Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Keeping Josh Hamilton healthy may prevent him from being the everyday centerfielder.
The Rangers have a great starting centerfielder.
"Ron Washington said Josh Hamilton is the team's best defensive center fielder. "It comes down to instincts, and Josh has the best instincts," Washington said. "He has every asset that it takes to be a superstar in center field." Washington said Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin will be given every opportunity to win the center field job in spring training."- Star Telegram 3/3/12
At this point it's probably worth noting that Hamilton's value goes well beyond what he can provide in centerfield. Hamilton won the American League MVP in 2010 and is among the most feared hitters in the league.
His bat is more lethal than his glove and his glove is nothing to sneeze at.
It's not as safe as being the DH but manager Ron Washington can insulate Hamilton from a little of the wear and tear of centerfield by placing him in leftfield. That's where Hamilton spent a good portion of the post season last year while nursing a groin injury.
Hamilton is healthy now but Texas would love to keep him that way and that's where Julio Borbon steps in.
Borbon, who made a memorable late season appearance in 2009, displayed a combination of speed and contact hitting that endeared him to Texas. He entered the 2010 season with high expectations but got off to an atrocious start and ended up back on the bench.
Since then he's split time between triple A and the majors without returning to the form that made him look like a future star in late 2009.
This spring he looks like a new player. He's hitting .364 and has an OPS of .909. Those numbers combined with Borbon's speed and the temptation to insulate Hamilton from as many potential injuries as possible have created a battle between Borbon and Hamilton in center.
It's not really a battle that Hamilton can technically "lose". He's going to start and play every day whether he's in left or center. It's a bit different for Borbon who along with Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry are locked in a battle for a limited amount of outfield spots.
There's the one open spot that Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton won't be handed. Then there's the first option off the bench.
One dark horse to keep an eye on is Engel Beltre. Beltre was acquired as part of the Eric Gagne deal from the Red Sox back in July of 2007. At the time he was an 18-year-old with loads of potential but an unclear future. He's had a rocky trip through the Rangers system and is having a better spring than the more proven major league veterans such as Graig Gentry and Leonys Martin.