The Texas Rangers have optioned Willie Calhoun to Triple-A. He was expected to make the squad, but a poor spring showing determined his fate.
Yet again, Texas Rangers’ 24-year-old outfielder and hopeful big league talent, Willie Calhoun, has been optioned to Triple-A. This was supposed to be the year he broke camp with the club. The Rangers intended for him to get quality major league playing time and to step to the plate quite often. Calhoun was going to have the chance to prove worthy of staying in the majors.
Though, he first had to prove worthy of making the opening day roster.
Calhoun was by many accounts the front-runner to be Texas’ fourth outfielder. The role drew a lot of competition, but he had youth, intrigue, and due process on his side. He just had to have a solid spring and the job was his.
He did not have a solid spring.
Calhoun played in 19 spring training games, the second most of all players invited to camp. He hit .217, reached base less than 30% of the time and slugged just .261. He hit zero home runs. We all know spring training stats are to be taken lightly, but Calhoun’s numbers were awful enough to prompt serious concern and doubt.
Every player is working on at least one thing throughout the spring, whether it pertain to swing mechanics or plate approach. Thus, a learning curve should always be accounted for. However, a learning curve doesn’t excuse a player like Willie Calhoun– talented hitter who is competing for a roster spot– from putting up competitive numbers.
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The position players that are expected to make the roster had encouraging springs. Willie Calhoun did not. It’s that simple.
It was determined early on that the fourth outfield spot would come down to Calhoun and Hunter Pence. Pence won out thanks to three home runs and a slash line of .314/.386/.588 over 51 spring at-bats. Put his numbers next to Calhoun’s and the decision was obvious. Pence also edged Calhoun on the intangibles, such as leadership and attitude.
The fact that Calhoun did have youth and due process on his side and still lost out on a roster spot says a lot. Sure Pence is an easy guy to root for, but everyone wanted to see the 24-year-old get a chance to be a part of the Texas Rangers lineup on a relatively consistent basis. Calhoun is a part of the club’s future; Pence is not. And, at the moment, the future is a major priority for the organization.
I’m beginning to think Calhoun is not a part of the Rangers’ future. He’s been promoted to the major leagues multiple times now and has essentially spoiled every opportunity. It’s never easy to make an impact in varied opportunity, but that’s what many players have to do throughout Major League Baseball.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa was promoted to the Rangers last April. He performed so well that the team had no choice but to keep him around. Now they’ve gone as far as to change his position just to ensure he’ll have a place in the lineup on a routine basis.
The Rangers played the promote/demote game with Jurickson Profar for many years, but that situation was different from Calhoun’s. Profar suffered injury setbacks. He was also labeled one of the top prospects in MLB and was supposed to become the next face of the Texas franchise.
Calhoun has not had injury setbacks. He was seen as a good prospect, but not an organization-altering one. In addition, he doesn’t have nearly the offensive or defensive prowess that Profar did.
Point being, the Texas Rangers don’t have to go out of their way to create opportunities for Willie Calhoun. He hasn’t earned it. He worked hard this offseason to shed weight and to enter camp in much better shape. He succeeded in that; however, he didn’t play baseball well enough once he got to camp. Clearly, that’s what is most important.
I’m curious as to how many more opportunities the Rangers will give Calhoun. I wrote an article last week pinpointing one bold prediction for each position player for 2019. My prediction for Calhoun was that he will be traded prior to the trade deadline.
He didn’t help his cause by showing up a day late to minor league camp after being optioned to Triple-A. Texas made the roster move on Thursday, meaning Calhoun was to join minor league camp on Friday. He caused some drama by not showing up to camp on Friday, but eventually showed up today.
This wasn’t the first time he’s acted out of order. He got into some trouble last year due to lack of hustle when running out a groundball while playing for the Round Rock Express. He’s also expressed frustration over the Rangers continuing to send him to the minors.
Perhaps he has been treated unfairly in a few occasions, but not this one. He had every chance to make the 2019 opening day roster, but he failed to perform when it counted most. That seems to be the theme of his professional career to this point.