Around the Diamond we go

Given the amount to cover the Infield sections will be split into two parts. We continue to do the best thing fans of a rebuilding team can do, which is look into the future while analyzing the present. I’ll do my best Nostradamus impersonation and predict the future poorly. To do that I’ll take a look at the free-agent market, upcoming prospects, and of course, the current roster. The infield is going to be the most dramatically changed position group when compared to the ’21 opening day roster. Through the past decade-plus, you could count on seeing the guys named Andrus, Beltre, Odor, Kinsler, and Young roaming the dirt. Whether they be actual Hall of Famers, fan favorites, or controversial characters, the Infield has notoriously been stacked with names to know. The Rangers are hoping to achieve greatness again from their first line of defense. With that, it’s safe to assume to the infield will see the most turnover as compared to the ’21 opening day roster

Starting at the 3…

First base will arguably be the most boring position to discuss. It’s going to be Nathaniel Lowe baring an injury or absolute collapse over the winter. His stiffest competition is Ronald Guzman who is coming off a gruesome season-ending leg injury. After having his time with the Rangers in question, Guzman had an excellent winter, winning MVP of the Dominican League batting .360/.450/.523 with 5 homers. He followed it up with a solid spring training putting up a good argument to be the starter but ultimately lost out and moved to the outfield. Once again, he is having his time in Texas questioned, where he will have to outperform his career averages. As for other internal options, looking at the minors there aren’t any major league-ready players to push the competition. Curtis Terry played first base but with the Sequoia’s he has as legs, he’d be a defensive liability. The Free Agent market has intriguing names such as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo who age-wise, match up the best. But it’s safe to say the big checks will be written for other positions, given the prospect capital invested into Lowe. If Guzman doesn’t make the team and The Rangers get a wild hair to sign a backup 1B, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, and CJ Cron are names to keep an eye on. To save space, the infinite gaps between names will be limited but the list, however unlikely, is:

  • Nathaniel Lowe
  • Ronald Guzman
  • Curtis Terry
  • Mitch Moreland
  • Anthony Rizzo
  • Freddie Freeman

 

Backstop Stability

Moving from a position of stability to…another position of stability, we check in on the 2. Catcher going into 2022, barring injury as well, is rather predictable. It’ll be Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim. These are two young and controllable backstops who have created no question to their playability. Like most catchers in the league these days, their bats may not be awe-inspiring but looking at their ability to call games and manage the zone you can see their effect on the game. Heim was the real prize in the winter trade that saw fan-favorite Andrus sent to Oakland. He has hit .196/.234/.355 with 9 homers in 76 games but has made a knack of hitting the homers at the right time. Just ask Seattle how they feel about him. Jose Trevino meanwhile, the Rangers Roberto Clemente award nominee, has slashed .222/.251/.310 in 81 games with 3 homers this year. Like I said though, their bats aren’t what matters. Jonah Heim currently leads the league with 9 runs saved and Trevino followed shortly behind with 8 thanks to their pitch framing. This is figured with the “extra strike calls” they’re able to produce with their framing. This can make or break a pitcher’s day and keep the team in games. Their only minor league competition is Sam Huff who, with a good winter, would be considered major league ready. Just not at catcher. In the shortened ’20 season he got a taste of the bigs playing in 10 games. He hit .355 with 3 homers and 3 doubles. That’s a very small sample size but in his minor league career (376 games) he’s batting .261 with 69 homers reaching AA. He suffered a hamstring strain in spring training and followed that up with minor surgery to remove a loose body in his knee, which prevented him from playing catcher. This setback is why he won’t push for a spot on the opening day starter, at least as a Catcher.

Closing a revolving door

The final position to be covered in part I will bring a smile to minor league lovers’ faces. The Hot Corner. Since the retirement of Adrian Beltre in 2018, 3rd base has been a revolving door of players. Isiah Kiner-falefa won a Gold Glove there in 2020 and was promptly moved to SS. This year we’ve seen Brock Holt, Charlie Culberson, Yonny Hernandez, and Andy Ibanez man the 5 spot. All of them could find themselves there again in ’22 but I’m going with the former number 1 prospect in Josh Jung. Jung’s season was delayed from a stress fracture in his foot, which might’ve prevented a late-season call-up. He has found his way to AAA and has looked the part the whole way. He hit .308 with 18 doubles and 16 homers in 67 games. His swing has drawn comparison to Ian Kinsler but with more power. His internal competition could come in the form of Andy Ibanez who has hit .313 with 5 homers in his last 38 games. The Free Agent options are exciting as always. Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Ramirez highlight the free-agent players here. All could be an option if the Rangers think Jung is a better defensive 2nd baseman. Kris Bryants’ defense has been suspect and Arenando would have to opt out. Jose Ramirez is a club option in Cleveland and will likely be picked up. The option is very likely internal with candidates looking like:

  • Josh Jung
  • Andy Ibanez
  • Yonny Hernandez
  • Brock Holt/Charlie Culberson
  • Kris Bryant
  • Nolan Arenando

Onto the next chapter

Next up I’ll be covering the 2 positions that could see the most controversial decisions made: Short Stop and 2nd base. The future of the Texas Rangers could hinge on the outcome of these positions. Major free agent moves, possible trades, and even minor league call-ups will shape the form of this team. As to be expected with a rebuilding team, there will be turnover. But not quite a total tear down of the roster. Who will stick around could be decided these next 2 weeks.

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