The Rangers have 10 infielders in major league camp. I did an analysis of all the infielders in big league camp, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the infield roster. I’ve also included each player’s spring training stats as of this morning (March 5th).
Elvis Andrus (1-for-10, 1 RBI)
There is no question whether Elvis will be on the team to start off the season, and there is also no question whether he will be a starter. The only question is, will he be the leadoff man or will he hit out of the #2 spot? Elvis led off last year, and hit .265 with 32 steals. While he had no home runs all year after hitting 6 in his rookie season in 2009, Andrus had enough speed and defense to make the All-Star team. Elvis’ defense is outstanding, and, in my opinion, should have gotten him a Gold Glove last year, and he is extremely speedy, with 65 stolen bases in his first two seasons. There is zero chance that Elvis gets sent to the minors to start off the year, barring an injury.
Percentage of making the Opening Day Roster: 100%
Brian Barden (4-for-9, 2 BB, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 1 E)
While Barden will most likely not make the team out of Spring Training, he has a good shot at becoming the utility infielder if there is an injury during the year (Ian Kinsler perhaps). He has played for a short stint in the majors in each of the past four seasons, but has never had more than 103 at-bats in a year. Last year with the Marlins, Barden went 5-for-28 with 3 RBIs, after hitting .233 with the Cards the year before. But while Brian didn’t necessarily hit well in the majors in 2010, he dominated in the minors with the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, where he hit .353 on the year and had a .407 OBP. Brian can play 2nd, 3rd, and short, but has played the majority of his games at third. He has also seen a little bit of time at 1st, right, center, and left, but not much time. I don’t think that Barden will make the Rangers Opening Day roster, but I think that there is a pretty good chance that he plays baseball in Arlington at some point in the year.
Adrian Beltre (0-for-0)
Adrian is the second 2010 All-Star infielder for the Rangers to this point, with still one more All-Star to go, giving the Rangers an All-Star at 75% of their infield positions. Last year, Beltre hit .321 with 28 home runs (including probably about ten with one knee) and 102 RBIs. Adrian also plays some of the best defense at third base in all of baseball, as he owns two Gold Glove awards, and makes many appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Obviously, with his 2010 numbers, his contract, and his defense, as long as he is healthy, Adrian will be the Rangers’ starting 3rd baseman to start off the year.
Andres Blanco (2-for-12, 1 BB, 2 R)
Personally, I don’t think that Blanco should be on the Opening Day roster, as Michael can be the utility infielder and DH, and an extra pitcher in that bullpen would be nice, especially with how many good relievers the Rangers have that might not even make the team. That said, I don’t have any input on who makes the roster, and the Rangers seem set on having a utility infielder on the team. Blanco had a good year last year, hitting .277 with 13 RBIs in 166 at-bats, and did a good job of filling in for Ian Kinsler while he was hurt. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like Andres will be on the Opening Day roster.
Chris Davis (5-for-14, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 2B)
Chris does not have all that much of a chance to make the Rangers out of Spring Training, especially with the Rangers having him play at third this spring, but if he can have a monster camp with the bat, he has a shot at being on the Opening Day team. Chris’ defense has never been the problem, as he is spectacular in the field, but he has struggled with the bat in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, his power numbers were good (21 HRs, 59 RBIs in 391 ABs), but his strikeout totals were ridiculous (150 K), and his batting average wasn’t so hot, either (.238 AVG). His 2010 season was much worse, with just a .192 AVG with 1 home run and 4 RBIs in 120 ABs. He was also striking out at a high rate again, with 40 strikeouts in that small number of at-bats. Chris struck out in 1 out of every 3 at-bats, which is up to Mark Reynolds levels. But even though he has struggled of late, the potential is still there, and the defense is still brilliant, so you cannot count him out.
