Results tagged ‘ Julio Borbon ’

One Last Borbon For The Road

Unless an outfielder gets injured (doubtful) or a certain rookie outfielder is sent down to AAA (even more doubtful), tonight marks the end of Julio Borbon‘s days with the Texas Rangers organization.

Tuesday night, rookie Nick Tepesch takes the mound for the first time as a fifth starter. Tepesch is currently at AAA Round Rock, so a roster move is necessary tomorrow. Borbon was the 25th and last man to make the Rangers team. He is out of options so if, as expected, Borbon is optioned to make room for Tepesch, the only way he’ll stay with the Rangers organization is if he clears waivers. Looking at what the Houston Astros accomplished in the first week of the season, I’m willing to bet they would snap Borbon up in a heartbeat and have him in the starting line-up on Wednesday.

If so, good for Julio. I’m not going to dog on him. I hope he finally gets a good chance to stick with the Astros or whoever might pick him up.

English: Julio Borbon, Texas Rangers outfielder.

Julio Borbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many Rangers fans who have no use for Borbon and haven’t for awhile, mostly because he was such a revelation when he first came to Arlington and never measured up to those first-year numbers in subsequent seasons. Julio played in 46 games at the end of the 2009 season, the year before the Rangers run of playoff appearances began. He scored 30 runs in those 46 games, stealing 19 bases in 23 attempts, adding 4 home runs and hitting .312 in 179 plate appearances. Julio bunted for singles, he kept the opposition on edge and Rangers fans were looking forward to a full season of mayhem on the basepaths in 2010.

It wasn’t to be. On Opening Day, Borbon was at the top of the batting order. After 9 games, he was just 3 for 36 at the plate with one steal. Julio was dropped to 9th in the order and Elvis Andrus was elevated to first, where both would stay for the remainder of the season. By season’s end, with the playoffs in sight, Borbon became a forgotten man. While he recovered from the bad start and ended at .276 for the season, his lack of power caused Ron Washington to put Josh Hamilton in center field and David Murphy in left for the playoffs. While he appeared in 8 post-season games, he started only one- Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays. In two other games he was merely a pinch-runner.

In 2011, Borbon was back in the starting line-up in center field and was off to a decent start hitting 9th in the order, hitting .270 in 32 games with six steals when he got injured and placed on the disabled list. He wouldn’t return to the majors until Opening Day this year, a victim of the great play of Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez, his own below par defense and the conviction of his manager that he didn’t have the right approach to the game.

Chavez having a career year was something Borbon could recover from. Being in Wash’s doghouse was not. Despite putting up great numbers at AAA Round Rock in 2012, Borbon got passed over for promotion whenever an extra outfielder was needed, with Leonys Martin getting the shot. Even more telling, when rosters expanded on September 1st, Borbon wasn’t even recalled to help out in the stretch run.

So it was that Borbon came to camp this year pretty much knowing the odds were against him. He played well in Spring Training and got enough of his manager’s respect to make the team as the 25th and final player, at least until the 5th starter was needed.

Julio has appeared in just one game of the first six, entering the game as a pinch runner and scoring a run, then getting one hitless at bat afterwards. It will be interesting to see if Wash gives him one last start in a Rangers uniform tonight.

Texas would still like to get something in return for Borbon instead of putting him on waivers, so there’s also a possibility he’ll be traded before tonight’s game with the Rays even gets underway. Trade or waiver claim, I wish Julio Borbon the best. He deserves a place in the big leagues, but it just isn’t in the cards for it to be with the Texas Rangers.

Spring Training Worries About The Texas Rangers

There has been a lot more good than bad in looking at the potential of the 2013 Rangers to do some damage in the AL West. Last time out, I mentioned most of those good things. Of course, it turns out the only name I mentioned in passing could just possibly become the #5 starter , that being rookie Nick Tepesch. It’s not a surety, as it was also reported Michael Kirkman, who is on the team anyway, was stretched out to 4 innings in a minor league game. What reason for that if not to move from the pen into the #5 hole?

Enough, though, about the positives. Today is about the negatives. Most fans would agree, as much as we like our teams, we also tend to see our team’s flaws better than just about everyone and there are things this spring that have me a tad concerned (who is this Tad anyway and why is he always concerned?) going into the regular season.

English: Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers pitcher.

Alexi Ogando (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fortunately, one of those things became more of a moot point after the Rangers played the Reds on Sunday. Alexi Ogando had not been having a real good spring and he’s the #4 starter. While he was an All-Star as a starter two seasons ago, Ogando was in the pen and, following an injury, did not have a good second half. That combined with his poor spring had me thinking, who cares about the #5 starter? If our #4 isn’t doing well, nobody’s going to care about #5! Then Alexi goes out and tosses six goose-egg innings against Cincinnati and all seems right with the world again.

Look, Ogando still concerns me. We’ve heard he still needs to develop a third pitch to become a better starter. In 2012, he somehow managed an All-Star nod despite just a 2-pitch repertoire. Nothing I’ve heard out of training camp tells me Ogando’s third pitch, a change-up, is ready as a consistent weapon. If it is, I’ll breathe a lot easier. If not, the Rangers’ fortunes good go further south.

Of even more concern is the lack of right-handed depth in the bullpen. As glowing as my last post was about the southpaws Robbie Ross, Joe Ortiz, Michael Kirkman and Nate Robertson, the reverse has been true of the righties. The guys the Rangers really need to do well are Josh Lindblom (acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade) and Tanner Scheppers. Lindblom struggled at first with his velocity. Now he’s struggling with his command. Scheppers was slowed by injury in training camp. Of the two, Scheppers seems to be the one turning it around somewhat, with scoreless outings in each of his last four appearances.

A year ago, the bullpen was a Rangers strength. This season, it’s definitely a work in progress. If all goes according to plan, Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz will help solidify the pen after the All-Star break. In the meantime, Texas needs at least four of the aforementioned individuals to step up their games, especially Lindblom and Scheppers.

The last concern seems minor but it’s still an important roster spot. Texas still doesn’t know what they’re doing for a utility infielder who can back up Elvis Andrus at short. Last time out, I mentioned Yangervis Solarte as a possibility, but that ended when Solarte was reassigned to the minors over the weekend. Of the players now in camp, only Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar are left. The Rangers have already said Profar, their #1 prospect, won’t stay unless he can get 350 at bats for the season. Profar would need to play 4 games a week to get those AB’s. With Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus up the middle, that’s not likely to happen.

That leaves Garcia and I just don’t think Ron Washington is ready to hand the job to a rookie. In other words, less than a week from Opening Night and it’s highly doubtful the player chosen as the Rangers’ utility infielder is even in Rangers camp. Ideally, he would be acquired in a straight-up trade for Julio Borbon, who probably won’t make the club despite an outstanding spring. Surely there’s someone out there who needs a 4th or 5th outfielder who could spare an infielder in return. We’ll know in the next 6 days.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan (Photo credit: phoca2004)

On a totally unrelated subject: Remember just two weeks ago, when everyone was wondering whether Nolan Ryan was unhappy and ready to walk away from the Rangers? Not only has there been little reported on the situation in the past week plus, but I noticed a tweet today saying Ryan will throw out the first pitch at the second of the Rangers’ two exhibition games at the Alamodome in San Antonio this week. Does that sound like something someone whose departure is imminent would do? I said it when the story first cropped up and I’ll say it again. I think this has been a non-story all along. Does Nolan have less power in the Rangers organization? Yep. But I think this whole unhappiness thing has been more about Nolan just wanting to feel useful in Texas than it’s been about the amount of power he wields.

March 25th. Just a few more days before Texas and Houston in front of a nationwide audience Sunday night. It can’t get here soon enough.

