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Five contenders for the fringes of the Rangers Opening Day roster

Photo: Bailey Orr / Texas Rangers

Five contenders for the fringes of the Rangers Opening Day roster

Spring Training 2024 is nearing the halfway mark with good and not-so-good news. The Rangers infield is taking hits this spring, with Josh Jung hopefully getting some work late in spring. Corey Seager is progressing but just started taking light swings Monday, and Nathaniel Lowe is likely out for Opening Day. On the positive side, the Rangers have seen a few position players take off during Spring Training, vying to stay on the big league club or take a 40-man spot.

On the pitching side, there have been questions about who takes the last rotation spot and who can squeeze out a role in the bullpen. These five players stand out with their success and could take the field on March 28th against the Chicago Cubs at Globe Life Field.

Wyatt Langford

When Spring Training started, I compared Langford and Evan Carter. Langford will perform well, but at the end of the day, he’ll go to the minors, being left off the Opening Day roster. Less than three weeks into Spring Training, I’m not sure about that anymore. Wyatt Langford is tearing up Spring Training 2024 with four home runs, eleven hits, and drawn five walks in 34 plate appearances. If there’s a kicker, he’s struck out ten times, but Langford’s 2024 Cactus League campaign is what Rangers fans envisioned.

Rangers’ manager Bruce Bochy made it clear early last Spring that Carter wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster. We’re halfway through, and there’s been no definitive indication that Wyatt Langford’s name will not appear on the 26-man roster at the end of the month. With Lowe and possibly Seager missing time, it opens the door for another position player, who could be the kid Wyatt Langford.

Jared Walsh

I’ve been impressed by Jared Walsh’s camp. After the Angels let him go, the Rangers brought him in on a minor league deal, and he’s making a solid bid to make the roster. With Nathaniel Lowe out, the Rangers have few options for 40-man guys playing first base. Justin Foscue is getting a lot of work at first base, but if the Rangers feel that Justin isn’t quite there defensively, Walsh could be the sneaky pick to make the roster.

In the last three seasons, Walsh has played 275 games at first base and rakes at Globe Life Field. In 61 career at-bats, Walsh is hitting .393 with 11 extra-base hits and an OPS of 1.194. In 23 at-bats this Spring, Walsh is hitting .343 with a couple of home runs, four driven in, and an OPS of 1.075. He’s truly making a case to open the eyes of his former AL West team in red.

Ezequiel Duran

It’s a long stretch to say Ezequiel Duran didn’t make the Opening Day roster, but it was a tough end to the 2023 season, and I mean a LONG stretch. I can also imagine it was an even more frustrating experience for him to be left off the postseason roster. I’m watching a more motivated and determined hitter at the dish (not that he wasn’t those things in the previous years). My key is that Duran is cutting his strikeouts and putting the ball in play. Yes, he has the power capability, but as we see from Adolis García and Josh Jung, you will exploit it if you chase opposing pitchers. Once García and Jung controlled the plate and limited their chase, each thrived to become a force, and Duran can also turn into that.

Duran’s versatility helps. The Rangers’ outfield could be crowded, but with the capability of playing both third base and shortstop, Duran may get playing time out of the gate. Also, I always like that Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran are similar yet different, which adds depth to the Rangers’ lineup.

Marc Church

If you are looking for an underdog on the 40-man roster but could make the opening-day cut, Marc Church is that guy early on. Church has held opponents scoreless in his seven appearances, only allowing three total baserunners. He has a hard fastball in the high 90s and a nasty slider in the upper 80s. It’s a good combination for a bullpen that hasn’t had much work due to the shortened offseason. At 23 years old, there’s a lot of potential the Rangers are watching in Church; if he progresses like he is during these first few weeks, Bochy, Chris Young, and the Rangers may have no choice but to give a spot to the now pitcher who was a shortstop.

Cody Bradford

Cody Bradford appeared as the front runner to the last rotation spot or a shoo-in for a place on the Opening Day roster before Spring Training started. However, things can change depending on the players’ performance and those around them, and there’s no guarantee. Bradford is making his case to wrap up the last rotation spot. In 11 innings this Spring, Bradford allowed three runs and a WHIP of 1.00. What impresses me are the nine strikeouts for a pitcher who is more of a contact pitcher, which makes for the .225 opponent batting average. The key for Cody is limiting walks, damage, and painting the corners, and he’s doing all three for the first few weeks in Spring Training, an extension of his success in the Postseason.

Photo: Bailey Orr / Texas Rangers

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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