By Matthew Postins
The Texas Rangers opened Spring Training this week in Surprise, Ariz., as pitchers and catchers reported for workouts. Spring Training started earlier this year, as the World Baseball Classic starts in March. RattleandHumSports.com previews the Rangers at Spring training Today by breaking down the infielders invited to camp.
Catchers: A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto
Infielders: Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Lance Berkman, Leury Garcia, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar.
Non-Roster Invitees (as of Feb. 6)
Catchers: Juan Apodaca, Jose Felix, Konrad Schmidt, Eli Whiteside.
Infielders: Brandon Allen, Jeff Baker, Brandon Snyder, Yangervis Solarte.
The Starters: The trade of Michael Young leaves a hole in terms of depth. No player on the current roster could play as many positions as Young could. But the starting lineup seems set going into camp, with Moreland at first, Kinsler at second, Andrus at shortstop and Beltre at third base. Berkman, while classified as an infielder because he can play first, will be the full-time designated hitter and spell Moreland at first. Pierzynski will be the primary starter behind the plate. Barring injury, that’s your Opening Day lineup.
The Backups: There is likely to be little competition at catcher, where Soto should be Pierzynski’s backup. That probably leaves two infield spots to compete for, assuming the Rangers keep 12 pitchers and 4 outfielders on their opening-day roster. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told reporters earlier this week that both Olt and Profar are considered serious contenders for backup roles, if they have great springs. He also told reporters that Garcia, Olt and Profar would work out in the outfield this spring, theoretically to provide more flexibility. Given the competition, there’s a good chance some combination of Garcia, Olt and Profar could be on the Opening Day roster. Garcia also plays shortstop, but he has value because he’s a switch-hitter and because he can steal bases (three 30-steal seasons in the minors). Profar is the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, has speed and power, and could play both middle infield positions. Olt, the organization’s reigning Minor League Player of the Year, has the ability to play both corner infield positions. Whoever wins those backup jobs must play multiple positions. Snyder could play both corner positions and will be Olt’s primary competition to backup Beltre and Moreland. Garcia, Olt and Profar are on the 40-man roster, which means the clock is ticking.
The Wild Card: Baker is considered a quality hitter against left-handers (.296 for his career) and has experience at first, second, third and the outfield. He’s a career .266 hitter who can provide 15 home runs if he gets 100 games at the Major League level. If Olt falters, a good spring could put Baker in line for a roster spot. But for now he’s in camp on a minor-league deal and the Rangers see him as depth.
On Opening Day?: Expect Profar and Olt to make the Opening Day roster and serve as the primary backups for a veteran group of starters when the Rangers open the season in Houston.