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 10th).
Elvis Andrus (8-for-12, 2 RBI)
Elvis is going to be the Opening Day shortstop, no question. He has been great over his first three major league seasons, and last year posted career highs in batting average (.279), RBIs (60), stolen bases (37), runs (96), and hits (164), as well as a career low in strikeouts (74). Elvis should have an even better year this year than last, however, as his defense should improve after a 25-error season last year, and I think that he will come close to a 200-hit season.
Adrian Beltre (4-for-11, 3 RBI)
Like Elvis, Adrian Beltre, barring an injury, will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day for sure. Last year Adrian put a stop to his reputation of being a player who only plays well in contract years, as he had one of the best seasons of his career. He hit .296, the third highest mark of his career, along with 32 home runs, the second most in his career, and 105 RBIs, also the second most in his career. Adrian will be the starting third baseman on Opening Day and should have another great year.
Alberto Gonzalez (3-for-10, 3 RBI)
It’s not often that a non-roster invitee is the odds-on favorite to win a big league job, but that is the case here. The Rangers really don’t have any other middle infielders in big league camp that aren’t already big league starters, outside of fellow non-roster invites Luis Hernandez (who had 0 major league at-bats in 2011) and Greg Miclat (who has 0 career major league at-bats). However, Alberto is not a lock, as he hasn’t been a very good defensive shortstop over his career, with a .967 career fielding percentage at the position. Despite that poor career mark, he did have a .990 fielding percentage there last season, to go along with a .215 average and 32 RBIs.
Brad Hawpe (0 ABs)
While Brad doesn’t have a great chance at making the Opening Day team, his window of opportunity is definitely widening with the poor play of Mitch Moreland at the beginning of Spring Training (he is 1-for-16 so far), on top of his bad postseason play (3-for-29 last year). Hawpe is currently recovering from a hamstring problem that has cost him the beginning of Spring Training, but he is expected to play soon. The Rangers hope that he can return to his 2006-2009 form, when he hit above .280 with 20+ home runs and 80+ RBIs every year, and not hit like his past two seasons, with batting averages below .250 and less than 10 homers. Brad could very well win the first base job.
Luis Hernandez (2-for-8, 1 RBI)
Hernandez poses the only real threat to Alberto Gonzalez that is currently in the Rangers organization, but is an unlikely option, as he hasn’t played in the majors since 2010, with a season-ending foot surgery playing a big part of that last year. In 265 career at-bats, only 18 at-bats more than Gonzalez’ 2011 total, Luis has hit .245 with 3 homers and 20 RBIs. But, while Hernandez has less big league experience and isn’t as good of a hitter as Gonzalez, he is a better fielder, with a still-bad .977 career shortstop fielding percentage, which is a good .010 better than Alberto’s. Luis has also never made an error in 149 major league innings at second base, and his fielding is what gives him a chance to win the job.
Ian Kinsler (3-for-14)
Kinsler is one of the top second basemen in all of baseball, and will make the Opening Day roster with no problems, as long as he can stay healthy through Spring Training. He is a two-time All-Star and should pick up a Gold Glove at some point in his career with his stellar defense. He hit 32 home runs for the Rangers last year hitting out of the leadoff spot, and had a .355 on-base-percentage in spite of a .255 batting average. Kinsler should have another outstanding year for the Rangers if he can stay on the field.
Greg Miclat (2-for-10)
While Greg probably doesn’t have a very good shot at the Opening Day roster this year, as he has never been above Double-A, the former fifth-round pick out of Virginia has a chance to make the team at some point this year if Gonzalez and Hernandez don’t pan out. He has talent, as he hit .280 with a .371 OBP in 421 at-bats for Double-A Bowie in the Orioles farm system last year. He is a guy who could play a role for the Rangers in the near future, if not at some point this year.
Mitch Moreland (1-for-16, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
Coming into the spring, Moreland was sitting pretty for the first base job, with his percentage probably in the 90s, despite his horrendous playoffs, where he hit .103 in 29 at-bats and committed 1 official error along with 2 or 3 more bad defensive plays. And that was after a very average season in which he hit .259 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs. At this point, after starting the spring 1-for-16, the starting first base job is wide open for Hawpe, Conor Jackson, or Brandon Snyder to swoop in and take it from Moreland.
Mike Olt (4-for-14)
Olt has really crashed onto the scene since getting drafted in 2010 out of UConn. He has played so well that he is now the #43 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. He has never been above High-A so he has no chance at starting off the season in the majors, and as a third baseman, he will most likely have to change positions to either first or left to get out from behind Adrian Beltre. Olt hit .267 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs with High-A Myrtle Beach last year while flashing a stellar glove in the field. Mike won’t be on the Opening Day roster, but he has a very bright future.
Brandon Snyder (2-for-5, 3 RBI)
Snyder hasn’t lived up to hype of being a first round pick yet since being drafted in 2005 by the Orioles. So far in his career he has only 33 at-bats, and at age 25, he needs to get his career going soon. And with the rough start for Moreland so far this spring, Brandon has a chance to win the job and a chance to make the Opening Day roster. Last year in Triple-A, Brandon hit .261 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs with the Norfolk Tide. With a good spring and some help, Brandon could be the starting first baseman on Opening Day.
Projected Infield Lineup:
1B – Mitch Moreland
2B – Ian Kinsler
SS – Elvis Andrus
3B – Adrian Beltre
UTIL – Alberto Gonzalez (along with Michael Young of course, who I’ll cover in the Catchers/DH entry)
Come back in a few days for my Spring Training Catchers/DH Analysis.