The Texas Rangers are winding down to the end of the 2019 season. A season that has them doing far better than expected when it started. Even the most confident prognosticators had them finishing with only 70 to 78 wins.
As of now, they are on course to finish with 80 to 85 wins. The Rangers finished the 2018 season 67-95 and 36 games back of the Astros. Anything above that is considered an improvement. But with the start the Rangers got off too, there are some who see it as a disappointment. Sitting around .500, the club is slowly falling out of any race. Although there is still technically a shot at the second wildcard spot, the future is where the Rangers are looking. Thus the auditions for 2020 will get underway. Here are the players and what they are shooting for.
These are the players who are a lock to be on the 2020 team. They are under contract and key contributors right now.
Elvis Andrus: Andrus is probably on his slow decline after his career year in 2017. But his future isn’t as a three-hole hitter. Andrus would be an incredible SS with numbers that fit a 6 or 7 hole spot on a contending team. He has an option but won’t exorcise it in 2020.
Joey Gallo: The first time all-star has proven he is a rising star. His power is legendary. But he now possesses the ability to take a walk and put up an OPS of over .900. He is still cheap and might be extended. But he isn’t going anywhere in 2020.
Willie Calhoun: After starting the year in Nashville, Calhoun came up in May and got off to a tremendous start. He was demoted again in mid-July because of a numbers game. Since his return, he has played a solid left field and proven that his hit tool is legit. He will be a starter on this team in 2020.
Danny Santana: One of the brightest pickups for Jon Daniels, Santana has solidified himself as the best hitter on the 2019 club. He started off on a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp. But since his contract was purchased from Nashville in mid-April, he has been one of the best hitters on the club. His versatility is a plus to go with his .307/.338/.903 slash line. Plus he has 18 HRs. He is the starting first baseman for now. But his future is super utility. He plays every position but pitcher, third base and catcher.
Brett Martin: I predicted that Martin would win the 2019 Rangers Rookie Of The Year. He has not disappointed. His stats don’t show how well he has solidified himself in the bullpen. Martin has an ERA of 5.00 over 45 innings. Lately, he has been used in key situations by Chris Woodward. He has passed the test and looks to be a possible late-inning guy. The added bonus is that he is a lefthander who throws in the mid ’90s.
Jose Leclerc: After signing a team-friendly 4-year contract, Leclerc was penciled in as the 2019 closer coming out of spring training. He struggled and lost the job. But that doesn’t take away from the arm and price tag he cost the Rangers. Most of all Leclerc misses a lot of bats and that is what this team sorely needs. Even if he isn’t the closer his salary is not too high for a late-inning reliever. Plus he has struck 74 hitters in 51 innings. He isn’t going anywhere for 2020.
These are players that are under contract and good players who can help a contending team. They will probably be on the 2020 team. However, they are also players who could be dealt this offseason with the right offer.
Mike Minor: Without a doubt the best starter on the 2019 team. Minor was an All-Star and legitimate Cy Young candidate. He is under contract for 2020 at a very reasonable rate. The Rangers have three choices to decide with Minor. Trade him this offseason, extend him to a longer contract or stand pat and let him play out his current deal.
DSN Prediction: Minor signs an extension this offseason and is the ace for 2020.
Lance Lynn: Another great signing by Daniels. Lynn is under control through 2021 at about $10 million a year. Lynn is almost a lock for 2020. However, he is cheap and under control. Don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t kick the tires on him this offseason. DSN Prediction: Lynn is the number two starter in 2020.
Shin-Soo Choo: Signed through 2020 at $21 million, Choo’s contract has long been a hot topic for Ranger fans. Choo has been very good in the last couple of years and is earning his contract. However, with one year left, he could also be valuable to another team who is just looking for an OBP king and left-handed bat. The Rangers would probably have to eat some of his salaries.
DSN Prediction: Choo plays his final year with the Rangers in 2020.
ON THE BUBBLE
These are players who are under control for next year. They have contributed in 2019. However, they have not produced enough to be guaranteed a spot on the 2020 squad. They have about a 50/50 chance of staying or going.
Jeff Mathis: Mathis has been abysmal at the plate this year. The Rangers never expected much out of Mathis, but a batting average around .160 is lower than they bargained for. He was brought in to work with the young catchers and is known for his pitch framing. Although defensively he has been adequate, his offense is like having a pitcher hit when he is playing. DSN Prediction: Mathis is here in 2020 in a back up role. He will not be the primary catcher and he will only start about 40 to 50 games.
Isaiah Kiner-Falefa: Catching was supposed to be the job IKF would take control of this season. He unfortunately failed at it. After his finger injury he was sent back to Frisco to get time at 3rd base. Upon returning to Arlington he has played third for the most part. Defensively he is serviceable at third. However, his bat is not what you want in a starter at the hot corner. DSN Prediction: IKF will start 2020 as the utility guy and emergency catcher. If his bat doesn’t improve he may put up frequent flyer miles between DFW and Nashville.
Rougned Odor: Odor has played his way onto this list. Thought of as the future at second base, he has not hit well at all. With an average that was below .200 for most of the year, he has come on stronger lately. However, his numbers are still not good and the consistency is an issue. The simple fact is that he is not playing like an everyday player. DSN Prediction: Odor will open the 2020 season as the starting second baseman. His leash will be the shortest he has ever had. If he isn’t hitting above .250 with an OPS over .800 after April, he will be benched or traded. Some team might take him on for no commitment and the Rangers paying 95% of his remaining salary.
