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For the first time in his Rangers career, the ball is in Willie Calhoun’s court

Photo: Klay Kuban/Dallas Sports Fanatic

For the first time in his Rangers career, the ball is in Willie Calhoun’s court

Let’s go in our imaginary time machine and travel back to this time last season. Willie Calhoun came to camp bulked up, improved his work ethic and was ready to fight for a spot on the big league roster. Things went downhill as Willie didn’t make the cut and started the 2019 campaign in Nashville. However, an injury to Elvis Andrus happened, and Willie got his shot in the big leagues and things went really well until a quad injury bit Calhoun. For two months, Willie tore up the majors as if he was a longtime veteran, but a questionable decision left Willie in the dust in July. When Hunter Pence came back, the Rangers sent Willie down for a brief moment until the Rangers sidelined Joey Gallo. Calhoun finished the final months of the 2019 season with no roster movement.

I put all this into perspective to give the fans, and myself, an idea of Willie Calhoun’s journey. In 2020 it’s not about earning a spot in the starting lineup for Willie; it’s about sustaining the place. Calhoun spoke last week about the bumpy but rewarding ride it’s been with the Rangers.

“I feel like I came up with this organization even though they didn’t draft me. I feel like I’ve grown up. The organization has seen me grown up from a young pup to finally, I feel like I’ve grown into myself.” Willie said with a light smile. “The organization has seen me from the lowest and the most immature moments.”  

The organization awarded Calhoun with the 2019 Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man award. On the offensive scale, Willie was third on the club in OPS last season among teammates who played eighty or more games in 2019 (.848). Also, Willie struck out 53 times, the lowest among Rangers who had 205 or more at-bats (13 qualifying players).

What next for Willie?

Now let’s hold our horses for a second, there’s still an amount of work that needs polishing and everyone on the staff knows it. However, the Rangers personnel, especially Chris Woodward, rave about the willingness Calhoun shows to improve his game and his ability to make contact within the strike zone. In 2019, Willie made contact at an 84% rate, and had a swing and miss rate of 12.2%. On the defensive side, Calhoun committed only one error in 610 innings played in left field, which was the fifth-best field percentage among MLB left fielders with 600 or more innings. Does that make him a liability in the outfield? Well, Calhoun showed improvements, but the defense could be what’s preventing him from being an all-around threat on a baseball diamond along with experience. 

Willie’s 2020 spring training has a different feel but still focuses on one thing: being the best he can be. “This spring training is the first where I don’t have to press and try to do too much to make the team. For me, I’m just trying to work hard and never get complacent. I want to be great and help the team win.”

2020 becomes the first time in his big league career Calhoun can focus on his game, and he’s not finished learning. Texas Rangers fans are witnessing this young pup turn into formidable force in the lineup day in and day out. Watch yourself, Joey Gallo, your “Rangers” little brother is coming for you.

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. My baseball memory bank is dominated by the Texas Rangers with the other 29 franchises sprinkled in. In addition, I enjoy NFL Sunday afternoons and only the first NCAA tournament weekend.

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