We are only 16 days away from Opening Day for Your Texas Rangers in 2020. Globe Life Park will be inaugurated two weeks from Friday with 7:05 p.m.* start against the Colorado Rockies.
* Games against the Rockies and Houston Astros in Arlington will start at 7:05 p.m. Central, while games against the other teams the Rangers will play, all Pacific Time Zone teams, will start at 8:05 p.m. Central.
Doesn’t feel like we are that close to the season starting, does it? Usually when we are a couple of weeks out, we have had the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting, spring games, a few injuries, a breakout guy or two, and then, by this point, we are kind of over spring training and bored with games that don’t count and impatient for the season to begin.
Like everything else in 2020, the run-up to the season starting feels different this year...we aren’t having “real” exhibition games against other teams until right before the season officially starts, and there’s the uncertainty regarding who has tested, or could test, positive for COVID-19 hanging over everything, as well as the ongoing possibility that more players could opt out of the season. And there’s a non-zero possibility that COVID-19 related issues end up forcing the cancellation of the season, either before July 24 or sometime after play gets started.
That said...until there aren’t games, I’m going to assume there are games, and move forward accordingly. And part of that means that, with Opening Day so close, I should make a Wild Ass Guess at the Opening Day roster.
The Opening Day roster projection is more complicated than usual this season, in part because of the abbreviated training camp just getting started, in part because of the uncertainty over who might be impacted by COVID-19 (either via a positive test or exposure, or by electing not to play), and in part because there is a 30 man roster for the first two weeks, which means more fringe guys in the mix.
With those caveats, here’s my guess as of today:
Starting Pitchers (5):
There’s a bit of an asterisk here...Texas could end up starting the season with a four man rotation, as the off-days would allow them to skip the fifth spot initially, which would likely mean Jordan Lyles being in the bullpen initially. Or Kyle Gibson could decide that, as a high-risk individual (he has ulcerative colitis), he shouldn’t play and risk exposure. But aside from that, the rotation is pretty well set, with Kolby Allard and Joe Palumbo the first two guys up if the Rangers need rotation reinforcements.
Relief Pitchers (10):
This is the group with the most uncertainty, I think. Brett Martin is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, and while I think it is expected he will be working out again before the season starts, he may start the year on the COVID-19 list.
Given that Joely Rodriguez is working his way back from a lat strain, Martin being sidelined would leave the Rangers with just one lefty — Taylor Hearn — in the bullpen, and in that scenario I think Joe Palumbo makes the team in Martin’s place.
Hearn and Hernandez were both among the most talked about guys in camp, and they seem like locks to open the year on the roster, particularly given the 30 man limit. Luke Farrell, Nick Goody and Ariel Jurado all are already on the 40 man roster, making it easy to keep them around, and Farrell and Jurado are also versatile guys who could give you multiple innings if need be. I think the expectation has been that Volquez would stick as a long man/veteran presence, so he’s on there.
Alex Speas has generated a lot of buzz, but given he is not on the 40 man roster, I’m not sure he starts the year on the active roster. I expect we will see him at some time in 2020, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he displaced someone like Jurado, but my guess is he isn’t on the roster to start the year.
You’ve got four extra roster spots, might as well carry an extra catcher just in case. All of these guys are on the forty man roster anyway, and you can kick the can down the road for a couple of weeks at least on whether to keep Jose Trevino or Jeff Mathis as your backup behind Chirinos.
One thing I’m interested in is how much Mathis plays, particularly if there are three catchers on the roster. Lynn and Minor both pitched almost exclusively to Mathis last year, supposedly because that’s who they preferred pitching to, and had great seasons. I doubt he’s going to catch every Lynn and Minor game this year, but it wouldn’t shock me if they had him be the personal catcher for one of those guys.
A shocker! Yes, I have Danny Santana as the utility infielder in this roster, rather than the center fielder. My guess is that Frazier splits time between first base and third base, Guzman and IKF have a platoon of sorts going, at least to start the season, and Santana is the UIF.
This scenario assumes that Nick Solak gets the bulk of the playing time in center field, with Calhoun and Gallo in the corners and Choo at DH. Eli White is not on the 40 man roster, but he had an impressive spring training, earned praise for his center field defense, and gives you a flexible guy who can play pretty much any position in the infield or outfield and has some speed, making him a quality bench option. Normally you wouldn’t have both White and Heineman on the active roster, but with 30 guys active to start the season, you can have them both and decide who goes when you drop down to 28.