What To Watch For: Rangers Set to Host Athletics
By Kenneth Nash
Texas is opening up its final home series of the month of April tonight and desperately need a big win to help close out a dismal month.
The Rangers have had about a bad a start to the season as most fans can remember. Currently sitting at 8-15 and last in the AL West, Texas hosts the Oakland Athletics for a three game series starting tonight and has a chance to close the gap in the division a bit with a strong showing.
Here are some things to look for in this series.
Monday: 7:05 CT (Matt Moore v. Trevor Cahill)
Tuesday: 7:05 CT (Cole Hamels v. Andrew Triggs)
Wednesday: 7:05 CT (Doug Fister v. Kendall Graveman)
Can Isiah Kiner-Falefa Keep Up His Hot Start?
Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his major league debut just a couple of weeks ago as a replacement for the injured Rougned Odor. In his short time with Texas, the young infielder has impressed on both sides of the game currently hitting .289 through 11 games and has posted an impressive .325 on-base percentage. Kiner-Falefa is listed as the #28 prospect in the Rangers system according to MLB.com Prospect Watch and was not regarded as a top tier talent. Since his call-up, the Hawaii native has shown an impressive well-roundedness and some polished attributes developed in the minor league system.
Currently riding a 5 game hit streak, the hot start for Kiner-Falefa is well above expectations. Moving forward, be looking to see if he can keep up any semblance of his quality at the plate. Nobody expects him to maintain a near .300 average but anything about .270 I think is a huge win for Texas and their prospect development. In fact, with Rougned Odor still injured and Kiner-Falefa performing well, don’t be surprised when some call for him to start ahead of Odor.
What Is Jose Leclerc’s Role?
I’m very high on Jose Leclerc. I think he has the stuff to be a top bullpen arm for Texas for a long time. Leclerc started off the season with the big league club and impressed me in his short stint. In 4 games, Leclerc threw 5 scoreless innings where he struck out 5 and only issued 1 walk. He was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock but has been recalled as of Monday with Ryan Rua being optioned to the Rangers top affiliate.
With Texas having fairly fluid bullpen roles save Keone Kela who is the current established closer, Leclerc could fit into a number of roles. It will be interesting to see what Jeff Banister decides to do with Jose Leclerc but personally, I’d like to see him get some more meaningful innings in games. That’ll give us a chance to get a wholistic picture of who Leclerc is and can be for this Rangers team.
Was Delino’s Absence As Crucial As It Seemed?
Delino DeShields returned from hand surgery Monday and was put back at the top of the lineup and in center field. DeShields going down was a big blow in a string of big blows that the Rangers suffered early on in the season. His defensive ability seemed sorely missed and Texas lacked consistency and speed at the top of the order. This being his first full series back, we can start to get a bigger picture of whether DeShields’ absence played as big a negative role as it seemed. He made his presence known Sunday robbing David Freitas of a homerun to straight away center. Be watching how the top of the order reacts to having their leadoff man back as well as how Delino looks in comparison to his replacements defensively.
Wednesday’s matchup will be Texas Chili Company Dollar Hotdog Night so be sure to check that out if you make it out to the bullpen.
Next: Rangers Are Getting Delino DeShields Back at the Perfect Time
Let us know what you’re looking for in this division series in a comment below.