2021 Texas Rangers: Spring Training Update

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The 2021 Texas Rangers will open their season against the Kansas City Royals three weeks from today. They’re 4-4 thus far in Cactus League Spring Training, so make of that what you’d like. As spring is mostly about monitoring individual player progress and preparation, here’s an update from the Texas Rangers camp.

2021 Texas Rangers Spring Training Injuries

Beginning with the big one, right-handed reliever Jonathan Hernandez suffered a low-grade UCL strain while throwing live batting practice on Tuesday. The 2021 Texas Rangers do not anticipate the 24-year-old to undergo surgery. His road to recovery is four weeks of rest, at least.

Hernandez is a rising star in the Texas bullpen. He led the team in relief appearances in 2020 and crafted an impressive 2.90 ERA. Had all gone to plan this spring, Hernandez was to compete in the team’s closer competition.

Additional injured players include relievers Demarcus Evans and Joely Rodriguez. Recovering from a lat muscle strain, Evans should participate in tentative mound workouts in the next week or so. The Rangers plan for Rodriguez to throw his first bullpen session on Friday after he reported to camp with a sprained ankle.

If you’ve yet to see number-two prospect Sam Huff, it’s because he’s working his way back from a hamstring injury. He’s resumed baseball activities and will get another MRI at the start of next week, according to Rangers insider Kennedi Landry.

Spring Standouts

Joey Gallo is tearing the cover off the ball this spring. His five home runs lead all of MLB Spring Training. He’s struck out just three times in 14 at-bats, and his slugging percentage is an eye-popping 1.571. March success isn’t exactly a harbinger for April-September success, but Gallo’s sizzling start is a welcome sign to everyone associated with the Rangers.

His long-time buddy, Ronald Guzman, is also raking. Amid a fierce first base position battle, Guzman has a .417/.533/1.000 slash line in 12 spring at-bats. He homered off White Sox ace Lucas Giolito, and he’s recorded a hit in five of the six games he’s played.

Charlie Culberson and Rougned Odor have made the highest bids for the Rangers’ wide-open third base battle. Culberson is 4-for-7 at the plate, though he’s yet to drive an extra-base hit. Odor is 4-for-11 with one home run and one double.

Pitchers have hardly ramped up this spring, but among the standouts are Kolby Allard and Dane Dunning. Allard, competing for a spot in the starting rotation, has struck out three batters and allowed two hits in three innings pitched. Dunning, the prime acquisition in the Lance Lynn trade this offseason, has tossed two scoreless innings, with a walk being his only blemish.

Relief-wise, Rule Five draft pick, Brett de Geus, has fanned three over three scoreless innings. Matt Bush had a strikeout in his one inning of work, and southpaw Wes Benjamin has contributed two scoreless frames.

Players of Concern

The Rangers’ top two DH candidates must be seeing double this spring. Willie Calhoun and Khris Davis are a combined 2-for-22, with neither hit going for extra bases. Spring Training stats may carry little weight, but those degrees of struggle are discouraging.

Davis isn’t the only new Ranger off to a rough start. Left fielder David Dahl is 2-for-12, catcher Jonah Heim 1-for-8, and first baseman Nate Lowe 3-for-15. Dahl is the biggest concern, as Texas views him as a likely middle-of-the-order bat.

Center fielder Leody Taveras is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts. The 2021 Texas Rangers have high hopes for their toolsy 22-year-old, but if he continues on a backward trend, they may have to reroute him to the minors to begin the season.

With Hernandez and Evans expected to miss Opening Day, the fight has only intensified. Several non-roster invitees are off to rough starts, with Sam Gaviglio, Jimmy Herget, Drew Anderson, and Jharel Cotton all sporting ERAs of at least 12.00 – albeit in limited work.

It’s far too early to hit the panic button for pitching, however, the 2021 Texas Rangers will have a much better feel for that facet in a week or two.

Top Prospects Update

Here we check-in on the Rangers’ top 10 prospects invited to camp – in order of MLB Pipeline’s rankings. (You’re already up-to-date on Huff, Dunning, and Taveras.)

-3B Josh Jung: 2-for-4 with one RBI and no strikeouts
-RHP Cole Winn: 0.1 innings pitched, four hits, four runs, and one walk allowed
-2B Justin Foscue: 0-for-3 with no strikeouts
-RHP Hans Crouse: 9.00 ERA across 2.0 innings pitched; two strikeouts, two walks, and one home run allowed
-SS Davis Wendzel: 2-for-4 with two walks and a strikeout

First-year Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kohei Arihara struggled in his first spring outing, forfeiting three runs on five hits in two innings pitched. He was much-improved in his second appearance; however, giving up two hits and no earned runs in three innings.

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Travis Koch is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and a lifelong baseball fan. He's covered MLB for Overtime Heroics since January of 2021.