Texas Rangers 2017 Positional Breakdown: First Base

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Jul 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo (13) crosses home plate after hitting a home run in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo (13) crosses home plate after hitting a home run in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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Heading into the off-season, first base was the most pressing need for the Texas Rangers. With the departure of Gold Glove winner Mitch Moreland, the Rangers continue to search for a replacement.

With some high-profile free agent players left on the market it’s possible the Texas Rangers aren’t done making moves. Fan favorite Mike Napoli and National League home run leader Chris Carter remain possibilities.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams continues to be mentioned in trade rumors. If the Rangers want to go with a younger and cheaper option he could be at the top of their list.

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As of today the Rangers have yet to make a move for a free agent. The Rangers do have in-house options if they decide to forgo the open market. Lack of experience and question-marks haunt the current first base situation.

Joey Gallo

Can Joey Gallo finally put it together? He’s shown his legitimate 80-grade power in his two MLB stints. He has also shown his proneness to striking out. If the Rangers decide to stay in-house at first base Gallo will be the front-runner heading into Spring Training.

It’s better that we just forget about his 30 plate appearances last year. Only producing one home-run which happened to also be his only hit. Gallo also struck out 19 times, well over half of his at-bats. His inability to make contact continues to be a concern.

Jun 3, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers designated hitter Joey Gallo (13) hits a home run during the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 3, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers designated hitter Joey Gallo (13) hits a home run during the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

While his big league numbers last year were tough to look at, he did show improvements in Triple-A. His 34.6 K% was still staggering high, but it was an improvement over 2015. At this point we know what type of player Gallo is going to be. All-or-nothing much like Adam Dunn while being able to produce a high amount of walks.

Gallo also bolsters close to an 80-grade arm and is an above average fielder. While he will be better utilized at third-base later in his career he can be a plus defender at first. His .207 AVG against left-handed-pitchers in Triple-A last season will most certainly be cause for a platoon.

Ryan Rua

Ryan Rua played 31 games at first base last season and produced his best offensive numbers at the position. With the numbers he put up against left-handed pitchers last season, Rua would be the perfect platoon option for Joey Gallo.

His 107 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers compared to his 82 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers calls for a platoon. He also generates more power against left-handers. Producing a .370 SLG against righties compared to his .441 SLG against lefties.

The 126 wRC+ he put up at first-base was significantly higher than his wRC+ at any other position. His next highest is at left-field putting up a 100 wRC+.

Take first-base defensive metrics with a grain-of-salt, but Rua’s defense at first was rough last year. His -8.5 UZR/150 is incredibly low and would be a significant defensive downgrade from both Mitch Moreland and Gallo.

James Loney

James Loney signed a Minor-League deal with an invite to Spring Training this off-season. At 32-years-old Loney hasn’t had an above average season since 2013. Never being a power hitter, Loney has also started to see his average dip.

Posting negative WAR in both 2015 and 2014 with -.2 and -1.3 respectably, Loney will have to turn it around to make the team. If Loney could reproduce his 2013 season where he posted a 117 wRC+ and a 2.6 WAR.

Oct 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman James Loney (28) celebrates after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sport
Oct 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman James Loney (28) celebrates after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sport /

He’s a platoon only player at this point in his career. In 52 at-bats against lefties last year Loney hit .173. This compared to his .282 AVG against right-handed pitchers.

Loney is a solid fielding first baseman. His -1.4 UZR/150 is above average for a first baseman. If Joey Gallo shows he still isn’t ready for Major League pitching Loney could be an option to platoon with Rua.

Josh Hamilton

At this point in Josh Hamilton’s career he may be a full-time DH. His complete inability to stay healthy in the outfield, first-base may be a way to keep him healthy. He has yet to log an inning at first-base in career, Hamilton should get some significant time at first in Spring Training.

If Hamilton can prove to be an adequate first baseman in Spring Training he brings something both Gallo and Loney can’t. While his numbers are slightly better against right-handed-pitchers, he doesn’t need a platoon.

In 2015, Hamilton actually produced more power against lefties producing a .218 ISO against lefites compared to his .174 ISO against righties. His 96 wRC+ against righties is higher than his 90 wRC+ against lefites but it doesn’t warrant a platoon.

Hamilton’s biggest issue heading into 2017 will be his health. Not playing a single game in 2016 due to a knee injury, Hamilton will have to show he’s healthy and able to produce to make the team in 2017.

Ronald Guzman

It’s a long-shot Ronald Guzman sees significant time in the Majors this year. One of the top first base prospects in all of baseball, Guzman has a bright future. However, his poor numbers in Triple-A in 2016 shows he needs some more seasoning in the minors this year.

Guzman posted a .596 OPS and a .216 AVG in 25 Triple-A games last year. While he may already have the tools to be a Major League player, he will benefit from more experience at Round Rock.

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