Tuesday Newsletter time: Trying to identify who might be the Texas Rangers' leadoff hitter in 2022
Isiah Kiner-Falefa had that job most of the 2021 season, as Marcus Semien did for Toronto.
Our son is 9, and he has reached the point in baseball acumen where he understands that a team needs a good leadoff hitter.
He’s also still naive about how teams acquire players, so he’s pretty sure that all the Texas Rangers need is Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. I played along with him as he started putting together a 2022 lineup with Betts and Bellinger in the fold.
We put Betts first, and then it dawned on him that the Rangers don’t have a leadoff hitter.
He’s not wrong.
Thanks to the lockout, manager Chris Woodward can’t talk about his plans because he would be talking about 40-man players or free agents. That is strictly verboten during a lockout.
It might not be a clear-cut answer even if he could talk about it.
Marcus Semien could very well sit atop the lineup. He batted first in 88 games last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, in large part because George Springer was injured much of the season, and hit 24 of his 45 home runs there.
Woodward likes the idea of having a home-run threat atop the lineup who could give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. He said that many times about Shin-Soo Choo.
But that power threat might work better in the middle of the lineup.
One other mark against him batting leadoff is his career .324 on-base percentage. He posted a career-best .369 OBP in 2019, but his second-best OBP was .334 in 2021.
One other reason for Semien batting leadoff: Who else is there?
Isiah Kiner-Falefa posted a .299 OBP last season as the Rangers’ primary leadoff man (88 starts). The right-handed hitter also posted just a .233 average against left-handed pitchers.
Of course, he doesn’t have an everyday job locked up with Semien and Corey Seager at second base and shortstop, and with Josh Jung potentially opening the season at third base. Kiner-Falefa could be a super utility man who also gets games at designated hitter.
The Rangers could also trade him.
Willie Calhoun has batted leadoff, but still isn’t a known quantity after five seasons because of injury. What is known about him doesn’t exactly scream leadoff man.
Leody Taveras walked 24 times in 40 games in the Dominican Winter League regular season and struck out only 23 times. He has elite speed, is a switch hitter, and has some pop. But he had a miserable 2021, leaving a lot for him to prove, and could start 2022 in the minors.
It’s not going to be Seager, who has batted second in more than half of his career games.
A Semien-Seager 1-2 punch looks like the best option, but the Rangers would like structure a lineup that would push Adolis Garcia and Nathaniel Lowe out of the middle of the order to take some pressure off of them and help them get some better pitches to hit.
If anything, the leadoff conundrum shows that the Rangers’ lineup has holes despite the Semien and Seager signings, and why they might try to acquire one more bat once the lockout is over.
Staffs coming together
The Rangers plan on announcing their minor-league coaches sooner than later, which is good because the Newsletter is running short on topics. Thanks to Collin McBride, though, here’s something to write.
McBride tweeted out over the weekend that he has been hired by the Rangers as a minor-league hitting coach. He will oversee hitters at Low A Down East, according to a source.
If any other new Rangers coaches want to tweet about their new jobs, make sure to @ me.
When last I asked, the Rangers have created openings by not retaining coaches but also have had some openings created by coaches leaving for other organizations. One known opening is Double A hitting coach after Josue Perez was not retained for 2022.
I bet Mr. Dog Teaser doesn’t do that again. Enjoy. See you Wednesday.