Roster challenges.

Now that the season is winding down and players are trying to play for a shot at the roster next year, it’s interesting to look back at the opening day roster.

The starting infield was Nathaniel Lowe at first, Nick Solak at second, Brock Holt at third, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at short. David Dahl in left, Leody Taveras in center, Joey Gallo in right. Jose Trevino was behind the plate. Eli White was DH.

Third was always going to be a platoon of Holt and Charlie Culberson. Ronald Guzman had no position so he was going to bounce between left and DH, and an occasional first. Willie Calhoun was injured but was going to be DHing once he came back in mid-April.

Lowe had a strong April and has had flashes of productivity of late. But he went into long hibernation through most of the season, mainly because of an inability to hit the fastball. 

Solak never got going, lost his job, got sent down, came back up, and has found a bit of a groove he seemed to have had when he came over in 2019. When he was sent down, his line was .229/.227/.658 (average/on-base/OPS). Since returning, it’s .289/.349/.770. Not earth-shattering, but they are respectable. Is this the Rougned Odor syndrome? Odor never hit until the last two weeks of September. That inevitably bought him another year of sucking.

Kiner-Falefa has been a model of mediocrity at the plate. His line is a very uninspiring .261/.302/.656. His OPS+ is 82. He’s also committed 14 errors. He is a utility player off the bench masquerading as a starting short stop.

Both Holt and Culberson did what they were hired to do. Keep third warm until Josh Jung gets here. But Yonny Hernandez has been getting most of the at-bats lately. The Rangers need to see where he fits into their future. Neither Holt nor Culberson do, unless it’s a bench role. Hernandez has held his own. Again, smack dab in the average-production range. Nothing special.

In fact, that describes the entire Rangers infield. Passable. 

Andy Ibañez seemed to have claimed second base. Unfortunately, his injury set him back and gave Solak the chance to say, “Not so fast.”

Eli White and Willie Calhoun are two more Rangers who are fundamentally underperformers. White’s career average in parts of two seasons is .179, a tick better than the .177 he put up this year. Calhoun shows flashes, but not enough. The Rangers could do without either one but will probably keep both because, Rangers.

The outfield is populated with a few guys who deserve another look. DJ Peters seems to be the second coming of Joey Gallo. A lot of power. A lot of swing and miss. If you extrapolated his numbers over a 162-game season, he’d hit 35 home runs and drive in 89. Pretty interesting for a guy they picked up off the scrap head. It’s the same place they got Garcia. All he did was make the All-Star team before hitting a wall in the second half. 

Still, with so many holes, Peters and Garcia are worth another look next year.

Taveras was bad. Overmatched. Lost. He was hitting .083 when they finally sent him down in April. Because of attrition and COVID, he got recalled and has had a really nice run lately, hitting .303 with an elite .960 OPS in his last eight games. It’s pretty much the other end of the spectrum from where he was. He just turned 23 on Wednesday. This late surge offers a lot of promise. And it’s sparked this nice run the Rangers have been on their last ten games. He should get another look for a lot of reasons.  

Overall, it’s a roster that started out mediocre and really hasn’t done much more since. This four-game winning streak is nice but not enough to project anything important. It was against bad pitching. This upcoming streak of 13 games against playoff-caliber teams will reveal a lot.

Mostly likely it will reveal that the Rangers are 30 games out of first for a reason.