Don’t Panic

The good news: Exhibition play has started.

 

The bad news: The Rangers, in essence, got swept by the Royals, getting a tie on Friday and dropping games on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t think they even had a lead in any of the three games.

 

BUT I’M NOT PANICKING!!!

 

I’m sorry. I should just say I’m not panicking. All caps bolded would tend to lead to the impression I am indeed already panicking about the upcoming season.

 

Nope, not me. Yeah, Matt Harrison had a putrid one inning of work on Sunday, giving up six hits and four runs. Elvis Andrus doesn’t have a hit yet and committed an error on his first play. Mike Olt started out 0-3 with three strikeouts before finally getting a soft liner to third to end the K streak. He also mixed in an error and an almost error with one nifty play at third defensively. Also among the hitless are Mitch Moreland and Geovany Soto. On the pitching side, Alexi Ogando‘s spring debut was almost as bad as Harrison’s.

 

BUT THERE’S NO NEED TO PANIC!!!

 

English: Michael Kirkman, Texas Rangers pitcher.

Michael Kirkman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Really. Harrison, Ogando, Andrus and Moreland have shown enough over the past 2-3 seasons, worrying about them three games into a 38 game exhibition schedule is like worrying about a new CD from Elton John on which the first cut sucks and you decide his career is over. That’s not to say there’s nothing to pay attention to in exhibition games. For players like Julio Borbon and Michael Kirkman, these are extremely important games. Both are out of options, so not making the Rangers out of spring training no longer means going back down to the minors, it means looking for a new employer. For Kirkman, the first appearance couldn’t have gone better, twirling two shutout innings with three strikeouts. For Borbon, the results are more a mixed bag. Defensively, he’s been OK and made an outstanding play in left field in the first game. Offensively is another question. The .250 average is OK, but he’s also fouled off a couple of bunt attempts and Sunday hit into two double plays. For a speed guy on the bubble, these are the things Ron Washington pays close attention to. Julio’s got to step it up.

 

I also like hearing about the players turning heads in camp. A.J. Pierzynski has been impressed with Robbie Ross so far. Yangervis Solarte, who also had a decent spring training a year ago before playing for AAA Round Rock, has impressed with his bat again. He’s still a long shot to make the team as a utility infielder, as he doesn’t play much shortstop. Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel had high praise for the change-up of Cory Burns. And Wash has liked what he’s seen from corner utility candidate Jeff Baker.

 

In other words, right now I’m just excited to listen to some actual games, regardless of the final score. As the spring progresses, there will be days I turn the game off around the sixth inning when the scrubs I know have no chance of making the club come in. But for now, I’m a happy camper, even with an 0-2-1 start.

 

The First Signs of Spring

Here’s what it’s like being a baseball fan. I find myself sitting in the office, checking in on Twitter so I know what’s happening in the first intrasquad game of the year.

baseball 2The funny thing is, I don’t think of it as sinking so low. While I have never made the spring visit to Surprise, it is definitely in my plans to do so in the next couple of years. Until that time occurs, I hang on the news that Yu Darvish didn’t give up a hit in his inning of work (but he did allow an unearned run); that Nelson Cruz blasted his first bomb of the spring off Jake Brigham; and, on the negative side, A.J. Pierzynski allowed three stolen bases and Elvis Andrus booted his first ground ball of the spring.

None of this means anything in the grand scheme of things, of course. For the faithful diehards, though, it’s like seeing the first robin, the sign that Spring is indeed on its way. It gives us a chance to stop worrying about whatever fool thing that former Rangers player said about true baseball towns and true baseball fans. Instead, it’s time to start zeroing in on how the young kids look, whether the injured have nursed themselves back to health and to start debating who among the bubble players will get those last roster spots up for grabs.

