four players take home the 2015 Rookie of the Year trophy? DeShields already has an award for being the top rookie of May but started to struggle towards the end of the month. He will remain an explosive playmaker at the top of the lineup but stealing bases and scoring runs isn’t a quality most look at for an award like this (even though they should). Alberto has shown signs of being a great player so far but has only played four games so it is too early to tell whether he is the real deal or not. If he can hit like he has started then he could be part of the race given his defense but likely will not be able to maintain this high level to stay in the conversation.

The real conversation with the Rangers and Rookie of the Year starts with Gonzalez and Gallo. Gonzalez  had a brilliant first start but will face his true test tomorrow and starts to follow as teams begin to gather information on him to find out his tendencies. Some pitchers have the stuff to dominate in the minor leagues without ever having a plan but cannot continue that in the majors. The Royals are hitting .275 for the year and will be look to disrupt his rhythm by getting on base and trying to make plays happen. It will be important to watch how Gonzalez responds if he is forced to deal with adversity.

May 30, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (21) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in his first major league game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Gallo showed in his second game of the season yesterday a little about what fans will be worried about as he struck out in his first three at-bats but turned it around and hit a home run in the ninth. His power and ability to hit has been put on display and he is without a doubt one of the best when it comes to raw power but will need to get the bat on the ball if he wants to succeed. If Gallo returns to the minors as expected, he could be hurt by the limited number of games he may play this year but will still remain a top contender for the rookie of the year honors if he can get hot with his bat.

Looking around the American League, there are not many names that jump off the page as running away with the award. Some current names at the top would be White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon who the Rangers face tonight, Billy Burns of the Oakland Athletics, Devon Travis of the Toronto Blue Jays, Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Preston Tucker of the Astros, and Steven Souza Jr. of the Tampa Bay Rays who leads all AL rookies with 11 home runs. All six of these players have been getting a lot of playing time such as Burns who has already played in 28 games and Travis who has played in 36. If I had to pick from this group I would currently say Travis would win the award if the season ended today as he is hitting .271/.336/.504 with 7 home runs and 16 RBI to start the year.

For any of the Rangers to catch up to these six, they are going to need playing time and show why they are more valuable to their team even in less time. Gonzalez should remain in the rotation if he continues to have success so he should have enough starts to be a strong candidate. Gallo has the best chance of all the Rangers to take home the award and in two games has already put a major dent in the home run and RBI lead for AL rookies. Look for the Rangers to find any excuse to keep him in the majors although already striking out four times in eight at-bats is a sign he may need to spend some time in Round Rock.

Next: AL West: Seattle Mariners Acquire Mark Trumbo

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