Texas Rangers: 8 Signs from Spring Training so Far
The Texas Rangers are reaching the halfway point in spring training and it's time to find out what we've learned so far.
This is the most turnover the roster has seen in some time, which really makes this time of year interesting.
It's difficult to predict how the season will play out, but here are a few signs from spring training to shed some light on what fans can expect come Opening Day and beyond.
Yu Darvish Looks Like an Ace
The Rangers didn’t invest over $100 million in Yu Darvish to have him pitch in the middle of their rotation. They were looking for an ace and a leader on the staff.
Although the team’s season went up in flames, Darvish finished his rookie year on a roll. In the month of September, he had a 2.21 ERA, a .160 OBA and struck out 39 batters while walking only seven in 36.2 innings.
Judging by his performance in spring training, Darvish is picking up right where he left off. He has yet to surrender a run in either start, and while some are curious to see how hitters adjust in his second year, Yu is still averaging a strikeout per inning.
Mitch Moreland Ready for a Breakout Season
For the first time in his major league career, Mitch Moreland isn’t looking over his shoulder. Michael Young and Mike Napoli are both gone.
While Lance Berkman and others can also play first base, the job belongs to Moreland. However, this new job security comes with heightened expectations. The Rangers need him healthy and ready to contribute this season.
So far, Moreland has answered the call. He is hitting .333 in the spring and is tied for the team lead in RBI.
Fifth Starter Won't Be Named Until Spring Training Ends
The Rangers were dealt a major blow when Martin Perez broke his forearm. This puts him on the shelf for at least two months.
Justin Grimm was also fighting for the fifth spot, but the spring hasn’t been kind to him. He’s given up nine runs in just over four innings, and opponents are hitting .435 off him.
Are the Rangers willing to move another arm out of the bullpen? If so, they could use Robbie Ross or Randy Wells. Both have pitched well. The team also signed Derek Lowe.
Kyle Lohse is still available. He won’t come cheap but he’d add some stability to the back end of the rotation.
Don't expect the answer to this question until spring training ends.
Leonys Martin Will Solidify Center Field
The Rangers gave Leonys Martin $15.5 million to be their center fielder of the future, and it appears his time has finally arrived.
While many expected a platoon with Craig Gentry in center, Martin is performing like he expects to squash that plan. The 25-year-old is hitting .391 with two triples and five RBI.
Gentry is having a solid spring and can still play a key role, but it’s clear that Martin has the bigger upside.
Either way, these two players are showing that center field is in good hands.
Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt Will Begin Season in Minors
Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt were very popular topics of conversation this offseason. Hold on to them? Or trade them?
When the Rangers decided to keep their prized prospects, it seemed safe to assume they were both assured spots on the Opening Day roster. But with spring training now in full swing, their roles remain unclear.
Veteran All-Stars block Profar and Olt from their natural positions, and the front office doesn’t like the idea of bringing them off the bench.
It’s an unpopular decision, but maybe they’re right.
So far this spring, Olt is hitting .158 and Profar .185. While they have little to prove in the minors, they will still get valuable at-bats every day rather than spectating from the bench.
The Rangers have a lot invested in these two, and until they have clearly defined roles or are tearing the cover off the ball, there is no reason to rush them onto the field.
Derek Holland Bouncing Back with Renewed Focus
Derek Holland has a lot to prove this year. The mustache, mullet and other antics were entertaining when he was pitching well, but after surrendering 32 homers and compiling a 4.67 ERA in 2012, the joke was on him.
Having said that, it’s a new year and Holland definitely has the ability to turn things around.
His two appearances this spring are an excellent starting point—one run, no walks and no home runs in 10 innings.
It may sound hard to believe, but this is Holland’s fifth season in the majors. He’s pitched in almost every big spot possible: a tight division race, at Yankee Stadium in the ALCS and in the World Series with the Rangers' backs against the wall.
It’s time to perform at a high level, and no one knows that more than Derek. Focus is key.
Alexi Ogando Will Be Key to the Rotation
The uncertainty surrounding the fifth spot in the rotation places a significantly bigger burden on Alexi Ogando’s shoulders.
He pitched erratically in his first appearance, but finally settled down in his third (six strikeouts and one run allowed in three innings). Perhaps that’s a sign of things to come.
Texas feels confident in its top three starters, and if Ogando pitches like he did the first half of 2011, the Rangers will be in good shape.
Michael Kirkman Will Play an Important Role This Season
Michael Kirkman’s name doesn’t pop up very often. He’s made sporadic appearances in the majors the last three years without much significance. That might change this season.
Kirkman is quietly having an effective spring training—no runs allowed and six strikeouts.
There is a possibility that Robbie Ross moves into the rotation, and should that occur Kirkman would become the primary left-handed option in the bullpen. If he continues pitching the way he has so far in spring, that’s not such a bad thing.
The Rangers can also use Kirkman in long relief. In either role, it appears he will be an important player in the bullpen this year.