The Rangers have informed veteran outfielder Hunter Pence that he’s made the Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Young outfielder Willie Calhoun, meanwhile, will be optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Sullivan also adds that Rule 5 pick Jordan Romano has been informed he will not make the roster.
While many fans may have hoped that Calhoun would seize the outfield opportunity in front of him and realize the offensive potential that long provided him with top prospect status, Pence emphatically outplayed him this spring. The pair leads the Rangers in spring at-bats, but while Pence has impressed with a .356/.431/.667 batting line, Calhoun has mustered just a .217/.296/.261 output.
Beyond the raw spring stats (which should always be taken with a grain of salt), the Rangers simply don’t have everyday at-bats for Calhoun in the big leagues right now. Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields Jr. and Nomar Mazara are lined up in the outfield, with Shin-So Choo slotted in for regular DH work. At this stage of their respective careers, Pence is better-suited for a bench role, as Texas surely still wants Calhoun to log regular plate appearances to continue his development.
Pence, who spent the offseason making significant alterations to his swing, will seek to reestablish himself as a credible big league outfielder on the heels of that excellent spring. The three-time All-Star finished up a five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants last season and managed just a .249/.297/.368 slash over the final two seasons of that contract.
The 24-year-old Calhoun, acquired as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers in 2017, saw his bat take a step back both in Triple-A and in the Majors in 2018. After hitting a combined .300/.355/.572 between the Triple-A affiliates for Texas and L.A. in ’17, Calhoun hit a solid but diminished .294/.351/.431 in Triple-A with the Rangers this past season. In 108 big league plate appearances, he hit .222/.269/.333 with a pair of home runs. Calhoun’s glovework has been questioned in scouting reports over the years, but he’ll also look to get his swing back in track in his latest minor league assignment. He has an option remaining even beyond the current season, so the Rangers still have ample time to help him tap into his upside.
Romano, 26 in a month, was selected out of the Blue Jays’ organization in this year’s Rule 5 draft and pitched 9 1/3 innings with the Rangers this spring. He allowed four runs on seven hits and five walks with six strikeouts in that time. Romano logged a 4.11 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 142 1/3 innings last year (nearly all at the Double-A level). He’ll need to be placed on the waivers and offered back to the Blue Jays if he clears.