Welcome to the second edition of Daniels’ Minions for the 2011 season, our writers roundtable covering the Texas Rangers. Our writers this edition are Let’s Talk Rangers writers Bo Reed and Matthew Irby, Rangers blogger Nick Simmons (http://rangersexpress.blogspot.com/) and KZNE The Zone’s Stephen Rhodes.
This week the writers discuss the roles Tanner Scheppers and Chris Davis could have with the Rangers in 2011, who should leadoff and we have a little fun projecting the Rangers Opening Day roster for the 2013 season.
The roster projections have many surprises from each writer so enjoy!
1) The Rangers have said Tanner Scheppers will be a starter at AAA Round Rock if he doesn't make the team as a reliever. With the bullpen already loaded with power arms who have major league experience can Scheppers actually force himself in to Rangers bullpen? Considering the questions in the Rangers rotation would Texas be better off having Scheppers as a starting option in the minors in case something happens with the rotation regardless of how well he pitches in Arizona?
There are a couple of things to consider when talking about Tanner Scheppers role with the Rangers in 2011. If he has a lights out spring the Rangers bullpen could use his power arm now that Frank Francisco has been traded to the Blue Jays. The Neftali Feliz situation could also play a big part in what the Rangers do with Scheppers if he proves to be major league ready. While Alexi Ogando and Mark Lowe have been the most mentioned pitchers to replace Feliz as the closer if he’s moved in the rotation, don’t be surprised if Texas gives Scheppers a look in the role as well. Granted either Lowe or Ogando would have to struggle as the closer early in the season like Francisco did last season but Feliz’s success will likely make the Rangers a little more comfortable making a rookie the closer. As for the rotation questions I think the Rangers have enough depth in the rotation as is so the team will do what is best for Scheppers after watching him pitch this spring.
To answer the first question, yes he can force himself onto the Rangers’ Opening Day bullpen staff. With the stuff that Scheppers has, if he has a studly spring, it’ll be very difficult not to put him into the bullpen. However with all that said, I don’t see it happening and I wouldn’t do it. Currently Scheppers is not on the 40-man roster, still not really not issue as Omar Beltre will soon be on the 60-day DL and Scheppers can have his spot and should get it. But more importantly, to answer the second question, the better option for the Rangers is to have Scheppers preparing as a starter and potentially making some starts in 2011. In his short time in the Rangers system Tanner has shown two things, one that he still has a few things to work on before taking the mound in Arlington, but two that he can handle the role of starting pitcher. I would start Tanner in AAA Round Rock and get him back into the rhythm of pitching every fifth day. If and when he gets the call to the Majors, he could struggle or shut down opposing hitters. Either way, I believe Texas is better off using Scheppers as the option to start.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of a website that tracks individual pitch details for minor league ball. However, if the Rangers believe that Scheppers could be a starter then setting him up in what should be a dominate AAA rotation is exactly the route they should take. 2010 was Scheppers first year outside of independent ball and in that year only started seven games over the course of the season. In those starts, he never pitched five innings. Scheppers throws two plus-plus pitches (fastball and curve ball) so his complete repertoire projects to success as a starter. Seeing that, it’s understandable for the club to want to see if he can pitch 7 innings every fifth day, especially with plenty of depth in the bullpen. Similar with the Feliz debate, top of the rotation starters are more valuable than back end of the bullpen guys. If we see Scheppers in Arlington in 2011, I believe it would be come September when the roster is expanded. Until then the club will continue to see what they could get out of him. There’s no reason to rush him and little harm in giving him more than one year in the minors.
I don't think he will make the bullpen out of spring training. I think our bullpen is set with the guys with more experience. I think he is much more valuable getting the AAA time in, and being there whenever we need him, and I do think we will need him at some point. Pitchers get hurt under normal circumstances, but playing in Arlington? I want players like him ready for the call. There's also the possibility that some of the relievers might not work out. So whether by injury, or just coach's decision, I think Scheppers will get the call, and have his chance to prove himself. Just not right now. Not starting day.
2) Chris Davis needs a lot of things to happen to even be considered for the 25 man roster. What should Texas do with a player that for the moment is blocked at every position?
The Rangers are doing the right things with Davis so far in Spring Training. They have him playing at third base where he has already shown again to be an above average fielder and he’s getting enough at bats to showcase his talent. As for his future that depends on how he performs at AAA Round Rock and maybe more importantly how Mitch Moreland adjusts to pitchers after a surprising rookie season and clutch postseason. If Moreland continues to establish himself the Rangers can explore a trade for Davis at the deadline or perhaps allow him to force himself on the roster somehow. While that is doubtful, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the depth he provides in the infield until a trade comes along that makes sense.
Davis is an above-average defensive corner fielder, his issue obviously has been hitting in the Majors, call it a case of the Jason Botts Syndrome. For this season I would continue to work Davis out at both corner infield positions, getting him the maximum amount of ABs at AAA as possible. Therefore come the end of the season for Davis ’ benefit he will be able to play both corner infield positions at any time and will have a full season of being able to work on his hitting. If he does what he has done in the past, his AAA hitting stats should look pretty nice. As for Texas perspective, at the end of the season, then we have an option at both 1B and 3B if in the future 1) Moreland gets hurt at 1B, 2) Moreland slumps significantly, 3) Beltre gets hurt at 3B, and 4) Young is traded in the offseason. Also if Davis shows he can play both corner infield spots and his hitting numbers are up again, then Davis would still warrant something as a piece in a trade. Cubs have already shown interest, if he can play both positions, then more clubs will be interested in the future. Texas then, and it’s what I predict will happen, trade Davis as part of a package for a starting pitcher.
