Welcome to a new weekly series, as we’ll take a look at a few Rangers who are on heaters and more who are ice cold in something we’ll call “Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?”
Hello, everyone. I’m happy to be joining the Lone Star Ball team, and if you’re reading this, I’m grateful. Little about me: I spent 12 years as a sportswriter in the DFW area covering mainly high school sports (so, football). Yet, baseball is my No. 1 passion, and I’ve been a Rangers follower as long as I can remember, back to the days of collecting baseball cards and being very proud of my extensive collection of 26 Ruben Sierra cards. I started the Red Fever blog over at NBCDFW back in 2010 (something big happened that year) before they sadly cut all of their local bloggers a few years ago. I’ve been itching to get back to writing about the Rangers, and I’m excited to have that opportunity now. So, let’s get to it.
It’s the most wonderful time of the baseball year, when every team’s fans have something to look forward to (yes, even you, Rangers fans) and the slate is clean. The Rangers open the 2018 season on Thursday against their new arch-nemesis, the Houston Astros, who come to Arlington with a World Series title to their name.*
*Vomit came up in my mouth as I typed that.
So, without further delay, let’s look at our first installment of Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? as we’ll use Cactus League performance entering the real thing.
Elvis Andrus — Man, what can you say about Tiny E? The man put together a fantastic 2017 season — establishing new benchmarks in slugging and overall offensive effectiveness — and he appears to be picking up where he left off, as he absolutely obliterated the baseball in Arizona. In 37 spring at-bats, Andrus had 16 hits with four doubles and a pair of home runs. He also scored six runs, drove in 11 and struck out just four times.
Delino DeShields — There might not be a more intriguing young player to watch this season for me personally, with all due respect to Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara. DeShields is a unique player, and it appears that this season he’ll finally get a shot to make a name for himself. He’ll be the team’s everyday leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. This spring, DeShields hit a robust .350 in 60 at-bats with five doubles, a triple and four stolen bases. A full season of DeShields could easily yield 50 stolen bases. Buckle up, it’s going to be fun.
Kevin Jepsen — The veteran reliever is trying to make a comeback after not pitching last year, and he’s off to a good start in a place where he has a chance to carve out a nice role. There are going to be opportunities in the undefined Texas bullpen, and Jepsen has put himself in the conversation by pitching 10 2⁄3 innings in 11 games this spring with a 1.69 ERA, a .135 opponent average and — what’s most encouraging — nine strikeouts and no walks.
Rougned Odor — If you were hoping to see a return to his 2015 and 2016 self after a horrendous 2017 season saw him finish as literally one of the worst position players in baseball, you’ve been sorely disappointed so far. Odor has 17 strikeouts to just five walks in his 60 spring at-bats. Until he proves to pitchers that they need to throw him a strike from time to time, things aren’t going to get better for the young, free-swinging slugger.
Matt Moore — As one of the many bargain pitchers Jon Daniels brought in this winter, Moore is arguably the biggest wild card. If this was, say, 2011 or so, they’d be set. But it’s not, and clearly, the Rangers aren’t. Moore allowed 12 earned runs in 12 innings this spring while trying to change his approach a bit. Spring numbers for pitchers are always tricky, but with a reclamation project like Moore, you would’ve have hoped to have seen something a bit more promising.