The Rangers have 10 outfielders and 1 designated hitter in major league camp. I did an analysis on each of them, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the roster. I’ve also included each player’s spring training stats as of today (March 18th).
Michael Young (8-for-23, 2 RBI)
Michael will obviously make the Rangers Opening Day roster, and should be the team’s Opening Day DH, barring an injury to either him or an infielder. Young had yet another 200-hit season in 2011, the sixth time he has accomplished that feat in his career. He also got 100+ RBIs for the second time in his career, had 10+ home runs for the ninth time in his career, and hit over .300 for the seventh time in his career. Michael should either achieve or come close to achieving all of those again this year.
Engel Beltre (6-for-21, 5 RBI)
Beltre has had a much better spring than he did last year, where he went 0-for-17 at the plate, and hopefully that will carry into the regular season. Last year, Engel hit just .231 with only one home run. That was following a 2010 season in which he hit .300 with a career-high 49 RBIs. Beltre fell off a lot of top prospect lists after his poor performance last season (and his throwing a trash can into the stands and getting suspended didn’t help). Hopefully Beltre will make a good turnaround in 2012, but he doesn’t have much of a chance at the Opening Day roster.
Julio Borbon (7-for-20, 2 RBI)
Despite being sent down each of the past two seasons after being in the Opening Day lineup, Borbon once again has the inside track for the center field job. He has had a good spring, with a .350 batting average, and Craig Gentry, his main competition, has gotten injured twice. Craig may still make the team, but Borbon will most likely start. After a slow start last year with a .232 April batting average, Julio got hot in May, hitting .333, before getting injured and then demoted, where he once again started off cold, then got hot, then got injured.
Nelson Cruz (7-for-24, 1 HR, 6 RBI)
Cruz will obviously make the big league team on Opening Day, assuming he is healthy. When he has played the last three years he has been fantastic, with 20+ home runs and 75+ RBIs each year. He has also been super clutch in the playoffs with 14 home runs in 33 games. Cruz will be the starting right fielder and hit sixth, and he should go boomstick quite a few times this year.
Craig Gentry (1-for-13, 1 RBI)
Craig has had about as bad a Spring Training as possible, with two injuries (hamstring and wrist) and an .077 batting average. However, he is not a guy who will hit for a high average and the Rangers know that. Gentry is a great defensive center fielder and is extremely fast (he was a perfect 18-for-18 on stolen base attempts last year). His spring will probably keep him from getting the starting center field job, but I still think he will be the team’s fifth outfielder.
Josh Hamilton (4-for-25, 1 RBI)
As long as Josh is healthy on Opening Day, he will be the starting left fielder and will hit out of the three spot. He won MVP in 2010 and had another great year in 2011, hitting .298 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs in just 121 games. The problem with Josh is that he can’t stay healthy, and that is the main reason that the Rangers probably won’t resign him even though he is a free agent this offseason. Enjoy watching Josh play this year because you probably won’t see him in a Rangers uniform come next April.
Kyle Hudson (2-for-15, 1 RBI)
Even though Hudson had 28 major league at-bats with the Orioles last year, he has almost no chance at making the Opening Day roster. He has had a poor spring so far, and hit just .143 in those 28 at-bats in 2011. He has amazingly never hit a home run in 1422 combined minor league and major league at-bats. He could be called up at some point this year due to an injury since he is on the 40-man roster, but it is unlikely he will make the team to start the season.
Conor Jackson (1-for-20, 1 HR, 1 RBI)
Coming into camp Conor had a very good shot at making the team, either as an outfielder or first baseman, but now he has almost no chance with his 1-for-20 start. He is currently hitting .050 with a .095 OBP, and no non-roster invite can get away with that kind of performance and make any team (except maybe the DisAstros). Conor spent the entire 2011 season in the majors, though, hitting .244 with 5 homers and 43 RBIs between the A’s and Red Sox.
Leonys Martin (4-for-22, 1 HR, 1 RBI)
Leonys is another guy who was supposed to have a shot at cracking the Opening Day roster coming into Spring Training, but now has close to no chance. This time it wasn’t due to his play, however, as early on in camp, Ron Washington said that Martin will start off 2012 in Triple-A in order to get more experience. Last year was the first year in America for Leonys, a Cuban defector. He hit .295 with 38 stolen bases in 302 at-bats split between the AZL Rangers, Double-A Frisco, and Triple-A Round Rock, but he hit just .263 after getting called up to Triple-A. Leonys will be in the majors soon, maybe even at some point in this year, but not on Opening Day.
David Murphy (11-for-28, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
Even though Murphy will most likely not start on Opening Day, David is a sure thing as far as making the roster goes. He is one of the top fourth outfielders in all of baseball and had another good year in 2011, with a .275 batting average to go along with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs. His pattern is to start off slow, as he had a pre-All-Star game average of .247 in 2011 and a .162 April batting average in 2010, but then get hot in the second half of the season. David should see plenty of playing time with the injury-prone outfielders that the Rangers have in Hamilton and Cruz.
Yangervis Solarte (6-for-18, 2 HR, 5 RBI)
Solarte is a very interesting option for the Rangers. He has never been above Double-A, but he can play second, short, third, left, and right, kind of like a Jerry Hairston, Jr.. He also had a .329 average in the minors last year for Double-A New Britain, the team he played for the whole year, and has had a very good spring so far. His versatility and good performance give Solarte a good chance at the Opening Day roster, but his lack of experience will probably keep him off it to start off the year.
Projected Opening Day Lineup:
RF – Nelson Cruz
CF – Julio Borbon
LF – Josh Hamilton
4th Outfielder – David Murphy
5th Outfielder – Craig Gentry
DH - Michael Young
Starting Catcher - Mike Napoli
Backup Catcher - Yorvit Torrealba
1B – Mitch Moreland
2B – Ian Kinsler
SS – Elvis Andrus
3B – Adrian Beltre
UTIL – Alberto Gonzalez
SP – Colby Lewis
SP – Derek Holland
SP – Yu Darvish
SP – Matt Harrison
SP – Neftali Feliz
Lefty Specialist – Michael Kirkman
Long Reliever – Scott Feldman
Middle Reliever – Yoshinori Tateyama (I gave this spot to Mark Hamburger when making my pitching predictions a few weeks ago but with their performances since then, I now predict that Tateyama will make the roster instead)
Middle Reliever – Mark Lowe
Set-up Man – Alexi Ogando
Set-up Man – Mike Adams
Closer – Joe Nathan
Come back next week for my Spring Training trip report.