There may still be 25 games remaining in the 2021 season, but it's no secret that many involved with the Texas Rangers already have their eyes on this winter and the 2022 season. Unless the Rangers finish 14-11 the rest of the way, they will lose 100 games in a season for the first time since their second year in Texas in 1973.
Understandably, fans are clamoring for improvement. And with president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, general manager Chris Young and manager Chris Woodward all talking about adding pieces this winter, it's natural for optimists to peak through their crystal ball while skeptics brush off the notion of adding significant free agents to a rebuilding team.
This is probably far too early to predict the 2022 Opening Day roster, but we're going to take a stab at it anyway. This will surely have multiple makeovers over the course of the winter. But with where things stand here on September 7, this is an idea of how the position player group may look when the Rangers host Joey Gallo and the New York Yankees on Opening Day next April.
Catcher: Jose Trevino
There may be a little bit of recency bias here, but when Jose Trevino is hitting well, he shows his true value. Over his last 12 games, he's slashing .311/.367/.489/.856 with eight of his 14 hits being doubles.
He's elite at framing pitches and, if it were quantifiable, his leadership quality is off the charts. Consistency at the plate will be what ultimately decides Trevino future in the big leagues. If he can post a league average OPS, he can be a true No. 1 catcher. If not, he may be best suited for a very valuable No. 2.
Trevino is more than willing to put in the work to remain consistent at the plate, and I'm a believer that those with a determined mindset — like one that Trevino possesses — will, more times than not, achieve their goals.
First Base: Nathaniel Lowe
All in all, it hasn't been a bad year at all for Nathaniel Lowe. It's his first full season as an everyday first baseman in the big leagues, and he could be a 2-win player by season's end.
I believe there's more power in the bat. Definitely enough for 20-plus homers. The adjustments that Lowe has made over the last month have allowed him to turn a corner, as he is hitting the ball in the air a bit more often. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The defense is a bit of a worry, especially if Lowe doesn't pose a threat at the plate. But if he truly takes off at the plate, he's a favorable DH candidate in 2022 and beyond.
Lowe has definitely done enough this season to earn another crack at playing everyday at first base. However, as the Rangers get closer to wanting to compete, expectations will rise next season. There has to be tangible improvement.
Second Base: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Three positions for Isiah Kiner-Falefa in three years? It's possible.
I think we know by now who Kiner-Falefa is. He's a high-contact hitter who can pull the ball or slap it the other way for a bunch of singles. He'll hit 20-25 doubles per season, along with five homers or so. He also provides elite defense in the infield. He's already won a Gold Glove at third base, and he's a strong candidate for a Gold Glove at shortstop this season. If he wins, he'll be the first player in Major League history to accomplish the feat.
So, why not make it a Gold Glove at second base in 2022? That's history that would likely not be touched. In addition, there are two players the Rangers could definitely make room for at his current and previous positions.
Third Base: Josh Jung
I'm buying in to the Josh Jung hype. After he displayed the ability to pull the ball with power at the alternate training site in 2020, we all waited to see how it would translate to games in 2021.
The foot injury set him back, and probably delayed his call to The Show by a season. But Jung has done nothing but hit along the line at the two top levels of the minor leagues this season.
In 43 games at Double-A Frisco, Jung slashed .308/.366/.544/.910 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI. In his first introduction to Triple-A ball, Jung has slashed .264/.371/.547/.918 with three home runs and six RBI in 14 games.
Finally, with a full season of professional baseball under his belt, Jung will go into big league camp next year with a spot on the Opening Day roster within his grasp. I'm predicting he wins an starting spot outright. If not, Kiner-Falefa could slide over to third base for...
Shortstop: Carlos Correa
Many of you Rangers fans may not like it, but I'm sticking with it. I've already said Correa should be the Rangers' top priority this winter. His age fits the Rangers timeline. He would not only add a great bat to the lineup, but can slot in at shortstop, giving the Rangers two Gold Glove-caliber shortstops on the roster.
In addition, he can give the Rangers a much needed boost in attitude and swagger. If the Rangers are going to compete in two or three years, they need a guy like Correa.
MLB Free Agency Tracker: Shortstops
Keep up with the latest news, rumors and signings of this winter's class of free agent shortstops.
Rangers History Today: Hargrove Wins AL Rookie of the Year
The Rookie of the Year is one of the game's most prestigious award, and on this day, a Rangers player won it for the first time.
