Texas Rangers: 3 up, 3 down, and 3 players to watch in Week 2 of Spring Training
3 Players to Watch This Week
The first player is Bubba Thompson. It was announced Tuesday that Leody Tavares will be resting for the next 7-10 days as he's dealing with a minor left oblique strain. The focus shifts to Thompson. He's a natural center fielder defensively, but a fourth outfielder offensively. He will likely see more starts in center field these next two weeks to see if he can be relied upon if Tavares needs to start the season on the IL.
Thompson has tremendous speed and can use that to beat out ground balls and bunts. He has the ability to drive the ball, but he needs to show more of that as well as more of an ability to make contact. The strikeout rate of 30% is too high, and the lack of consistent hard contact is an issue as well. If Thompson cannot turn it around, the Rangers will likely move Adolis Garcia to center field and play Clint Frazier or Travis Jankowski in right field.
The next player is catcher Sam Huff. The Rangers seem to be looking to keep three catchers on the roster this season. Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver are the first two and then there's an ongoing competition between Huff and Sandy Leon. Huff is a better offensive catcher and is able to play first base as well. Leon is a veteran and is someone who will likely be content with only playing once or twice a week.
Huff has to go out there and show that he can do more with less. He's been working on shortening his swing. He has such a big frame that his swing can get long. If he can it through the zone quicker, the thought is that Huff will make more contract. And when he makes contact, it tends to be hard contact. He has an average exit velocity of 88.9 MPH and a maximum exit velocity of 112.9 MPH. He has the potential to be a 20-30 home run catcher, but he needs to continue to work on his mechanics. These next two weeks are when he really needs to separate himself and show that he is the best option for the third-string catcher role.
The final player is Martin Perez. He was on last week's list as well. He has now left camp and is in Miami to start getting ready for the World Baseball Classic. He finished his time in Surprise with consecutive three-inning appearances. He should be set up to go longer in those games. He will be pitching for Team Venezuela, who is in Pool D with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Israel and Nicaragua.
Perez will be playing alongside players such as former Ranger Robinson Chirinos, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Miguel Cabrera. Venezuela is not as stacked as the Dominican Republic, but they would seem to be able to compete with the 2017 finalist Puerto Rico to come out of that pool. It will be a good experience for Perez to see how his stuff plays on that level against the best players in the world. They get started on Saturday against the Dominican Republic. It will be announced this week what game in pool play Perez will start.
It will be a busy week. The Rangers will play six games and have their first off day of the Cactus League on Thursday. There will likely be more demotions at some point. By Tuesday of next week we will have a better idea of the starting rotation health as Gray will have pitched at least once, if not twice. Hopefully, this week will see Eovaldi back on the mound either throwing bullpens or in a game. By the end of this week, we should have news on when deGrom will be making his first Cactus League start.
Here's to hoping for a much more entertaining third week.