Barring any schedule disruptions, the 2021 Texas Rangers regular season will begin on April 1st in Kansas City against the Royals. The Rangers are at the tail-end of a surprisingly lively offseason, in which they made a considerable number of moves for a club that is miles off the path to championship glory.
They hired a new general manager, traded their ace, swapped their longest-tenured player for a power bat and two prospects, and signed the second-best pitcher on the international free-agent market.
Not bad for a team that will be fighting for fourth place in the AL West. While Texas Rangers players won’t be flooding the leaderboards in 2021, they will be showcasing their untapped potential to a very curious fan base. Rangers faithful want to know who to root for this year, they’ll still be rooting for in three years and five years.
The present and future-based evaluations begin on Opening Day; here’s how you can expect Texas to line-up vs. the Royals.
2021 Texas Rangers: Lineup Prediction
*The following lineup is built on the assumption that the Texas Rangers will face Royals right-hander Brad Keller on Opening Day.
Leadoff – Leody Taveras CF
Taveras made quite the impression in center field last season, and his tremendous speed out of the leadoff spot distracted from various sub-par offensive statistics. While his bat needs fine-tuning, the Rangers will trust their number-four prospect to develop at game speed as their first-place hitter to start the year. The fans want Taveras to hit leadoff, plus the organization expects him to assume the role for many years to come.
Batting 2nd – Nick Solak 2B
For the first time in his major league career, Solak will have a designated position to begin a season. The Rangers would be wise to maximize the 26-year-old’s plate appearances in 2021, as they’ll need to decide soon whether he’s a strong enough hitter to grace their future plans.
Solak hits for contact and leverages all fields. He struck out only 42 times in 233 plate appearances in 2020 and recorded a .320 BABIP. To ascend in 2021, however, he needs to improve on a 48.8 GB% and .344 SLG.
Batting 3rd – David Dahl LF
Considered a steal of a free-agent signing this offseason, Dahl should jump into the heart of the Texas Rangers batting order. Injuries held him to 24 games last season with the Colorado Rockies; across four big-league campaigns, the talented outfielder has yet to stay healthy from April to September.
In his most active season (2019), Dahl slashed .302/.353/.524 and made the American League All-Star team. The Rangers hope he taps into that level of play this year. If he does, Texas will fast track him a contract extension.
Batting 4th – Joey Gallo RF
View Gallo however you’d like, but his status as the team’s most dangerous player sustains. He is among the most prodigious power hitters in MLB, and he reigns as the top defensive right fielder in the AL. At his best, Gallo can upgrade the Rangers offense from mediocre to just below average.
His contact rate improved in 2020, from 59.8% to 63.5%; however, his hard-hit rate fell from 51.9% to 41.2%. Furthermore, his slugging percentage slumped a baffling 220 points. Hopefully, a full season at the new stadium steers him right. The 2021 Texas Rangers desperately need Joey Gallo to club the baseball like he had the previous three seasons.
Batting 5th – Ronald Guzman 1B
Could new addition Nate Lowe take Guzman’s place? Yes, but the incumbent earns the benefit of the doubt for now. Guzman is fresh off an MVP season in the Dominican Winter Baseball League in which he slashed .360/.450/.523 with five home runs in 30 games. He held his own in the Caribbean Series as well, posting a .346 OBP and .781 OPS.
The Condor’s confidence is high, and he’s worked diligently to regain everyday playing time for Texas in the recent year. He understands that his window of opportunity within the organization is nearly shut. Now is the time for him to take a stand and lockdown first base.
Batting 6th – Jonah Heim C
The Rangers acquired Heim in the Elvis Andrus trade last week. Heim, age 25, is a switch-hitting catcher with seven years of minor league experience under his belt. He made his major league debut on August 25th, 2020, against the Rangers, at Globe Life Field.
Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, Heim slashed .310/.385/.477 with nine homers and 21 doubles across 85 games. He swings better from the left side, which sets up a convivial platoon with right-handed hitting Jose Trevino. Heim should gain the edge in playing time, as he has a higher ceiling than Trevino.
Batting 7th – Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS
IKF was perhaps the story of the Texas Rangers 2020 season. He led the team in batting average and webbed his way to a Gold Glove at the hot corner. The Rangers were so enamored by Kiner-Falefa last year that they named him Elvis Andrus’s replacement for the 2021 season – while Andrus was still on the team!
The Hawaii native will never be the extreme launch angle, high-OPS hitter that today’s MLB reveres. What he is, and will continue to be, however, is a line drive producer, team-first player, and trustworthy glove up the middle. He’ll make the Rangers a more competitive team in 2021.
Batting 8th – Willie Calhoun DH
Calhoun’s reps take priority over Khris Davis‘s, despite Davis being the more proven player. The 2021 Texas Rangers still need to snuff out Calhoun’s potential, as he’s only 26 years old and under team control through 2024.
Davis will still get his at-bats still, as the DH, left fielder, or first baseman. He’ll prove vital against left-handed pitching, and the Rangers need his pop. If all goes well, Texas will deal him for prospects ahead of the trade deadline.
Batting 9th – Rougned Odor 3B
Rougned Odor will start at third base on Opening Day because… the 2021 Texas Rangers don’t have any other options. Sherten Apostel needs to develop in the minors, and big money Odor should play over Spring Training invitee Charlie Culberson.
Texas expects to sign a third baseman before the spring, but what’s the point? Top prospect Josh Jung will take over at some point in 2021; anyone who precedes him will be nothing more than a placeholder. Odor will likely struggle at third, but the Rangers have the unenviable luxury of experimenting with their roster during a rebuilding season.
On the mound – Kyle Gibson P
Unfortunately, the 2021 Texas Rangers lack a clear ace; actually, they lack an ace altogether. By process of elimination, Kyle Gibson will kick off the club’s regular season.
He makes the most sense. Texas will want Kohei Arihara to settle in by observing a couple of outings before making his MLB debut. Kolby Allard, Kyle Cody, and Dane Dunning are too inexperienced to earn an Opening Day nod. Additionally, Mike Foltynewicz and Jordan Lyles aren’t reliable enough to send the Rangers off.
Follow me on Twitter at @tkoch_4 for more of my content! Don’t forget to join our OT Heroics MLB Facebook group, and feel free to join our new Instagram – @overtimeheroics_MLB, and listen to our baseball podcast, Cheap Seat Chatter! We’ll see ya there!
Come join the discussion made by the fans at the Overtime Heroics forums! A place for all sports!
main image credit