Mitch Moreland has been having a pretty solid season for the Texas Rangers.
Sure, he has grounded into more than his fair share of double plays (eight, tied for second-most amongst AL first basemen), but with Mike Napoli and Michael Young consistently proving their defensive inadequacies at first base, Moreland’s overall value has never been more apparent.
Moreland’s offensive numbers aren’t exactly mind-blowing: .274/.327/.516, 10 HR, 25 RBI, but if those statistics represent your team’s “weakest link” then your boys are doing just fine.
But, now, thanks to a left-hamstring strain—suffered while trying to leg out a ground ball in the top of the second inning last night—the 6’2” slugger might be facing a stint on the dreaded disabled list.
The Rangers have a bevy of players they can call on to replace Moreland should the need arise; here’s a look at some of their options.
Young is the Rangers’ primary backup first baseman. He might be manager Ron Washington's first choice to slide into first base on a daily basis.
Pros: Young is a versatile defender that has seen time at second, third and occasionally short.
Cons: Young can play many different positions, but he's merely average (at best) at each of them. Young's value is as a designated hitter.
Plus, moving him into an everyday role with the glove limits the amount of rest and/or off days Washington can afford to give Elvis Andrus, Yorvit Torrealba, etc.
Napoli is having a tough time at the plate this year. Undoubtedly he'll get hot at the dish, and he is skilled enough to be an everyday first baseman—albeit a below-average one.
Pros: Napoli, like Young, can play multiple positions. Primarily the team’s catcher, he can slide over to first base or DH to let Torrealba catch and Young play first.
Cons: Also like Young, Napoli’s skills at first are questionable, and if he becomes the everyday first baseman, the Rangers wouldn’t have a catcher they can bring in off the bench, since that move would make Yorvit Torrealba the everyday catcher.
Snyder was viewed as a long shot to make the Rangers out of spring training. He made the cut and has put together a very solid first half thus far as a key right-handed bench bat.
Pros: Snyder’s versatility—I think I see a pattern here with the Rangers—surpasses even Young’s. Snyder can place first, right field (possibly left) and has even seen time in the bigs as a catcher.
Cons: Snyder has had some success this season at the plate over 44 at-bats, but he has never been an everyday player in his career and it might not be pretty over an extended period of time.
Hawpe played 444 innings at first base while with the Padres.
Hawpe was beat-out by Brandon Snyder in spring training for the utility/bench bat role. However, his name has come up in the past as a possible midseason replacement for the Texas Rangers.
Pros: Hawpe had some great seasons in the big leagues. In 2007 with the Colorado Rockies, Hawpe had these stats: .291/.387/.539, 29 HR, 116 RBI.
Although he’s only played first base for 444 innings in his major league career, he’s been quite good, with a 3.6 UZR.
Cons: Hawpe asked for, and was granted his release from Double-A Frisco yesterday. Who knows though, Jon Daniels might be on the phone with him right now.
Olt was ranked by Baseball America as the 43rd-best prospect in minor league baseball preseason. Undoubtedly he'll be ranked much higher next season. At one point this year at Double-A Frisco, Olt hit two home runs in three consecutive games.
It's hard to steal press time from superstar shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar, but Olt has managed to do just that on occasion.
Pros: Olt, widely considered the Texas Rangers’ No. 2 overall prospect—behind Profar—is the most intriguing option to take over for Moreland. A natural third baseman with a plus-glove, Olt is big-league ready right now with the leather.
Cons: He's had limited time at first base. He is tearing it up offensively at Double-A Frisco, but so did Justin Smoak, and sometimes it just doesn’t translate to the big leagues.
Is Olt the Answer?
Olt's upside reminds many of a young Mark Teixeira. People forget that "Tex" was drafted as a third baseman—he was blocked by Hank Blalock and made the transition to first base successfully, and has the Gold Gloves to prove it.
A third baseman with a plus-glove would have no problem in transitioning over to first base, even at the major league level.
However, I don't see the Rangers promoting Olt to the big leagues, even if Moreland requires an extended disabled list stay. A promotion to Triple-A is more likely.
But fear not Rangers fans, it won't be long before Olt might have a chance to become the first baseman of the future.