This was supposed to be Ronald Guzman’s job by now, but unfortunately that’s not the case. While he may be the favorite this spring, the Rangers have given themselves several options who could overtake him. Who do we think will win the job? Who has the best opportunity to thrive with an opportunity? Let’s run down the options:
Guzman has appeared in 210 games over the past two seasons, and while he’s shown some power the overall production hasn’t been there. Over 723 PA he’s hit .229 with 26 HR and 94 RBI, with things getting bad enough last season that he was forced to spend time back in the minors. The big problem is his approach, as he struggled to make consistent contact:
- SwStr% – 14.0%
- O-Swing% – 36.3%
He struggled against all types of pitches, with a 13.73% Whiff% against fastballs being his “best” mark in 2019. It shouldn’t be a shocking development, considering his Triple-A career 11.5% SwStr% over 778 PA over the past four years. You could argue that his power and an improvement in his .292 BABIP in the Majors could lead to at least a usable average, but consistently chasing outside the strike zone could also lead to repeated weak contact.
That poor approach also hasn’t led to gaudy walk totals (9.0% career walk rate), and that doesn’t make him all that attractive even in OBP formats. There is a little bit more power for the 25-year old to tap into (38 doubles and 2 triples) and some of the underlying metrics could point towards it (like an above average launch angle in ’19 at 14.9%, compared to the league average 11.2%), but is that enough? For a player likely ticketed for a platoon (.179 career against southpaws) the answer is that it isn’t.
The narrative has always been that Bird needs to prove that he can stay healthy, though he’s also a career .211 hitter in 700 PA. Also a left-handed hitter, Bird has shown a better approach than Guzman (11.3% SwStr%, 26.1% O-Swing%), though he also has a skewed slash as he’s produced significantly better at Yankee Stadium:
- Home – .225/.312/.468
- Road – .195/.289/.372
We will have to wait and see how things play in the new Texas stadium, though does it matter? A slightly better approach isn’t going to make him any better than what the Rangers currently have. It made sense to add Bird as a non-roster invitee, but unless he tears the cover off the ball this spring he’s simply too similar of an option to think that he’s going to emerge.
Once considered a promising prospect, Travis has never developed the power necessary to be considered a viable starting first baseman. Over 278 PA in the Majors he’s hit 7 HR, adding just 13 doubles and 1 triple. Considering his .392 career SLG over 1,198 PA at Triple-A it’s hard to imagine things suddenly changing.
He is right-handed and has spent time in the outfield, which could help his cause, but Danny Santana is already on the roster, is a switch hitter and offers even more positional flexibility. His versatility makes someone like Travis unnecessary.
With Danny Santana as well as Nick Solak on the roster, it is going to take big spring performances from Bird or Travis (or a complete collapse from Guzman) for either of them to force their way into the Rangers’ plans. They were solid, low cost gambles, but for now Guzman appears to have the highest upside and also the inside track on winning the job.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings: