March 15th, 2016

Spring Training 2016- The Texas Rangers

Yesterday I returned to Goodyear Ballpark to watch the Indians take on the Texas Rangers.

As I walked into the press box I could smell hamburgers cooking. The same thing happened the day before at Peoria. It really is very tough to work with the fabulous scent of hamburgers in the air. I think scent is a better word than odor or smell. So, lets use scent. I love hamburgers. In Phoenix we’re very fortunate to have In and Out Burger in several Spring Training locations. Occasionally, I’ll slip in and order the best double burger in the world. With extra pickles.

So anyway, for the past two days I have tried to concentrate with the scent of hamburgers in the air. Of course, it led me to the media dining room where I was convinced I’d see hamburgers, fries, etc. waiting to be consumed. Wrong. Yesterday it was baked ziti with zucchini as a side dish. Zucchini? Are you kidding me? I ate the baked ziti and pretended it was a hamburger. Oh well, now do you see what I have to go through? By the way-I wasn’t even tempted to eat the cookies. They didn’t look home made. I’m partial to home made cookies.

OK-so I got to see what I would guess might be close to the starting lineup of both the Rangers and the Indians. As usual though, a couple spots were taken by non-starters.

A J Griffin started for the Rangers. We have to remember that he is trying to return from serious surgery and is trying to get his arm and mechanics back in shape. He is a Spring Training invitee to camp. It really didn’t go that badly. He did, however, throw a ton of off-speed pitches. They are less deceptive when they don’t follow a high velocity fastball or a big breaking ball. Indians catcher Yan Gomes (who looks fantastic, I might add. His swing is back, I might add.) took a hanging off-speed pitch deep to left field for a home run. Gomes put a charge in the pitch that was way up in the zone and had very little velocity. Griffin has to continue to make progress to be ready to help the club if needed sometime down the road. Not now, I don’t think.

I got a very good look at highly prized rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara. He just screams “athlete.” He has a perfectly proportioned 6-foot-3, 215 pound frame. I didn’t see much offense from him, but I am certain his good bat speed and fine mechanics will translate to success-including power- for the left-handed hitter. His eye-hand coordination was very obvious. I did, however, see a good right fielder with fine range and natural ability to chase down balls with his long legs. I think we’ll be seeing lots of Mazara, possibly as soon as some time this season.

Prince Fielder got a couple hits in the game and still showed the ability to take the ball to center and left center. He does, however, look like he may have gained a pound or two over the winter. Fielder will be dangerous if he stays healthy, which he did last year. And if Joey Gallo makes the club, he and Fielder will be an awesome duo to place around the outstanding Adrian Beltre. By the way, Gallo did not play in the game. But the day before he hit a home run out of Tempe Diablo stadium and into the parking lot. Just another day at the office for Gallo.  Yikes!
Ian Desmond played left field with Elvis Andrus at shortstop. I saw no issues with Desmond in the outfield. He’ll add another potent bat to the lineup, but he has to make better contact than I saw in the game. His pitch recognition looked a little late. Several swings and misses and a called third strike.

Robinson Chirinos will probably get most of the catching assignments. In this game, Chirinos didn’t produce much at the plate. But both his hitting and catching mechanics are very solid. I think he can produce double digit home runs. His swing is such that he can get some loft on the ball. Catcher Bobby Wilson is a non-roster invitee to camp. He served as the DH and got a couple of hits.

I still keep thinking the Rangers will turn to Jurickson Profar as their center fielder. When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League it looked like the offensive part of his game had returned. However, I did not see him throw with that repaired shoulder. I don’t know if he has thrown in camp. But Delino DeShields is the center fielder right now. He can run, cover some ground in the outfield and steal bases. So, the Rangers may be satisfied enough to leave that center field situation alone. Ryan Rua is on the 40-man roster as well as Justin Ruggiano. The outfield should consist of Shin-Soo Choo, possibly Josh Hamilton when he returns to health after the season begins and DeShields. And Mazara certainly may sneak in and take one of those roles. But of all the outfielders I’ve listed here, I think Lewis Brinson (along with Mazara) may be the bright stars of the future. Brinson is a lanky center field type with great range and a very solid bat. I saw him in the Fall League and he really impressed with his no-nonsense approach to both hitting and fielding. He has speed, power, a terrific frame and a great feel for the game. Brinson in center and Mazara in left or right along with Choo would be very formidable-as soon as some time this year. Keep your eyes on Brinson and Mazara. I think they will be a dynamic duo to pair for the future along with the booming bat of Joey Gallo.
From a prospect standpoint, the Rangers have that trio of solid young players and more just waiting in the wings. I do think the outfield of the future begins with Brinson and Mazara and it’s mix and match for the third person.

The problem with the Rangers could boil down to pitching. Who starts and how good they will be are the questions in my mind about the club. They could get Yu Darvish back by mid-season. That will certainly help. Cole Hamels is outstanding. So Darvish and Hamels will form a very solid one-two punch. From there? Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Martin Perez and Nick Martinez don’t overwhelm me. Will Chi-Chi Gonzalez turn the corner and become a reliable starter? I have no idea. I do know that Darvish and Hamels are solid, Holland can be very good at times and then, meh! The Rangers go as far as their pitching takes them.

Tomorrow I discuss the Cleveland Indians.

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.