First baseman Brett Nicholas hit two home runs in the Fall Stars Game this weekend, leading the AFL West Fall Stars to a 9-2 victory over the AFL East Fall Stars. Nicholas finished the game going 3-for-4, walking away with the game's MVP award.
I've spent most of this past season praising Nicholas' efforts with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders this season. He dominated for the RoughRiders in 2013, leading the team in batting average (.289), home runs (21) and RBI (91). In addition, he also managed to hit 25 doubles while posting a respectable .357 on-base percentage.
Nicholas' trip to the Arizona Fall League has to be a clear sign that he caught the Rangers' eye enough last year that they want to see more out of him, and why shouldn't they? Nearly every number he posted at the plate was a career high for him, and he improved his defense as well.
It wasn't a significant improvement, but it was one nonetheless. In 2012 Nicholas committed 11 errors at first base, posting a .989 fielding percentage. This past season he committed just seven errors at first in 74 more defensive chances while also turning 98 double plays.
His sudden emergence could be just the thing the Rangers need heading into the 2014 season. Their offense needs to be reworked, and a new first baseman could be a key to their success next year.
Current first baseman Mitch Moreland hit .266 with 13 homers and 37 RBI before the All-Star break last season. Unfortunately, he was unable to sustain his success in the second half, hitting just .183 with 10 homers and 23 RBI. At 27 years old, Moreland may no longer be the answer at first base for Texas, giving Brett Nicholas a chance to make the roster this coming season.
Nicholas has never played in a major league game, but the 25-year-old has four seasons in the minors and has shown considerable growth. Based on Moreland's poor second half, the Rangers have nothing to lose by giving Nicholas a shot.
During his time in the Arizona Fall League, Nicholas has posted decent numbers. He's only hit .244 in the 10 games that he's played in, but six of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases. Through 41 at-bats, Nicholas has struck out only eight times. Attribute his low batting average to the fact that he has only played in half the games his team has played in.
Coaches in the Arizona Fall League try to get an even amount of playing time for all their players, which leads to some players playing in just half the games their teams play in. Inconsistent playing time can make it tough for a hitter to find his rhythm, meaning Nicholas' struggles shouldn't be looked at too critically.
Keep an eye on how Nicholas performs throughout the remainder of the fall season, and look for him to draw some interest from the Rangers heading into spring training.
All stats and info courtesy of BaseballReference.com and MiLB.com.
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