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DeShields prepared to do what it takes

Speedy outfielder uses offseason work to up his defensive game
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- There was a brief flurry of rumors earlier this month that the Rangers might be increasing their efforts to sign free-agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. It appears there was nothing to the rumors, but it is accurate to say the Rangers would be open to upgrading defensively in center field.

Delino DeShields has heard the rumors.

ARLINGTON -- There was a brief flurry of rumors earlier this month that the Rangers might be increasing their efforts to sign free-agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. It appears there was nothing to the rumors, but it is accurate to say the Rangers would be open to upgrading defensively in center field.

Delino DeShields has heard the rumors.

"If they feel they can bring in somebody that can help us defensively, OK," DeShields said. "All I want to do is win and be plugged into the lineup every day, whether it is left field or center field. I feel really comfortable playing center field. But if they need me to play left field and bring somebody in to play center, that's fine, too."

Video: DeShields on being important member of Rangers team

Right now, DeShields is the Rangers' center fielder. The potential to upgrade in center doesn't seem to be there, whether it's because the Rangers don't want to spend the money, trade young players or are sincerely determined to give their young players an opportunity.

"We have some guys on the club who are going to be at different levels of commitment to the organization," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We have intentionally not brought in the potentially one-year stop-gap guys to be in front of Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua or Delino DeShields, guys of that nature. These guys have had opportunities, but we really haven't committed to them. We are at the point where we believe in these guys and their talent level, and we want to see that through."

Hot Stove Tracker

Offensively, DeShields showed last season he can be a force at the top of the lineup once he started playing regularly.

DeShields was the Rangers' leadoff hitter for 80 games last year, and hit .260 with a .350 on-base percentage, 63 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. Double that over a full season and it represents impressive numbers for a leadoff hitter.

The question is defense.

According to defensive metrics tracked by Statcast™ in 2017, DeShields should have caught 86 percent of the balls hit in his direction based on their difficulty. He actually caught 88 percent, making him a plus-two in catch percentage added. Byron Buxton, the Twins' supremely talented center fielder, was a plus-six. Cain was a plus-four for the Royals.

Overall defensive range (plus-four) and ultimate zone ratings (plus-seven) place DeShields in good, but not elite, category.

The deduction is DeShields is slightly above average, mainly because of his tremendous speed. His sprint speed of 29.6 feet per second makes him the sixth-fastest player in baseball. But he can be better with improved jumps and route efficiency.

Video: HOU@TEX: DeShields circles bases in 15.05 seconds

DeShields understands the need for improvement, and has tailored his offseason workouts in that direction.

"I did a lot of work on my explosiveness, helping me with my first step," DeShields said. "Changing directions with my efficiency. I haven't done anything with defensive drills, but I am going to Arizona really early and doing some stuff to help with my routes. It's about putting my game together, and building off last year."

DeShields had an impressive offseason last winter after losing his center field job to Carlos Gomez late in the 2016 season. When the Rangers re-signed Gomez in the winter, it appeared DeShields was destined for a backup role.

With the help of his father, former Major League second baseman Delino DeShields, he rededicated himself to regaining the athleticism and explosiveness that made him an attractive top-of-the-lineup hitter.

The Rangers are waiting to see if this offseason produces the same results defensively.

"It has been good so far," DeShields said. "I started really early to get prepared for the next season. I probably took a week off and started to get my body ready to hopefully play 162 games. I have been staying here getting ready with the guys. Can't wait for Spring Training."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Delino DeShields