Rangers Spring Training 2020

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2020

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By Dic Humphrey

The Rangers’ 2020 spring training camp opens this Monday with the pitchers and catchers reporting.  The first workout comes the next day.  The report date for the rest of the squad is Sunday, February 16, with the first full squad workout the following day.  The exhibition games begin on Friday, February 21. Opening day is March 26 in Seattle, and the home opener for the regular season is March 31 against the Angels.

    This off season comes with mixed results.  Pitching always seems to be a problem in Texas.  General manager Jon Daniels addressed the starting rotation by trading for Cory Kluber, a pitcher that has won two Cy Young Awards.  Injuries curtailed last year, limiting him to just seven starts.  The Rangers expect Kluber to return to at least near the form that made him one of the top starting pitchers in the league.  

    Over the past two seasons, Daniels has signed Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, both rebounding from injuries.  They have been excellent.  They were two of the top 10 pitchers in the American League last year, and there is every reason to expect that they will, at a minimum, come close to the same performance this season.  The outlook then is to have at least three very good starting pitchers at the top of the rotation.  

     Daniels has added two veteran starters for the back of the rotation – Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.  Gibson won 13 games for Minnesota, and Lyles won 12 for the Brewers and Pirates last year.  If Gibson and Lyles are decent, this could be the best overall starting rotation since the World Series years in 2010 and 2011.  

    Last season, the Rangers’ starting pitching woes were the back end of the rotation.  It was a swinging door starting with Edinson Volquez, Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly.  It ended with a host of prospects that are almost Major League ready – Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn, Kolby Allard, Brock Burke, and Ariel Jurado.  They likely form a very good rotation at AAA Nashville to start this season, but they all could be part of the Rangers’ rotation later in the year.  

     This rotation may not have the quality of the top teams, but it has depth.  It looks like a rotation that can give the team a good chance to win every night.  Teams have won 90 games with such rotations.  This team may not, but it may have a chance to do so.

    As for the bullpen, the Rangers go to spring training without a solid closer.  Jose Leclerc was that guy when last season began.  He finished with 14 saves in 18 opportunities, but he never was the rock solid finisher that he was at the end of the 2018 season.  The best thing that could happen for this year’s bullpen is to settle in on a closer during spring training, hopefully Leclerc, and the rest of the pen will likely fall into place behind the closer.     

    As for the rest of the pen, Rafael Montero was really good late last season.  He’s back, as is lefty Brett Martin, Jesse Chavez and hard throwing Luke Farrell.  Joely Rodriguez and Nick Goody were acquired this off season.  Jonathan Hernandez showed promise late last season, but he could also figure in the starting rotation picture.  Daniels has always strung together a decent bullpen, no matter whether it was good on opening day, and he likely will again this year.

    The disappointing thing about the off season is the offense.  The payroll has shrunk in recent years, and revenues are expected to surge with the team moving to the new ballpark.  There appeared to be an opportunity money-wise to acquire at least one significant middle of the order bat, but they didn’t.  Rumored targets Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Marcel Ozuma, and Nicholas Castellanos among others all went somewhere else.     

    Offensively then, the main newcomers to the Ranger roster are third baseman Todd Frazier and catcher Robinson Chirinos.  Both are upgrades from last year.  Frazier is a solid defender, hitting .251 for the Mets last year with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs.  

    Chirinos is back after a year in Houston.  He hit 18 home runs last year, and has a good working knowledge of many of the Rangers pitchers from his six seasons with the team.  

    Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino, the catching duo that finished last season for the Rangers, will fight it out this spring to be Chirinos’s back-up.   

The Rangers have been looking for help at first base.  Ronald Guzman is a Gold Glove quality defender, but he hasn’t hit what is expected from a corner infielder.  The left-handed batting Guzman is especially weak against left-handed pitchers, hitting just .134 against lefties last year.  He spent 34 games in the minors trying to retool the bat, and hit better when he returned on September 1 when the rosters expanded.  This is a key year for Guzman.  He needs to take a big offensive step forward, and if he doesn’t, the Rangers will be looking elsewhere for a first baseman going forward.

 Texas was planning on playing Castellanos at 1B against lefties had he signed.  They settled instead for another left-handed hitting first baseman – Greg Bird.  Bird was a fifth round selection by the Yankees in the 2011 amateur draft and signed a minor league deal with the Rangers with an invitation to spring training.  Injuries have curtailed what was a promising career with New York….he played just 10 games last season.  The interesting thing about Bird is that he has hit left-handed pitchers better than righties.  He might fit with Guzman.

    Second base and shortstop are slated to be Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus again.  Odor is a head scratcher.  He hit just .205, but he hit 30 home runs and drove in 93.  The home runs and RBIs led the Rangers last season.  

    Andrus hit .275, but his home run and RBI totals fell off from the year before, and his defensive play did too.  

    Odor may be challenged by Nick Solack, a mid-season pick-up that has a good hit tool.  Solack hit .293 in 33 games with Texas after the trade and is intriguing because of his defensive flexibility.  He can play second and third base as well as the outfield.  He may become this year’s super sub much like Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe were last year.

    Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Danny Duffy are also candidates to be a back-up infielder.  Kiner-Falefa will make a good case for making the opening day roster if he can convince the Rangers that he can play shortstop.   

    The outfield looks like Willie Calhoun in left field, Santana taking over as the regular center fielder and Joey Galloway in right field.  Last year’s regular right fielder, Nomar Mazara was traded to make playing time available for Calhoun, who hit 21 home runs in only 83 games last year.  

    Scott Heineman is the early front runner to be the fourth outfielder.  The athletic Heineman has good speed, can play center field as well as the corners, and has some power.  

    Shin-Soo Choo, who is in the final year of his seven year contract, is slated to be the main designated hitter, but he will see action in the outfield too.

    This will be the second spring training under Manager Chris Woodward and comes with more expectations than 2019.  The Rangers really began rebuilding in 2017, after winning the division the two previous seasons.  This season is thus the fourth year of the rebuild.  It’s time for progress.  

    Progress may be difficult to come by.  Last year’s division leader and American League World Series representative Houston has lost Gerrit Cole and has been rocked by the sign stealing scandal.  The latter has prompted changes at manager and general manager.  It’s still a very good team, but one that may be seeing its window of opportunity closing as key players such as George Springer are nearing free agency.  They are already over the luxury tax salary level, and there just won’t be enough money to keep everybody.  

    Oakland has been in the playoffs the past two seasons, and they are still a young team getting better.  

    The Los Angeles Angels signed Rendon and added a starting pitching.  Shohei Ohtani is back as a starting pitcher after being a hitter only last year while he recovered from Tommy John surgery.  The Angels look very much improved on paper.  All in all, this will be a tough division to make progress in.  

    Over the rest of the league, division winners in the Central and East, Minnesota and New York look even better after making big time free agent signings – Josh Donaldson to the Twins and Gerrit Cole to the Yankees.  Tampa Bay made the playoffs last year, and looks to make a stronger run at the Yankees this season.

    The Rangers won 78 games last year, up 11 from the year before.  Getting this year’s record over .500 is a reasonable expectation, but making the playoffs is still a long shot.

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