In the third part of this series, I’m going to take a look at the middle of the Rangers infield.
Second base is simple—All-Star 2B Ian Kinsler (pictured above) is back and getting better by the year.
Shortstop is a little different, with the moving of Michael Young over to third base, having the young phenom Elvis Andrus move up, and the acquisition of former Gold Glover Omar Vizquel.
Aside from those players, I’m going to give everyone a simple breakdown of the other players competing for a backup/utility role at the middle infield positions.
Ian Kinsler - 26 - R/R
Batting Averages .286, .263, .319 / On-Base Pct. .347, .355, .375 / Hits 121, 127, 165 / Total Bases 192, 213, 268 / RBI 55, 61, 71 / Stolen Bases 11, 23, 26 / Runs 65, 96, 102
Last season he batted .332 vs. RHP, .335 at home, .303 on the road, .346 during day games, .309 at night games, and .327 on the grass in 2008.
All right, does anybody else need any more proof that this kid, still only going into his fourth year as a Major Leaguer, is not going to improve on his numbers from last season?
If Ian can stay healthy again in 2009, his numbers should be close to a .321 batting average, on-base pct. at .382, 182 hits, 285 total bases, 80 RBI, 31 stolen bases, 110 runs, another All-Star selection, and very likely finish with a 30-30 season (HRs and steals).
Elvis Andrus - 20 - R/R
Has the phenom landed? Elvis is widely considered maybe the biggest piece of the puzzle in the trade for Mark Teixeira in 2007.
The young man spent most of 2008 season at the Rangers' Double-A affiliate Frisco.
This should be an interesting season for Elvis, since the Rangers moved the 2008 SS Gold Glove, face of the franchise Michael Young in order to bring up Andrus.
Not only that, but the organization also brought in the veteran Omar Vizquel to work as a possible replacement in games against ace pitchers, work as Andrus' mentor, and likely be the utility infielder for the Rangers.
In my opinion, Andrus has a ton of potential in becoming the next big thing for the Rangers at shortstop, but I think he might be one more year away from being Major League ready.
Furthermore, I do not like how the front office handled the situation with Young moving to third in order to bring up Andrus at shortstop. I do believe that Andrus is the team's shortstop of the future, but the way the situation was handled was not the best for the team. However, that situation has passed, and all parties are moving forward.
During this season Andrus is going to struggle at times in the field, and he will have periods of hitting slumps while he continues to work on adjustments to Major League pitching.
But make no mistake, this kid is the real deal. He is going to struggle at times this year, but the high side of this kid's potential is MVP-caliber.
Joaquin Arias - 24 - R/R
Three seasons ago Arias was being projected as a huge prospect in the Rangers system. He was gathering similar upside to that of what Andrus is garnering in this system.
But multiple injuries, difficulties adjusting to Major League pitching, and lack of opportunities to be promoted have left Arias stuck in the Minors.
Last year he attempted many games playing center field, hoping that change could get him promoted to the Majors, but that has been met with more difficulties.
Arias is competing with Vizquel, Travis Metcalf, and German Duran for the utility role, but unless there are some injuries, Arias will likely be back at Triple-A Oklahoma City as the starting shortstop.
German Duran - 24 - R/R
Similar to the piece yesterday, Duran has shown that he can be a utility type player for the team, spending time in 2008 at second base, shortstop, and third base. Duran is also being looked at as a possible outfielder.
As stated before, Duran is competing for the utility role on the Major League squad, and with his experience and flexibility of multiple positions, he stands a good chance of making the team.
Omar Vizquel - 41 - S/R
The 11-time Gold Glover (all at shortstop), which is second only to the 13 that Ozzie Smith accomplished, enters his 21st year of playing Major League baseball. This stop in Arlington is only Omar’s fourth team in his 21 years, previously with the Mariners, Indians, and Giants.
Vizquel was acquired by the team shortly after the decision to give Andrus the opportunity to become the starting shortstop. He is likely to serve as the backup to Andrus and a utility infielder when players like Kinsler and Young need days off.
Also look for Vizquel to get the start early in the season in games when the team goes up against ace pitching in order to protect Andrus as he learns to adjust to Major League pitching.
Reports out of Spring Training are that Vizquel is already acting as a mentor towards Andrus, where it was likely implied in the team's decision to sign him on the Major League roster.
Michael Young - 32 - R/R
Young is making the move over to third base and is being slated as the starter there for the beginning of the season.
Right now there is no reason why that should change. I simply put him down as a possible middle infielder because not knowing exactly what the team is going to get from Andrus, there is the possibility that he will make some starts or mid-game moves over to shortstop.
This is not going to happen that often, especially with the acquisition of Vizquel, but it is likely to happen a few times during the course of the whole season.
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