One week until opening day.
The Rangers seem to have answered some questions about their infield. Todd Frazier appears to be shifting across the diamond to first. Isiah Kiner-Falefa will play third.
Basically Kiner-Falefa has come in and taken Ronald Guzman’s and Greg Bird’s jobs. Neither first baseman turned any heads and it appears they didn’t win a starting role.
You can’t think the Rangers would keep both backup first basemen on the thirty-man. They will probably go with their own guy Guzman as the defensive replacement. Neither player has shown an ability to hit major league pitching in the past. Guzman is a .229 hitter with a .722 OPS. Bird is .211, .725. Guzman plays stellar defense.
So, the third base belongs to Kiner-Falefa. He has the work ethic, the contact, and an elite glove.
What Kiner-Falefa lacks, though, is power. In 588 major league at-bats, he has five home runs. And this is in the age of the juiced ball. But he has shown to be a different hitter in both these spring trainings, so maybe the power will come.
Not that it’s necessary but third base is usually a position where you find thump and run production. The Athletics have Matt Chapman (36 home runs, 91 RBIs in 2019), the Angels have Anthony Rendon (34/126), the Astros have Alex Bregman (41/112). In the NL West, who the Rangers will be playing this year, the Rockies have Nolan Arenado (41/118), the Padres have Manny Machado (32/85), the Dodgers have Justin Turner (27/67), the Diamondbacks have Eduardo Escobar (35/118).
The position is loaded with power.
Kiner-Falefa was asked to catch when he wasn’t a catcher. Now he is going to be asked to assume a power position where he’s not a run producer.
It’s not fair to expect him to put up third baseman-like power numbers. For right now, with his glove, if he brings an ability to get on base he will be a welcome addition to the Rangers infield.
After all, it can only go up from where it was.