We know #1 prospect Jurickson Profar has decided he wants to make the team badly enough he is willing to forgo his guaranteed spot for the Netherlands in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, that Adrian Beltre will miss the first round of said WBC because of a mild calf problem that wouldn’t keep him out of the regular season line-up and that the iffy-ness of Nelson Cruz‘ status has the Rangers’ rookie Mike Olt shagging more fly balls in right field than were originally planned for him.

The biggest news to me, though, hasn’t even been discussed much in the media. People chuckled when Lance Berkman admitted he’d left his glove at home. Ron Washington said there was no problem, since Berkman’s primary job is as the club’s DH. Wash also said Olt’s main duties this spring were going to be in right field and his natural position of third base. Why is any of this significant? Because it has always been assumed there would be a first base platoon in 2012 consisting of Mitch Moreland against righties and either Olt or Berkman against southpaws. No Olt

Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre

Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

and no Berkman working out at first base seems to point to Wash giving Moreland a shot at being the fulltime first baseman.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. This is a critical year for Moreland. Like Chris Davis before him, I’m pretty sure this is Moreland’s last chance to prove himself as an everyday player. Both have been offensively inconsistent in their time with Texas, showing flashes of greatness followed by bouts of great mediocrity. Davis was never able to get into an offensive groove with the Rangers despite lots of chances. For Moreland, injuries have led to offensive inconsistency. If he doesn’t produce this year, whether injured or not, he will probably be headed for other pastures like Davis before him.

Julio Borbon

Julio Borbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This spring also will be critical for Julio Borbon. It wasn’t so long ago Borbon was part of the first Rangers team to make it to the World Series and considered a vital part of the team’s fortunes. This year he enters spring training as the forgotten man, out of options and supplanted on the depth chart by Leonys Martin. His only shot appears as the Rangers’ fifth outfielder. This goes to show the Rangers depth in the minor league system. Borbon didn’t see a day of time in the majors in 2012, yet I think he has the talent to be on any team in the majors. Borbon’s problem is his defense. It hasn’t been good enough to make up for his lack of power. If the D isn’t there this spring, Borbon will be looking for a new organization to play for come April.

Almost 700 word, just to say Spring has sprung, the grass has ris and where I’d like to be is not where I is. Just a few days to the first exhibition game. I have a hankering for a hot dog and some nachos.

Deadline Day Pt. 2

As much attention as the July 31st trade deadline receives, today’s trade deadline is just as important. That’s because any player acquired after August 31st CAN’T be on a team’s playoff roster. In other words, if the Rangers are going to acquire proven major league help for their post-season push, today is the last day to do it.

The August 31st deadline is what the whole revocable waivers is all about. We’ve heard Roy Oswalt cleared revocable waivers, so Texas could trade him to anyone today if they so desired. Other players have probably been put on revocable waivers by the Rangers as well, and probably have cleared as well. If a player is put on revocable waivers and a claim is put in for that player, the team can either take the player back off the table (the revocable part) or work out a deal with the claiming team within something like 48 hours.

Julio Borbon

Julio Borbon: Trade Bait? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also entering into the equation at this time are players in the minors who have no options left after this season. They could become part of a trade package. Two of those for the Rangers are Julio Borbon and Brandon Snyder. I’ve been thinking all year Borbon was going to become part of a package but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s had three big league seasons under his belt and while he hasn’t fulfilled the promise he showed in his first year, 2009, he’s had a good season at AAA Round Rock, hitting over .300 with speed and some pop in his bat.

Snyder started the season with the Rangers but was sent down to make room for Mike Olt on the roster. Snyder made some good contributions to the Rangers earlier in the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as part of  a package either.

That said, who would the Rangers want in return? Here are the possibilities:

1) A back-up catcher: Geovany Soto has done a decent job since coming over from the Cubs. His back-up, Luis Martinez has been your prototypical replacement player. The fact is, nobody knows how much longer Mike Napoli is going to be out. Because we don’t know, I’d want a better option to back up Soto. Maybe try to get Jerrod Saltalamacchia back from the Red Sox or see if the Blue Jays would allow JP Arencibia to be pried from their hands.

