Willie Calhoun was primarily a second baseman during his days as a touted Dodgers prospect, but he has shifted to the outfield since the Rangers acquired him for Yu Darvish in 2017. Calhoun did man the keystone three times earlier this season in Triple-A ball, though, and now the Rangers are exploring using him in their infield, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
The 24-year-old Calhoun spent about 20 minutes working at second with infield coach Tony Beasley before the Rangers’ game against the Angels on Monday, according to Grant. Beasley wants it to become a regular occurrence for Calhoun, who Grant notes lost 30 pounds during the offseason and is now more equipped to line up in the infield. He could become an option at both second and third for the Rangers.
The way the slimmed-down Calhoun’s hitting, his bat will play at any position. It’s a small sample of 71 plate appearances, though Calhoun’s slashing a terrific .313/.352/.567 (134 wRC+) with four home runs in the majors this year. He has also raked in 2019 with Triple-A Nashville, having hit .302/.417/.540 (137 wRC+) with eight HRs in 152 tries.
For the most part, Calhoun has played left field for the playoff-contending Rangers. However, a healthy Rangers team has a vast selection of other outfield choices, including Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, Hunter Pence (on the injured list at present), Danny Santana and Delino DeShields. Meanwhile, the Rangers haven’t gotten stellar overall production from second or third – two places they could potentially squeeze Calhoun’s bat into the lineup.
Second baseman Rougned Odor has posted cataclysmic numbers this year, though he has inched toward respectability of late (.746 OPS in June). The Rangers would have an easier time moving on from struggling third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera than Odor – something Grant raised as a possibility last week. Cabrera, whom the Rangers signed to a one-year, $3.5MM contract in free agency, has batted .228/.310/.406 (82 wRC+) with minus-5 Defensive Runs Saved over 287 PA. Fellow veteran Logan Forsythe has been the more productive of the two, but he stumbled to a single-digit wRC+ (9) in 57 PA last month.
Even if the Rangers don’t believe Calhoun’s ready for regular infield duty this year, it could become a possibility in 2020. Both Cabrera and Forsythe seem likely to be out of Texas by then, which will leave the Rangers looking for an answer at the hot corner.