The first wave of roster decisions has been made. With Opening Day just one week away, the Texas Rangers still have some sorting out to do, but we're getting a clearer picture of the 26 players that will suit up in Kansas City next Thursday.
Here's who we know is on the roster, 100 percent, no doubt about it. Their roles may not be determined yet, but with everything we've gathered, this group of players have been told they're on the roster.
Catchers: Jose Trevino, Jonah Heim
Infielders: Nick Solak, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rougned Odor, Brock Holt*
Outfielders: David Dahl, Joey Gallo
* - non-roster invitee
Coming into camp, Joey Gallo and Isiah Kiner-Falefa were already locks, and neither of them gave the Rangers any reason to fret about those decisions. Jose Trevino was as close to a lock as you can get, but Chris Woodward never wavered from the idea that Trevino would be the No. 1 catcher.
David Dahl and Rougned Odor are here by default, and don't need an official announcement that they are on the Opening Day roster. Their roles, on the other hand, are a little bit different.
In all likelihood, Dahl is the everyday left fielder. He's had a solid camp, and injuries to Khris Davis and Willie Calhoun leave him without much competition. However, let's not take away from the former. Dahl has looked pretty darn good this spring, and figures to hit in front of Joey Gallo most nights.
Odor is on the team by default, but his role has yet to be announced. He's played a strong third base, and his approach at the plate has looked much better. He has a good chance to land the third base job, but non-roster invitee Brock Holt was told on Wednesday he was making the ballclub after a strong spring, so there is competition there.
Chris Woodward hasn't announced that Nick Solak has won the second base job yet, but he has said that Solak has done enough to be in the lineup every day. Solak has only played second base this spring, so I'll let you put two-and-two together on that one.
There was some debate about Jonah Heim going to Round Rock to get regular playing time. But with the delay of the Triple-A season, the Rangers are opting to bring Heim to Arlington right away.
Heim has shown the Rangers why they wanted him in the Elvis Andrus trade. He's displayed exceptional bat-to-ball skill and has a bazooka from behind home plate. Several pitchers have also said they like throwing to Heim because he provides them a big target.
Starters: RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Kohei Arihara
Multi-inning roles: LHP Wes Benjamin, RHP Dane Dunning, LHP Taylor Hearn, LHP John King, RHP Jordan Lyles (tandem)
It was all but guaranteed that Kyle Gibson was going to start on Opening Day, and Chris Woodward made that official in mid-March. Mike Foltynewicz and Kohei Arihara are on big league deals and have been stretched out to be traditional starters. Announcements from the club aren't necessary to know their roles.
With at least four, if not five bullpen locks starting the season on the Injured List, the rest of the pitching staff is as murky as ever.
However, Chris Woodward has helped us clear some things up this week. While there was little doubt that Jordan Lyles would be on the Opening Day roster, his role was seemingly up in the air. The Rangers skipper cast all doubts aside when he announced that Lyles would fill one of the four tandem spots for the starting rotation.
One down, three to go.
On Wednesday, Chris Woodward announced four more names to the Opening Day roster: Wes Benjamin, Dane Dunning, Taylor Hearn, and John King. He did not announce their roles, except that all four would be there to pitch multiple innings.
The Rangers have 39 players on the 40-man roster. Since Brock Holt has been told he's made the roster, let's assume from here on out that the 40-man is full.
Also, Rangers president of baseball operation Jon Daniels confirmed on Wednesday they would be adding a "minimum of three" non-roster players. Keep that in mind.
On The Bubble
Infielders: Ronald Guzmán, Nate Lowe, Charlie Culberson*
Outfielders: Leody Taveras, Eli White
* - non-roster invitee
Injuries to Willie Calhoun and Khris Davis pave a way for both Ronald Guzmán and Nate Lowe to make the Opening Day roster. Both of them have had solid camps in their own right, and either one can grab at-bats from the DH spot or first base. In terms of finding a declared winner for the first base job, we may have to wait and see once Calhoun and Davis regain their health.
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In regards to the center field job, Leody Taveras and Eli White have been neck-and-neck for the past few weeks. Either one could land the job while the other serves as a quality defensive replacement. Lately, Taveras seems to be trending in a better direction than White. He added a two-run double on Wednesday night, showing a much better approach than at the beginning of camp.
Charlie Culberson could still be added to the roster. He's had a solid spring. He's swung the bat well. He's a versatile defender. With Holt already on the Opening Day roster, he just may be unlucky if the Rangers can't make a 40-man roster move to make room for him.
The next 40-man moves will have to address the pitching staff.
Multi-inning role: RHP Kyle Cody
Bullpen: RHP Matt Bush*, RHP Ian Kennedy*, RHP Hunter Wood*, LHP Hyeon-jong Yang*, RHP Brett de Geus**, RHP Josh Sborz, RHP Luis Ortiz*
* - non-roster invitee
** - Rule 5 draft pick
If you look at the pitchers that have made the Opening Day roster, it would seem as if the tandem spots are filled. With five spots remaining on the pitching staff, Kyle Cody left a huge impression on his manager in a fight for one of those vacancies.
“The only thing I really wrote was, ‘Wow,’” Woodward said after Cody's outing on Wednesday night. “Not just to see him use all his pitches, but the way he could do that, you could tell there was something different out there. He threw all those pitches with a ton of conviction. The way he used the changeups, the way he manipulated counts. His stuff was sharper. He just absolutely dominated.”
As for the rest of the bullpen candidates, all but Josh Sborz and Rule 5 draft pick Brett de Geus are non-roster invitees. But the puzzle pieces may fit together easier than it looks.
Jonathan Hernández and José Leclerc will likely start the season on the 60-day IL, vacating two spots on the 40-man roster. Those spots will likely be filled by Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy, both of which are expected to take on the bulk of the high-leverage innings late in games.
If the Rangers don't keep de Geus on the big league roster, they would have to offer him back to the Dodgers. Josh Sborz is also on the 40-man already. Both pitchers have had looked good in spring training.
Cody, Bush, Kennedy, Sborz, de Geus. That's five pitchers for five remaining spots.
Any other selections would have to result in a painful 40-man roster move. But before we make a move to add a non-roster pitcher, there's another situation that may need it.
Infield: Andy Ibáñez*
Outfield: Adolis García*
* - non-roster invitee
With Khris Davis out for the next three-to-four weeks with a quad injury, the Rangers desperately need a right-handed bat with some pop. Both Ibáñez and García have provided that this spring.
If the Rangers want more offense from the final bench spot, there's a case for either one of them.
The case for Ibáñez: He's hit along the line at every level of the minor leagues. When he makes contact, it's usually hard contact. He's a more versatile defender, with the ability to play at any spot in the infield, although his arm has been very questionable this spring.
The case for García: The dude is a monster. He can drive the ball, and has all spring. He has a 1.304 OPS in Cactus League play with two home runs, and is tied with Joey Gallo for the team lead with 11 RBI.
"It's been impressive," Woodward said of García. "The quality of the at-bat is as good as I've ever seen from him. I know he's put a ton of work into controlling the strike zone, staying short with his move, staying in the middle of the field. I can't say enough how much better this guy has gotten."
Remember, the Rangers don't have to add either one. They could go with Charlie Culberson and maybe add Brock Burke to the 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man roster.
We could know as early as Thursday some additional roster decisions, but expect some of them to come down to the wire. The Rangers have a lot to figure out in the next few days. That's a good problem to have, especially with all the injuries they have had this spring.