Rangers Who Are Turning Heads Early at Spring Training
As of this moment, the Texas Rangers are tied for last place in Cactus League play with a 1-4 record. They obviously aren't yet in sync, but it's way too early to start making any judgments about them.
When you take a look at the standings, you'll see that the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox have the same record. Not to worry.
What is infinitely more important at this point is how individual players—both younger members of the team's expected 25-man roster as well as roster hopefuls—are performing. There have been a handful of guys who have really impressed thus far, even if we are only five games into the spring.
This list will focus on some of those players not named Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Alex Rios—all of whom have started the spring off very well.
One could easily argue that the appearance of Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson on Monday turned more heads than anyone actually on the Rangers' roster. But for the sake of staying grounded, I'm excluding the biggest names from this list.
There is still nearly a month to go until Opening Day, but keep your eye on these guys. They've been playing with purpose, determined to prove themselves as worthy players on this roster.
All stats courtesy of mlb.com.
Michael Choice, RF
Choice is off to just about the best start any Rangers fan could have asked for.
In 11 at-bats so far this spring, Choice is hitting .364 with a double, a triple and an RBI. He is absolutely smoking the ball, driving it into the gaps with authority.
He is still the free swinger he was advertised as after Texas acquired him from the Oakland A's. He's struck out in three of those 11 plate appearances. That's not good, but it's passable if he continues to barrel up the ball the way he has been.
Right now, if I'm general manager Jon Daniels, I'd peg Choice as the definite front-runner to be the team's fourth outfielder. After five games, it's really not even close. There is still a long way to go, but Choice is certainly showing his promising ability right out of the gate.
Brent Lillibridge, 2B/3B
Boy, Lillibridge must really want that second utility spot. He's been a great find for the Rangers early this spring.
He's hitting .444 in nine at-bats for Texas after five games. He's also gone deep once and has three RBI to show for it. Don't forget the defense, either—he's made a couple of sparkling plays thus far.
Lillibridge has always been known more for his quick feet and agile glove—two characteristics that epitomize a utility player.
Any offense he provides is really a luxury, and he's bringing it in bunches early on.
I really loved this pickup for the Rangers and believe that Lillibridge can play a meaningful role with Texas this season. If he keeps up his current pace, he'll have a real shot at making the 25-man roster.
Jurickson Profar, 2B
It's all but a guarantee that Profar will be the Rangers' second baseman, so he's not playing with the added motivation of fighting for a roster spot that he might have had last spring.
Rather, he's playing to prove himself as potentially the next great second baseman after Ian Kinsler. I would guess that there might be a little pressure over being the primary beneficiary of the Kinsler-to-Detroit trade.
But if there is, Profar isn't showing it early this spring.
The 21-year-old is carrying a .333 average and has recorded at least one hit in the four games he's started this spring. Most importantly, he's taking advantage of opportunities when they are there. He drove in his fourth and fifth runs of the spring on Monday.
Profar has really grown up in the last year. He still has work to do, but his progress early on is very encouraging.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Kouzmanoff was another excellent acquisition for Texas. There was absolutely no risk and much to gain in picking him up.
So far, he's playing well enough to earn a second look for the 25-man roster. He's featuring a .300/.417/.600 slash line in 10 at-bats and has already sent a ball out of the yard. He has a strikeout and a walk in those 10 trips to the plate, as well as three RBI.
Kouzmanoff has some underrated pop, and if he can return to his 2007-2011 form, the Rangers could have themselves a diamond in the rough. Of course, that production probably won't happen, but he is clearly capable of being Adrian Beltre's backup third baseman and an occasional right-handed DH.
Remember, Kouzmanoff is a veteran bat who's been around The Show for a while now. Don't count him out too soon. He likely has something left in the tank.