How’s the Rangers rebuild working out?

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

 

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Mike Minor #36 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 7, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

BY DIC HUMPHREY                                                                                                                         DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

The Texas Rangers won just 78 games in 2017, but still announced
they expected to contend in 2018. Last year after a slow start, they
finally admitted the obvious…the team was in a full rebuild. Teams
hate to use the word “rebuild”, it translates to fans as, “We’re not
going to win many games.” They won 67 last year.

This year with new coaches, a new manager, 55 new people in the
front office, the team got off to a good start, going 12-8 after 20
games. The Rangers had not been four games over .500 since winning
the division in 2016.  They finished April at .500.  Now the ideas of
May have passed.

The one-third mark of the season is approaching and the reality
of rebuilding has set in as the Rangers have a good offense, but the
pitching is awful. As of Friday morning they ranked 29th among the 30
Major League teams in staff ERA.

Texas went 3-6 on the road trip that ended this Thursday.  They
won the last two games of the trip to win their first road series of
the season and go into the weekend at 19-22, which puts them in fourth
place in the American League West trailing first place Houston by 8.5
games.

The hope with the rebuild for this season is that the core of
young players to be the heart of a competitive team in 2021 – 2022
begins to get established.  So far the results are mixed.  Joey Gallo
and Mike Minor are doing well. If they continue putting up numbers
like they have over the first seven weeks, they will get strong
consideration for the American League All-Star team.

The rest isn’t going so well. Delino DeShields is a solid
defensive center fielder, and his speed makes him a terrific threat on
the base paths. That threat doesn’t help much if the player can’t get
on base. Over 28 games, he hit .182 with a .321 on-base percentage.
His OPS was .605 (the Major League average is around .740. so they
sent him to Nashville. He’s hitting .150 after five games there.
Rougned Odor had three marvelous months last season to even be a
finalist for the Gold Glove Award at second base, but he has
regressed. He got two hits Thursday to bring his average up to .167
and has five home runs, but still, his OPS is just .587.  So far,
manager Chris Woodward is backing him, but even GM Jon Daniels said in
a radio interview this week that Odor needs to make some adjustments.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa may or may not be the catcher of the future.
He’s actually appeared in more games than Mike Mathis, the veteran
that was signed to be the lead catcher. IKF is hitting just .192 with
a .599 OPS.

Another building block was supposed to be Ronald Guzman.  He came
off the injured list for last weekend’s series in Houston and is
hitting .213 in 16 games.  He is still an outstanding defensive first
baseman and is showing some power at the plate.

Nomar Mazara has had some solid seasons. He hit exactly 20 home
runs in each of the last three seasons and drove in 101 in 2017. His
career batting average is .258, and his career OPS is .747. So far
this year, he is languishing around those same figures. He’s hitting
.255 with a .758 OPS.  Those numbers are not to be sniffed at, but the
hope was he would take a step forward and become an All-Star caliber
player.

Jose Leclerc was thought to be a solid bullpen hand going into the
season. He was named the closer, and signed a multi-year contract
that bought out his arbitration years. Unfortunately, once the season
started, he struggled.  He’s 1-1 with two blown saves, and has been
shaky in other outings. His ERA is 6.32 and is no longer the closer.
The Rangers are trying to restore his confidence to be the pitcher he
was late last year when he converted 12 straight save opportunities to
end the season.

Willie Calhoun was the best prospect the Rangers received in the
Yu Darvish deal two summers ago.  He worked hard this past winter to
alter his lifestyle in order to arrive in spring training in better
condition.  He played well enough in training camp to make the team.
The Rangers though have a log jam of left-handed hitters, and the team
felt that at this stage of his career, Calhoun needed to be playing
regularly.  He thus started the season at AAA, where he hit .304 with
a .973 OPS.

Elvis Andrus’s injury this week opened up regular playing time
for Calhoun, and he joined the team for the last two games.  He is
certainly taking advantage of the opportunity to show that he belongs
in the Majors.  He is 6-12 at the plate with four runs scored and five
RBIs and has hit a home run in each of the two games. Calhoun looks
like he could be making his way onto the Rangers’ roster permanently.
The team is having more success this season than most people in
the know forecasted in March.  It’s amazing that they are just three
games under .500 going into the weekend with the horrible pitching
staff they have assembled.  The fact of the matter though, is that the
success has largely been fueled by veteran players, the type that
doesn’t figure to be around when this team expects to contend again.

Shin-Soo Choo is perhaps the team’s best player through the first
seven weeks.  He certainly will get consideration for the All-Star
team as he is hitting .288 with an .885 OPS after Thursday’s game.
Logan Forsythe, Hunter Pence and Asdrubal Cabrera have been marvelous
veteran free agent acquisitions.

Elvis Andrus is on the injured list right now, but he is hitting
.325.  That’s good enough for fourth in the American League and 10th
in the Majors. He is still just 30 and should be productive when the
team turns their fortunes around.  However, he may or may not be
around at that point as he has another opt-out clause in his contract
after this season.  With the numbers he’s putting up, he could be an
interesting free agent.

The team’s fortunes at this point look optimistic for this season.
They have played well at home – 12-7 in the first three home stands.
Sixteen of their next 22 games are at home, and only three of those
games are against teams with a record over .500.

The team’s fortunes weigh in on the conundrum of Mike Minor.  He
has turned into one of the top starting pitchers in the American
League and is signed through next season at a reasonable salary.  He
is just 31, so could still be having productive years in the 2021-2022
window when the team expects to contend again. Do they keep him to be
the backbone of their rotation, or do they trade him to a contender
this summer?  He would bring a better return of prospects than either
Cole Hamels or Yu Darvish brought from July trades the last two
summers.

This season still shows promise of being better than expected.
The next focus is on the June draft. Once that happens and the bulk
of the draftees are signed, the focus in baseball will turn to July
trades.  It will be a critical time for Texas as they try to maintain
some success on the field this year, but still have eye to the future
with prospect acquisitions.

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