Texas Rangers revamp to give their youth extended looks

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25: Willie Calhoun #5 of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25: Willie Calhoun #5 of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Several recent roster moves show that the Texas Rangers have pivoted to a new approach as the regular season winds down. It’s all about their youth.

The Texas Rangers are still hanging around. The division is far out of reach, but they’re six games out of the AL Wild Card race with 50 more to play. Despite remaining in the hunt, Texas has opted to do some late-season cleaning with the intention of revealing more about their future.

A bevy of roster moves were made leading up to a weekend series against the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers DFA’d catcher Tim Federowicz and third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. They also optioned reliever Phillips Valdez to Triple-A Nashville. Subsequent moves brought minor leaguers Scott Heineman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino to the major league club.

Heineman is a 26-year-old outfielder who went 2-for-4 in his big league debut Friday night. He was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2018. He was also hitting .372 in 33 Triple-A games prior to his call-up.

Texas Rangers
NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 12: Isiah Kiner-Falefa #9 of the Texas Rangers follows through on a seventh inning run scoring ground out against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 12, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Kiner-Falefa was Jeff Mathis‘ platoon partner behind the plate to start the 2019 season. However, a right middle finger strain forced him to miss most of June and all of July. Experimenting the 24-year-old as a catcher did not go swimmingly, so Texas has declared him a third baseman for the foreseeable future.

Trevino entered the major league scene in temporary but memorable fashion with the Texas Rangers a season ago. He played in just three games, though he ended one with a walk-off single on Father’s Day. He has not been great in the minors this season; still, the Rangers see the 26-year-old as a wiser option at catcher than the veteran Tim Federowicz at this stage.

Beyond those three green professionals, Willie Calhoun will be trotting out to left field everyday and the bullpen will be primarily comprised of young pitchers that you’ve faintly heard of.

The motto for the rest of 2019: Show us what you got.

The Rangers are going to give Calhoun consistent playing time, something he has not been awarded in his handful of major league stints to this point. He’s impressed thus far, hitting .283 and slugging .551 in 127 at-bats in 2019. He’s also played a decent left field, which is all Texas asks of him from a defensive standpoint.

On the other side of the outfield is Nomar Mazara, who is actually losing playing time. Chris Woodward has been playing Mazara exclusively against right-handed pitchers as of late. With the concerning inconsistencies of the 24-year-old’s game, at-bats have become a privilege rather than a guarantee. For the first time in his career, Mazara will have to earn his playing time. The message has been received to this point, as he’s hitting .478 with a 1.216 over his last six starts.

Calhoun and Mazara are the main cogs in this tweaked roster and tweaked organizational mindset. Though, there’s a lot of anticipation surrounding various other pieces as well.

Emmanuel Clase grabbed everyone’s attention Sunday afternoon after firing eight pitches at or beyond 100 mph in his major league debut. He’s just 21 and he has the kind of arm talent that screams future closer. Then again, we said the same thing about Jose Leclerc a season ago, yet he has taken a step back in 2019. So, be excited about Clase, but let him step to the mound a few times before jumping to conclusions.

The ceilings aren’t all that high for Kiner-Falefa, Trevino or Heineman, but there is a definite belief that each can be a solid big league player. Kiner-Falefa already proved so in 2018 when he hit .261 with a .325 OBP. He was also last year’s version of Danny Santana in the sense that he played solid defense all throughout the diamond. Texas wants to give him the chance to get the bat going before the season expires.

Trevino projects more so as a backup catcher than a starting catcher. No matter how the Rangers see him, he’ll have a shot at making the 25-man roster out of spring training if he stays healthy. As for Heineman, he’s athletic and he’s proven he can really hit. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers outfield is absurdly crowded. He’ll showcase his ability in the closing months; the Rangers will have a grasp on how to handle him come the offseason.

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Let’s see what the young guys have! Yes the team is still in the hunt, but it’s pretty evident where the Rangers’ priorities stand. The future is more important than the present, which I take no issue with.