This is the first of a series of articles that will break down the Rangers roster and depth charts of catchers, corner infielders, middle infielders, outfielders, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers.
Coming into Spring Training, the Texas Rangers had four quality catchers that had seen time in the majors and were all vying for the starting job.
The Rangers starting catcher for the majority of the 2008 season was Gerald Laird, with all four of the other catchers seeming some time in a Ranger uniform behind the plate.
Laird was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the offseason for young pitching prospect Guillermo Moscoso, a 25-year-old right-hander from Venezuela.
With the loss of their starting catcher, the Rangers’ coaching staff will use this Spring Training and very likely the start of the 2009 season to determine which catcher has earned the starting role for the near future.
Coming into Spring Training, it seemed as though the starting job would go to Jarrod Saltalamacchia (pictured above), and that Taylor Teagarden would also be on the Major League roster as his backup, but the early hitting and fielding returns are likely to make this decision a bit harder on manager Ron Washington, GM Jon Daniels, and Team President Nolan Ryan.
Texas Rangers catcher current hitting stats (through Monday):
Jarrod Saltalamacchia—4 games, .600 AVG. (6-10), 3 doubles, 4 RBI, and 3 runs scored
Taylor Teagarden—2 games, .500 (2-4)
Max Ramirez—3 games, .600 (3-5), 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 run scored
Adam Melhuse—3 games, .750 (3-4), 1 double, 2 RBI
Here is a quick look at the four candidates for the starting job.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 23, S/R
Salty was the one of the major pieces acquired in the 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira. Throughout his ascent through the minor leagues, Salty has made a name for himself as a prospect with a quick and powerful bat who needs continued work on his defensive skills and ability to work with a pitching staff.
2009 will be Salty’s third year in the majors with either the Braves or the Rangers. In his first two seasons, he has struggled to find a consistent bat, hitting .266 and .253, respectively.
With the departure of Laird to Detroit, the starting catcher role is Salty’s to lose. If he has a solid Spring Training and continues to work well with the pitching staff, he will be the starting catcher, but good springs and a quick start to the season from the other catchers will push Salty to try and keep that starting job.
Taylor Teagarden, 25, R/R
A local product of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Teagarden is likely going to be Salty's biggest competition for the starting job.
In the past two seasons, Teagarden has quickly risen up the Rangers minor league system, from playing at High Class-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco in 2007, to Triple-A Oklahoma and finally a stop in the majors in 2008.
He has shown great potential with his bat and his ability to work with the pitching staff. All he seems to be lacking is the experience of playing against Major League talent consistently and the ability to make quick adjustments at the plate during a game.
If Salty struggles in Spring Training and Teagarden has a solid camp, then Teagarden could earn the starting role, but it is more likely that he will be Salty’s backup when the season starts.
Maximiliano (Max) Ramirez, 24, R/R
Acquired in 2007 via trade from the Cleveland Indians for aging center fielder Kenny Lofton, Max Ramirez is still a young prospect who got a taste of the Majors last season and showed the organization that he has a lot of promise.
Throughout his minor League career, Ramirez has show that he has a solid bat with a plethora of power. He simple needs more time in the minors to develop his defensive skills, hitting for contact, and the ability to work with a pitching staff.
If Ramirez can fulfill the promise that he has already shown, then this could be one of the best trades Daniels has ever pulled off.
Adam Melhuse, 36, S/R
A seasoned veteran who has spent time with four different organizations, Adam Melhuse comes back to the Rangers for his second stint after being traded away to the Rockies last season.
Melhuse is a solid, backup-type catcher who will push the young prospects to reach their potentials. If any of the young catchers struggle to find their game, having a veteran like Melhuse will help the team as a quick, short-term fix.
He is unlikely to make the Major League roster and could opt out of his minor league contract in an attempt to make another team.