Spring Training is officially underway with pitchers, catchers and few position players reporting to camps all around baseball this week, so the start of the Rangers’ regular season on March 26th will be here before we know it. The team continues to be a relatively puzzling one as they show up to Surprise, Arizona with an improved pitching staff and an improved lineup that still leaves a lot to be desired. Whether there might be another move on the near or distant horizon, there are still some polarizing players up and down the roster.
Who’s the frontrunner for biggest surprise in 2020?
Alex: It was a rough season for Ronald Guzman from an offensive standpoint. During the first road trip of the season, Guzman suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for a month, followed by a demotion to the minors in late-July. The Rangers invited Guzy back when rosters expanded and had a productive September while hitting over .300 with an on-base percentage close to .400.
“I feel a lot more confident at the plate, a lot more comfortable, I feel like I’m being myself a lot more,” Guzman told me in mid-September. I ask him if 2019 created validity on if the sophomore slump exists, “Yeah it’s more on the mental part, you got to grow. The game comes at you and attacks you. You have to know what you’re doing.”
With all this in perspective, Guzman spent the offseason working out with the 2019 DH Silver Slugger and former Ranger Nelson Cruz in the Dominican Republic. The strong finish looks to benefit Guzman, and I believe he’ll have a decent 2020, pushing the “Junior struggles” away. Add in the defensive ability he brings, and it’ll be difficult to dethrone Guzman as the Rangers starting first baseman.
Garrett: I think closer Jose Leclerc is flying under the radar once again. After a lights out 2018, manager Chris Woodward tabbed him with the closer role out of camp in 2019. He struggled all year long, but was especially bad in the first two months, so much so that he was removed from the role after a particularly bad outing against Pittsburgh in April. Eventually, working in a middle relief and set-up role, he put it together and finished with a respectable 4.33 ERA and 14 saves in 18 opportunities and seven holds on a team that won 78 games. He is the same player that wowed Rangers and Major League brass alike with objectively standout stuff and a 1.56 ERA just two seasons ago. If Texas can carve out a role that works for both he and the team, Rangers fans can be confident that he will return to form.
Who’s the front runner for the most disappointing player in 2020?
Alex: It’s a difficult task to come back from a broken forearm, an oblique strain and meet the expectations of being a potential ace. Health-wise, Corey Kluber is ready to get back to the mound, and these next seven weeks will determine if Kluber is ready to go. Now, when I say he’ll be a disappointment, I’m referring to the semi-ace label, I still think the Rangers will get some decent innings with an ERA of about 4.00-4.50 around 175 innings and a WHIP of over 1.200. I don’t project an All-Star appearance, but again if Kluber can pull out supporting cast-like numbers as mentioned before, I’d take that, especially if the offense gets going.
Garrett: I’m not putting too much into what Texas will get out of Todd Frazier this season. While he is a recognizable name on a team-friendly contract, he’s not the game-changing presence at the plate he once was with Cincinnati. His home run numbers have steadily declined since a 40-homer campaign with the Chicago White Sox in 2016, and over the past two seasons, he’s struck out nearly three times as much as he walks. For a player whose bread-and-butter is power hitting, a .722 OPS in 2019 isn’t something that inspires confidence in fans nor fear in opposing pitchers. He’ll be the unquestioned starter at third going into camp, and will get plenty of chances to put together consistent at-bats, but will feel immediate pressure to perform on a team that desperately needs run-scoring production.
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