Report: Rangers Interested in Jon Gray?
The Texas Rangers are tied to another starting pitcher on the free agent market.
For those refusing the idea because he's an Astro or because of the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, I challenge you to boo the man the moment he hits a game-winning home run at Globe Life Field in Rangers red, white and blue.
As for the money, it would take likely at least seven years and $200 million to get Correa to think about Arlington. He will only be entering his age 27 season in 2022, so seven years is not a bad place to start.
Left Field: DJ Peters
DJ Peters was already intriguing to Rangers management before claiming him off waivers in August. Now, he is showing everyone why.
The .205/.265/.452/.717 slash line doesn't jump off the page at you, but we are seeing plenty of flashes of Peters' talent. The Rangers have worked with Peters on his swing mechanics, which include a lot of "long levers", as hitting coach Luis Ortiz describes it. However, Peters has completely bought in to the changes, and most importantly, he doesn't allow the results to affect his psyche. That's a mental toughness that is hard to find in young players.
He also provides very good defense at any of the three spots in the outfield. Having him in left field would make the Rangers trio of outfielders very, very good from a defensive standpoint.
Center Field: Leody Taveras
Taveras has had a very trying year, but it looks like he's beginning to turn a corner at the plate. After slashing .245/.343/.475/.818 in 87 games at Triple-A Round Rock, Taveras was ready for another crack at the big league level, and has showed just what he is capable of over the last week or so.
His defensive ability makes him a lock for center field as long as Chris Woodward and the rest of Rangers management believe he can produce offensively. If Taveras can finish the season strong at the plate, he could be in line for a crack at the Opening Day spot in center field once again. Only this time, Taveras will be much more seasoned and have a better grasp on what it takes to stick in the big leagues.
Right Field: Adolis García
Next to Kiner-Falefa, Adolis García is the closest thing to a lock for next season. However, he still has a bit of proving to do. If you cut his season nearly in half, you can see the growing pains that García has gone through.
In his first 64 games, García slashed .276/.308/.552/.860 with 20 home runs and 52 RBI. In the 62 games since, he's slashed .214/.280/.399/.679 with nine home runs and 26 RBI.
Even so, his overall body of work has earned him another look next season. Will he improve upon an All-Star season as a 28-year-old rookie? That's a question to which the Rangers must find the answer.
Designated Hitter: Willie Calhoun
Willie Calhoun has had the worst luck of any player I've covered. Granted, this is only my second year covering the Rangers, but I can't imagine another player having a worse two-year stretch than Calhoun.
Fair or unfair, 2022 might be Calhoun's last chance. The Rangers have very intriguing hitters coming through the farm that can start vying for big league at-bats as early as next season. Calhoun has to not only stay healthy, but perform while in the lineup. I believe he'll get one more crack at it next spring.
Opening Day Lineup
- 2B Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R)
- 3B Josh Jung (R)
- SS Carlos Correa (R)
- RF Adolis García (R)
- 1B Nathaniel Lowe (L)
- LF DJ Peters (R)
- DH Willie Calhoun (L)
- CF Leody Taveras (S)
- C Jose Trevino (R)
Bench: Jonah Heim, Nick Solak, Eli White
Jonah Heim has seated Trevino this season when he shows his capabilities with the bat. He's also very good at pitch framing, though he is just a tad behind Trevino in terms of overall receiving. However, if Heim hits, that would be what puts Heim over the top. Trevino is a bit more seasoned, which is why I have him as the starter.
Nick Solak has shown a serious resurgence since returning from Round Rock, slashing .315/.362/.481/.844 in 14 games since he was recalled. If Solak is to keep a job in the big leagues, the bat will be his calling card. If the trip down to Triple A helped him get to another level, the Rangers will be getting a bat that can compete for an everyday job in 2022.
Chris Woodward has compared Eli White to Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers. While White was healthy, he showed a lot of similar characteristics that made the comp a shrewd observation. White has game-changing speed and is a versatile defender in the outfield and second base. As with many young Rangers hitters, consistency with the bat will be what decides his future.
More From SI's Inside The Rangers:
- A.J. Alexy Makes MLB History As Rangers Shutout Angels In 4-0 Win
- Stock Up: Three Rangers Making Their Case For Jobs Next Spring
- Rangers Mailbag: Which Free Agent Shortstop Fits Best In Texas?
Make Sure To Like 'Inside The Rangers' on Facebook