Analyzing Texas Rangers Hitters For 2020

Jonathan Metzelaar takes a look at the Texas Rangers' lineup for 2020.

The 2019 Texas Rangers were a fun team to invest in. Though they were roughly league-average by most offensive metrics, big seasons from veterans Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, and Hunter Pence, and surprising breakouts from Danny Santana, Willie Calhoun, and Nick Solak meant that there was plenty of offensive fantasy value to be mined from their roster. Heading into 2020, Texas’ lineup has a high ceiling, as a healthy Joey Gallo, a resurgent Rougned Odor, a big free-agent signing, and full seasons from their promising youngsters could help the Rangers claim a spot as a top-10 offense.

(Last Updated: January 8, 2020)

 

Roster Changes

 

 

Hitter Previews

 

Catchers

 

Robinson Chirinos (C | Batting 9th)

2019 (437 PA): 57 R, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 1 SB, .238 AVG/.347 OBP/.443 SLG | C #16 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Robinson Chirinos is returning to the Rangers this year after spending one season as the Astros’ primary catcher. Considering the dearth of legitimate catching options on the Texas roster, he’ll likely slide in as the team’s top option behind the dish despite the fact that he’s 35 years old. At one point in time, Chirinos seemed like a guy that could hit 25 or more homers if given full-time at-bats. But considering his advanced age–and the fact the he couldn’t eclipse 20 homers while playing in one of the friendliest ballparks for right-handed homers last season–mid-teens power is probably a more fair expectation. His barrel rates are respectable for a catcher (9.7% career), so it’s certainly possible he can match his 17-homer output from last year. But with his swinging-strike and contact rates trending in the wrong direction, expect that power to come at the cost of your batting average. He’s worth a flier in deep and two-catcher leagues, especially if they favor OBP over batting average.

 

Strengths: HR, OBP

Weaknesses: AVG, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Chirinos becomes the Rangers’ primary catcher, racking up nearly 450 plate appearances and flirting with 20 homers while hitting .230 with a moderate amount of runs and RBI.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Chirinos struggles to begin the year and is demoted to a backup catcher role or released, losing all value in fantasy leagues.

 

2020 Projection (400 PA): 45 R, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB, .220 AVG/.325 OBP/.430 SLG

 

Jose Trevino (C | Batting 9th)

2019 (126 PA): 18 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB, .258 AVG/.272 OBP/.383 SLG | C #54 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Jose Trevino swooped in and grabbed the starting catcher role to close out the 2019 season for the Texas Rangers. During his 40 games behind the dish he outproduced fellow catchers Jeff Mathis and Isiah Kiner-Falefa both offensively and defensively, though that admittedly isn’t saying much. Trevino appears to be lined up to share playing time at catcher with Robinson Chirinos to open the year. Considering his minor league track record, there’s very little reason to get excited about the prospect of owning him for fantasy purposes, especially given how few at-bats he’ll likely soak up.

 

Strengths: N/A

Weaknesses: HR, R, RBI, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Trevino continues to prove himself as the most competent offensive and defensive option for the Rangers behind the dish, accumulating roughly 450 plate appearances while hitting roughly .250 and swatting eight homers.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The Rangers pick up Castillo’s option, and Trevino becomes the team’s second catcher or is demoted.

 

2020 Projection (300 PA): 30 R, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB, .240 AVG/.260 OBP/.330 SLG

 

Jeff Mathis (C | Batting N/A)

2019 (244 PA): 17 R, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .158 AVG/.209 OBP/.224 SLG | C #112 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Breakdown: Jeff Mathis is the epitome of a defense-only catcher, as he’s posted a career .195 average and 46 wRC+ over 2,938 plate appearances. His 2019 season was dreadful even by his standards, though, as he produced -2.1 WAR, which would have been the worst mark in baseball had he accumulated enough at-bats to qualify. Mathis’ defense—the only reason he ever sees the field—waned quite a bit in 2019, and in all likelihood he won’t have a spot on the major league roster, though there is a chance he usurps the backup catcher role from Jose Trevino.

 

Strengths: N/A

Weaknesses: AVG, HR, R, RBI, P/AB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Mathis begins to flash his defensive prowess again and becomes the Rangers backup catcher. However, there are practically no scenarios where Mathis is worth owning in fantasy leagues, as the best you can probably hope for from him offensively is a .220 average with about five home runs.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Mathis continues to be a complete liability both defensively and offensively and is released.

