The Rangers are now just three weeks away from their season opener in Seattle (will it be played in front of no fans?) and the role of Opening Day center fielder still seems to be in favor of the player who was thought to be the favorite headed into camp: Danny Santana. It isn’t as much of a slam dunk as it was a few weeks ago though.
Nick Solak has met the challenge of playing center field in spring training so far and manager Chris Woodward has been “really, really impressed” by what he’s seen. Woodward told reporters that Solak could certainly work his way into more than just an occasional option in center field, but the plan is still to roll with Danny Santana out there most days to start the season.
Who do you think will end up getting most of the starts in CF to start the season?
Alex: I would like to see Danny Santana get a decent amount of time in center field for 2020. In 2019, Santana tore the ball up offensively for most of the year. If he can tone down his aggressiveness, then he’ll become a significant threat at the dish, add that to the shortstop experience in the minors, and you have a cannon arm in center field. I’m curious to see the route running from Santana on an everyday basis. Last season, Danny didn’t get too much time in center field, and I think the Rangers this season would like to avoid anyone being a designated utility man unless they have to.
With that in mind, I wouldn’t mind seeing guys like Nick Solak and Scott Heineman get their chances. I am excited to watch the development of Leody Taveras, but he’s still has a year or two away before he’s ready. Also, his bat isn’t ready for the big leagues. Center field, like third base, is a transition position for Texas to the future.
Garrett: I think it will be Danny Santana at the start of the season, at least. He’s a true utility player that can handle first, second and third base, both corner outfield spots, and has the speed to cover center as well. He got off to a hot start at the plate last year and ended up stringing together a career year with an .857 OPS. 27 of his starts last year came in center. More importantly, he’s a plus player defensively. In 374 innings in the outfield, he recorded just three errors.
Whose performance in spring training has caught your eye the most?
Alex: I like what I’ve seen from Rougned Odor this Spring. It’s a small sample size, but the stat I’m impressed about is the fact he’s only striking out at a 10% rate (last year in his first 11 at-bats, he struck out at a 36.4% rate). In Spring Training of 2019, Odor started picking up the offense in the middle of the month, but he struggled a little bit out of the gate. In 2020, it looks like Odor cleared right out of the gate early in Spring. The consistency is going to tell the story for Rougie. I’m not quite sure if the success is due to the work he put in this winter, the competition at second base or he sees the ball well.
Defensively Odor is looking good. I haven’t heard of any incredible highlight reel type plays these past few weeks yet, but I also haven’t come across the usual careless throw he’s known to occasionally make. It’s a growing process, but if things like this keep up for Rougie, then I’ve restored some excitement for “El Tipo” in 2020.
Garrett: Brett Martin has been fantastic out of the bullpen so far. Texas has turned to him on four separate occasions, and batters have barely been able to barrel him up at all with just a .063 batting average against. He hasn’t given up a run in five innings of work, and has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio of 4-2. It’s a limited sample size, but in a patchwork Rangers bullpen, a player with Major League experience just a year ago coming off a solid spring would be something extremely valuable as the club vies to pick up important April wins.
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