The Texas Rangers have cornered themselves in the handling of Willie Calhoun
The Texas Rangers don’t have a fit for one of their top young talents. That’s a major problem, especially since they acquired him by trading one of their former top talents.
When a team trades its long time ace, still in the midst of his prime, they better get someone really good in return. That’s a rather sensible thought, right? When the Texas Rangers traded Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers two summers ago, they received three prospects in return–Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis.
All three ranked as top 30 prospects within the Dodgers’ organization at the time, Calhoun ranked the highest at #4. As members of the Rangers’ organization, Alexy currently ranks as the #18 prospect, Davis is not in the top 30, and Calhoun rose all the way to #2 before surpassing prospect status this past season.
No one really knows what to expect yet from Alexy or Davis, as they are both still playing at the Single-A levels. Willie Calhoun, on the other hand, has reached the point of serious critique now that he has had multiple stints with the big league club. At the age of 24, it’s time he not only stay up with the Rangers, but makes an impact for them.
That’s much easier said than done. In fact, the more time that goes by, the less convinced I am that Calhoun has the potential to be an impact player.
He has been unimpressive thus far in a Texas Rangers uniform. Over 13 games in 2017, Calhoun slashed .265/.324/.353 with only one extra base hit in 37 plate appearances. Still, not a bad showing considering it was his first taste of the major leagues.
Though, he got the chance to sit down for an actual meal at the major league level in 2018. In 99 at-bats last season, Calhoun slashed .222/.269/.333 with two home runs and 11 RBI. He struck out at a 25% rate and walked at 6% rate. From actually watching him play, he seemed overly aggressive and very pull-happy from the left side of the plate.
Those numbers and characteristics don’t translate from what he’s proven in the minors. The lack of walks and aggressiveness, maybe, but not the ability to hit for a good average and barrel the ball up with consistency. Take last seasons numbers at Triple-A as an example…
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Calhoun endured 432 ABs with the Round Rock Express in ’18. He slashed .294/.351/.431 with 9 home runs, 32 doubles and only 47 strikeouts.
Obviously, Major League Baseball is more difficult than Minor League Baseball. The pitching is far superior, the pressure can be suffocating, and the game in general moves at a faster pace. To put it simply, it’s much more intimidating to stand 60 feet, 6 inches away from Justin Verlander in front of 30,000+ people compared to standing 60 feet, 6 inches away from Joe Schmo in front of 7,000 people. (I have not done either, but one can only assume.)
However, that’s what professional baseball players sign up for. When you’re the headline player in a return package for Yu Darvish and a #2 overall prospect, you are expected to become a significant asset to the big league club. Thus far, Willie Calhoun has shown little promise of becoming that.
I’m 500 words in and I haven’t even touched on the biggest concern regarding Calhoun…
HE DOESN’T FIT ANYWHERE!
Where is he supposed to play in 2019? I’m not even sure the Texas Rangers know the answer to that question.
Calhoun was drafted as a second baseman and eventually moved to the outfield in the minors with the Dodgers. The Rangers are always well-equipped in the infield, so they kept Calhoun as an outfielder once they acquired him.
He doesn’t have a good arm, his speed is average and he’s not a player that will make for entertaining defensive highlight reels. Does that sound like a major league outfielder to you? Me neither.
The Texas Rangers have made it clear that they do not want Joey Gallo playing center field on a regular basis. That places him as the everyday left fielder. Nomar Mazara will of course be the everyday right fielder. While center field seems to be a question mark at the moment, Willie Calhoun is not, and will not be the answer at that position.
That leaves the DH role. Let’s not forget that Shin-Soo Choo had a solid 2018 season. Really, he was the Rangers’ best hitter for the majority of the year. Despite Choo not being an integral part to the ongoing rebuild, he clearly deserves consistent playing time, and that playing time will primarily come at DH.
Point being, the Rangers do not have a starting role for Willie Calhoun. Even if he kills it throughout spring training, all of the positions he can play are already filled.
Unfortunately for Calhoun, he can only hope that a trade this winter paves way for him to become part of the everyday lineup. It’s either that, or hope he himself is traded to an organization where he fits.
Unfortunately for the Texas Rangers, they seem to have acquired a player in a blockbuster trade that doesn’t fit their roster. He doesn’t fit now and it doesn’t seem he’ll fit in the near future with young corner outfielders currently at the helm, top prospect outfielders on their way up, and a second baseman who is signed long-term.
The situation is not much of Willie Calhoun’s doing. Playing better is all that can be done on his end. He certainly hasn’t played well enough to this point for the Rangers to go out of their way and make moves in his favor.