It’s almost here. Opening Day. I cannot contain my excitement. The Rangers are going to have an interesting year, to say the least. They have signed Rougned Odor to a six-year $45.5 million contract. This is a good deal. It’s not so much money that the Rangers will go broke, and it locks in a good second baseman. I would hope that during this time, Odor takes a look at his fielding. During the World Baseball Classic, he made multiple fielding errors, and the coach, none other than Omar Vizquel, and Odor’s teammates from Team Venezuela worked with him. The Rangers need to work with Odor to help him become better in the field, and it looks like the Rangers’ new first baseman, Mike Napoli, has taken Odor under his wing, a step in the right direction.
Napoli has brought an excitement to the team. I am a little cautious in my excitement for Nap. He is going to be playing first base full time, and while he is a workhorse, it has been a long time since he has been in the Texas heat. And when he was with the Indians, he traded off his duties between first and DH, and I think that is what made him have one of his best years. Come the end of August, we are going to see a worn-out Nap.
Elvis Andrus has been maturing and last year had one of his better years. Will this year be the same? He had surgery during the off-season and missed a great deal of Spring Training. Look for Andrus to have a slow start, but if can keep his head in the game, I am thinking another great year for him.
Adrian Beltre is a gamer and always wants to play. He pushed himself to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and he hurt his calf muscle again. He is a big question mark for Opening Day. If that’s the case, look for Jurickson Profar to take over. Profar looked great during the World Baseball Classic, and I just think he is too good of a player to stay part time on the bench. He needs to be playing full time.
Jonathan Lucroy is back again, working with Rangers pitchers. It’s going to be an exciting year for him. Calling the games the way he does will benefit our newest pitchers and keep steady the veterans such as Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Last year, Lucroy had a wonderful bat, and while I wouldn’t expect the numbers he hit when he first came here, it was obvious he is very comfortable being a Ranger, and I am looking forward to another great season from him.
The signing of Carlos Gomez was one of the smartest moves the Rangers did. I think Gomez is set for a huge comeback, and it’s a good thing he is on our side.
However, Spring Training brought some surprises. Delino DeShields has made the team, and there are reports that he is going to be a full-time player. My prediction is he will take over in right field now that Shin-Soo Choo will be the DH. DeShields came to Spring Training leaner and hungry for action. Being sent down last year proved to be motivation to become a better player. DeShields has his speed back, which is going to be key in a possible lead-off position.
The best performance of the spring was from Ryan Rua, who was using his limited at-bats to still hit .333 and smash three home runs. Look for Rua to be the everyday left fielder.
This leaves Drew Robinson and Nomar Mazara as backups, which are much needed, as the Ranger outfield has had a history of injuries.
One such injury that hurt our outfield was to Choo, now the DH. Choo was reluctant to take on the DH role and even made statements that he did not want to DH. Now Choo seems to have taken his new role in stride, so this might be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s hard for ballplayers to not play in the field. Will he have the mental fortitude needed to be the DH?
The Starting Rotation
New faces on the pitching staff, but we haven’t seen them yet. Tyson Ross is only now starting a throwing program, and then it will be off to minor league camp, and it will probably be June when he comes in. Andrew Cashner pitched in the recent exhibition game at Arlington against the Royals and threw three scoreless innings. There is hope that he will be back sooner than later.
Yu Darvish is our Opening Day pitcher, followed by Martin Perez, Cole Hamels, A.J. Griffin and Cashner if he is going to come back. Pitching coach Doug Brocail is looking at an April 20 start for Cashner, and Cashner may start in the minors to get his arm warmed up. If Cashner can’t come back by then, the Rangers will probably call up Nick Martinez from Triple A Round Rock.
While on the subject of Round Rock, there is some curios Ranger news. One of the things that make the Rangers so great is a close and comfortable clubhouse. Keone Kela has not been playing nice with his brothers or Manager Jeff Bannister and General Manager Jon Daniels. While there is no definite story of what happened, what we do know is this: Kela did something that was, thankfully, not illegal but that insulted Ranger management. As a disciplinary action, they sent him down Round Rock to cool off and figure out what’s next.
This is not the first time Kela has had trouble. There have been times where he was rude to reporters and other players and teammates. This is interesting, what could happen, but Kela had a good spring and is needed in the bullpen. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.
The bullpen is at eight members. Bannister has talked about how he felt that carrying a larger bullpen would get the Rangers through the tough outings.
The closer is Sam Dyson, who was wonderful for the winning Team USA during the World Baseball Classic.
The right-handers are:
Jose Leclerc, who is only technically here, with Kela’s absence.
Alex Claudio, who for Team Puerto Rico dyed his hair and also had a great performance during the World Baseball Classic.
Mike Hauschild had a good spring and made the team. Hopefully, this will translate into a good season for him, and as a lefty, he is much needed for certain hitter matchups.