In their never-ending cycle of player acquisition and roster shuffling, the Texas Rangers on Saturday made two additions to the 2021 spring training roster.
The player who grabbed the headlines (sorry, Jimmy Herget) was second baseman Justin Foscue, the second baseman who the Rangers selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft. He would have been added earlier if not for a stubborn turf toe injury he had been rehabbing.
With Foscue in the fold as an internal non-roster invite, the Rangers will have their top six prospects in big-league camp, according to Baseball America’s rankings. Nos. 9 and 10 will be in camp, too.
The first full-squad workout arrives Monday morning, though most of the position players have been at the Surprise Recreation Campus during the initial workouts for pitchers and catchers.
While many want to get their eyes on Foscue, he doesn’t rate as one of the most intriguing position players in camp. He probably will be next year, though.
But these six players are the most intriguing, and, yes, the group includes a couple of the top prospects.
Josh Jung, 3B
Depending on who is asked about Jung, the Rangers’ 2019 first-round pick (eighth overall) could be the starting third baseman by the All-Star break but will almost certainly be in the major leagues this season.
He won’t be there on Opening Day. The Rangers want to see their top prospect catch up on at-bats in the minor leagues, possibly at Triple A Round Rock with Double A Frisco’s season on hold until May.
The Rangers saw him develop more power last season at the alternate camp and at instructs. His bat speed and ability to control the bat will help ensure that he always hits for average.
And there’s this nugget: The Rangers don’t have a third baseman.
Joey Gallo, RF
The Gold Glove right fielder remains the Rangers’ biggest offensive threat, and second place isn’t even close. But after a step back last season, he has to prove it all again.
He seems to be reset mentally after getting caught up in the shortened 60-game 2020 season. He wants to be great, he wants to be a leader and he wants to stay with the Rangers.
That adds another wrinkle of intrigue to his spring.
He has said over and over that he doesn’t want to leave. The Rangers traditionally hammer out extensions during spring training. The timing seems right, but there hasn’t been any movement yet.
Rougned Odor, 2B/3B
For the first time since 2016, Odor is not the Opening Day second baseman as he enters spring training. He could end up being at second April 1 at Kansas City, but the Rangers gave ample indications that they are committed to Nick Solak there.
Odor will be given a chance to be the third baseman, along with Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson. Everyone has seen the power Odor has, but everyone has seen the strikeouts and the extended slumps and the sub-.200 averages deep into past seasons.
He’s going to be on the roster, but there’s no guarantee how much he’s going to be on the field.
Leody Taveras, CF
All Taveras, rated the Rangers’ No. 3 prospect, has to do this season is answer the question and hope he created in 2020: Is he the Rangers’ center fielder of the future?
He sure looked like it last season, showing significant improvements at the plate in terms of approach and power. The defense and running were very good, as advertised.
But he’s not a finished product. He has more work to do at the plate. Opposing teams aren’t going to make the same mistakes they made but will attack the zones where he struggled.
The Rangers have other options in center field, so Taveras needs to be pointed in the right direction this spring.
Ronald Guzman, 1B
If the Dominican Winter League is any indication, Guzman is going to be the Rangers’ first baseman. It’s not, though, but he must be that good to win the job from Nate Lowe.
The Rangers acquired low from Tampa Bay in a six-player trade and all but anointed him as the first baseman. He isn’t a good as Guzman defensively, but the Rangers like his approach and power.
Guzman showed an better approach and pop in becoming the MVP of the Dominican Winter League. He will come to camp with something he has never had: confidence, and that could be a difference-maker.
Willie Calhoun, LF
No one had as miserable of a 2020 as Calhoun, though Joe Palumbo didn’t have a cakewalk. For Calhoun, the misery started when he was hit in the face by a 95-mph fastball during a spring game.
A lot of other things followed and left him struggling throughout the regular season. He recharged his mind early in the offseason, headed to Los Angeles to work out with an acclaimed personal trainer, and says he’s ready to go.
The Rangers, meanwhile, acquired David Dahl to play left field and also added Khris Davis. They will swallow up at-bats that were earmarked for Calhoun, who can boost his playing time by being better against lefty pitchers.