2) Utility Infielder: Rangers fans are not thrilled with the idea that Michael Young is currently the back-up shortstop to Elvis Andrus. Another Blue Jay and former Ranger Omar Vizquel would be a nice little pick-up to head down the stretch with.

3) Bullpen: I’m actually pretty OK with the bullpen as it’s constituted, but if there’s one slot that’s worrisome, it would be the role currently filled by Michael Kirkman. Kirkman’s had glimpses of being very good this year, but the consistency still isn’t there. I don’t know what southpaw might be available out there, but an acquisition here is a distinct possibility.

4) Starting Pitcher: This is very unlikely to happen and maybe it doesn’t really need to. Still, I do have some trepidation about Texas heading into the post-season with a starting four of Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Dempster. The thing is, I don’t think an August 31st deal is going to be able to land any kind of an upgrade here. At best, it might get you an innings-eater that will allow the Rangers to bypass Scott Feldman in the rotation in September, but not much beyond that.

Texas could be busy today. Or Jon Daniels could just say this is the team we’re rolling with into the 2012 post-season. Neither outcome would surprise me in the least.

LAST DAY!!!

If you haven’t entered, today is the last day to submit your entry for a chance to win the 4-DVD set of the Essential Games of the Texas Rangers from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. The set contains the complete games of Nolan Ryan‘s 7th No-Hitter, the Rangers first ever playoff win against the Yankees in 1996 and the Rangers two AL Championship clinching wins in 2010 and 2011.

To enter, just submit the form below. Entry deadline is Friday 8/31/12. Winners will be drawn Tuesday 9/4/12. FIVE WINNERS IN ALL, so enter today! Only 1 entry per e-mail address please.

A Father’s Day Photo Story 2012

It was the day before Father’s Day this time, but it was a fun time nonetheless. Spending a brief weekend in Kyle, Texas, just south of Austin, 19-Year-Ranger-Fan and I decided to catch a game in Round Rock featuring the Rangers’ AAA team, the Express, against the Astros’ AAA affiliate, the Oklahoma City Red Hawks.

Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve ever done a game in this era of SmartPhones and social media. It was actually kind of awesome to be able the follow the Rangers game while watching the Express game, taking pictures with both a regular camera and the cell phone and tweeting about both games at the same time. I’m sure if a TV camera had been on us, we would have been two of those people a viewer would rail at, telling us through the TV, “Hey, if you’re not going to watch the game, go home!” In fact, though, we were watching the game. We were just multi-tasking on a large scale!

Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

Round Rock is home to Dell Computers, thus the name Dell Diamond. The Express is owned by a group headed by Nolan Ryan and his sons. Until two years ago, the Express was the AAA home for the Astros, while Oklahoma City represented the Rangers on the same level. Once the new Rangers ownership group took over, a group that included Ryan as President, the Rangers made a new alliance with Round Rock and the Astros took over Oklahoma City. You might say they just traded teams.

We had great seats: right next to the back left-hand corner of the home dugout on the third base side. No foul balls came out way, but an early foul chopper was tossed right into my son’s hands by RedHawks manager/3rd base coach Tony DeFrancesco. This led to a massive influx of kids to the front seats for the rest of the game, where all implored players and coaches to give them a ball too. They left disappointed. I think I know now how Ted Giannoulos got the idea to become The Famous Chicken: a chicken is exactly what it sounded like after every foul on the third base side. “Ball-ba-ba-ba-ba-ball!”

After over 40 years of going to baseball games, 19-Year-Ranger-Fan finally achieves a family first: ownership of a foul ball. He didn’t catch it off the bat. It was tossed to him by RedHawks manager/3rd base coach Tony DeFrancesco. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

While it was a AAA game, there were some major league vets to see. The home Express were represented by Julio Borbon and Ryan Spilborghs, while the visiting RedHawks countered with pitcher Armando Galarraga, he of the almost perfect game fame, and Landon Powell, who spent the past three season with the Oakland A’s.

