With spring training underway for the Texas Rangers, we're looking into some of the biggest questions facing the team in 2012. Five of our WFAA Sports Bloggers will answer five questions in what we're calling Take 5.
Kevin Turner: I don't really see any young player coming in and being a difference maker or taking a solidified starting spot on the field.
I think Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon will split time in center field, along with Josh Hamilton on days when David Murphy plays. I think this is Borbon's last chance to prove his worth with the Rangers. I think Texas would love to have Leonys Martin up in the majors at the end of May or early June, and I think he'll take Borbon's spot as a part-time centerfielder against right-handed pitchers.
I expect Martin Perez to get a call-up to the big leagues in August or September. If he can harness his pitches and show good command, then look for him being an option out of the bullpen when the playoffs roll around.
Josh Davis: I think this spring training will tell us a lot about the competition in center field, where a young player is likely to get a shot. I think Julio Borbon will get another chance to prove he can and should be the centerfielder (for 2012 at least).
The club seemed to like Borbon in center early last season before injuries (mostly his ankle) brought his season to an abrupt end. It was awful timing for the 26 year old - the Rangers had been patient with him as his average fell to .179 on April 23, but he had brought it up to .284 by May 9, the ninth game of a 10-game hit streak in which he hit 5 RBIs and only struck out once. His last game of 2011 came on May 13.
This week, Borbon has said his ankle is healthy and he gained a lot of confidence in winter ball, which he'll need to beat out Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin for the centerfielder job.
However, Martin is likely still at least a year away and Gentry is great in his current role as a dangerous pinch hitter/runner who can come into games late to make something out of thin air offensively or shrink the field with his speed defensively. Borbon should get one more crack at the starting job this year, with Gentry getting Borbon's off days. He must rise to the occasion of these next few weeks to prove it.
Alex Collins: Julio Borbon needs to play baseball well this year in the majors.
He is a capable player with highly-touted speed, but cannot seem to stay in the bigs. Borbon does not strike out often, nor does he walk much, so in order to utilize that speed, he must hit well. This is a year in which Borbon must show the Rangers something if he ever has a hope of being a long-term contributor.
Regarding prospects, I expect Miguel de los Santos to make the big show at some point, if he continues to strike opponents out at high rates as he likely moves his way up AAA ball. He should get a shot as a lefty arm in the Texas bullpen at some point. The always intriguing Tanner Scheppers may get a shot to pitch in the majors if he displays the electric heat and strike-out ability he most certainly possesses. Scheppers must keep healthy, however, in order to get a chance.
Mike Marshall: The youngster I'm most excited to see in Arlington would be Martin Perez, but he likely won't be up this year. I'm not ruling it out but just know if he's in the big leagues this year something has gone horribly wrong or he's taking over the minor league world.
Mike Olt and Leonys Martin are the two players that I see with the clearest paths to the 2012 Texas Rangers lineup. Olt is the emergency parachute when/if the brass decides this Mitch Moreland thing has hit its end, or as a spot starter if any of the corner infielders go down. Leonys Martin should get his opportunity early and often in the Rangers outfield. I predict we see six weeks max of Josh and Nelly in the lineup together before the hamstring virus hits.
Gentry doesn't give you consistent, major-league at bats, despite how solid his defense is. Borbon got jettisoned out of here quicker than I've ever seen. Kirkman intrigues me, but at some point, you have to force your way onto the scene. I think we're about a year out from the majority of these names getting significant run at RBiA.
Sam Hale: There's two for me: Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin. One of these two needs to emerge from spring training with the starting center field job.
All due respect towards Craig Gentry, but Gentry is a bench player who offers some useful tools. He's not a starting outfielder, but he has value. Borbon was the heir apparent to the center field job when he came up through the Texas system, but has fizzled and ended last year with a broken ankle. Martin, the Cuban defector Texas signed last season, now appears to have the lead in the race for the center field job.
Both of these players have the talent and the tools to do the job, it's up to one of them to take the job with excellent play in spring training. I would not be shocked by either of these players starting in center on opening day, however it needs to be one of them.
Which of our bloggers do you most agree with? Have your own take? Let us know in the comments!