As Texas gears up for the 2016 season, their outfield is poised to play a decisive role in the team’s success.
Last year, the Texas Rangers left field position had ups and downs throughout the entire season. Headed into 2016, the Rangers still seem to be searching for the perfect answer to their position problem.
Last season the position of left field was never fully held by one player. To start the season, Texas put their left field faith in the hands of young Ryan Rua. Rua, however, got hurt a week in to the season and the Rangers struggled to find a replacement. Over the season, 12 players played left field for Texas and unfortunately, none seemed to be the “answer”.
Josh Hamilton was probably the most notable name to be on the lineup card in left field in 2015. Hamilton hit .253 last season for Texas in 50 games. He came over from the Angels during the year on a deal that Texas couldn’t pass up. This season, the Texas Rangers are slated to pay Hamilton absolutely nothing with the Angels having to pay his contract for the 2016 season. Hamilton is expected to see a fair share of time in left field this season given the options on the current roster. However, if Hamilton seems to be the main option, Texas will have to find a player to right-handed hitter to compliment the lefty batter. Along with Hamilton, the Rangers could go back to Ryan Rua, their initial left fielder from last season. His inconsistency though will make that the less likely option. He, somewhat would fit as a compliment to Hamilton, but the fact that he isn’t much a hitting threat reduces that likelihood.
Along with Hamilton, Texas could go with newly acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano who they signed back in December. Ruggiano hit .248 last season, splitting time between the Mariners and Dodgers. Early on, Ruggiano will probably be the better option because of his experience compared to Rua.
In the System:
Along with Hamilton and Rua, the Rangers also have young outfielder, Nomar Mazara, in the minors. Mazara is actually a right fielder but could make the transition to left field fairly easily. He hit .296 between Double-A and Triple-A and showed defensive talent. The Texas Rangers could also look to transition a player like Joey Gallo to left field. Gallo is a solid hitter and his athleticism would allow him to play outfield with no issues.
If the Rangers decided to fill the left field void with an outside player, there are still a couple of big names available. Austin Jackson, who spent last season with the Mariners and Cubs, is one of the best outfielders still available. Last year, Jackson hit .267/.311/.385. Jackson is listed as a center fielder but with Delino Deshields locking up center for Texas, he would easily transition to left field. The other top name out there is Dexter Fowler. Fowler played 2015 for the Cubs and hit .250/.346/.411 in 156 games. Both of these players would be an upgrade to the left field position from last season.
Position Grade: C-
If the Rangers can get Jackson or Fowler for a good price, expect them to shift towards filling the position from the outside. Otherwise, they’ll use Hamilton and Rua as a pair and if things get desperate, we may see Mazara called up to get some time in left as well.
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