 

2020 Projection (200 PA): 10 R, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .200 AVG/.250 OBP/.290 SLG

 

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (C/3B | Batting N/A)

2019 (222 PA): 23 R, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, .238 AVG/.299 OBP/.322 SLG | C #46 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Kiner-Falefa is a member of a dying breed: catcher-eligible players who can play other positions. This, paired with his ability to accumulate double-digit steals over the course of a full season, made him an intriguing catcher option in some 2019 drafts. Unfortunately, despite his ability to play both second base and third base, the at-bats still never accumulated for him last year. And when he did make it into the lineup, he didn’t produce much, as seen by his .084 ISO and .272 wOBA. There is some potential upside here in two-catcher and very deep leagues if he manages to accumulate a decent amount of at-bats by filling in around the diamond. But considering he’s a defensive liability practically everywhere, that’s unlikely to happen.

 

Strengths: SB

Weaknesses: HR, R, RBI

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Kiner-Falefa picks up at-bats around the infield and occasionally at catcher, becoming an asset in two-catcher and deep leagues.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Kiner-Falefa has a tough spring training and is optioned to the minors.

 

2020 Projection (150 PA): 15 R, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB, .250 AVG/.315 OBP/.350 SLG.

 

Infielders

 

Elvis Andrus (SS | Batting 2nd )

2019 (424 PA): 81 R, 12 HR, 72 RBI, 31 SB, .275 AVG/.313 OBP/.393 SLG | SS #10 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 129.8

 

Andrus really broke out in 2017, batting .297 with 20 homers and 25 stolen bases while scoring 100 runs and accumulating 88 RBI. That season made Andrus’ 2018 campaign all the more disappointing, as a broken wrist cost him a big chunk of at-bats, and he never really seemed to find his groove on the way to posting just a 76 wRC+. Perhaps the disappointment from 2018 still looms large, because many fantasy owners seem to overlook just how resurgent his 2019 campaign was. Andrus’ uptick in power the last few years means he’ll likely be able to help fantasy owners across the board, and in an offensive landscape where stolen bases continue to decline, his ability to produce a dependable 25-30 steals should not be overlooked. There’s no doubt shortstop is a position that may be deeper than it has ever been, and the ability to pick up an all-categories contributor like Andrus late in drafts is a testament to that.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, AVG, SB, Points

Weaknesses: OBP

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Andrus stays on the field and retains his newfound power, flashing above-average speed and a very high batting average while accumulating tons of counting stats. Likely a .290 average with 15 homers and 30 stolen bases.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Andrus’ power gains were a mirage, and he returns to being the player he was prior to 2017, when his batting average fluctuated between .260 and .280, and he stole ~25 bases but couldn’t eclipse double-digit homers.

 

2020 Projection (650 PA): 90 R, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 25 SB, .280 AVG/.335 OBP/.385 SLG.

 

Rougned Odor (2B | Batting 6th)

2019 (581 PA): 77 R, 30 HR, 93 RBI, 11 SB, .205 AVG/.283 OBP/.439 SLG | 2B #37 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

Odor is kind of like the hitter version of a Cherry Bomb—in any given week, you could be looking at a guy who smacks five homers, or a guy who hits .130 with 20 strikeouts. Perhaps, in honor of his name, we can refer to Odor as a Stink Bomb? Dumb jokes aside, Odor is a complete enigma when it comes to his batting average, but his other offensive output has been surprisingly consistent over the years. In three of the last four seasons he’s hit at least 30 homers, stolen at least 11 bases, driven in at least 75 runs, and scored at least 77 runs. If you’re in a weekly league, and can stomach the potential of a .200 average, those are not bad stats to pencil in at second base, which is surprisingly shallow this year. Odor has taken some steps back in terms of his swinging-strike, strikeout, and contact rates, but it’s worth keeping in mind that he’s somehow just 25 years old, and he has been making steady progress toward improving his plate discipline in recent years. The tools are all there with Odor, but just know the floor could be very low depending on your league format.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, R, HR, RBI, SB

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Odor manages to iron out his contact issues and produce a palatable average around .260. Paired with 30 homers, double-digit steals, and above-average counting stats, Odor becomes an all-category contributor and a top offensive second baseman.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Odor struggles mightily to begin the year and is demoted to the minors to iron out his issues. He ultimately finishes the year with a batting average around .200, making him an unusable hitter in rotisserie leagues.