Julio Borbon, former Ranger, prepares to round third and head for home following his 2nd inning home run, which put the Express up 2-0. They would lose the game 8-5. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

The Express started out well, with Julio Borbon’s homer off Galarraga over the right field fence providing a quick 2-0 lead after two innings. It was all RedHawks, though, starting in the 4th. A run int he 4th made it 2-1, then a 5-run fifth made it 6-2 and Oklahoma City never looked back. Highlights of the 5th were the back-to-back home runs off the bats of Mike Hessman, a towering shot off the right field upper deck facade, and Brad Snyder. Landon Powell would add an 8th inning solo shot later.

The Express was led by Borbon, who went 3 for 5 with a home run, but was a strikeout victim to end the game, with Oklahoma City coming away with an 8-5 win. It wasn’t all bad, though. The Rangers beat the Astros on the major league level 8-3, with Justin Grimm winning his major league debut, striking out seven with no walks in six innings pitched.

You’ve got to love how everything at a minor league ballpark becomes a marketing opportunity. At Dell Diamond, you have the Carus Dental foul poles. I assume if the ball hugs the wrong side of the pole, it would have to be considered a brush back pitch! Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

Dell Diamond is very family friendly. Over the right-center field wall is this rock wall for the kids to climb! There is also a swimming pool and, as you can see to the right, an area to shoot hoops! Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

Feel like a picnic? You can spread out a blanket just beyond the right field and left field fences and enjoy dinner and a ballgame. You could even get a home run ball as a souvenir! Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

Baseball, a father and son get-together. You can’t ask for more on Father’s Day, even if it’s celebrated the day before Father’s Day!

2011 Ranger, pitcher Mark Hamburger, signs an autograph following the game. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

Early Report Card

The Rangers finally won an exhibition game!!!

It took three tries, but Texas finally hit the win column with a 16-3 pasting of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, putting their record at 1-2 early in Spring play.

But of course, it all means nothing.

What really matters at this point is the competition for what few spots there are open on the roster. Here’s an update after three games:

CENTER FIELD: Ron Washington says Josh Hamilton is his best center fielder and, in his mind, the best center fielder in baseball. That said, the Rangers want to play Hamilton in center as little as possible, even if it cuts the injury risk by less than 10%. Craig Gentry is being given a chance to win the job outright and there’s little doubt he will be on the Opening Day roster. Word out of camp is Leonys Martin, the Cuban defector signed to a multi-year contract last year, is still a diamond in the rough and probably not polished enough to be in the bigs come April. Martin DID show a flash against the D-Backs with a monster home run today. Julio Borbon got the start in CF today and went 1-2 with a walk (good) and a caught stealing (bad). Meanwhile, Conor Jackson hit a bomb today as well. Jackson isn’t in the mix for center field, but if he keeps hitting, the Rangers could go with a Gentry/Hamilton platoon in center, giving Jackson AB’s rotating with David Murphy in left. Still lots of time to sort this battle out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEF SPECIALIST: Here are the candidates – Michael Kirkman, Robbie Ross, Kelvin De La Cruz, Miguel de los Santos, Martin Perez, Zach Jackson, Joe Beimel, Neil Cotts, Ben Snyder, Mitch Stetter and Joseph Ortiz. Through three games:

De La Cruz: 2/3 of an inning with 0 runs but a hit and a walk.

De los Santos: 1 hitless inning with a K.

Ross: 2 games, 3 IP, 0 Runs, 4 K’s.

Snyder: 1 hitless inning with a K.

Kirkman: 2 IP, 5 H, 4 Runs

Cotts: 1 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs

Stetter: 1 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs

Perez, Jackson, Beimel & Ortiz: No appearances yet.