Esteban German (3-for-12, 1 R, 4 K, 1 E)
In my opinion, Esteban starts off Spring Training as the third choice for utility infielder (behind Andres Blanco and Brian Barden). That leaves a very miniscule chance of Esteban being on the major league team on Opening Day. German wouldn’t be a terrible utility man if there are some injuries, but he should not have that role for an extended period of time. Last year, Esteban had thirteen major league at-bats, and got three hits. German was actually on the Rangers AL Division Series roster just due to his speed. Even though he does have speed, I just don’t see him being on the Opening Day roster, especially with him being a non-roster invitee.
Ian Kinsler (5-for-9, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 3 R, 1 SB)
Ian is yet another Rangers All-Star infielder. The Rangers have three of them, the second most of any American League team behind the Yankees. While Ian’s power numbers were down last season (31 HRs to 6 HRs and 86 RBIs to 45 RBIs), his average was way up (.253 to .286). Ian also has lots of speed, and can steal bases with regularity when healthy. And health is Kinsler’s biggest issue, as he played in only 103 games last year, and has not played more than 144 games in a season in his career. Kinsler was healthy for the postseason, though, and his numbers made that pretty obvious, as he hit .296 in the playoffs with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs. Kinsler will be in the Rangers starting lineup on Opening Day, and as of right now, it looks like he will be doing so from the leadoff spot.
Mitch Moreland (6-for-11, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 2B)
While Mitch is not a complete lock, he would have to have a terrible spring to be sent back down to Triple-A at the start of the season, and so far, his spring has been very good. Mitch stepped in at first base last year and did a fine job. He was nothing special, hitting .255 with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs in 145 at-bats, but he didn’t hurt the Rangers offensively, and played pretty solid defense. Mitch hit very well in clutch situations, as he had a .333 batting average with runners in scoring position, and hit .400 in the late innings of close ballgames. He also hit possibly the biggest home run in franchise history in Game 3 of the World Series, which basically kept the Rangers from getting swept. So while Mitch is not 100%, I would be very surprised if he was not on the Opening Day roster.
Mike Napoli (5-for-10, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R)
Napoli had a very interesting offseason. First, the Angels traded him along with Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays in exchange for Toronto OF Vernon Wells. Just a few days later, Napoli was then turned around and dealt to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Frankie Francisco. So, during this one offseason alone, Napoli was on three different teams at some point. Mike should be a good addition to the Rangers line-up, and while he might not hit for that high of an average (.251 career and .238 in 2010), his power numbers are very good (26 HRs and 68 RBIs in 2010).The plan for Napoli in 2011 is to have him be a part-time DH and a backup first baseman along with Michael Young, but even if that plan changes, no matter what, Mike will be on the Rangers Opening Day roster.
Jose Ruiz (3-for-8, 3 RBI, 2 R)
When Ruiz was signed this offseason by the Rangers, he was not brought in to be on the major league team at any point this season, and it is a major long shot that he will be on the Opening Day team. Jose was in the Tampa Bay Rays organization last season after defecting from Cuba in 2009 while he was playing for the Cuban National Series club. He hit .272 with one home run and eleven RBIs in a limited time in the Rays minor league system. Jose really does not have much of a chance to make the big league team out of Spring Training.
Michael Young (5-for-8, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 E)
Despite offseason turmoil, it looks like Michael will play for the Rangers in 2011. Even though Michael had his lowest on-base percentage since 2002 (.330 in 2010), Young still had a solid season at the plate, with a .284 batting average along with 21 home runs and 91 RBIs. Young posted his largest RBI total since 2007, and hit the second most home runs in the past five years. Michael heads into Spring Training as the starting designated hitter and also as a utility infielder. Young will be working some at first base this spring, and the plan is to have him along with Napoli back up Mitch Moreland at first against righties, and start at first against lefties. Unless there is a surprising trade before the season starts, then there is no question whether or not Michael will be on the team.
Predicted Infield Roster:
1B: Mitch Moreland
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Elvis Andrus
3B: Adrian Beltre
DH/UTIL: Michael Young
DH/1B: Mike Napoli
UTIL: Andres Blanco
Next in Line:
Come back later this week for my Spring Training Catchers Analysis and part of my pitching analysis.