Texas Rangers Spring Training Outlook: A Look at the Non-Roster Invitees
A crop of 68 players will make their way to Surprise, Arizona next week for Rangers spring training. Forty of those players are under contract with the team while 28 are going with invites under Minor League contracts.
As most of you know, not all of the 40 players under contract are guaranteed their spot on the roster by the end of spring. Players get injured, underperform, or exceed expectations. With 68 players in camp, there will be a lot of moving parts when workouts get started next week.
It is the Rangers intention to breed competition within the camp. We've already talked about a couple of positions specifically, like catcher and first base, but we want to take a look at who of the 28 players are intriguing or could possibly land a spot on the 26-man roster when the team heads back to Arlington.
Just last season, the Rangers had two non-roster players make the team out of camp: Danny Santana and Hunter Pence. Not only did both players make the team, but became important players on the 2019 squad. Santana became the Rangers' super-utility player and was voted the team's Player of the Year. Pence turned in an all star season and won the American League Comeback Player of the Year.
First base and the bullpen are the two spots where we will see the fiercest competition. Center field will get a bit of an interesting look, but that is likely Danny Santana's spot unless the Rangers add externally via trade. Catcher will have a duel between Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino for the backup spot behind Robinson Chirinos.
When we took a closer look at first base, we noted Greg Bird as an interesting candidate to possibly supplant Ronald Guzman at first base. Bird is a former top prospect in the Yankees organization and burst onto the scene in 2015 with 11 home runs in 46 games. Since then, a multitude of injuries has derailed his career. He went from being the Yankees' answer at first base to being a non-roster invitee only a few seasons later.
Matt Duffy, a veteran third baseman, is another player who's had his career trajectory shaken by injury. Duffy was a promising player before a major achilles injury kept him out of baseball for over a year. Since then, he has not been the same player, especially at the plate.
Bird and Duffy are both interesting candidates because if they are healthy, their past pedigree indicates they could have at least a puncher's chance of making the team. Neither player was a complete player before their injuries. Bird has some holes in his swing to address and Duffy only hit more than 10 home runs once in his career while playing a position traditionally relied on for offensive output.
In the bullpen, the Rangers have a good mix of young arms on their 40-man roster that have loads of potential. The Rangers have also added several veteran hurlers trying to make a "comeback" for lack of a better term, including Edinson Volquez, Juan Nicasio, Derek Law, Luis Garcia, and most recently Cody Allen.
Volquez contemplated retirement after the 2019 season concluded, but ultimately decided to come back and try to earn a spot in the Rangers' bullpen. He could be effective in a reliever role at this stage of his career, as well as a mentor for the younger arms in the bullpen.
Nicasio doesn't have the best career numbers outside of a dynamite 2017 season with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. But he has been able to eat innings out of the bullpen over the course of the last few seasons. His command was an issue last season in Philadelphia, but if he can get that under control, he could make a good case for one of the eight spots in the bullpen.
The Rangers' mantra under Chris Woodward is all about process over results. Spring training is a great time for both the young and the seasoned players to get a clearer focus on the process when the results don't count towards the regular season record.
As stated before, Woodward is creating an environment that breeds competition. He wants to get the absolute best out of all his players and won't settle for anything less.
"I expect the amount of rope guys get this year is going to be less because there's higher expectations," Woodward said earlier this week. Expectations are high for the players, so they have to be ready to perform.
There's 28 guys knocking on the door, trying to make the roster this year. If that doesn't create competition, I don't know what will.
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