Advantage thus far has to go to Ross. The Rangers say despite the horrid line score that Kirkman actually threw his pitches well, but was victimized by non-solid hits and an error by Ian Kinsler. He also faced more big league batters. Ross faced more experienced batters today and got two strikeouts and a groundout. He’ll be given more chances to grab the roster spot.

WHO’S HOT: Elvis Andrus is 5 for 5 over the last two games with a double, a triple, 4 runs scored and 2 RBI.

Yu Darvish makes his first exhibition start tomorrow against the Padres. It will be televised live in Japan. If you have the MLB.TV package, you’ll be able to see it online. Otherwise, we’ll see Yu later.

Countdown To Spring Training

The only recent news to report is the Rangers say they’ve reached their payroll budget limit and are “unlikely” to make any more changes headed into Spring Training a week hence.

If this is indeed the case, it means the Rangers will stay within the system to fill out the team. As constructed now, the only real issue is who will be the designated “Forgotten Man” of the offense, otherwise known as the Utility Infielder. For the last two seasons, Andres Blanco has been the Rangers’ Mr. Irrelevant and actually performed pretty well in the role, particularly in 2010 when he had to play on a regular basis towards the end of the season with Ian Kinsler on the DL. In 2010, though, Blanco’s role was a little more important.

In 2011, the role of the Utility Infielder was essentially one of filling in for Elvis Andrus on occasion, as Michael Young was expected to act as Kinsler’s back-up at 2nd, Adrian Beltre’s back-up at 3rd and Mitch Moreland’s back-up at first. This isn’t expected to change in 2012.

With no outside help on the immediate horizon, the odds right now are for Mr. Irrelevant to be Alberto Gonzalez (Career .242/.281/.317), signed to a minor league free agent contract in December. Gonzalez played all four infield positions for the Padres in 2011.

The only other offensive question is in center field, where Craig Gentry (.271/.347/.346 in 2011) apparently has been told he has a chance of getting the gig fulltime, instead of just as a platoon. I don’t see it. Gentry is a great defender and awesome base-stealer (a perfect 19 for 19 in 2011), but he doesn’t hit well against right-handers. If, however, the Rangers think Gentry can handle the load fulltime, it would allow minor league free agent signee Conor Jackson (career .271/.351/.407) to be the 5th outfielder, providing more potential power than someone like Julio Borbon could provide. I still think Borbon will stay as a platoon, unless he’s beaten out by Kyle Hudson, signed out of the Orioles system in January.

Either way, it’s only a temporary situation, for a year at best, until Leonys Martin is deemed ready for the majors. The Cuban defector signed a 5-year deal with Texas in 2011 and there’s no way the Rangers allow more than two years of that contract to be earned playing in the minors. Some folks in the know peg Martin as being with the Rangers no later than May or June of this season.

Those are the only two offensive openings on this entire team at this time. Next time, a look at the available openings on the pitching staff.

A Minor Deal With Major Implications

It didn’t get much fanfare, but the Rangers yesterday signed Orioles farmhand Kyle Hudson to a minor league contract and an invite to join the major leaguers for Spring Training. Hudson is a speedster with lots of stolen bases and no power to speak of. Yet this signing appears to send a number of messages.

Despite Hudson’s big league career consisting of 28 September at bats at the end of 2011, his signing could be a sign of other things to come or of the Rangers front office not having confidence in the situation before Hudson’s signing.

OK, now that I’ve spent two paragraphs being cryptic, let me explain.

Hudson, you see, is a center fielder. A left-handed hitting center fielder. A left-handed hitting centerfielder with speed. So far, that also describes incumbent Julio Borbon, who many may have forgotten about, as he went on the DL with an injury in May 2011 and ended up spending the rest of the season in AAA Round Rock due to the play of Endy Chavez.

Here’s where the roads diverge. Hudson has a reputation of being a good defensive center fielder as well. Borbon’s defense has been much-maligned.

