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Texas Rangers Infield: Depth Chart Discussions

The Texas Rangers return virtually the same infield despite having the best shortstop overall prospect in baseball. For all the talk that’s bound to come focusing on the moves the team didn’t make during the offseason, the team did make some significant additions. A.J. Pierzynski takes over for Mike Napoli at catcher, in a move that made perfect sense for both sides, and Lance Berkman decided to stave off retirement to be the team’s DH. Almost every player in the club’s infield will have fantasy relevance this season, aside from Mitch Moreland. But the biggest question for fantasy owners will revolve around the team’s plan for Jurickson Profar.

Catcher

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
A.J. Pierzynski 520 27 68 77 0 5.40% 15.00% 0.278 0.326 0.501 0.351 118 3.4
Geovany Soto 361 11 45 39 1 8.30% 21.10% 0.198 0.270 0.343 0.271 62 0.3

No matter what the team does with Profar, it’s a safe guess that they aren’t going to use him as a catcher. That spot belongs to a combination of A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto. The two will likely platoon, with Soto seeing most of his at-bats against left-handers. That shouldn’t cut into Pierzynski’s numbers too much, as the White Sox were doing the same thing with Tyler Flowers in recent years. After his performance last year, Pierzynski is one of the toughest players to project in 2013. He’ll be 36-years-old, and is coming off a career-high 27 home runs, which shattered his previous high in a season. Even though he’s moving to an equally great hitter’s park, there’s good reason to expect regression. A return to 13 to 16 home runs could be in order. That’s a pretty big drop, but still useful as a starter in 12 team leagues.

Designated hitter

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Lance Berkman 97 2 12 7 2 14.40% 19.60% 0.259 0.381 0.444 0.354 125 0.4

The 37-year-old Lance Berkman nearly retired before the Rangers made him a one-year, $11 million offer. Injuries limited Berkman to just 97 plate appearances in 2012, but he had a .408 (!) wOBA in 2011. The age and the recent knee concerns are troubling, but the new park and the solid lineup make him a really intriguing late-round pick. The bigger issue is what happens if Berkman gets injured. The team would probably be better off promoting Profar and moving pieces around, or letting Mike Olt take over the role. Profar isn’t expected to break camp with the team, and it’s unclear whether Olt is in the same boat, but this is a way for one of them to get a ton of playing time this year.

First base

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Mitch Moreland 357 15 41 50 1 6.40% 19.90% 0.275 0.321 0.468 0.334 104 0.6
Lance Berkman 97 2 12 7 2 14.40% 19.60% 0.259 0.381 0.444 0.354 125 0.4

Unless Olt makes the team, there’s no obvious platoon partner for Mitch Moreland this year. Even if he receives the majority of the playing time at first, he’s probably not a useful fantasy asset in mixed leagues. He’s awful against lefties, albeit, in a tiny major-league sample, and he doesn’t hit for elite power, like most first basemen. He’s a candidate to be replaced if he struggles early on. Whether that teams the team utilizes Olt full-time, or shifts Kinsler to first to open up a slot for Profar is unclear, but both players would have value in full-time spots. In fact, so I’m not constantly repeating myself, you can pretty much count on Olt or Profar to be the primary beneficiary for playing time at every infield spot if a significant injury occurs.

Second base

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Ian Kinsler 731 19 105 72 21 8.20% 12.30% 0.256 0.326 0.423 0.327 99 3.2
Jeff Baker 201 4 18 25 4 5.50% 23.90% 0.239 0.279 0.378 0.283 71 -0.6

It was a bit of a down year for Kinsler, as he walked less, and failed to hit for as much power as he’s shown in the past. Still, his combination of power and speed, combined with the fact that he plays in a strong lineup, makes him one of the best second basemen in fantasy baseball. There was some talk of him shifting to first base to accomodate one of the team’s young prospects, but it hasn’t happened yet. He wouldn’t be nearly as valuable at first, but the multiple positions would be a nice perk. If Kinsler were to miss a few days with an injury Jeff Baker would likely step in. But, as alluded to earlier, the team will turn to a young rookie if Kinsler is out for a significant amount of time.

Shortstop

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Elvis Andrus 711 3 85 62 21 8.00% 13.50% 0.286 0.349 0.378 0.322 95 4.2
Leury Garcia (AA) 416 2 55 30 31 5.30% 19.00% 0.292 0.337 0.398 0.329 104 N/A

Much of what was said about second base could apply to short. Elvis Andrus isn’t a top-tier shortstop, but does enough to warrant a starting position in shallow mixed leagues. Andrus had some trouble stealing bases last season. His 21 steals were the lowest single-season total of his career. He was also caught 10 times, good for a poor 53% 68% success rate. The team had a lot of issues on the bases last season, and manager Ron Washington said they weren’t going to run much late in the year. That should improve during the upcoming year, which could lead to a better season from Andrus. Leury Garcia is a candidate to be the backup at short, but hasn’t played above Double-A. Andrus has played in at least 145 games every season, so he doesn’t need to be spelled often.

Third base

Name PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Adrian Beltre 654 36 95 102 1 5.50% 12.50% 0.321 0.359 0.561 0.388 140 6.5
Jeff Baker 201 4 18 25 4 5.50% 23.90% 0.239 0.279 0.378 0.283 71 -0.6

Entering his age-34 season, Adrian Beltre continues to be a top-tier third baseman. While he doesn’t walk much, he hits for a high enough average to make it work. He’s got power, and hits in a good lineup. What else are you looking for at third? The team is prepared if Beltre suffers an injury, as they kept Olt during the offseason. If he has day-to-day injuries, Baker will likely slot in until Beltre recovers.

The Rangers’ infield remains mostly unchanged, and the two new additions should have value in most leagues. If Moreland struggles, or someone gets injured, Profar or Olt should see a lot of playing time. Both guys would have significant value in full-time roles, and need to be watched closely during the year.