Texas Rangers Mailbag: Who's the Best Player in Camp?
Welcome to another Texas Rangers mailbag on SI's Inside The Rangers!
Rangers' manager Chris Woodward has a unique challenge ahead of him with this 60-game season on the horizon. The questions submitted by fans primarily focused on a number of roster decisions that will have to be made over the next week and a half before the season gets underway.
Thank you fans for submitting your questions!
If you had to pick a way too early team MVP, who would it be based off what you have seen in Summer Camp?
-Justifiably Pale (Twitter: @JustifiablyPale)
Based solely on Summer Camp, it would be either Isiah Kiner-Falefa or Rougned Odor. Both have picked up where they left off at Spring Training without missing a beat. Both have looked great at the plate and in the field. Kiner-Falefa may be the best infielder on the entire roster and Odor has hit four home runs throughout intrasquad games.
I might give the slight edge to Odor. Even when he is getting out, he's making pitchers work for it. This is the best case scenario Chris Woodward could envision for Odor—going about the process the right way and he's getting the desired results on the field. Odor is a potential game-changer for the Rangers.
Yes, we've seen Odor have a great spring and then stumble out of the gate once the games matter. But the work he's done in the spring and summer is undeniable.
Any sense of whether Woodward is leaning to Frazier at first base and Kiner-Falefa at third base? I personally don't feel there is any time to let Greg Bird and Ronald Guzmán battle. Let them Taxi.
-Scott Walker (Twitter: @Sjw63605)
According to Woodward, that is "100 percent" a possibility. Kiner-Falefa is arguably the best player in camp right now. In a 60-game season, you can't afford to leave your hottest bats on the bench.
That being said, intrasquad games are taking a different turn this week. Not only are they shifting to night games, but competition is going to ramp up as well. Guzmán has only played in a couple of games after passing the intake testing protocol. For both Guzmán and Bird, this is the week to make Woodward have no choice but to give either of them the job.
If the same situation that happened in Spring Training plays out again—where neither one really takes the bull by the horns—then I would seriously bet the scenario of Frazier at first base and Kiner-Falefa at third base is a legitimate possibility for the start of the season.
So how do you see the catching position shaking out?
-Jon B., Amarillo, TX
Everyone's healthy. That means Robinson Chirinos is going to get the bulk of the starts. The Rangers have discussed keeping three catchers at the beginning with the 30-man roster, but that goes away after two weeks.
We know that Mike Minor prefers Jeff Mathis. Lance Lynn likes him too. But Jose Trevino could give the Rangers another option if the pitching staff builds a comfort with him.
However, this is a 60-game season. It's very possible you see Chirinos behind the plate for the majority of the games. Maybe even as much as 45-50 games. I'd say that would be the ceiling, but Chirinos is their best hitter behind the plate and he's pretty good defensively as well. He's far and away their best option.
Do you see our Rangers having both Demarcus Evans and Alex Speas in the bullpen in this short season?
-Jeff Hewitt (Twitter: @aggiemilkman17)
Not from the beginning, but it's possible at some point. Evans would likely have the first crack at the roster, but there's no denying Speas' potential.
However, there are a number of proven arms that would slot ahead of either Evans or Speas. When the roster dwindles down to 26 guys, there will be only eight spots up for grabs. Even without Brett Martin, there isn't much room in the bullpen. The Rangers would have to be ravaged by injury or COVID-19 in order for one or both guys to make the roster at this point.
How will Nick Solak be used this year? As an everyday player or utility guy?
-Keep Your Peace. (Twitter: @delvecko74)
As of now, he'll be a utility guy. Danny Santana has center field locked down for now, Odor will play second, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa likely has dibs on any infield spot ahead of Solak given his hot bat and superior defense.
However, the Rangers really like his bat, versatility, and he's hit well during camp so far. Chris Woodward wants to find ways to get Solak's bat in the lineup. If first base is remains pretty wide open, Solak could get some at-bats there. If guys like Santana or Odor struggle, that could pave a way for Solak to get in there as well.
However, if Solak is forced to play off the bench, that's actually the best case scenario for the Rangers. First, it means everyone is healthy. Second, it means everyone in front of him is performing well enough to keep Solak on the bench. And third, a vast majority playoff-caliber teams have a bat like Solak's on the bench.