Question marks. Or exclamation points.
? or !
Forecasting a baseball team comes down to which you have more of. More question marks and uncertainty? Or more exclamation points and players to get excited by?
The Rangers have question marks all over the field.
First base: ?
Nate Lowe appears to have won the job over Ronald Guzman. Lowe would seem the logical choice since the Rangers traded for him because Guzman has failed to win the job outright the past three seasons. But Lowe is still an unproven commodity. But in parts of two major league seasons, Lowe has put up better numbers than Guzman, a 109 career OPS+ compared to Guzman’s 87. Still, Tampa Bay is keen on talent evaluation. And there must be a reason the Rays organization traded Lowe away.
Second base: ?
Solak has the job. But this is the first time he has had a major league job locked up. It’s still way too early to know what he will develop into. He’s never been known for his glove but that’s what hard work and coaching are for. It would be pretty hard to be a worse offensive performer than the man he replaced, who was the second worst offensive performer in the major leagues the past four combined seasons.
Another guy in the first year on the job. He came through the system as a shortstop. And, when they stuck him at catcher and then at third, he said all along that shortstop was his position. A gold glove at third should put some wind in his sails. But you can’t overlook the fact that Fangraphs, a site that specializes in this sort of thing, ranked Isiah Kiner-Falefa the worst shortstop in the major leagues. They are probably right.
Third base: ?
Who is it? Charlie Culberson? Brock Holt? One thing we know is who it won’t be. And that is cause for joy and celebration throughout every corner of Rangers nation. Holt and Colberson are certainly serviceable. But they fit the mold of Asbrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier. Just standing where Beltre stood until Josh Jung gets here.
Left field: !
David Dahl might be the smartest signing of the offseason. If he can stay healthy. If. But when he plays, he does all the things the Rangers should want in a hitter. He makes contact, gets good swings, and gets on base. Last year was an exception. But last year was 2020.
Center field: ?
Taveras has the tools to be a !, but he has to prove it. He can play defense for sure but he needs to hit. They wanted him to leadoff but he proved in spring that that’s too much a burden right now. Let’s get him on base first. A .227 average and a .308 on-base percentage isn’t going to wow anyone. With Leody, it’s all upside. But, Rangers fans know all too well, upside is elusive.
Right field: !
Joey Gallo won a Gold Glove last year. He is here for his bat. If that gets going, watch out. Gallo could make a legitimate MVP run. A productive Gallo could carry this team a lot further than it has a right to go. The good news is, Gallo seems to be heading into the season in the right headspace. The bad news is, if he continues to perform this well, there’s a great chance he will be dealt at the deadline.
Jose Trevino is a solid catcher, no doubt. He’s a .250 hitter without a lot of power, who can play solid defense. His backup, Johan Heim, is also solid. They are both keeping the chest protector warm until Sam Huff arrives.
Who is it? Willie Calhoun? Khris Davis? Probably Ronald Guzman until both Calhoun and Davis return from injuries. But Calhoun has been an enigma. He has yet to hit consistently. And, really, isn’t the primary job of a DH the H part? Khris Davis has the pedigree but has two down years in a row. He’s a question mark right now. Guzman works if he’s the offseason and preseason Guzman. Not if he’s the regular season Guzman.
When Kyle Gibson is your ace, you know you have problems. You know what he will give you: inconsistency, and an upper-fours ERA. You have no idea what Foltynewicz will give you. He’s coming off injury and being released by the Braves. His 16.21 ERA last year was deceiving. Atlanta could stand to watch him pitch only one game before they cut him. That must have been enough for them. He’s had one sub-three ERA season. Mostly in the upper-fours and fives. Anything good will be a surprise. Who knows what Kohei Arihara is going to be? Guys coming over from Japan often have learning curves. And he wasn’t exactly a stud in Japan. Then there’s the training-wheel brigade of piggy back starters. Nothing says we have nothing like turning four starters into two just to get through enough innings.
Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy are at the backend. Nobody would ever have drawn up that scenario. Whoever else makes it, it’s a group that will be taxed hard and taxied often between Arlington and the minor leagues. With seven starters and two back end guys, that leave only four pitchers to soak up all the innings the starters aren’t going to give the Rangers. Expect arms to actually fall off mid-pitch. The bullpen is going to be a disaster.
How good is a manager who has never been given a team that could possibly win? He could be the best manager ever. How would you know?
Front Office: !
Chris Young brings hope. It can’t be a coincidence that once ownership brought him in for badly needed help for Jon Daniels, the Rangers have a shift in philosophy that Daniels refused to undertake. DeShields is gone, Odor is gone, and Guzman is on his way out. The new GM is picking up the poop the old GM dropped in the backyard (sorry, I am still in new puppy mode).
A lot will have to go right for the Rangers to finish higher than last place. But it won’t be that hard to do. Seattle is always Seattle and never far from home. There is no great team in the division. It’s probable the division champ finishes barely over .500. But with this new change in philosophy, it will be a team that will be refreshing to watch. They may lose, but it will be new people losing.
Predictions for the season:
A.L. West: (It’s basically pick ‘em between the Astros, Athletics, and Angels) Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, Seattle, Texas. The Rangers win 68 games.
A.L. Central: Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit. But don’t be surprised if Kansas City finishes ahead of Cleveland.
A.L. East. Everyone is picking the Yankees. If Kluber bounces back, then maybe. Toronto, New York, Tampa Bay, Boston, every minor league team in America, Baltimore.
Wild Cards: New York, Minnesota.
American League champion: Chicago White Sox.
N.L. West: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizona, Colorado.
N.L. Central: Cincinnati, St Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, most high school teams, Pittsburgh.
N.L. East: Atlanta, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami.
Wild Cards: Los Angeles, St Louis.
American League champion: San Diego Padres.
World Series winner: San Diego.
Your mileage may vary.