 

2020 Projection (620 PA): 85 R, 30 HR, 80 RBI, 10 SB, .240 AVG/ .310 OBP/ .440 SLG

 

Danny Santana (1B/OF | Batting 5th)

2019 (511 PA): 81 R, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 21 SB, .283 AVG/.324 OBP/.534 SLG | 1B #4 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 210.5

 

Santana may have been one of the more surprising breakouts of 2019, producing at an elite offensive level while picking up at-bats around the diamond as the Rangers’ super-utilityman. After five years of sporadic, unsuccessful major league stints with the Twins and Braves, Santana somehow put it all together last year at age 28. So the question is: Is he legit? Many are skeptical, and rightfully so. For one thing, Santana never profiled as someone who would post better than mid-teens power numbers, and the 41.9% chase rate, 15.7% swinging-strike rate, and .353 BABIP point to the .283 average likely being a mirage. However, there are reasons to think something close to a repeat may be possible. For one thing, Santana’s hard-hit rate shot up to an excellent 43.6% last year, and he paired that with a dramatically increased launch angle. His above-average sprint speed and solid line-drive rate also point to a decent average remaining a possibility, despite his contact and plate discipline issues. There’s potential here for a five-category contributor with multi-position eligibility, so if he falls far in drafts, don’t be afraid to pounce.

 

Strengths: HR, R, RBI, SB, Points

Weaknesses: OBP, PA/AB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Santana retains the hard-contact and launch angle gains he made last year, cruising to another 20/20 season with a decent average and plenty of counting stats.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

His poor plate discipline and lack of contact ability catch up to him and his batting average plummets. His hard contact rate returns to his career levels as well, causing his power numbers to suffer, and he returns to being a part-time player.

 

2020 Projection (550 PA): 75 R, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 15 SB, .260 AVG/ .305 OBP/ .450 SLG

 

Nick Solak (3B | Batting N/A)

2019 (135 PA): 19 R, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB, .293 AVG/.393 OBP/.491 SLG | 3B #76 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 279.2

 

After being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season, Solak dominated with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, hitting .347 with a .653 slugging percentage and 10 homers in just 128 plate appearances. That success continued upon his call-up in late August, as he hit .293 with a .491 slugging percentage and an impressive 11.1% walk rate in his first 135 plate appearances in the big leagues. There are some reasons for caution when trying to determine Solak’s potential fantasy value for 2020, though. For one thing, he’ll likely be blocked at third base by Todd Frazier and, potentially, Matt Duffy. Beyond that though, he has a history of high ground-ball rates and his uninspiring hard contact numbers, meaning that it’s still unclear where his power output will ultimately settle.  There’s certainly upside here if he can secure some playing time, particularly in OBP leagues, but know there are some risks baked in as well.

 

Strengths: AVG, OBP

Weaknesses: PA/AB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

The Rangers hand the keys to the starting third base job to Solak, and he runs with it, posting an average around .280 with 20-homer power and decent counting stats.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Todd Frazier or Matt Duffy soak up most of the playing time at third base, pushing Solak into a bench role (or possibly back to the minors for more development).

 

2020 Projection (200 PA): 23 R, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB, .275 AVG/ .360 OBP/ .430 SLG 

 

Todd Frazier (3B | Batting 7th)

2019 (499 PA): 63 R, 21 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB, .251 AVG/.329 OBP/.443 SLG 

2020 Early Mock ADP: 458

 

Todd Frazier has a clear path to playing time in Texas as the team’s starting first baseman, which is half the battle. Unfortunately the other half of the battle–actually being a productive hitter–probably won’t come as easy. Frazier’s barrel rate has taken a tumble over the past few years, which is not a good development when you hit as many fly balls as Frazier does. To make matters worse, Frazier is a notoriously streaky hitter–his wRC+ on a month-to-month basis last year ran the gamut from 67 to 170. For fantasy purposes, he might be worth an add if you can time your pick-up to coincide with one of his hot streaks. Just don’t be afraid to cut bait the second he begins to cool off. Especially given the fact that, with Nick Solak waiting in the wings, Frazier likely won’t be awarded the luxury of an extended funk this year.

