For quite some time now the Rangers' infield has been the core of the organization. Going back to the twilight of Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez all the way up to Michael Young and Ian Kinsler, with a little Mark Teixeira thrown in the middle.
This year’s infield could well prove to be the best yet.
The obvious place to start is with the heart and soul of this team:
There are not many players in the entire league that have been more durable and reliable than Michael Young over the last decade or so.
You can pretty much write him in for approximately 200 hits, including 40 doubles, 90 doubles, and a .300 batting average. Those are the kind of numbers to build a team around.
Especially with the Rangers’ desire to generate runs and not just rely on the long ball, it is important to have contact hitters that you can rely on. That is why Young slides so nicely into the two slot in the order.
His partner in crime of late, Ian Kinsler, appears to be headed to the disabled list to start the season, but his high ankle sprain should not delay him more than a week or so.
It is these little nagging injuries that always seem to keep Kinsler from having a true breakout season. Last season had him play in the most games of his career at 144 which may mean he is becoming more durable, but only time will tell.
The increase in games played from previous years allowed Kinsler to have career highs in home runs and stolen bases playing mostly as a leadoff hitter. Fortunately, he will not be the leadoff hitter very often this season.
Kinsler fits into this order much better in the five slot behind Hamilton and Guerrero. That allows him to hit for power, but also leaves the danger of his speed behind those other two strong bats.
His speed is one of his greatest assets and his efficiency in stealing bases is also to be envied. Kinsler is one of two or three 30-30 threats on this team.
Elvis Andrus exceeded all expectations in his rookie season, and were it not for some stellar pitchers on other teams would likely have been the rookie of the year.
Having never played above AA he endeared himself to Rangers fans in his very first game when he hit a home run and made couple of beautiful defensive plays.
He followed that up with numerous highlight reel type plays, and even hitting the ball relatively well. His offense should only improve as he gets more comfortable.
His speed is also a tremendous asset to this team and their new philosophy. He stole 33 bases last season and was caught only 6 times. Again, more experience and guidance from an excellent base stealer in Gary Pettis should only help these numbers.
Don’t expect much of a sophomore slump from this young man as his teammates should help take the pressure off of him.
Chris Davis had the most rollercoaster season of anyone on the team. He started in the big leagues, but after trying to hit a home run in every at bat caused him to threaten the strikeout record he was sent to Oklahoma City.
While in AAA he was able to find his swing again and returned to the team late in the season and was very successful.
He played in only 113 games, but racked up 21 home runs and 59 RBI. His average dropped 50 points from the previous season due mostly to his early season struggles.
Every Rangers’ fan out there is hoping for him to make a turnaround.
The biggest thing with Chris Davis that does not get enough credit is his defensive ability. Our defense was much improved last season, and should be even better with Davis in Arlington for the whole season.
Don’t underestimate the value of him getting outs that would have been errors with someone else at first.
The battle behind the plate has still not officially been settled, and I would guess that the Rangers will essentially go with two catchers for at least the start of the season.
Now if one of these guys takes off then it only makes sense to give them more playing time.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was plagued by injuries last year which caused him to only play in 84 games. Add in his attempt to improve his defense, and his offensive output was definitely nothing to call home about.
He has improved dramatically behind the plate, and Ron Washington has made it clear that what happens behind the plate is for more important to him than what happens at the plate.
The real question is whether or not his shoulder is fully healed, and if he can get past all of these little nagging injuries he has had this spring.
One of the biggest knocks on Taylor Teagarden has been his physical stature and durability, which is interesting because he has never been seriously injured.
The other big problem with Teagarden is that he has struggled a lot offensively. When you look at the numbers he really isn’t that much worse that Salty though, so they really have become quite similar on all levels.
Teagarden gets a lot of love for having gone to the University of Texas, and for being all together likable.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always make you the best.
The team should benefit from these two guys pushing each other all season.
The rest of the bench has been in flux for most of spring training, but then the Rangers made a move that shored up one spot.
Andres Blanco came in from the Cubs and quickly earned his spot on the team thanks to his excellent defensive abilities.
While his offense is absolutely nothing to talk about his role is to give the other guys a break when they need it, and keep the defense at a high level when he enters the game.
Max Ramirez and Joaquin Arias have been getting some talk for the last spot on the big league team, but Arias appears to have a slight edge.
The Rangers once again have a solid infield that should provide the foundation for this team. They are all looking to step it up in someway, whether that is due to injury, poor performance, or just being young.
This team is poised to take the next step as a true playoff contender, and these men are a big reason for that.