Replacing Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli was never going to be easy for the Texas Rangers.
Then again, having a breakout campaign in progress from Mitch Moreland sure helps to soften the blow.
Despite losing a combined 67 homers and 184 RBIs in the offseason between their two sluggers, it’s pretty much been business as usual for the Rangers in 2013. Their traditionally high-powered offense is still hanging around just outside of the top 10 in MLB for the season, and they’ve been the fourth-best in the league over the last seven days with 38 runs.
A big part of that is thanks to the performance of Moreland, who was given an expanded role both on the field as the team’s first baseman and in the offensive lineup as a run producer.
The 27-year old received just all of three at-bats in 2012 from the No. 6 spot in the lineup, but has already gotten 17 looks in that spot this year (plus 16 more at-bats from No. 5) — and he has taken full advantage if it, too.
That was on full display on Tuesday as the first baseman went 2-for-5 for the Rangers against the Oakland Athletics, smacking not one, but two crucial home runs in the team’s 6-5 win in extra innings. In fact, you could make a pretty good case to say that Texas probably would have fallen to their divisional rival if not for Moreland, as it was his solo shot in the tenth that ultimately proved to be the difference.
He’s been doing it pretty much all season long, too. With a .296/.347/.578 triple slash through 147 PA and a whopping nine home runs in that span (that puts him on pace for 37, by the way), Moreland has already accumulated a career-best 1.0 fWAR, and has arguably been the team’s most pleasant surprise.
The best part of that? Not even southpaws are slowing him down.
Moreland had shown a significant lefty-righty career split up to this point (.824 OPS vs RHP, .662 vs. LHP), but since he’s been crushing the ball with a 1.024 OPS against righties, that he’s got a serviceable .789 OPS against left-handers isn’t even close to being enough of a reason to hold him out in a platoon situation.
So, how much of it is luck?
As it turns out … perhaps not much at all. Though his line drive rate has dipped from a 19.1 percent career rate to 17.3 in 2013, he’s hitting fewer pop-ups (4.1 percent) and infield hits (2.4 percent) than ever. His BABIP is steady at .307 (.306 in 2012), and even while the 18.4 percent HR/FB seems sustainable, that he had a 15.3 percent rate last year suggest that a drop-off won’t be very hard.
In short, the power is legit — as it’s always been, really.
No, he won’t do enough to make up the 67 bombs lost between Hamilton and Napoli, but a 30+ home run season from Moreland will go more than a long way to keep this Rangers offense alive and well going forward — not just for now, but when Nelson Cruz‘s contract is up at the end of the year, too.