Despite the build up of a battle for center field this spring, Chris Woodward has said that Danny Santana will be the starter to open the season.
Entering Spring Training, one of the hottest topics of debate was whether Nick Solak could fight his way into the starting center field role to open the season. Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward has poured cold water on the position battle though commenting recently that Danny Santana will be the primary center fielder to start the season per a report from TR Sullivan.
In all fairness, this seemed the logical arrangement for the majority of the offseason when the Rangers decided to not pursue a natural center field replacement for Delino DeShields. The club viewed Santana’s bat as everyday quality and felt that center field was the position that could get him the most everyday playing time. However, as Spring Training neared, the club signaled their plans for young slugger Nick Solak to get some work in center field sparking a position battle that garnered attention from fans and media alike.
So far, Solak has looked fairly comfortable in center field making good use of his athleticism. Solak, like Santana, is a player who has the bat to be in the lineup everyday but lacks a positional home with a glove that doesn’t play all that well in the infield. His experience in the outfield is limited especially in center which is perhaps why Santana will get the edge to start the season. This will answer the question of how Santana gets regular playing time but leaves Solak’s time in question. The 25-year old impressed in his short stint with the Texas Rangers last season hitting .293 with an .884 OPS in 33 games. Throughout his minor league career his bat has played at every level but now it’s up to him and the Rangers to find a home for him defensively.
As of now, it seems Solak will still be with the big league club to open the year but Texas could consider utilizing one of his remaining three minor league options. His bat is undoubtedly big league ready but it could benefit Solak and the Texas Rangers to have him start in Triple-A and work defensively at new positions expanding his value as a utility player which is the role he seems destined to play this season.
With center field seemingly settled at least for the start of the season, that leaves first base as the only true position battle left. Greg Bird was brought in to challenge Ronald Guzman and despite a poor batting average, Bird has generated a lot hard contact and shown he’s no slouch with the glove either. The catching battle was decided through injury as Jose Trevino went down with a fracture in his throwing hand meaning it will likely be Robinson Chirinos and Jeff Mathis in Arlington to open the season.