Texas Rangers 2020 Positional Review: First Base
The Texas Rangers' offensive woes were a big reason why the club finished with the second-worst record in Major League Baseball in 2020. The first base position—one that is traditionally a position that provides some thump in the lineup—was yet again in the bottom third in baseball.
According to Baseball Reference, Rangers' first basemen combined for a .691 OPS. That mark is good enough for 11th in the American League and 24th in Major League Baseball. Offseason addition Todd Frazier provided the most production at first base as one of the hottest hitters at the outset of the 2020 season. However, the Rangers flipped him at the trade deadline when the club fell out of playoff contention and shifted their focus toward the youth of the organization.
In yet another audition for the everyday spot at first base, Ronald Guzmán provided a little more consistency early on. He was able to make adjustments quickly, earning praise from manager Chris Woodward in the process.
However, Major League pitching continued to stay one step ahead of Guzmán, who was unable to maintain the consistency Woodward and the coaching staff demand from their players. Guzmán finished with a .244/.314/.436 slash line with four home runs and nine RBI in 26 games.
Midseason addition Derek Dietrich provided leadership, a jolt of energy, and some offensive production as an occasional filler at first base. However, his playing time was reduced while the Rangers' main focus was on their youth in the latter half of the season.
Projected starter: Ronald Guzmán
Internal Options: Sherten Apostel
Offseason Priority: HIGH
Offensive output at first base has remained an issue since Prince Fielder was forced to retire in 2016 after multiple neck surgeries. Mitch Moreland was a glove-first first baseman and the position has been a carousel since Moreland's departure after the 2016 season, winning a Gold Glove in the process.
Ronald Guzmán is out of minor league options heading into 2021, which would put him in line to get one last crack at landing the position out of spring training. With so much of the focus going toward the youth of the organization, Guzmán and Sherten Apostel could be options throughout the 2021 season.
However, there's a good chance Apostel won't be considered Major League ready at the outset of the season. In addition, the Rangers are committed to giving Apostel playing time at third base, but the left side of the infield is becoming increasingly crowded. If things go terribly with Guzmán in 2021 and Apostel isn't ready to take the mantle, the Rangers could be upstream without a paddle.
The Rangers could supplement externally with a veteran to compliment or compete with Guzmán. The Rangers could try to land a guy like Tommy La Stella or take a flier on a guy like Jake Lamb, a former All Star in 2017 that would likely come cheap in the free agent market.
I'm also still intrigued to see if Rangers GM Jon Daniels is willing to pick up the phone and call Pittsburgh Pirates GM Ben Cherington to inquire about a talent-for-talent swap involving DFW-native Josh Bell. The switch-hitting first baseman is trending in the wrong direction for Pittsburgh and maybe the Rangers could capitalize. After all, Daniels said one of the goals of the offseason is to "acquire more young talent."
Ultimately, the Rangers need more thump at first base. Ideally, Guzmán figures it out at the plate and becomes the answer the Rangers have needed for several years. However, this is not Guzmán's first or second chance to come into spring training and win the job outright. More than likely, this is Guzmán's last chance before the Rangers turn the page to other guys like Apostel and other younger options in the system.