The Youth Movement Looks to Produce Major League Contributors
There were a few good moments this season and good storylines to follow. Joey Gallo looked on pace for a career year before injuries derailed the season. Mike Minor and Lance Lynn put out career years and look solid at the top of the rotation. But the top storyline to emerge in 2019 was that the youth movement for the organization could be better than expected.
Willie Calhoun emerged as a quality major league hitter in the second half of the season. He looks poised to be a core player for Texas come 2020 which was always the hope after the Rangers dealt Yu Darvish to the Dodgers in 2017 to acquire the young slugger. His Ranger career got off to a rocky start that included a lot of trips back and forth between Arlington and the minors. Entering this season, Calhoun went to extra lengths to transform his body for a long-term shot in the bigs but he was still crowded out and racked up the travel miles going back and forth between Arlington and Nashville.
Calhoun got his long-term shot a few months into the season and since July 26th, has posted a .265 average with 16 home runs and 35 RBI. There’s still room for improvement but at just 24, with his first real time in the Majors, Calhoun has solidified himself as a part of the future for Texas.
Along with Calhoun, another slugger shined for Texas in 2019 despite only being acquired part way through the season. Nick Solak joined the Rangers system from the Rays in a swap for for Rangers reliever Pete Fairbanks. Solak started his career in the organization with Triple-A Nashville and lit up the minors hitting .347 with a 1.039 OPS and 10 home runs. That earned him a fairly quick call-up to the Rangers where he continued to shine. Solak played in 33 games for Texas and hit .293 with an .884 OPS. Expectations for Solak are skyrocketing now and while Texas still has to find a spot for him defensively, he looks to be a big piece of the 2020 roster.
Joining the pair of young sluggers, Texas also saw some young pitchers show Major League ability this year. Emmanuel Clase started the 2019 season with the Rangers High-A affiliate and hit the fast track to the big leagues after impressing at every level of the minors. With the Rangers, Clase made 21 appearances and posted a stunning 2.31 ERA and a 3.42 xFIP. He struck out 21 in 23.1 innings and allowed a home run rate of just 0.77 per nine innings. At just 21 years old, Clase figures to improve and continue to have a bigger and bigger role in the Rangers bullpen.
Kolby Allard, like Nick Solak, joined the Rangers organization part way through the season but impressed in is short time. After joining from the Braves in a trade deadline move, Allard made one start with Triple-A Nashville before joining the Rangers. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some of the guys above, but for a 21-year old starter acquired for next to nothing, everything he does for Texas from this point forward is just gravy. Allard made nine starts for Texas towards the end of the season. He posted a 4.96 ERA and a strikeout rate of 6.55 per nine innings. Not super stellar numbers, I know. But, if you’re Texas, you’re hoping Allard can fill a back end rotation role in 2020 and despite some bad starts, he also had some very good ones that give some hope for the future. There’s still a ton of room for growth for Allard.