Is it fair to say that the Texas Rangers exceeded expectations in 2019? Indeed. Finishing with a 78-84 record – 11 wins better than 2018 – the Rangers gave reason to be hopeful once again. On the other hand, the team’s first base tandem finished near the bottom of the league. The only position group to finish worse were the catchers. Regardless, let’s revisit the first basemen of 2019, check who’s available for 2020, and discuss a few prospects who could find themselves in a Rangers uniforms sooner rather than later.
Texas Rangers 2020 Preview: 2019 At a Glance
Baseball Reference shows an MLB seventh-worst WAR rank for the Texas Rangers’ first-base collective. Even so, this data only includes instances where each player was listed as the starting 1B. Danny Santana played every position on the field except catcher. Additionally, Logan Forsythe played every infield spot. If we look at full-season numbers, the group posted a 1.4 WAR – most of which was from Santana (1.9). Without this outlier, we’re looking at a -0.5 WAR production from the position, which is only better than Kansas City Royals first basemen
With Ronald Guzman being optioned to Triple-A Nashville in late July, Santana found himself in a new position having never played 1B in his career. He would go on to force the Rangers to make room for him in the batting order. As one of the most efficient hitters on the team, he posted a .283/.324/.534 batting line with 28 home runs. Santana would split starts with Forsythe at first base until Guzman’s return on September 1st.
Walking into Spring
Working with the Nashville Sounds’ hitting coach – former MLB All-Star, Silver Slugger, and World Series champion Howard Johnson – seemed to work wonders for Guzman. This was evident by his .308/.400/.504 batting line at the Triple-A level. He rounded out the September month up with the Rangers and gave a glimmer of hope with improved numbers.
Competition may come from another place, as the Rangers may be flirting with the idea of moving Nomar Mazara to first. Sporting a .268/.318/.469 batting line with 19 home runs, the 6’4″ Mazara would likely be a cause for concern for Guzman. Both signed in 2011 as 16 year old prospects, but have enjoyed different levels of success at the MLB level. Mazara, at the moment, is part of a lefty-heavy outfield where a lack of speed may make him the odd man out.
With top free agent Jose Abreu off the board, what are Texas’ alternatives at first base? Though there’s some expectation of signing either big-name starting pitching, a third baseman, or both, one could infer that Abreu was never on the radar. A future in Washington remains unclear for Ryan Zimmerman, though it is believed that he will stay in the nation’s capital. At the very least, Guzman is a player worth platoon consideration since his splits against southpaws were abysmal. Alternatively, if the Rangers believe that the improvement shown between late-July and early-September is enough to warrant further consideration, Guzman could walk into Spring Training in the same situation as 2019. If not, look for the team to bring in a cost-effective veteran.
Down on the Farm
We visited Rangers’ third-best prospect, Sam Huff, in our catcher position breakdown, and alluded to a possible position change. Standing at 6’4″, the logical move would be to 1B. However, this puts the Rangers in a position of having possibly too many corner infield bodies. On top of internal names, the free agency period may yield an Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson while top 2019 draft pick Josh Jung would continue to move through the system.
A prospect who could be ready sooner than later would be Rangers’ Minor League player of the year, Curtis Terry. Terry hit 25 home runs between High-A Down East and Low-A Hickory, respectively. As impressive, his .293/.360/.540 batting line outshined even Huff. If faced with a run of poor production at first at the MLB level, look for the Rangers to push Terry or Huff through the system to join the team at the new Globe Life Field should their development warrant a fast move.
With the jury out on Ronald Guzman, it is difficult to nail down a projection for the Opening Day roster. Too many factors will decide his fate. Nonetheless, Guzman will get a shot at redemption throughout Spring Training. Mazara as a potential wildcard and deep minor league system at the position won’t provide him much leeway. He has to perform and he needs an impressive spring. If that doesn’t happen, Guzman may begin the season in AAA Nashville.
Texas Rangers Recent Transactions
- 11/5/2019 Signed free agent C Beycker Barroso to a minor league contract.
- 11/5/2019 Signed free agent RHP Eury Rosado to a minor league contract.
- 11/5/2019 Signed free agent RHP Jose Trinidad to a minor league contract.
- 11/8/2019 Signed free agent RHP Wilkerman Munoz to a minor league contract.