Nomar Mazara: Mazara has been just OK this season. Long thought to be a stable part of the lineup, the Big Chill’s biggest moments have been his 400 to 500 ft HR’s. He is an average hitter and below-average fielder who hasn’t increased his power numbers. He has found himself sitting some in August. DSN Prediction: Mazara will be traded this offseason. He is the odd man out in a heavy left-handed hitting outfield.
Jessie Chavez: The Santana or Kiner-Falefa of the pitching staff, Chavez has value. He is a guy who can give you three innings relief, start or close out games. He will be 36 in 2020. He started off bad in 2019. But has solidified himself as the season progressed. DSN Prediction: Chavez starts the 2020 season in the Rangers bullpen. Like Chris Martin in 2019, he will be the most likely traded at the deadline no matter whether Texas are buyers or sellers.
Arial Jurado: Jurado made the biggest improvement in 2019. Though he was inconsistent, he did have some good moments in the rotation. But the inconsistency is his issue. Jurado has an above-average sinker. However, that is his only above-average pitch. That means if the sinker isn’t sinking, he gets exposed. DSN Prediction: Jurado begins 2020 as a long man in the bullpen who makes some spot starts.
Shawn Kelley: Kelley has an option for 2020. His numbers for 2019 have been good enough to consider bringing him back. His injury right before the trade deadline hurt any chance of moving him this year. DSN Prediction: Rangers do not pick up his option and he elects free agency.
Adrian Sampson: Sampson has spent the entire 2019 season in the big leagues. Initially, he came out of the bullpen. However, he eventually made his way to the rotation where he was hit or miss. His value lies in long relief. He was serviceable as a starter but got exposed when teams started getting scouting reports on him. He is back in the bullpen now and the ERA isn’t good enough to sustain a job. DSN Prediction: Sampson will begin 2020 in the Nashville bullpen.
These are top prospects who have either already made an appearance in the big leagues or are on the verge. They are auditioning for 2020 this year.
Joe Palumbo: Palumbo has made a few appearances in 2019. He is in Nashville now, but expected to spend the rest of the year in Arlington. He is competing for a rotation spot. DSN Prediction: Palumbo starts 2020 in the Ranger Rotation.
Brock Burke: Like Palumbo he should be up towards the end of 2019 to make some starts. He has made is major league debut yet. But that is expected soon.
DSN Prediction: Burke starts 2020 in Nashville rotation.
Kolby Allard: The return for Chris Martin from Atlanta, Allard has two very nice starts for the Rangers. He will stay in the rotation for the remainder of 2019. DSN Prediction: Allard will start 2020 in the Rangers Rotation.
Emmanuel Clase: Clase has made his major league debut in 2019. An absolute steal from the Padres for Brett Nicholas, he has made JD look good. He consistently lights up the radar over 100 mph with a cut on his fastball. DSN Prediction: Clase will be in the 2020 bullpen on opening day.
Pedro Payano: Payano wasn’t on anyone’s radar heading into 2019. He started the season in the Roughriders rotation and is finishing it in the Rangers rotation. He was not high on any pre-season prospect list. DSN Prediction: Payano will start 2020 in the Nashville rotation.
Ronald Guzman: Guzman is the best defensive first baseman the Rangers have. He started the season in Texas but his bat demoted him back to AAA. He has shown signs of power and plate discipline. His splits at first base have also taken away infield base hits. DSN Prediction: Guzman is the starting first baseman in the new ballpark on opening day.
Delino Deshields: Delino has been hit or miss since he was picked up in the Rule 5 draft from Houston in 2015. His speed can create havoc for opposing teams, but he isn’t a true centerfielder. Although he has flashes of greatness with his glove, he hasn’t been stellar. DSN Prediction: Deshields will not be in the Rangers organization for 2020.
Scott Heineman: Heineman was thought to have a real chance to make the big leagues out of spring training. However, he hurt his shoulder and started the season on the IL. He is listed as an outfielder but has played some first base for the first time in his pro career in Nashville. He is slashing .352/.417/1.005 this year in the minors. He is also a much needed right-handed bat. DSN Prediction: Scott will be the opening day right fielder for the Rangers in 2020.
Jose Trevino: Trevino was the surprise call up when the Rangers DFA’d Asdrubal Cabrera and Tim Federowicz. Apparently, the Rangers want to know now if Trevino will be an everyday catcher at the big league level. His defense is there. His offense isn’t. DSN Prediction: Trevino is the opening day catcher for Nashville in 2020.
These players are currently on the 40 man roster or will be soon. Whether or not they make the 2020 team is up in the air. All are capable of being contributors or being DFA’d in the offseason. Some could be traded.
DSN will list them and predict where they are in 2020.
(* by their name means they currently are on the 40 man roster)
*Kyle Bird: Nashville bullpen
*Ian Gibaut: Rangers bullpen
* Taylor Guerrieri: Not in organization
*Jonathan Hernandez: Nashville bullpen
*Wei-Chieh Huang: Nashville bullpen
*Rafael Montero: Not in organization
*CD Pelham: Frisco bullpen
*Shane Carle: Not in organization
*Locke St John: Nashville bullpen
*Phillips Valdez: Not in organization
Joe Barlow: Rangers bullpen
Nick Solak: Nashville 2B
Eli White: Nashville SS
There you go. The rest of 2019 is an audition for the 2020 big league team. The roster will most likely look different when the Rangers open up the new stadium against the Angels.
Depending on who is acquired through free agency, a lot of familiar faces could be in other uniforms. There could also be a lot of new faces that are already in the Texas organization. If you need a reason to watch, this is it.
Featured Image: Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News