Three days removed from the terrifying moment Rangers slugger Willie Calhoun was hit by a pitch in the jaw, there isn’t much more clarity about the amount of time he could miss with Opening Day in Seattle (or Arizona?) about two weeks away.
Despite the horrific nature of the incident, Calhoun seems to have a tremendous support team around him with Rangers teammates and coaches. Hopefully he is back sooner rather than later and able to pick up from his great 2019 season that saw him hit 21 home runs in just 83 games.
In the meantime, how does his absence affect the rest of the Rangers lineup?
Who will see the biggest increase in playing time because of the potential extended absence of Willie Calhoun?
Darien Clark: First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with Willie and his family. This is such a tragic incident and my hope is that he comes back better and stronger.
To answer the question, I believe it will be a mix between Scott Heineman and Nick Solak with more Shin-Soo Choo sprinkled in the outfield. I realize Choo is basically the full-time DH now, but the veteran may see more time in the field with Calhoun out. Heineman is probably the safest answer as to who will see the biggest increase in playing time because he is the next man up in terms of true outfielders. Heineman is young, but he also saw some reps toward the end of last year, and overall did well, so I won’t say he’ll flourish right off the bat, but he is right-handed and has experience in the outfield, so that’s why I’d bet on him getting the increase in playing time. Solak has simply been an experiment in centerfield, as of late, considering he’ll be the utility player for the infield – especially if an injury occurs there. Who knows though, Solak is a better hitter so Woody and co. may flex him to left field on occasion as well.
Dylan Duell: This will certainly make Nick Solak’s rollout into the outfield much more immediate. Earlier this spring it seemed like he might just fill in for Danny Santana in center field once or twice a week, now with the starting left fielder (Calhoun) out, one would have to think that Solak would slide in there quite often since his bat is more valued than Scott Heineman’s. I definitely think Heineman could be a late-game defensive replacement quite often early in the season, but the Rangers offense will need the oomph from the bats of Solak and Santana more than it needs the occasional diving grab from Heineman. Of course, Shin-Soo Choo will get the occasional game in left or right field, but we’re not seeing him out there three or four times a week just based off one injury.
Do the Rangers have the depth needed to handle the occasional injuries that occur throughout a 162 game season?
Darien: I believe the Rangers do have the depth to handle a 162 game season even through injuries. There, I said it. The main hesitation I have within that confidence is the bullpen because injuries and the farm system is utilized there day-in and day-out. However, I have this confidence in the Rangers depth because of guys like Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Solak, and Kolby Allard. These are the kind of young studs any team would love to have. You could also say that only IKF has given us a full-season to prove who he is. Those are both valid points, but these kinds of guys are who you need. They’re young, determined and ready for the challenge to prove themselves as major leaguers. That’s why I believe we have the depth to overcome injuries. Playing with that chip on your shoulder and the competition within your own squad is often times all you need to be better. These guys have that. Willie Calhoun continues to have that and look at the season he had last year. It was pretty darn good. I fully expect that out of this Rangers team especially with young depth they have.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa has gone from “there’s a chance he starts the year in AAA” to “ok so how will they find a way to get him in the lineup every day” and I’m probably only exaggerating very slightly if at all
— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) March 8, 2020
James Holland: I believe they do. IKF has been super impressive this season and has the makings of a super utility player. I may even draft him on my bench in fantasy baseball. I also believe that Greg Bird will have one of the four bench spots to backup Ronald Guzman. Or Guzman may back up Bird. I believe that Calhoun will be back by mid-May so the outfield depth won’t be too much of a problem. The only question is are the young arms in the farm system ready enough to help out the pitching staff. I really love Kolby Allard and Edinson Volquez has looked good so far this spring.
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