Some thoughts on the Texas Rangers’ outfield situation
By Ben Zajdel
The Texas Rangers have significant outfield depth, which is a good thing. But they also need to figure out who is playing where.
As spring training approaches, the Texas Rangers have a good problem–too many quality outfielders. There are only three outfield positions, but five players on the roster are good enough to field them. You always want to have depth. The MLB season is long and grinding. Injuries happen, guys need days off, and the better your bench players are, the better your team is.
But players also need to know where they’re going to play. Young players especially need consistent at-bats and time in the field if they’re going to develop to their full potential. The Rangers don’t need another Jurickson Profar situation.
Right now, Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields, and Willie Calhoun could all start in the outfield for the Rangers. There’s only room for three, however.
DeShields is best fit for the fourth outfielder role. He’s had an up and down career the last four years with Texas. When he’s at his best, he gets on base at a higher than average rate and is aggressive on the base paths. Also, his defense has improved tremendously since moving to the outfield from second base.
DeShields is a competent MLB outfielder who can get hot for a month. However, the other outfielders on this list have a much higher ceiling than him, so the Rangers are obligated to give them a chance to succeed as everyday players.
Mazara is entrenched in left or right field for the time being. Everyone expected a breakout season in his third year, but injuries held him back. Maybe his leap comes this year. Mazara has hit 20 home runs every year, and if he improves his OBP, let’s say to .330, he’ll be a key cog to the Rangers’ offense. He’s still young, just a year older than Calhoun and three years younger than Gallo. Hopefully Mazara will make that expected leap in 2019.
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Gallo, originally a third baseman, is probably going to play center field. Pushed into the outfield because of injuries, he actually looked at home roaming the open spaces of Globe Life Park. He’s now said that’s where he wants to stay.
He can cover a lot of ground with his long strides, but he may have to change positions as he ages. Big frames don’t last long in center field. We saw that with Josh Hamilton.
First base seems like the best fit, but with the emergence of Ronald Guzman last season, Gallo will stay in the outfield for now.
Choo was a candidate to be traded last year, but the Rangers could either find no takers or no deal they liked. Choo’s contract definitely played a part in the decision. He’ll probably spend a lot of time at DH this season. His bat can still catch fire, but his defense is lacking. With only two years left on his deal, Texas might be able to move him at the trade deadline this season. They’ll likely have to pay a hefty portion of his salary, though.
Calhoun is one of the more intriguing players on the Rangers’ roster. He’s yet to hit in the majors, but is too talented to give up on. The Texas Rangers don’t need to rush to make a decision on him. If they are presented with an overwhelming trade offer, they should move him and go with DeShields in the outfield. But they shouldn’t move him if he has a slow season.
The organization just needs to see some improvement from Calhoun; see some signs that he’s starting to figure out major league pitching. With his shortcomings on defense, the 24-year-old will have to be a plus in the batter’s box. The Rangers need to see a strong indication that he’s on his way to becoming exactly that.
I think Opening Day will find an outfield of Mazara in left, Gallo in center, Calhoun in right, and Choo at DH, with DeShields on the bench as the fourth outfielder. The Texas Rangers need their young outfielders to take the next step. Time will tell if 2019 is when that happens.