Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun’s comeback tour is off to a strong start
By David Esser
To put it rather bluntly, 2020 was not a good year for Texas Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun.
Playing against his former team in the LA Dodgers during spring training, Calhoun was drilled right in the face by a 95 MPH fastball via the arm of Julio Urias, Obviously unintentional by Urias, but an incident that left Calhoun with a broken jaw nevertheless. Calhoun only ended up playing 29 regular season games for the Rangers this past season due to said injury, seriously putting a stunt to his development.
Calhoun also missed time due to a strained oblique muscle and a strained left hamstring.
In the games that Calhoun did participate in last year, he was rather ineffective. He slashed .190/.231/.261 – by far the worst statistical *season* of his major league career. Even with the broken jaw injury taken into account, the swift dip in production was a rather concerning one. Calhoun was of course coming off an awesome 2019 campaign (.848 OPS in 83 games), and the hope around the Rangers organization was that he would continue to blossom into a core piece for the team’s rebuild.
However, despite Calhoun’s rough patch of play during the shortened, pandemic-stricken season that was 2020, the young outfielder/designated hitter has made swift work flipping the narrative surrounding his potential here in 2021. Despite battling a groin injury earlier in the season, he’s currently batting .347 with an .886 OPS – both career highs for him at the moment.
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Kevin Sharrington of The Dallas Morning News highlighted Calhoun this past weekend following yet another impressive performance over the Boston Red Sox, a series in which the Rangers outright won:
"But further evidence in the Rangers’ 5-3, series-clinching, come-from-behind win Sunday over Boston in front of 29,190 at GLF indicates Calhoun is recovering nicely. Even better, his old roomie made progress Sunday, too.Calhoun, once again leading off, extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games with a couple of singles, raising his average to .347 in 13 games after starting the season on the injured list. The pulled hamstring was simply another setback to pile on top of the disaster that was 2020 for Calhoun, what with a broken jaw and the pandemic and social justice issues particularly troubling for a Black man as well as the son of a corrections officer.Among other things it was easy to forget over the last year was that Calhoun hit 21 homers in just 83 games two years ago.And now?“I think he’s kinda back to where he was in ’19,” Chris Woodward said. “He’s just in a more positive state. I know he and Joey talked about it before the season.”"
The Texas Rangers are getting some insane production out of Calhoun this year.
While it’s obviously unlikely that Calhoun will continue to post a .300 batting average for the entirety of the 2021 season, seeing him return to his pre broken jaw injury would be a major boost to a Rangers squad that’s already exceeded expectations this season.
Guys like Nate Lowe and Nick Solak look like real building blocks at the moment – Calhoun joining that group would be quite the success story for Texas.
Calhoun is currently making just $593,000 and is set to be under team control through 2024. Not only would his continued production help launch the Rangers towards once again being a consistent playoff team, but it would come at a very cheap price. A win-win situation for the Texas front office.