It’s pretty sure that Craig Gentry has already nailed down a roster spot with his center field play and defense of a year ago, platooning in center with Chavez.

Thus, the Hudson signing tells me four things:

1) The Rangers aren’t confident Gentry can handle center field on a fulltime basis (ie batting vs. right-handers)

2) The Rangers have lost confidence in the southpaw hitting Borbon.

3) The Rangers think Leonys Martin, the Cuban defector they signed to a multi-million dollar contract less than a year ago and played CF for AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock, is not quite ready for primetime in Arlington.

4) Considering another Cuban defector, CF Yeonis Cespedes, is thought by scouts to be big league ready, the Rangers are unlikely to try to sign him.

That’s a lot to infer from one minor league deal. And yet it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Kyle Hudson on the major league roster for the Texas Rangers on Opening Day 2012.

Trade Targets

As the trade deadline fast approaches, I’ve read all kinds of speculation of who the Rangers are going after. Among the prominent names are Mike Adams and Heath Bell of the Padres, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, maybe even a starter along the lines of Matt Garza of the Cubs. Carlos Beltran of the Mets has been mentioned as an offensive possibility, but it appears doubtful the Rangers have any interest in changing up their offensive line-up.

A lot has also been written about the minor league players the Rangers are likely to give up in making any trade. Among those names listed as “untouchable” among Rangers prospects are Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez.

What’s been mentioned less and what may bear looking into is this: are there any players on the current Rangers 25-man roster who could be leaving in the next two weeks in a trade?

Minor leaguers are sure to be changing hands, but chances are at least one major league player will be leaving Arlington. It happened a year ago when Justin Smoak was the player that ended up bringing Cliff Lee to Texas instead of sending him to the Yankees.

The idea of losing a member of the major league roster was less likely a couple weeks ago, when Julio Borbon was being talked about as a major bargaining chip while he was rehabbing in Round Rock. Unfortunately, Borbon has just had ankle surgery and is unlikely to be anything but a minor piece of any trade, if at all. Chris Davis is also down on the farm in Round Rock and the odds are pretty good he’ll be included in a trade, with San Diego a definite possibility as a destination.

On the current major league roster, though, there also exists a possibility of 4th/5th outfielder David Murphy being moved. Murphy was a valuable part of the 2010 team and remains valuable today, although the performances of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry has meant less need for Josh Hamilton to play center and that has lowered Murphy’s playing time.

Yorvit Torrealba‘s name could come up in a trade. He’s a proven starting catcher and, while he’s performed fairly well for Texas in his first year here, Mike Napoli has performed much better than expected behind the plate, he has more power and a much higher on-base percentage than Torrealba. Thus, the R’s might be willing to let him go and, instead of the current 60-40 playing arrangement, make Napoli the regular catcher with Taylor Teagarden as strictly a back-up.  

It would be a surprise, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Nelson Cruz become part of a deal. Cruz has 21 HR and 58 RBI this year, yet most regular watchers would agree Cruz just hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate most of the year and is striking out much more frequently.

On the pitching side, Derek Holland‘s name has come up in trade talks. Holland has great potential, as judged by his two consecutive shutouts recently. He’s also been inconsistent with his command all year, making it possible the Rangers would be willing to part with him if they got the right starter in return. I’d hate to see it, but would understand the reason if it were to happen.

Other than those four, I don’t see any other Rangers being part of a trade package. Texas is looking to upgrade the bullpen especially, so it’s doubtful another team would want any of the Texas relievers not named Feliz, although maybe Scott Feldman or Tommy Hunter, both bullpen parts who have had some success starting could be of possible interest. Darren O’Day, currently at Round Rock, is another pitcher with previous major league success that could go elsewhere. Feldman and O’Day in particular have higher priced contracts, thus lowering their trade potential.

Those are the players on the current roster who could go elsewhere in a trade. The next question would be, who are the most likely players to get dropped from the roster to make room for new players coming in? That’s a subject for another day.

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