We continue our series where we issue grades and review the 2017 seasons for each Texas Rangers player, starting with the positional players and going in alphabetical order before moving on to the pitchers...
Jonathan Lucroy — F
I mentioned in the comments yesterday, I believe, that the grades start out really great early in the alphabet, and then go downhill as you progress through the letters. That said, of every Ranger player this season, Jonathan Lucroy may have been the biggest disappointment.
Acquired, along with Jeremy Jeffress, last year at the trade deadline in exchange for Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell, Lucroy earned raves from the media early on in his tenure in 2016 with Texas for his defense and game-calling skills, while also putting up a .276/.345/.539 slash line after the trade. There were even talks of the Rangers signing him to an extension in the offseason, though that never came about.
The 2017 Lucroy seemed like a completely different player than the guy the Rangers traded top prospects to acquire. He didn’t hit — .242/.297/.338 in 306 plate appearances for Texas -- and his pitch-framing skills, once considered elite, deteriorated to the point he was one of the worst framers in the league. Acquired to give the Rangers an All-Star caliber catcher, Lucroy instead was replacement level at best before the Rangers shipped him off to Colorado for a player to be named later (which turned out to be outfielder Pedro Gonzalez, a surprisingly good return).
Lucroy resumed hitting in Colorado, putting up a .310/.429/.437 slash line, and in some quotes that came out after the deal seemed to suggest that the Rangers not extending made him feel like he wasn’t wanted in Texas. Maybe that impacted his play, maybe he’s just a catcher in his early 30s who is getting old — it is hard to tell. But Lucroy was a disaster for the Rangers this year, and one of the biggest reasons they ended up disappointing.
Nomar Mazara — C-
Nomar Mazara is frustrating, and struggled with what grade to give him He followed up his .266/.320/.419 rookie campaign with a .253/.323/.422 slash line last year, meaning he basically showed no real improvement, statistically. Combining sub-par numbers for a COF with sub-par defense, Mazara was not much above replacement level last year.
That said, he’s also going to be 22 when the 2018 season starts, and there seems to be a belief within the organization that he is going to turn into an impact hitter. Hopefully he takes a big step forward next year -- the Rangers need him to be better than what we’ve seen so far if he is going to be part of the young core they are building around going forward.
Will Middlebrooks — C-
Middlebrooks was signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason, intended to give the Rangers depth in Round Rock at the corner infield spots, and had a nice year for the Express, putting up a .258/.327/.529 slash line and earning a September promotion due to late season injuries to Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, which created an opportunity for Middlebrooks to fill in as a righthanded 3B/1B option.
Middlebrooks made an impression right away, logging pinch hit triples in both games of a doubleheader in Atlanta in his second and third games as a Ranger, but after that was a non-factor, ending the year with a .211/.231/.368 slash line over 39 plate appearances while in the big leagues. The Rangers waived Middlebrooks and he is once again a free agent, and will likely look to latch on with some team for 2018 on a minor league deal to provide AAA depth and potentially get an opportunity in the event of injuries.