Texas Rangers Positional Preview - Part II: First Base
Much like the catching situation, the first base position has been a revolving door since the departure of Mark Teixeira in 2007; not that Rangers fans are complaining since that trade led to two World Series appearances.
Despite having top prospects like Justin Smoak and Chris Davis at one point, the Rangers are still trying to find a long term solution for first base and Mitch Moreland will get at least one more season to prove he is that solution with top prospect Mike Olt nipping at his heels.
Moreland, much like Davis, exploded onto the scene in Texas with an outstanding rookie campaign and a memorable home run in the 2010 World Series against the Giants, but struggled to make the necessary adjustments to remain a consistent threat in the batting order.
There is no question Moreland is the best defensive first baseman on the roster, but Texas needs his bat to return to form more so now than ever with the departure of power hitters Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli.
He will get one more chance to establish himself with Texas this season, but if Olt gets off to a fast start at AAA Round Rock or as a bench player on the big league roster the leash on Moreland will get even smaller.
The best case for the Rangers this season would be for Moreland to return to his rookie form and be a force at the bottom of the order, allowing the team to either keep Olt at AAA for another season of development or as possible trade bait at the deadline.
Going into Spring Training Olt appears to be headed back to Round Rock for at least the beginning of the season unless he has a hot March forcing his way onto the roster as a platoon player with Moreland and a backup for Adrian Beltre at third base.
Texas has clearly learned a lesson by rushing Smoak to the majors with how they've dealt with both Olt and Jurickson Profar.
The way the current roster is configured, both top prospects could find themselves teammates once again, this time at Round Rock. I almost feel bad for that league, almost.
Another thing threatening Moreland, making this season critical for him, is the very real possibility of a position switch of Ian Kinsler to first base when the Rangers are ready to force Profar onto the big league team.
To do so could involve many different scenarios but the most likely will move Kinsler over to first base and promoting Profar to second base; unless of course Texas feels like an Elvis Andrus extension will be unlikely then all bets are off.
Despite the numerous different scenarios impacting the long term situation at first base, the best case for the Rangers will always be for Moreland to finally establish himself at the major league level.
If he does that Texas will have a very good problem to have and one other teams in the league would envy, too many championship caliber players on the roster.
If that happens Jon Daniels will have some work to do, but as Rangers fans know all too well, Daniels will find the best way to finally win that elusive World Championship.
There is only one question Texas is looking to answer right now: is Mitch Moreland going to be a Justin Smoak or a Nelson Cruz?
Only way to answer that question is to toss Moreland into the fire and see if he takes off or burns.