 

Strengths: HR, PA/AB

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Frazier somehow manages to produce consistently enough to hold onto the third base job all year, posting an average around .240 with 25 homers and decent counting stats.

Worst-Case Scenario

 

He scuffles for an extended spell and is quickly replaced by Nick Solak at the hot corner.

 

2020 Projection (450 PA): 60 R, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, .230 AVG/ .310 OBP/ .430 SLG 

 

Ronald Guzman (1B | Batting 8th )

2019 (295 PA): 34 R, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB, .219 AVG/.308 OBP/.414 SLG | 1B #80 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

There might have been a point in time when Ronald Guzman‘s ability to hit about 20 homers over the course of a full season with decent counting stats held some value in fantasy leagues. But with the juiced ball making home runs more abundant than ever, and Guzman lacking the ability to contribute even a mediocre batting average, there just isn’t much here for fantasy purposes. Guzman is currently penciled in as the starting first baseman, but a strong showing from Greg Bird in the spring could move him into a platoon or onto the bench.

 

Strengths: N/A

Weaknesses: AVG, OBP, Points, PA/AB, SB

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Guzman is handed most of the at-bats at first base for the Rangers, and produces around 75 runs and 75 RBI with 20 homers and an average around .250.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Guzman’s strikeout and plate discipline issues crater his batting average and cost him consistent playing time, resulting in a hitter that’s unrosterable even in deep leagues.

 

2020 Projection (300 PA): 35 R, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 1 SB, .230 AVG/.300 OBP/.410 SLG

 

Greg Bird (1B | Batting N/A )

2019 (41 PA): 6 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .171 AVG/.293 OBP/.257 SLG 

2020 Early Mock ADP: Undrafted

 

“If Greg Bird could just stay on the field, he could be an offensive force.” Yankee fans have probably heard this enough times to make their ears bleed. When Bird debuted in 2015 and hit 11 homers over his first 178 plate appearances, fans dreamed of what he might be able to do over a full season with the help of Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field. Then the injuries started rolling. First a torn labrum that cost him a season and a half. Then an ankle injury. And finally a torn left fascia that spelled the end of his Yankee tenure. Now with the Rangers on a minor league pact, there’s certainly a clear path to playing time if Bird can prove he’s finally healthy. And the quality-of-contact metrics he’s posted to this point, and his propensity for hitting lots of fly balls, certainly paint the picture of a guy who could hit 30+ homers. He’s a definite wild card, but one with good upside if he happens to have a strong showing in Spring Training.

 

Strengths: HR

Weaknesses: AVG, Points

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Bird is finally healthy and wins the first base job for the Rangers, smacking 30+ homers with an average around .250.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

The injury bug rears its ugly head again and Bird doesn’t see the playing field.

 

2020 Projection (150 PA): 17 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .235 AVG/.325 OBP/.410 SLG

 

Outfielders

 

Joey Gallo (OF | Batting 3rd)

2019 (297 PA): 54 R, 22 HR, 49 RBI, 4 SB, .253 AVG/.389 OBP/.598 SLG | OF #91 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 61.8

 

Last season was shaping up to be the year that Gallo supporters had been waiting for since his debut. He continued posting an otherworldly barrel rate (26.4%) and hard-hit percentage (52.3%). But he also cut down on his swinging-strike rate for the fourth straight year and was chasing far fewer pitches outside the zone. The result was a palatable .253 average that actually seemed like it might be sustainable. Then oblique and wrist injuries robbed him of the latter half of the year, likely costing him a shot at his first 50-homer season. If those injuries are behind him, there’s no reason that Gallo can’t continue to build on the improvements he’s made over the last few years and become baseball’s premier power hitter.

 

Strengths: OBP, HR, R, RBI, PA/AB

Weaknesses: AVG

Best-Case Scenario

 

Gallo stays healthy all year and continues to improve upon his plate discipline and contact ability, reaching the 50-homer plateau for the first time while chipping in double-digit steals and an average around .240.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Gallo’s development does not continue its linear path, and his inflated strikeout and chase rates continue to keep his average in the low-.200s, albeit with 40 homers.

