2017 Texas Rangers review: Outfield
Good afternoon class it’s time to hand out report cards for the Rangers outfield. Of the four position groups we’re grading, the outfield had the least amount of “significant bummers.” That said, the overall production still wasn’t up to the expectations of the preseason. Let’s start out on the high notes before we wade back down into the sadness that was the Rangers 2017 season.
Carlos Gomez: B+
Carlos Gomez was far and away the best outfielder for the Rangers this season when he could take the field. Limited by injuries, Gomez was only able to play in 105 games. His slash line at the end of the year .255/.340/.462. For the year he totaled 41 extra base hits, including this bomb from his first 2017 at bat, and 13 stolen bases.
In a bad defensive outfield, Gomez stood out as one of the only competent defenders. His defense is what took him from a B to a B+ for me.
Two things that stood out about Gomez’s splits, the first being his extreme home and away splits. During his 51 games at home Gomez batted .298 and slugged .573. On the road that turned into an average of .216 and a slugging percentage of .358. A shift that extreme isn’t just due to park factors.
The second peculiarity in Gomez’s splits is how much better Gomez was against right-handed pitchers and how he struggled against lefties. This was something new for Gomez, his career OPS against righties .734 versus .732 against lefties. In 2017 Gomez had an .852 OPS against righties compared to .645 facing southpaws.
Gomez performed well in his first full season as a Ranger, but unfortunately not well enough to bring this team where they expected to go and he enters the winter a free agent for a second consecutive year.
Jared Hoying: F+
He was a major league baseball player in 36 games. Hoying did not play well. On the bright side he did get his first MLB home run! Nobody can take that from you Jared, have a plus for that.
Shin Soo Choo: B
Since Choo played more than half his games in the outfield, I’m counting him as an outfielder. Choo’s presence brought a consistency to this group at the plate. This year, Choo was able to stay healthy and play in 149 games. That’s the good news. The bad news is Choo played DH in more games this season (65) than his other three seasons in Texas combined (50).
The reason Choo DH’d so much is because he's become a defensive liability and only played outfield because he was often the most competent defensive corner outfielder. Here’s more good news on Choo: he tied his career high in homers with 22 this season and stole more than 10 bases (12) for the first time as a Ranger.
Both the main WAR calculators put Choo around 1 for the season (0.8 fWAR 1.1 bWAR) which would net him third behind Delino DeShields and Gomez respectively. Choo had a fine season but at this point he is who he is.
Ryan Rua: D
Remember in 2016 when Rua was a solid versatile bench piece? That didn’t carry over into 2017. Rua played in 63 games but tallied only 144 plate appearances, barely over two a game. His OPS+ this year dropped to 63 from last year’s 92.
Maybe with more playing time he could’ve put up better numbers, but his at bats were taken up heavily by a combo of Drew Robinson, Mike Napoli, and Willie Calhoun. After this tough year he might be spending more time in Round Rock next season.
Delino DeShields: B
Coming off a 2016 season that could only be described as ‘woof,’ Delino rebounded in 2017 by getting back closer to his level of play in 2015. He put together a .269/.347/.367 slash line and stole 29 bases while being caught only eight times. Delino also drummed up six homers, including this inside the parker.
His biggest improvement on the year was seen in his defense. When Gomez missed significant time with injury, DeShields was forced to take up the everyday center field spot. DeShields was able to parlay that extra playing time into becoming the only Rangers outfielder to record a positive dWAR according to baseball reference (0.5).
On its own his speed makes him worthy of a roster spot, add in his on base skills and base stealing ability and he’s a solid bench piece. But without defensive competence it was difficult to justify starting DeShields every day.
This step was the biggest bright spot in 2017 for this outfield. As a decent defensive outfielder, DeShields took the jump from solid bench piece to important young controllable player.
Nomar Mazara: C
This may seem a little harsh but Mazara’s 2017 was the most disappointing aspect of the season outside of losing Yu Darvish. Maz’s impressive rookie campaign led us to believe that was only the beginning, waiting on the burgeoning young star to take another step in 2017.
That didn’t really happen. Mazara did improve his walk rate and strikeout rate, but his OPS was only 6 points higher than in his rookie year. I’m not a scout so my insight as to why Mazara struggled wouldn’t be as accurate as you deserve, but this piece by Kevin Carter should shed some light on what’s going on.
More importantly than whatever’s happening with his offense, Mazara remains a bad defensive outfielder. It’s not that he is incapable of being a serviceable defensive outfielder, he just hasn’t been able to take the steps to become one quite yet. Texas has enough lefty hitting first base/DH guys already in Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Choo, and soon to be Ronald Guzman. The Rangers can’t afford to let Mazara become another one.
Mazara is still really young, and had a decent year, but levied against his expectations it felt like a disappointment. Sorry you got the stink end of the grading curve Maz, that’s just how baseball go.
Willie Calhoun: Incomplete
Calhoun only played in 13 games which isn’t enough to give a grade, but he was fun enough that I’d like to leave y’all on a high note. Willie hit .265, made a few diving catches despite learning outfield on the fly, and also hit a bomb off Justin Verlander. Can’t wait to see what this swagger machine can do next year.
That’s all the report cards I’ve got for you. Make sure you get your parents to sign them and bring them back on Monday. Class dismissed.