Amidst Texas Rangers Struggles, Young Players Provide Silver Lining

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 22: Keone Kela #50 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 22, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 22: Keone Kela #50 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 22, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

If you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet that you’re a Rangers fan — and if you’re a Rangers fan, you don’t need me to tell you that this season has been a tough one. It’s almost as if a decade of success has spoiled us or something?

On my worst days, I worry that the Texas Rangers are heading back to the Dark Ages of the Tom Hicks era. From 2000-2007, the organization never finished higher than third place, averaging 76 wins. While Jon Daniels has shown himself far savvier than Hicks, it’s reasonable for fans to have concern for the future. 

However, consider this: 

Nomar Mazara, in his third season with Texas, just celebrated his 23rd birthday. 

Rougned Odor, in his fifth season, is 24.

Joey Gallo is just 24.  

None of these guys can rent a car.

Keone Kela, Delino DeShields, and Jurickson Profar are all 25. 

Alex Claudio is 26. 

Martin Perez, in his seventh season, is just 27, and Elvis Andrus — he of his tenth major league season, is still shy of his 30th birthday. 

Let’s not forget newcomers Ronald Guzman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who are all of 23 years old.

Bearing in mind that, depending on who you ask, a player’s prime years are somewhere between 27 and 29, there’s some optimism to be found with this group. 

Guzman hasn’t been terribly consistent in the dozen-plus games he’s been with the club, but he’s had some timely hits, and has shown that he has some staying power at first base. Defensively, he’s been great.

Kiner-Falefa, the catcher-turned-second baseman-turned-shortstop-turned-third-baseman is already a fan favorite, and the early returns on him (a .277 average, more pop than anticipated, a Swiss army knife’s worth of defensive versatility) are enough to inspire some confidence.

In some cases (Odor, Gallo), it seems like a player is already the player that they are going to be. There are zero people in baseball who expect Roogie to suddenly be an on-base guy, and nobody is hedging bets that Gallo is going to develop a Votto-ian strike zone awareness. In the case of Gallo, though, (a career .205 hitter), what happens if he’s even able to get his average up to, say, .250? Is he Stanton-esque? The power is there, no doubt about it. 

Profar has been a bit of a surprise, and I’m not sure how I mean that. The bat is almost non-existent and the defense has been extremely shoddy (this is the former #1 prospect in all of baseball, after all), but his plate discipline and ability to work counts and get on base has been incredibly impressive.

Kela has looked like the real deal this season as the Rangers closer. His stuff is absolutely electric, and while the word “edge” gets tossed around a lot in the game, I’d be hard-pressed to find five other players in baseball tougher than Kela is.  Just last night, he earned a five-pitch save against Toronto.

Mazara is off to the kind of start that fans have been hoping for, and though it seems as if the power might not come, given his size (6’4, 220), this might be one of those cases where a 28-year-old Mazara very well could be popping out 30 homers. It’s hard to ask for more out of a 23-year-old than Maz has provided thus far. 

As for Andrus — the elder statesman, if you will — he is as much the heart and soul of the Rangers as anybody not named Adrian Beltre. With Beltre’s departure imminent, Elvis becomes the new leader of the team. He was off to a great start before landing on the DL for the first time in his career, and Rangers fans have every reason to believe that he’ll pick it back up again when he returns. 

Additionally, if there’s any bright side to be found in Andrus’ injury, it’s that it might increase the likelihood that the shortstop will exercise his player option to remain with the club beyond this season. A season similar to last year, and the feeling was that he might test the market. Losing both Beltre and Andrus would be too much to bear. 

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In case you’re wondering: yes, I am aaaaaaabsolutely glossing over the fact that none of these players are starting pitchers. While that’s a glaring, glaring issue with the entire Texas organization, top to bottom — and has been for some time — I’m trying my damnedest to use this article as an opportunity to find some upside. 

(Also, yes, I am ignoring the fact that Martin Perez is on the aforementioned list. I simply don’t believe that he’s ever going to be come around, as he hasn’t, you know, ever in his career.)

The Rangers might not get to 75 wins this season. Hell, they might not climb out of the basement of the American League West until the schedule clears in October.

It’s going to be a revolving door in some spots (DeShields needs to start hitting, Robinson and Rua needed to be in Round Rock a week ago), and most nights aren’t going to be pretty.

The silver lining, though, might be in the Guzman’s and the Kiner-Falefa’s, and whoever else is hiding in the minors with some breakout in them (Scott Heineman? Josh Morgan? Please god any right-handed bat?). While 2018 ain’t looking to get any prettier, Rangers fans might be catching some glimpses into a brighter future than they might think.

Next: Do the Rangers owe their fans Kershaw next season?

Just don’t ask me who’s going to pitch.