The Rangers could carry righty Dane Dunning and left-hander Cole Ragans in the big league bullpen to open the season, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Both pitchers were squeezed out of the initial rotation mix by Texas’ busy offseason. Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney and Nathan Eovaldi were all brought in to join Martín Pérez and Jon Gray in the starting five. Even with trade pickup Jake Odorizzi headed to the injured list, there’s no room in the season-opening five for Dunning or Ragans.
Rather than option either to Triple-A Round Rock to start the year, the Rangers might prefer to keep them stretched out as multi-inning options at the MLB level. The Rangers plan to be cautious with early-season workloads for deGrom and Eovaldi after each had minor soreness that slightly delayed them in camp. Dunning and Ragans could handle bulk work in relief. The former was second on the team with 153 1/3 innings over 29 starts last year; the latter worked 40 frames over nine big league starts after tallying 94 2/3 innings in the upper minors.
There are also some roster questions on the position player side, perhaps none bigger than in center field. Adolis García and Robbie Grossman are ticketed for most of the corner outfield work. Leody Taveras should get first crack up the middle if healthy, but his status for Opening Day is still up in the air owing to an oblique strain earlier this month.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Texas has begun to get Josh Smith some work in center field, as Grant writes in a separate piece. The 25-year-old didn’t see any big league time there last year, instead splitting his rookie campaign between third base, shortstop and left field. Texas gave Smith 131 innings in center in Triple-A. They were apparently sufficiently impressed to consider him a potential part-time option there at the highest level. He’s a slightly above-average runner who has plenty of experience in the middle infield, so it’s not out of the question he’s athletic enough to handle the outfield’s toughest position.
Smith doesn’t have a path to everyday playing time at any one spot after hitting .197/.307/.249 over his first 253 MLB plate appearances. An ability to take on tough defensive assignments would increase his utility off the bench. The Rangers have Bubba Thompson and non-roster invitee Travis Jankowski — neither of whom is hitting this spring — as the most straightforward center field replacements for Taveras. Smith might have the most offensive upside of that trio in spite of his slow start against big league pitching. He’d hit .290/.395/.466 in 55 games in Triple-A.
The efforts to broaden versatility aren’t limited to the MLB level. As part of a reader mailbag earlier this week, The Athletic’s Jamey Newberg noted that Texas is planning to get prospect Justin Foscue more work on the corner infield this year in Round Rock. Texas’ first-round draftee in 2020, Foscue has mostly played second base as a professional. He logged 106 innings at the hot corner with Double-A Frisco last year and played there regularly during his first couple collegiate seasons at Mississippi State. He has virtually no experience at first base.
Foscue will continue to get time at second base as well, though finding comfort at multiple positions could aid him in getting to the majors as a bat-first utility player. Marcus Semien should have the keystone secure for years to come. Foscue isn’t far off the majors from an offensive perspective after hitting .288/.367/.483 with 15 homers and a meager 14.3% strikeout rate in Round Rock last year.
Nice to see Rangers top 5 starting pitchers all look good to go to start the season. Knock on wood. No jinx no jinx.
Le falta un poco de bateo, pero asi empiezan muchos
Why isn’t Bubba Thompson the everyday CF?
Fangraphs steamer has him projected for a .280 opb. That’s not ideal:)
Fangraphs Steamer isn’t exactly the ultimate authority on reality and truth. It’s just some computer model.
Bubba isn’t an on-base monster, but he does have a .327 career mark in the minors, and had a .302 OBP in his MLB debut. So, again, not great at getting on on base, but the .280 prediction doesn’t seem to have much basis.
Admission standards aren’t lowered for athletes at Ivy League schools, the way they are at other universities. So, Young got into Princeton on academic/intellectual merit. Even if his major doesn’t scream MLB GM, the brain power is there.
Plus, his professional experience was playing professional baseball for 18 seasons—and thus he lived roster construction for nearly two decades before ascending to the front office.
The Ranger Fan
He can’t hit
I haven’t completely given up on Thompson yet. He swung a decent bat in AA/AAA. He’s never going to be a 20+ HR guy, but with his speed if he can just find a way to get on base consistently he has value.
I guess I haven’t given up hope on him either, but I would also not shed any tears if he ends up in a trade this summer. I think he is a career 4th outfielder unless his approach changes. Far too much swing and miss in his game even in the minors.
Josh Jung is the Rangers 3B but 3B Ezequiel Durán having a great Spring and Justin Foscue is playing more corner IF. Does that mean Jung is not at 3B for long? He has been injury prone in the MiLB.
Duran right now doesn’t really have a place defensively. He has kicked a lot of balls on the infield but has a great arm so to me he’s more likely suited for the outfield but only playing out there will he get more comfortable. Foscue on the other hand is still below Jung defensively but might be slightly better at the everyday play than Duran. To me Foscue ends up being the backup 3B and more time at 1B. Lowe is the 1B now but depending on his defense as well that could change. In a couple years when Seager doesn’t have the 1st step quickness he probably shifts to 3B and maybe Jung moves at that time. Personally one of Duran or Foscue will be traded this year.
deGrom Texas Ranger
I sure hope one of them is traded. I don’t trust Chris Young.
I think they mishandled the Martin Perez situation, but aside from that most of Young’s moves have been solid so far. Of course we’re one major injury to either deGrom or Eovaldi from that not being the case. Regardless, Young seems to be very well respected and has brought in good coaching talent as well.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Fair, but most focus is on his academic credentials, which are shaky at best. He got a liberal arts degree from Princeton, where he was an athlete. His professional experience is virtually non-existent, and I don’t understand the reluctance to trade in general or his refusal to do much for the pen or outfield (Smith is good, but Chafin wad really cheap, as was Brad Hand).
I think his “reluctance to trade” is somewhat refreshing. The complete demolishing of the organization since the WS runs was due to JD feeling pressure to make that trade that was going to get them back! It was a run of bad trades that got us some spare filler and wiped out the farm. Sometimes not trading is the right move. Our farm is finally good again and yet the big league club is also in a better place. I’m not even touching on the coaching upgrades basically across the board. I appreciate was JD did for this organization, but his time was up and I don’t see it as a coincidence that the club is already in a much better place top to bottom.
And to be fair (sure degrom and eovaldi have injury history) how many clubs can afford to lose their top starting pitchers and still be okay? Not many, if any. Of course we’re a big injury away, but everyone is. We’ve been screaming for pitching talent for years and we now have ELITE pitching talent. Give me the risk, it’s the most excited I’ve been since Darvish signing.
deGrom Texas Ranger
I never got the obsession over Will Venable and Chris Young going to Princeton. Sure, it’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything for an “Associate Manager,” and I honestly don’t see much of an upgrade from Cornell to Princeton. The only leg up would be he has played in MLB. It’s just that trades create surplus, and the Kluber and Gaever deals were excellent at the time. You can’t look back and assume you know what’s going to happen. It’s about making rhe best decision with what you know at the time.
Yeah that’s all fair I guess. He’s been around for a few years now and I feel like he’s proven he’s capable of making some pretty solid decisions. I also feel like I remember hearing that basically every team in the league wanted him in their front office when he came to the Rangers. Just seems like he’s done a lot on his resume to justify his value outside of just his education.
And full disclosure, I liked both the Kluber and Garver deals at the time.
Curious as to why you don’t trust CY? As a lifelong rangers fan, I feel he has COMPLETELY turned the ship around almost from the second he walked in the door. Big league team has potential, and the farm is basically overhauled. I’m not knocking you for your opinion, more just curious about why?