Centerfield is a position that totally transformed itself for the Rangers in 2015. When the season started, it belonged to Leonys Martin. As unspectacular as his first three seasons (actually three seasons and five months of season four) were with the Rangers, he was coming into 2015 off the strength of a very strong September of 2014. It wasn’t sure what caused the sudden upswing. Whether it was playing for a new manager in Tim Bogar after Ron Washington quit. Or whether it was a guy who finally figured out a few things. Or if it was just dumb luck that even the worst of players is able to string together a few good games. It was more of the latter.
Martin was handed centerfield and the leadoff slot. By May he lost the leadoff slot. Not too long after that, he lost centerfield. Both to Delino DeShields, a Rule 5 scrap heap pickup who never played above Double-A, but who kept performing when he was given the chance.
In fact, you can pinpoint this specific at-bat that Delino Deshields had in a game in early May against the Houston Astros and Dallas Keuchel that totally turned the Rangers season around. And made Delino DeShields the Rangers starting centerfielders and leadoff man.
That is all a long-winded way of saying, it’s highly doubtful the Rangers step as much as a toe in the free agent centerfielder pool. Here it is, anyway, with their ages in parenthesis:
Rajai Davis (35)
Dexter Fowler (30)
Austin Jackson (29)
Justin Maxwell (32)
Colby Rasmus (29)
Denard Span (32)
Drew Stubbs (31)
Rasmus has more power than DeShields, but strikes out a lot. Austin Jackson and Dexter Fowler are more expensive brand name versions of DeShields. Stubbs never met a pitcher who couldn’t strike him out. There is really nobody on this list that is even remotely exciting, or a better choice at centerfield than Delino DeSheilds.
DeShields may have been the biggest surprise in a surprising 2015 for the Rangers. He came out of nowhere to be the spark plug that jumpstarted the Rangers offense. When he was in the game, the Rangers had life. When he wasn’t, they didn’t.
According to Evan Grant in in The Dallas Morning News, DeShields tied for the most leadoff walks in the major leagues. And he hit .299 when he was ahead in the count, with an on-base percentage of .403. He doesn’t swing at bad pitches, his lightning speed makes him an ideal leadoff hitter, and he is one of the league’s most proficient bunter for base hits.
The only thing DeShields lacks is an arm. Ironically, that is the only thing Leonys Martin had. Martin has an arm. He has no power, can’t hit for average, has no ability to get on base, and has no instincts when on the basepaths. Oh, and he has no job.
As good of a year as DeShields had, 2015 was just his first. Wait until he figures things out.
Centerfield in Arlington is locked and loaded for next year. And with Lewis Brinson on the horizon, it’s locked and loaded for years to come.