Texas Rangers 2020: Reasons for optimism

What happened in 2019?
2019 was a frustrating season of inconsistency. Finishing third in the AL West seemed fair, despite a promising start to the 2019 campaign. The lack of a consistent third baseman following the retirement of club and baseball legend Adrian Beltre really showed, and despite being OK in the field, none of the positional replacements offered the same percentages with the bat. The addition of Asdrubal Cabrera should have brought some life to the batting lineup, but he failed to meet expectations and got traded to the Nationals.

The team also struggled to find a solid catcher who could both pair with the pitching lineup and also offer consistency to the batting order. Texas have always had history with great catchers; you only have to check the Hall of Fame to see this: “Pudge” Rodriguez. But what Texas lacked last year was stand-out options that would be able to meet the high club expectations. Robinson Chirinos was traded to the Astros before the start of the 2019 season, and he was missed.

It was Chris Woodward’s first managerial post, and he did a steady job. Moving into the senior role in a new club brings lots of challenges. The 2018 campaign which saw the end of Jeff Bannister’s reign, with a last-place spot, could only be bettered and 2019 was a good start for Woodward.

The end of the season became a simple countdown. Clearly, the Rangers were not going to achieve a pennant, so the club began the process of counting down the days until Globe Life Park closed its doors on Major League Baseball. By its side, Globe Life Field was breaking ground …

Moves & shakes
IN: Corey Kluber, Robinson Chirinos, Todd Frazier, Kyle Gibson
OUT: Hunter Pence, Delino DeShields, Nomar Mazara

One to watch
We are indebted to Texas Rangers France @TexRangersFra for the suggestion of future face of the franchise, Nick Solak. You should follow them on Twitter.

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Nick Solak arrived at Texas after being initially signed by the Yankees in 2016. Debuting against the Angels on 20 August, he played in all but four games over the rest of the season, hitting .293 with an OPS of .884. At 25 years old, this right-handed hitter may well be a star for Texas this season. It will be interesting to see where Woodward elects to play him. If Rougned Odor re-finds the form he showed in 2018, he will likely retain control of the second base spot, which is Solak’s preferred position. Will Woodward try Solak at third or develop him as the DH, only time will tell?

Five reasons for optimism in 2020
(1) Without doubt, the signing of Corey Kluber is a big plus for the Rangers for this season. The two-times Cy Young Award winner (2014 and 2017) brings a wealth of experience to the team as well as a strong five-pitch arsenal. A point of concern from a fan’s perspective is the fact that he joins Texas after a spell away with an injury sustained from a line-drive hit during a game against the Marlins. This fractured his pitching (right) arm and saw him out for the season. Early reports from spring training are encouraging.

(2) A fit and healthy Joey Gallo will surely be a solid foundation for the Rangers this season too. When he was on-form and fit last year, this power-hitter was a tough challenge for any pitcher. Some fans suggested he was selfish and went for the power-hit every time, rather than being more consistent with his hits, meaning he was out too many times. That said, a crunching home-run from Joey in Arlington is a sight to behold. Last season, he hit 22 homers with 49 RBI in just 70 games with .986 OPS – let’s hope he stays fit this season.

(3) A second season in charge for Chris Woodward is one many fans are looking forward to. He is a calm character and seems to have commanded dugout respect well. Now he has had a year to settle into the role and have more of an impact in shaping the team and the bullpen to his style of leadership; we look forward to seeing the fruit of this work.

(4) The return of Robinson Chirinos is good news for the club too. His year with the Astros was one that fans struggled to understand, and there is genuine excitement that he has returned. The catcher-rotation combination of Chirinos, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jeff Mathis should ensure a more solid foundation for the Rangers this year. Mathis needs to provide more consistency with the bat to hold his place, as a .158 AVG is shy of what many expect.

(5) Globe Life Field. Many locals are looking forward to watching their afternoon fixtures in air-conditioned comfort. Some are saddened that the old park has been resigned and others think the new park resembles Minute Maid Park (home of state and division rivals, the Astros) but I’m sure they will soon come to like it. Dimensions of the new field are pretty similar to the old one. Opening Day promises to be really special, and I can’t wait to see it.

Derek Old is part of the team covering the Texas Rangers for Bat Flips and Nerds in 2020. Follow him on Twitter @derek_old

Make sure you subscribe to the Bat Flips and Nerds podcasts and follow us on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds. News, views and interviews, all with a British twist.

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