How can the Texas Rangers satisfy their outfield dilemmas?

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 1: Left fielder Willie Calhoun
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 1: Left fielder Willie Calhoun /

The Texas Rangers are giving extensive looks to a handful of outfielders this spring. Might it be wise to carry five outfielders on the opening day roster?

There is a lot to be determined with the Texas Rangers outfield. At least a handful of players are fighting for a starting spot or a utility spot. Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo are guaranteed two outfield positions, meaning five guys are fighting for the two remaining positions–center field and utility. But what if two changed to three?

Traditionally, a 25-man roster is composed of five starting pitchers, eight relievers, four outfielders, two catchers, five infielders and a DH. Some teams will flex the DH, but it seems pretty clear the Rangers will rely on Shin-Soo Choo to handle the role routinely. To help make my point, let’s deem Choo a strict DH, not an outfielder.

The team has its hands tied because every outfield candidate has a strong case to make the roster.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 26: Carlos Tocci #15 of the Texas Rangers at bat against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning at AT&T Park on August 26, 2018 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

Everyone wants to see Willie Calhoun on the roster because he’s considered one of the organization’s top young talents. He’s also proven what he’s needed to at the minor league levels. With Texas working through a rebuild, why wouldn’t 24-year-old Calhoun be afforded consistent big league at-bats?

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On the other end of the rebuild spectrum, 12-year veteran Hunter Pence could provide immeasurable leadership to a young ball club. It would be tough to leave him off the roster if he has a productive spring, especially as a right-handed bat among an excessive amount of left-handed bats.

Carlos Tocci isn’t expected to start; however, he could be a valuable piece off the bench with his speed and glove being his greatest weapons. The same can be said for 8-year big leaguer Ben Revere.

Delino DeShields is the center field front-runner, though the spot is far from guaranteed after a very poor 2018 season. DeShields’ spring performance has the most influence on the other four candidates.

A roster spot cannot be afforded to all five, but perhaps three. Ponder an outfield of Gallo, Mazara and DeShields with Calhoun and Pence as the extras.

If the Texas Rangers prioritize Calhoun, they can play him in left field a few times a week and shift Gallo to center. DeShields’ playing time would suffer, but he’d be an excellent speed option off the bench and an excellent defensive replacement for Calhoun.

Pence could platoon against left-handed pitchers. He and Calhoun could also lessen the strain of 36-year-old Shin-Soo Choo by slotting at DH from time to time.

There is also the option of sending Pence to Triple-A and giving the roster spot to Tocci or Revere instead. This would be the move if Texas want to prioritize defense. Also, if they can’t promise Pence enough ABs.

Calhoun is the real question mark. I think he’ll force the Rangers’ hand and receive a roster spot. If anyone needs to prove worthy of playing time it’s DeShields. He was tendered a one-year contract this offseason; thus, the team is not nearly as invested in him as they are a pre-arbitration Calhoun.

Regardless, carrying five outfielders will simplify things. It won’t solve all problems, but it will definitely solve some.

Texas actually carried five outfielders on last year’s opening day roster (DeShields, Mazara, Tocci, Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson). With this year’s cast being stronger than last year’s, five outfielders makes a whole lot of sense.

The decision is not that simple, however. The Rangers would have to carry one less bullpen arm or forgo the utility infield role. Fortunately, their infield is very reliable. Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Asdrubal Cabrera should play just about every game. First baseman Ronald Guzman should see constant playing time as well. All four have good gloves, so a defensive replacement would not be necessary.

What if the Texas Rangers need to pinch run for Guzman or Cabrera?

Well, let’s say Tocci pinch runs for Guzman. Tocci then heads to the outfield and Gallo takes over at first base. If Tocci pinch hits for Cabrera, Gallo can play third base. I understand Gallo isn’t a fan of third, but surely he can tolerate it on a very minimal basis. Isiah Kiner-Falefa can sub in the infield as well.

If they feel the need for a utility infielder then perhaps a seven-man bullpen would come about. That’s possible, but unlikely. The Rangers have too many good bullpen options to sacrifice a spot.

dark. Next. Things are looking up for the Ranger pitching staff

Many options to consider. Currently, five outfielders makes sense due to the depth of the position. The club’s utility infield options are either limited in versatility or not performing well so far this spring. If the Rangers carry five OFers, Willie Calhoun will be one of them.