 

2020 Projection (600 PA): 90 R, 45 HR, 95 RBI, 8 SB, .230 AVG/ .345 OBP/ .560 SLG

 

Willie Calhoun (OF/DH | Batting 4th)

2019 (337 PA): 51 R, 21 HR, 48 RBI, 0 SB, .269 AVG/.323 OBP/.524 SLG | OF #94 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 151.3

 

Say what you will about Calhoun’s career to this point, but it certainly hasn’t been boring. Once a highly touted prospect in the Dodgers organization, Calhoun disappointed during two cups of coffee with the Rangers, and created a good bit of drama about how he was handled by the team during his demotions. Calhoun helped Texas forget all that in 2019, though, crushing 21 homers in just 83 games with the team. He also posted an incredibly impressive 85.4% contact rate with a 7.2% swinging-strike rate—numbers you almost never see from a hitter who also posts hard-hit rates as high as 40.7%. That pairing of contact ability and power is exceptionally rare, and gives Calhoun a high ceiling that’s worth speculating on.

 

Strengths: AVG, R, RBI, Points

Weaknesses: PA/AB, OBP

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Calhoun continues to make contact at an elite level while posting above-average hard-hit rates, becoming an impact bat capable of hitting .290 with 25+ homers.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Calhoun loses some playing in a relatively crowded Rangers outfield, and the power output continues to be sporadic, causing him to become a player who only has value in deeper leagues with daily transactions.

 

2020 Projection (550 PA): 75 R, 24 HR, 75 RBI, 1 SB, .275 AVG/ .330 OBP/ .470 SLG

 

Designated Hitters

 

Shin-Soo Choo (OF/DH | Batting 1st)

2019 (660 PA): 93 R, 24 HR, 61 RBI, 15 SB, .265 AVG/.371 OBP/.455 SLG | OF# 28 (per ESPN Player Rater)

2020 Early Mock ADP: 260.8

 

Choo likely helped a lot of fantasy owners win their leagues last season. He went undrafted in most formats, but rated as the 66th-best hitter in fantasy according to ESPN’s Player Rater. The knock on Choo seems to be his age—he’ll turn 38 this season. But that doesn’t seem to be slowing him down at all, as he’s accumulated more than 636 plate appearances four times in the past five years. Though Choo still spends about half his games in the outfield, regular DH duty should go a long way toward keeping him fresh during the season, and as long as he’s healthy he’s an excellent value in standard leagues, and a must-draft player in OBP formats.

 

Strengths: PA/AB, OBP, R, HR, SB, Points

Weaknesses: RBI

 

Best-Case Scenario

 

Choo continues to stay healthy, chipping in his customary 20+ homers, .260+ average, 90 runs, and double-digit steals.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

 

Age finally catches up to Choo, resulting in fewer plate appearances and potentially a move lower in the order, diminishing his ability to score runs, and making him a league-average offensive asset at best.

 

2020 Projection (600 PA): 90 R, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 8 SB, .260/.365/.440

 

Playing Time Battles

 

Third Base: Todd Frazier will likely grab the third base job to begin the year. However, Nick Solak is looming and coming off of an impressive debut in 2019. And Matt Duffy could sneak his way into the picture as well. A strong Spring Training from any of the three could determine who ends up ultimately running away with the job.

 

Projected Lineup

 

Batting Order vs LHP

 

Conclusion

 

The Rangers are stocked with a lot of high-upside bats that, if everything breaks right, could give them one of the scarier lineups in the league heading into 2020. That said, many of those same hitters, like Odor and Andrus, have struggled with consistency over the years. And others, like Calhoun and Solak, have question marks surrounding whether the strong production from their abbreviated 2019 seasons can be repeated. Expectations for their offense are low heading into 2020 though, and because of that there could be a lot of very pleasant surprises in this lineup in terms of fantasy value.

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer and content manager with Pitcher List, and co-host of the On the Barrel podcast. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

  • Avatar Todd says:

    Love this series and analysis. Well done.

  • Avatar Charles Stevens says:

    I read somewhere that Ronald Guzman’s swing got all out of whack because of his size. And then when he stopped hitting, he got into his own head and it all went downhill from there. He needs a good hitting coach to pull him back from the abyss. Dude has a ton of talent and teams love to find a place on the field for guys that can play defense.

    Thanks for the article! PL has amazing content.

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