MLB: Angels v Rangers July 5, 2007

The Rangers have only played a few games in Surprise, but there are some early observations to be made from the early returns.

Rebuilt Middle of the Order Looking Good So Far

Before anyone starts to make assumptions about the Rangers offense, keep in mind the pitchers are ahead of the hitters preparation this early in the spring schedule.

That being said, the Rangers offense has shown flashes of what it could be once all the kinks are worked out.

The middle of the order of Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler have gotten off to good starts.

Young is placing the ball where the situation dictates like it’s mid-July, Hamilton is once again showing patience at the plate and Kinsler is settling into the five hole very nicely.

Top of the Rotation Appears Set

On the mound the first four members of the projected rotation are off to fine starts. With the opening day starter still up in the air Rich Harden and Scott Feldman are going about their business with little regard for their own competition.

Colby Lewis has been sharp in two appearances while Tommy Hunter showed why the Rangers penciled him into the rotation before camp began in his spring debut.

5th Starter Competition Heating Up

As for the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, the early leaders at this point are Matt Harrison and CJ Wilson.

Harrison reported to camp 30 pounds lighter and sporting some life on his fastball. Wilson has been dominating early in camp giving the idea of moving the electric left-hander into the rotation some legs.

With four right-handers already in the rotation, the Rangers will likely go with one of the lefties for the fifth spot, especially considering Brandon McCarthy’s injury riddled past and slow start this season.

Derek Holland is still in the mix, but it has to get better than his spring debut against the Angels where he failed to complete an inning of work. Granted the defense behind him took the inning off, but he still has to improve his command of the strike zone if he wants to make the club.

Final Roster Spot Still Up For Grabs

With Khalil Greene not coming to camp the Rangers are in a tough spot for the final spot on the bench. The team needs another infielder who can give Elvis Andrus the occasional night off, but the in-house options are not making the grade.

Joaquin Arias could not have gotten off to a worse start both at the plate and in the field. The Rangers don’t expect much offense from their utility infielder, but they do expect him to play solid defense; something Arias has yet to do.

Esteban German will get some work in at shortstop this week, but he’s a corner infielder at best. Barring a trade the Rangers will be forced to either put a below average fielder in at short to give Andrus a night off or move Young over from third.

Max Ramirez is making the transition over to first base, but again he’s a corner infielder so Khalil Greene really put the Rangers in a tough spot. 

The Rangers are likely to make a trade late in camp for a utility infielder unless German shows he can handle the job on occasion.

Sloppy Play Must Stop

Closing on a negative is not optimal, but the Rangers have been downright sloppy thus far in the spring schedule. Ron Washington has had multiple ‘conversations’ with Andrus about his lack of focus.

Infielders are colliding with each other up the middle and making lazy throws to first base causing errors. In short the Rangers defense is not making the grade and it cannot be blamed on being early in the spring.

They’re better than this and they know it, it’s time to make the adjustments necessary and play the level of defense they are capable of regardless of whether the games count or not.