Few things are set in stone this spring training as the Texas Rangers continue their preparations for the 2021 season.
Among those uncertainties is the lineup structure for this team.
The Rangers have some intriguing names up and down their starting nine, but projecting what order they’ll line up in figures to be a challenge.
One important spot in this lineup, the cleanup hitter, will be a particularly interesting one to watch unfold, especially as we get closer to Opening Day.
Texas struggled to manufacture offense last season (combined team .648 OPS over the 60 game campaign) and figures to again in 2021.
A solid cleanup hitter could mitigate some of those struggles this year.
Here are four candidates we believe could occupy this spot come the regular season.
Texas Rangers’ potential cleanup hitter: RF Joey Gallo
In theory, Joey Gallo represents the most clear and obvious choice to be the team’s cleanup hitter in 2021.
However, manager Chris Woodward has stated that he plans to get Gallo more at-bats in 2021, meaning his slugging right fielder could bat even higher than fourth in the lineup at times.
More at-bats might be a good thing for Gallo, who struggled in 2020 after back-to-back 40 home run seasons in 2017 and 2018 and and his All-Star 2019 campaign.
Gallo is seeking a bounce-back year, hoping a full year in the new stadium and a custom bat will change his fortunes.
The 27-year-old’s career OPS of .825 and monstrous power screams middle of the order hitter, a role he has mostly occupied during his big league career.
Chris Woodward does have other options at cleanup this year besides Gallo, however, which afford the skipper a luxury he hasn’t had since becoming the manager.
Still, you can’t fault Woody for wanting to bat his best player and run producer in the middle of the order should it come to that.