Yesterday, we kicked off a series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player. We are going to start with the positional players and go in alphabetical order, then move to the pitchers, doing several players per day.
Today, we continue onward...
Robinson Chirinos -- A
I’m not sure what more anyone could have asked from Robinson Chirinos in 2017. Coming into the season as the backup to Jonathan Lucroy — who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, despite Chirinos playing well enough to be the starter — Chirinos thoroughly outplayed his competition. As Lucroy struggled both at the plate and behind it, Chirinos became the pitcher of choice for Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Martin Perez, while also putting up a sterling .255/.360/.506 slash line and actually staying healthy all year. His improvement as a receiver is particularly noteworthy, given that that was considered his biggest weakness a few years ago, but he has reportedly worked hard to improve that aspect of his game.
Chirinos’s play was strong enough that by June, it already seemed to be a foregone conclusion that not only would Lucroy not be re-signed, but he would likely be dealt, clearing the way for Chirinos to assume the mantle of the every day catcher. At 33, he’s not the catcher of the future, and he likely won’t hit like he did in 2017 again...but the Rangers have him under team control through 2019, and he gives the Rangers a solid option behind the plate for the next couple of years.
Shin-Soo Choo -- C-
On the positive side, Shin-Soo Choo stayed healthy all season, appearing in 149 games, tied for the most he’s played in as a Ranger, and the fourth most in a season in his career. All the negative side, despite being on the field a lot, he didn’t do all that much. As a DH who is a bad defender in the outfield at this point of his career, Choo has to hit quite a bit in order to have value. .261/.357/.423 isn’t going to get it done — even if he goes 12 for 15 stealing bases.
(Did you know Choo had 12 steals this season? No you didn’t. Stop lying.)
Owed $62 million over the next three years, and with ongoing back problems that have limited him basically since he came to Texas, the Rangers are stuck with Choo unless they want to eat a whole lot of his contract to move him. And the Rangers have a bunch of COF/DH types in place already, which means that it isn’t even as if Choo is filling a gaping hole. Texas has little choice at this point but to stick it out with him and hope that Choo puts up a year like he did in 2015, but Choo turns 36 next season, and it seems more likely a repeat of the injury-plagued 2016 season or the mediocre 2017 season is in store.
Delino DeShields -- B+
A very good bounceback season for Delino DeShields, who was a revelation as a Rule 5 pick in 2015 and a disappointment as the Opening Day centerfielder in 2016. Part of a three-headed left field monster, along with Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar, to start the 2017 campaign, DeShields ended up being the last man standing, and put together a campaign very reminiscent of his rookie year, slashing .260/.347/.367 with 29 steals in 37 attempts, but with much better defensive metrics than he had as a rookie.
One of the big questions of the offseason is what the Rangers will do with DeShields, and there still seems to be a fair amount of disagreement about what his best role is going forward. If you think the improvement the defensive stats show are real, and that his offensive numbers from 2017 are what he will likely do going forward, then he’s a legitimate starter in LF or CF. If you think either area will regress, then you probably view him as a solid fourth outfielder.
Given the makeup of the roster, my feeling is that the Rangers would be well served to get a plus defensive center fielder this offseason who can back up DeShields if he’s the starter in center, or who can play regularly if DeShields struggles or is in left field. Regardless, DeShields has put himself back into the Rangers plans going forward, with the only question being the role he fills.