DALLAS — After a 68-win season in 2022 that saw a new regime take over in the front office, and the eventual union with future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy, the Texas Rangers spent the majority of the offseason revamping their starting rotation in the hopes of contending for the playoffs after a years-long rebuild.
With 72 players in big league camp, the Rangers will have a lot of decisions to make as Cactus League games get underway beginning on Feb. 24. Eventually, those 72 players will be whittled down to 26 before the season kicks off against the reigning National League champion Philadelphia Phillies on March 30.
Here is a preliminary guess at which players will take the field field for Texas on Opening Day:
Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Jonah Heim
Jonah Heim held down the fort as the starting catcher with a solid first half last season before petering out at the plate in the second half. 2022 Opening Day starter Mitch Garver was limited to DH duties before missing the second half with arm surgery.
With Garver healthy, expect him to relieve Heim more often to keep both healthy throughout the season. Prospect Sam Huff and veteran Sandy Leon are other options if the Rangers opt to carry three catchers.
First base (1): Nathaniel Lowe
A breakout performer for the Rangers last season, Lowe has entrenched himself as the starting first baseman in Texas after claiming the American League’s Silver Slugger award for the position.
Second base (1): Marcus Semien
A part of the Rangers’ $500 million dollar keystone combination, Semien started slow for Texas but picked it up in the second half and is expected to be a key leader for the squad in 2023 and beyond.
Shortstop (1): Corey Seager
Seager’s debut season in Texas didn’t go quite as well as expected but he still mashed a career-high 33 home runs and could be one of baseball’s biggest winners from the changed infield shift rules that often robbed him of hits in 2022.
Third base (1): Josh Jung
Top prospect and former first round pick out of Texas Tech, Jung was penciled in to be the starting third baseman last season before a spring injury cost him all but the final month of the season.
Now 25 years old, and with 26 games of big league action under his belt, the Rangers will be counting on Jung to become an everyday contributor beginning in 2023.
Outfield (4): Adolis Garcia, Leody Taveras, Robbie Grossman, Brad Miller
Garcia followed up an All-Star appearance in 2021 with a steadier campaign in 2022 and looks to be a solid regular in right field. Meanwhile, Taveras faces a do-or-die season as the everyday centerfielder. After a poor second half at the plate last season, Taveras’ rope could be short but he has the potential for a breakout campaign.
Left field remains the biggest hole on the roster with recently added Grossman brought in late to act as a platoon partner for Miller. Grossman, a career .790 OPS against left-handed pitching, will likely start against southpaws while Miller, a career .765 OPS against righties, will be given an opportunity to rebound from a poor first season with Texas.
Bench (3): Bubba Thompson, Mark Mathias, Josh Smith
Thompson could elbow his way into more playing time at both left and center field and looks to be a potential weapon on the basepaths while providing top shelf defense as a fourth/fifth outfielder.
Mathias joined the Rangers mid-season in the trade that sent Matt Bush to Milwaukee and impressed as the main bench option who can play all across the diamond. Smith, meanwhile, debuted in 2022 and didn’t hit for much power but the infielder-by-trade did well defensively in his auditions in the outfield which gives him an upper hand on fellow prospect Ezequiel Duran, who just misses the cut.
Rotation (5): Jake deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney
Three of these names were added to the staff this winter with arguably baseball’s best hurler deGrom the headliner. Strikeout artists Eovaldi and Heaney also join the rotation, which returns Perez and Gray.
The rotation is lousy with risk – with only Perez avoiding the injured list in recent seasons. However, when healthy, the quintet has a chance to be among the very best in baseball.
Next man up will include veterans Jake Odorizzi, Dane Dunning, and Glenn Otto with prospects Cole Ragans, Owen White, and Jack Leiter expected to be knocking on the door later this summer.
Bullpen (8): Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Brock Burke, Joe Barlow, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Hearn, John King, Danny Duffy
The Rangers do not have a bonafide, veteran closer but Leclerc – who closed for Texas in 2018 and 2019 before snatching the job from Barlow last summer – is likely the first option to take the ball in the 9th.
Hernandez returned from injury in 2022 and turned it on in the final few months to position himself as a top late-innings option. Former starting pitcher prospect Burke enjoyed a breakout season in relief and could be counted on in high-leverage situations.
Hearn bombed out in his attempt to join the rotation to start the season but rebounded nicely in the bullpen and could be a valuable left-handed option.
The Rangers will be hoping for bounce back seasons from Barlow and King after being solid arms during the 2021 campaign, while newcomers Odorizzi and Duffy are right and left-handed options to pitch long relief for Texas in 2023.
Other names who could claim spots in the bullpen include former closer Ian Kennedy, rostered veterans Josh Sborz, Glenn Otto, and Dane Dunning, veteran non-roster invitees Zach Littell, Reyes Moronta, and Dominic Leone, and prospects Kyle Cody, Chase Lee, and Yerry Rodriguez.
Do you think the Rangers have a roster that can contend in 2023? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @BaseballTX.