5 Questions the Texas Rangers Must Answer During Spring Training
Ron Washington Must Answer These 5 Questions During Spring Training
The Texas Rangers have had a busy offseason after a disappointing end to the 2013 season. The Rangers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009, requiring them to make some big changes to their roster in an effort to make sure 2014 does not end the same way.
One huge move the Rangers made was to trade fan-favorite Ian Kinsler for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. The Rangers hope that Prince will bring the “big bat” the lineup was sorely missing last season. Prince will have to win some Rangers fans over. Many were upset that Ian was involved in the deal.
Another huge addition for the Rangers was outfielder, and leadoff hitter Shin Soo Choo. The Rangers hope that having Choo and Elvis Andrus at the top of the lineup will set up the middle of their lineup with prime RBI opportunities. Choo is also better defensively than both David Murphy and Nelson Cruz which should mean less runs scored by the opposing team due to errors in the field.
A less publicized move was made by the Rangers as well. They traded outfielder Craig Gentry to Oakland, and in return they received outfielder, Michael Choice.
The Rangers had a few players leave in free agency: closer, Joe Nathan, went to Detroit, outfielder, David Murphy, signed with the Cleveland Indians and A.J. Pierzynski took a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
The Texas Rangers made all these moves with one ultimate goal in mind—a World Series Championship. They were close in 2010 and even closer in 2011. Will these moves give them the ultimate pay off? Only time will tell. However, before the Rangers can even think about the World Series there are a few questions they must address during spring training. Here are my top five.
5. Who Will be the Catcher?
With A.J. Pierzynski leaving, the Rangers must decide who will be their catcher. Texas did re-sign Geovany Soto who caught some games last season—mainly when Yu Darvish pitched. The Rangers also brought in J.P. Arencibia who was with the Toronto Blue Jays. Arencibia is the better offensive player, but Soto is more familiar with the Rangers’ pitchers and has a good connection with them. My guess is they will end up splitting time once Arencibia learns the staff.
4. Is Jurickson Profar the Real Deal?
Jurickson Profar will turn 21 in a couple of weeks, yet he has as much pressure on him as any Texas Ranger player. Ranger fans want Profar to be great now. They were disappointed when he did not perform up to their All-Star expectations right away last season. Now Kinsler is gone, and Profar will step in as the everyday second baseman. I believe Profar will be a great player, but if he gets off to a slow start the pressure will continue to mount.
3. Who Will be the DH?
The Rangers spent the offseason attempting to add “big bats” to their lineup. The one position where they did not add a “big bat” is at designated hitter. Currently Mitch Moreland is expected to be the DH, but his numbers were subpar last season. Will the Rangers sign one more hitter or will they give Moreland one more shot to live up to his potential?
2. Who Will be the Closer?
Joe Nathan was as close to automatic as any closer the last two seasons. He is gone now, so who will step up into that role? Texas has no shortage of candidates for the position. They could go back to Neftali Feliz who was the closer in 2010 and 2011 when the Rangers went to the World Series. The only problem is the last time Feliz closed was Game 6 of the 2011 World Series where he blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. People around the Rangers said he was devastated. Another option for the job is Joakim Soria who was a closer in the past for the Kansas City Royals. Finally, it could be Tanner Scheppers who has electrifying stuff even though he's never closed before.
1. Who Fills the Void Left by Derek Holland's Injury?
It was supposed to be the 1-2 punch of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, but after Derek’s unfortunate home mishap where he tripped over his dog and fell down the stairs, the Rangers will now be without Holland for at least the first half of the season. The Rangers have a lot of choices but none as good as Holland. Texas hopes Matt Harrison can return to his form of 2012, but that is a big “if” due to the fact he missed the entire 2013 season because of injury. The Rangers’ best hope to fill the Holland void is for Harrison to be 75 percent of what he was and that one of the young minor league guys can step up as well.