Exactly what they are doing: maximizing his appeal to every team possible. Krush is still young (younger than Moreland in fact) so he still has plenty of time to work things out (see Nelson Cruz). I love his defense at first (I have yet to see him play third but I can imagine that he is just as solid). I can also picture him to be more of a superstar than Moreland. In that sense, I am fearful that he won’t get another chance to reach that potential in Texas. However, I don’t like that people are ready to anoint Moreland the franchise first baseman. He had some of the most impressive at bats in the postseason, but a solid initial half in the show doesn’t always carry over into the next year (remember that Chris Davis guy?). As always, having a guy like him biting at the chance to get another shot is never a bad thing, and the club giving him as many spring at bats as possible and as many innings at any other position only helps his value.
Minor Leagues/Trade Bait. I don't ever want him to start a game for the Rangers again, unless he has a magical return to the Crush Davis we learned to love for part of his first season. Not his whole first season, because Crush turned to Chris near the end of it. I don't see it happening though. It's too bad too. I was a big fan that first year, and I think I was even at his first 2 major league games. He crushed a few against the Phillies. So if that was his first series, I was there.
3) Lately there has been some debate on who should lead off for the Rangers in 2011 with many suggesting Kinsler should lead off again. Which player do you think should lead off and why?
I really think the Rangers could use either Kinsler or Andrus as the leadoff hitter, but what I find most appealing is dropping Michael Young down to sixth in the order. Kinsler and Andrus can cause opposing pitchers serious problems on the base paths together while Young would get more RBI opportunities hitting behind the mashers in the middle of the order. Kinsler and Andrus setting the table for Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz and Young could be a lethal offense that will cause many pitching coaches to lose some sleep the night before.
Elvis Andrus, no doubt in my mind. Andrus has done nothing to warrant losing the spot. In 2011, I would leadoff with Andrus and bat Kinsler second. On days Andrus is off or if hurt, then I don’t have that much of problem with Kinsler leading off…short term. Andrus has only been the leadoff hitter for one year and he still has a lot of room to grow as a hitter, those two combinations is what makes my decision easy and I bat Andrus leadoff as much as possible.
I don’t think you could go wrong with either one. Elvis didn’t disappoint me at all as a leadoff hitter in 2010. I thought he saw plenty of pitches in each at bat to start the game, giving his guys that many more pitches to look at. I worry which Kinsler we will get with the addition of another hitting coach. I don’t much care for his composure at the plate for a leadoff hitter. Having emotion isn’t a bad thing but his reaction when he pop ups to the infield on the first pitch during an at bat isn’t much different than my reaction from the couch. It’s disappointing. To me, the ideal lineup would have Elvis at #1, Kinsler at #2 and Michael down in the order. The issue here is will Michael accept such a demeaning demotion!?!?
I'm okay with it, but if it doesn't work out, I just hope they'll be open to adjusting it. Sometimes it seems like they are stubborn when it comes to lineup changes. Anyway, I liked Borbon and Andrus batting back to back, but Kinsler is pretty speedy too. So I guess you can't go wrong with all three of them in a row.
4) Let's have some fun with projections and predict the Rangers 25 man roster for the 2013 season. Which prospects do you expect to be major contributors that season? Will Michael Young still be in Texas for the final year of his current contract?
Infield: C - Jose Felix 1B - Mitch Moreland, 2B – Jurickson Profar, 3B – Adrian Beltre, SS – Elvis Andrus, DH – Michael Young
Outfield: RF – Nelson Cruz, CF – Engel Beltre, LF – Josh Hamilton
Bench: Kellin Deglan, David Murphy, Mike Napoli, Andres Blanco
Starting Rotation: Jared Weaver, Martin Perez, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman
Bullpen: C – Tanner Scheppers, SU – Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, Miguel De Los Santos, Robbie Erlin
Starting Pitchers: Josh Johnson, CJ Wilson, Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Derek Holland
Relief Pitchers: Alexi Ogando, Pedro Strop, Robbie Erlin, Fabio Castillo, Darren O’Day, Barret Loux
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Catchers: Kellin Deglan and Jose Felix
Infield: Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Mike Olt, Michael Young
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Engel Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Julio Borbon, Jake Skole
(Notice that Michael Kirkman, Jurickson Profar, and Wilmer Font are not listed as I expect them gone to get Josh Johnson)
Infield: C – Kellin Deglan, 1B – Prince Fielder, 2B – Ian Kinsler, SS – Elvis Andrus, 3B – Adrian Beltre, DH – Josh Hamilton
Outfield: RF – Nelson Cruz, CF – Engel Beltre, LF – Jake Skole
Bench: David Murphy, Andres Blanco, Mitch Moreland, Taylor Teagarden
Starting Rotation: Matt Cain, Martin Perez, Neftali Feliz, Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando
Bullpen: Tanner Scheppers, Darren O’Day, Zach Phillips, Pedro Strop, Miguel De Los Santos, Yoshinori Tateyama, Eric Hurley