The Texas Rangers look for a more consistent year at shortstop as Opening Day approaches.
As the Rangers wrapped up the 2015 postseason, many had questions regarding the future for the team at shortstop. Inconsistency both offensively and defensively raised concerns about the quality of current options and the position moving forward.
With Spring Training right around the corner, the Texas Rangers will once more turn to Elvis Andrus to fulfill the shortstop position. Last season, Andrus had an average year at the plate hitting .258 with a .309 OBP and 62 RBI. Defensively, he posted a .972 fielding percentage, which was outside the top 10 for the American League. Heading into 2016, many questions have been raised about the viability of Andrus as a long term option at shortstop despite his young age. His inconsistency has frustrated fans and Ranger management and could lead to a change in the coming years. However, currently, he is the best option available for Texas. His natural talent is hard to replace meaning his spot is secure for the 2016 season.
Behind Elvis, Hanser Alberto is listed as second on the depth chart at short. Alberto is a young player who saw some utility infield use in 2015 and posted a .222 average in 41 games for the Texas Rangers last year and will be a decent backup for when Elvis needs a day off.
Another option Texas has is Jurickson Profar. Profar is currently listed as a second baseman on the depth chart but has experience at short. Profar was injured in 2015 which kept him off the field and many questions still circulate about how good Jurickson really is. Profar may see some time at shortstop especially if the injury bug hits Texas like it is all too accustomed to doing.
In the System:
Along with the three options currently on the 40-man roster, Texas does have some options in their minor league system including veteran Pedro Ciriaco. Ciriaco was acquired by the Rangers in the 2015 offseason to add depth to the infield for 2016. Ciriaco is a sub-par hitter but has a reputation as a defensive genius. Ciriaco will almost certainly spend some time up with the big league club meaning he will most likely see a little bit of game time at shortstop.
Ryan Cordell is probably the best prospect option for Texas at shortstop. The 23 year old utility player is listed as an outfielder on the roster currently but does have service time at shortstop. As of 2015, he was listed as the number 6 prospect in the Texas Rangers organization and the top middle infield prospect. Cordell is unlikely to see any big league time in 2016 and isn’t projected to debut until 2017, but he deserves a mention for his talent and future expectations.
Texas most likely won’t look to free agency to find a shortstop because of the depth they already have at the position. If they do however, Ian Desmond is the top shortstop free agent available. Desmond spent 2015 with the Nationals and hit .233 in 156 games. Many expect Desmond to bounce back in 2016 but his projections are still below Andrus’ numbers and make his signing unnecessary.
Position Grade: B-
The Texas Rangers have a lot of flexibility in their expectations from shortstop in 2016. Elvis has the potential to put together a stellar all-star performance or he can put together an average, middle-ranking season. No matter what though, Elvis is the starter moving forward for Texas and should have a decent performance in 2016 as the Rangers chase another AL West title.