One of the unexpected stars of Spring Training is outfielder Delino DeShields. Heading into an important season, DeShields seems ready to take the next step in 2017. Will a strong spring performance spark a breakout campaign?
In 2014 the Texas Rangers selected Delino DeShields in the Rule-5 Draft from the Houston Astros. He was a former 1st round pick of Houston, but never reached the Major League level. The speedy outfielder made his debut with the Rangers in 2015.
As part of the Rule-5 Draft, DeShields must remain on the Rangers 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season. He hit .261/.344/.374 with two home runs and 37 RBI in 121 games. DeShields stole 25 bases, and added 51 walks as well. He finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year balloting in 2015.
The following season was a disaster for DeShields. In 2016 he hit .209/.275/.313 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 74 games. He only managed eight stolen bases, and walked just 15 times with 54 strikeouts.
The Rangers saw a completely different player from the guy they drafted in 2014. DeShields had a 1.1 WAR in 2015, and -0.2 WAR in 2016. The organization now had no idea what to expect from the 24-year-old outfielder.
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Heading into 2017 DeShields needed a strong performance in Spring Training to prove his worth to the organization. In six games this spring he is hitting .385 with five hits, three walks, and three stolen bases in 13 at-bats.
The Rangers have Carlos Gomez on a one-year deal for the 2017 season. If DeShields can carry his hot spring performance into the season, and Gomez leaves after ’17, the Rangers could have a new center fielder in 2018. This season is a break-or-make year for DeShields to prove he’s an everyday outfielder or just a bench/platoon option.