Texas Rangers Spring Training Preview, Part Four of Five: Outfielders

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Texas Rangers Spring Training Preview, Part Four of Five: Outfielders
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I grew up and fell in love with a Rangers team that was much different from this one. Back then the outfield was the offensive strength of the team, much like it was for most teams.

I remember watching Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, and the fan-favorite Rusty Greer. Jose Canseco was also out there for a little while, but we’ll just forget about him.

In recent years, the outfield has been somewhat of a revolving door.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have led to a tremendously large number of players roaming the outfield grass in Arlington. This year’s outfield should be one of the most exciting groups in recent memory.

Josh Hamilton has gone from being one of the biggest stories in baseball to being somewhat of a question mark. He struggled early last season mostly because he was impatient, and pitchers took advantage of it.

He also had a couple of major injuries that caused him to miss significant portions of the season. He played in only 89 games, barely more than half a season. His absence was reflected in his numbers, producing only about half of what he did in 2008, and only a third of the home runs.

It is hard for me to fault a guy for getting injured the way Josh did. He is a full-speed ahead type of player, and it cost him most of last season.

Playing in left field should help prevent some of those injuries, but Josh also needs to play smart, because he helps no one sitting on the bench.

Julio Borbon will be manning the middle of the outfield and will likely lead off, though he may not face the toughest lefties out there. He fits the bill much better than Ian Kinsler and both should benefit from the change in order.

Borbon was electric in his debut late last season. In only 46 games, he had 49 hits and 19 stolen bases. His .312 average is perfect for the top of the order, but we all know his greatest asset is his speed.

In the short stint he had at the end of last season, he was able to steal a base almost every other game. I realize it doesn’t exactly work this way, but multiply his 19 steals by 4 to give him a little more than a full season, and he would have 70-80 steals.

Now if we are a little more realistic we might say 50-60, but that is a lot more speed than the Rangers used to have.

He also has a great coach in Gary Pettis to help improve. Right now he has raw speed; with a little more coaching and technique, he may very well get to 70-80.

Borbon is also only 24, so he should be holding down these two important spots for some time.

Nelson Cruz was a prospect that we all heard a lot about coming up, but he never really lived up to the billing until last year.

Cruz had a career season, nearly doubling his offensive production with career highs in hits, doubles, home runs, and steals. His 33 home runs were three and half times his previous high, and his 20 stolen bases was 7 times his previous best.

Having now shown the player we had all hoped for these many years, Cruz should only improve.

The increased offensive firepower will protect him more, and he should be more comfortable. He also got injured near the end of the season, which hampered him a little bit.

It is not at all unrealistic to see Cruz as a 30-30 guy in the near future.

The all-important fourth outfielder in this group is David Murphy. He has been one of the many unsung heroes on this team since he came to Arlington in 2007.

He has been the ultimate utility outfielder. Filling in when injuries arose, and not letting the offense lose a beat.

He had career highs in hits and home runs, despite his average being down a few points. The decline in some of his numbers can likely be attributed to hopping around the outfield and the batting order.

Murphy has been the ultimate team player in going where the team needs him, and simply producing. He will see plenty of playing time this season.

Vladimir Guerrero is a welcome addition to this team if he does nothing more than just not hit against us. He has had tremendous success in Texas and hopefully that will only get better as he makes it his home.

He will likely play mostly as the DH, though he has been clear in saying he wants to play the field, too, when it is possible. It will be hard for him to upend Cruz, but should still see the field just to keep everyone fresh.

As much as I have hated Vlady, I have always loved his style of play. He just goes after it, and wants to put the ball in play. Good things happen when you do that.

This outfield is probably the most exciting we have had in sometime. They have the ability to put up some serious power numbers, and with the Rangers new interest in manufacturing runs, which I love, they should also steal a lot of bases.

As a group they have a good amount of speed and a great amount of talent. If they play to their potential, they may just take some of the attention away from what is definitely one of the best infields in baseball…

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