15 games into spring training, Hunter Pence appears on pace for an opening day roster spot with the Texas Rangers. He’s a good fit.
The Hunter Pence signing got everyone’s attention. He’s an Arlington native, three-time All-Star, World Series Champion, and one of the more charismatic guys in all of Major League Baseball. But most everyone knew those things. What they didn’t know was whether or not he could still be a productive big leaguer. The Texas Rangers are seeing positive results to that concern.
Pence has 30 at-bats so far this spring, second most to infielder Patrick Wisdom. In those 30 at-bats he’s slashing .400/.486/.833 with three home runs and nine runs scored. He’s 5-for-6 over his last two games with two homers, three runs, and two RBI.
The Rangers are giving the 35-year-old plenty of reps. They want to have as good of a feel for his game as possible before naming the opening day roster. The same can be said for Pence’s competition. Outfielders Willie Calhoun, Delino DeShields, and Carlos Tocci are also at the top of the list in at-bats, each with at least 25 this spring.
Tocci has been the surprise of camp thus far, but Pence is right there with him. Given the team needs, it seems the veteran is on track to make the roster.
We all know about the offense’s left-handed dominance. Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Shin-Soo Choo and Ronald Guzman are all regulars. Texas must find a way to work a few right-handed hitters in there for matchup purposes.
Pence wouldn’t hit top five in the order, at least not to start the season. But sixth or seventh makes good sense. The Rangers have very little power potential from the right side of the plate.
Elvis Andrus could produce some pop, though that’s nothing you can wholeheartedly count on. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not a home run hitter, and Asdrubal Cabrera produces his power mostly from the left side of the plate.
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You see what I’m getting at here?
Hunter Pence hasn’t exactly triggered any firework shows the last few seasons, but he’s also been playing most of his games at At&t Park (now Oracle Park), which is perhaps the toughest park in MLB for hitters. Globe Life Park has a much more hitter-friendly layout.
Standing strong at 6’4”, 230 LBs, Pence has power. He’s totaled 224 home runs over his 12-year career. Seven of his seasons have seen at least 20 long balls. He’s off to a powerful start this spring, so who’s to say he won’t have the power stroke once the regular season begins? There’s only one way to find out.
And let’s not overlook Pence’s clubhouse influence. He’s a known leader, a known team player, and his energy is tough to match. What good does a guy like him do in the minor leagues? I mean, surely he can lead the Nashville Sounds, but his intangibles would be put to much better use with the Texas Rangers.
Again, offensive production was the primary question mark for Pence this offseason and into the spring. Offense has not been a problem for him 15 games into spring training. It’s hard to see the Rangers keeping him off the opening day roster if he maintains his impressive hitting.
The team would need to ensure he can get enough regular season at-bats. He doesn’t need to play everyday, but enough to stay fresh and work up some momentum. He may not contribute much defense; however, offense wins out the vast majority of the time. Get ready to see Hunter Pence in the Rangers’ dugout on March 28th.