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Exploring the remaining center field options for the Texas Rangers

Photo: Klay Kuban/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Exploring the remaining center field options for the Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers enter the New Year with a decent amount of question marks. One of the bigger holes to fill is third base, a position that has basically been vacanct since Adrian Beltre retired. However, departures of Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara plus not retaining Hunter Pence (yet) creates a more precise picture in the team’s outfield alignment, maybe? In 2019, the Rangers’ center field alignment consisted of guys like Joey Gallo, who missed time due to an oblique injury, Delino DeShields, a Cleveland Indian now, Scott Heineman, and Danny Santana. Three of those four are possibilities, but the Rangers may explore other options too. The question is: which is the better option?

Danny Santana
Throughout Danny Santana’s MLB career, center field is his most played position (33.3% of games played at center).  As the calendar reaches closer to spring training, the Rangers feel Santana is the primary go-to, and Chris Woodward raves about Danny Santana playing in center field. Santana came up in the Twins organization as an infielder, similar to Joey Gallo, and Danny’s production with his bat makes him the front runner for the position and the most logical choice at this point.

Joey Gallo
Out of his 63 games in the outfield in 2019, 38 of them came in center field. Before 2018, Joey logged one game in center throughout his minor league and major league career, but you wouldn’t know that based on how he played. The Rangers’ original plan this offseason was to shift Gallo to right field and anchor there, but with the departure of DeShields, Texas may scrap that plan and give Gallo more time. The question with Joey is, what will be the most effective way to keep him healthy and get the most production offensively and defensively? I can tell you this: first and third base will not be the answer.

Scott Heineman
The Rangers got a good look at Scott Heineman in the final two months of 2019. The offensive production didn’t translate the hopeful projections, but defensively, Heineman proved he belongs in the big leagues. Keep in mind that when Heineman came to the big leagues in August, it was eight months after he underwent shoulder surgery. Coming into 2020, Scott Heineman may be the dark horse that makes the big league roster out of spring training and he’ll give Chris Woodward another option in center field.

Leody Taveras 
The club feels that Taveras isn’t ready for the majors yet. While Leody’s defense screams spectacular, his offense isn’t where it needs to be to compete every day at the major league level. However, he can create any type of offense with his speed similar to, if not better than, Delino DeShields. The club has big-league options for center field, and I’m confident we’ll see Taveras in the majors soon, just not when they open their season in Seattle at the end of March.

Marcell Ozuna (free agent)
The Rangers are on the prowl to find a third baseman, or at least that’s the speculation that continues to pop up in Rangers land. However, lost in the shuffle, the club is eyeing former Cardinals and Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The 29 year-old outfielder spent the last two seasons with St. Louis as a primary left fielder, but he was the Marlins’ primary center fielder from 2013-2017.  Ozuna won a gold glove award in 2017 with his work in left field, but in five seasons with the Marlins, he logged over 3,500 innings in center field. Plus, you’re talking about a prime power hitter and a two-time All-Star.

The center field options all depend on the Rangers’ plan at third base. There was speculation last year giving Danny Santana a chance, and if that is the case, then it opens the door for Gallo or Heineman. All three internal big-league candidates provide one more thing, versatility (especially Santana and Heineman). Those two got some work at first base, and with Santana carrying a load throughout the infield, the Rangers can explore these options. I’ll be honest, the Rangers may not solve this conundrum until Opening Day, but hey, it’s an excellent mystery to crack.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. I talk about things. Find me on the tweeter @aplinckTX

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