It seems the trade talk for a left fielder has died down. Which usually means a trade will happen any moment. So, for now, the Rangers are going into the season with the same offense they ended the season with.
Lowe at first. Semien at second. Seager at short. Jung at third.
Thompson in left. Taveras in center. Garcia in right.
Heim/Garver/Huff at catcher and DH.
Will it be enough?
Nathaniel Lowe is just starting to come into his own offensively. He’s young enough that he is in career building mode. So, maybe he keeps getting better. He came into 2022 with a glaring hole in his swing where he couldn’t hit the fastball. He raised his average against fastballs to .299. There’s no reason to think he can’t improve on that.
Marcus Semien cannot possibly have a worse start to this season than he did last season. He hit .157 in April and .233 in May, then turned into the Semien the Rangers were hoping for. Another interesting point. Semien’s pattern is an MVP-caliber season every other year. He finished third in MVP voting in 2019. Fell off considerably in 2020. Third in 2021. Fell off in 2022. So, this is his year.
According to most analysts who look at things like this, of all players who the elimination of the shift will help, Corey Seager will reap the most benefits. According to Mike Petriello of MLB.com, Seager lost twenty hits in 2022 due to the shift, the most of any player. He is hitting the ball hard. He just seemed to hit it too often exactly where the third baseman was playing. In short right field.
Josh Jung is just learning. He soaked up 102 plate appearances in his first crack at the big leagues at the end of 2022. He had flashes of brilliance. He had flashes of being a rookie and being totally outmanned, like most rookies do. 2023 is his year to cement his status as the everyday Rangers third-baseman. Learn the game. Relax. And just play. There’s nobody knocking on the door to take his job. For better or worse.
Same, really, with Bubba Thompson in left. Left has been a dead zone for the Rangers for so long that if they had someone better than Thompson, he’d be there. But they don’t. They haven’t for years. But some of the rule changes for 2023 might just play into Thompson’s hands. Or, more specifically, his feet. This year, the bases will be three inches bigger, going from 15×15 to 18×18. That means, the distance between first and second, and second and third, will be four-and-a-half-inches shorter. He stole 18 bases in ’22 in just 58 games. According to Baseball-Reference.com, over a 162-game season, that would be 53 SBs. But that was with last year’s bases. He can be one of the biggest threats on the bases in 2023. He just needs to get on base. First base, by the way, is three inches closer.
Leody Taveras, under the radar, had a decent season at the plate for the Rangers. His OPS+ was 93. Not great but a click or two below average. In 2021 it was 30. He’s just twenty-three. His speed might really benefit from the bigger bases as well.
Adolis Garcia is coming off a 101-RBI season. That followed a 90-RBI season. Yes, he strikes out too much, although he dropped a bit from 194 to 183 from 2021 to 2022. But Garcia seems to rise to the occasion. He hits the big home run. He drives in the runs when they really need to be driven in. Realize this, too: Garcia has had only two full seasons as a major leaguer. He might be just getting started.
Mitch Garver’s injury last year, combined with Heim’s solid season at the plate will probably force the Rangers to carry three catchers. Expect Garver to get a lot of at-bats at DH to bubble wrap him from injury. Garver could be the secret weapon the Rangers need. He could be the big bat they tried to get but couldn’t this offseason. Because, when Garver plays, he hits. His OPS+ in 2019 was 157. That’s elite-level offense, there. In fact, he won the Silver Slugger award at catcher. In 2021 his OPS+ was 139. He’s a hitter. He also hits the I.L. way too often.
Jonah Heim’s offense fell off a cliff at the end of 2022. But, there were glimmers of hope early on. Maybe the wear and tear of being a starting catcher for the first time wore him down. Chances are, he’s going to be behind the plate more often than not in 2023, so he will need to get used to the grind. Sam Huff will be there for backup.
The Rangers head into 2023 with the same cast of characters they had in 2022. The Rangers offense last year was not the problem. Sure, it would be nice if they were able to snag one more big bat. They haven’t.
So, we just have to believe in what they have. What else can we do?