Texas Rangers: 4 Things We’ve Learned This Spring

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Jul 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; A view the Texas Rangers logo and on deck circle before the game between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Giants 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; A view the Texas Rangers logo and on deck circle before the game between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Giants 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the Texas Rangers’ 2016 Cactus League slate now concluded, we reflect on 4 things we’ve learned about the 2016 edition of the Rangers this spring.

#1: Ian Desmond can indeed play the outfield

The Rangers’ largest and latest off-season addition, Ian Desmond came into spring training a man with a new position. Questions swirled about whether or not Desmond’s athleticism would be enough to make the career shortstop into a serviceable outfielder. There were inevitable bumps in the road in the form of errors, missed balls, and bad jumps, but as the spring progressed Desmond looked increasingly comfortable and confident in the outfield.

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Later in the spring, Desmond also saw time in center field, and acquitted himself so well that questions have begun to surface about whether Desmond may ultimately take over center field duties, and push Delino DeShields to left. Both DeShields and Desmond have the necessary speed and athleticism to play center, the primary difference between the two is arm strength. As a former shortstop, Desmond possesses an above average arm that DeShields can’t match. Desmond used his arm this spring to rack up three outfield assists, and show that he can make himself into an outfielder other teams hesitate to run on. Regardless of where in the outfield Desmond spends the bulk of his time this season, he has successfully eased concerns about the position change with his spring performance.

#2: Ryan Rua is a spring monster

For the second consecutive season Ryan Rua has put up stellar spring numbers and cracked the Texas Rangers opening day roster, this time as a bench player. We know that Rua can perform in Arizona, the question now is whether he can translate that into regular season success this time around. In 2015, Rua was able to seize the opening day left fielder job with his spring performance, but got injured early in the season and spent the rest of the year recovering and struggling to get back to a high level of performance. He will now get a 2nd chance in what is one of the most difficult roles on any major league roster, coming off the bench.

#3: The Rangers seemingly found a bargain gem in Matt Bush

Regardless of what you think of Matt Bush as a person, and whether or not he deserves a 2nd chance. There is no denying that he possesses all the makings of an imposing bullpen figure. The former 1st overall draft pick used this spring to show that the impressive tools are still there. By flirting with triple digits on his fastball, and displaying a sharp arsenal of offspeed pitches, Bush impressed evaluators, and quickly made his comeback bid into a serious prospect. While the bullpen is already supposed to be a strength for the Texas Rangers this season, there is little doubt that pure stuff like Bush’s could further bolster the relief corp. Poised to begin the season with AA Frisco, if Bush can continue to perform the way he did this spring, there is a serious possibility we will see him in Arlington at some point this summer, and probably sooner than later.

#4: The Texas Rangers trust homer happy A.J. Griffin to be their 5th starter

The Texas Rangers entered spring training with one open rotation slot, and eight hopeful candidates vying to fill it. The competition has been whittled down to one, with A.J. Griffin expected to get the nod as the 5th starter to begin the season. Griffin has a track record for giving up the long ball, giving up six this spring in only eighteen innings, and leading the American league in his last full season in 2013. A pitcher prone to fly balls and home runs appears on the surface to be a curious choice for a Rangers team that plays in hitter friendly Globe Life Park. However, Griffin also showed his ability to work fast, throw strikes, and get some swings and misses this spring. All three are traits that the Texas Rangers value.

Another factor that plays in Griffin’s favor is his ability to limit the damage from the homers he does allow. Of the 46 home runs Griffin has allowed in his major league career, thirty-one have been solo shots, and only four have come with more than one runner on base. Limiting damage and keeping the team in the game despite giving up the long ball, is exactly what the Rangers want out of a 5th starter, and this spring we learned that they trust Griffin to fill the role in the absence of Yu Darvish.

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