Third base a work in progress for Rangers

February 6th, 2021

The hot corner is looking to be a hot competition for the Rangers going into Spring Training

Manager Chris Woodward and general manager Chris Young both agree that third base will be an open competition with a lot of guys stepping in to compete. Isiah Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at the position in 2020, but is shifting over to shortstop this upcoming season.

Young said on MLB Network Radio with Jon Paul Morosi that he expects veteran infielder to get a lot of time at third base and potentially end up being the starter.

Andrus and fellow veteran are both likely to be used as utility infielders, with prospects Josh Jung and Sherten Apostel adding to the competition at third. Charlie Culberson could also factor in at the position.

Andrus is atop the depth chart at third base after being the starting shortstop for Texas for 12 seasons. He struggled with a lower back strain in 2020, appearing in 29 games in the shortened season and hitting .194/.252/.330.

“We're just going to kind of evaluate in Spring Training and see how that transition [from shortstop to third base] goes and where he can best help the team,” Young said. “But I think, certainly, having two good shortstops on the team is not a bad thing to have.”

President of baseball operations Jon Daniels said on a Zoom press conference with reporters that the preference would be for Apostel and Jung to both get more development time in the Minors this season. Woodward agreed, saying Jung would have to “go nuts” in Spring Training to break into the Major League roster.

Apostel debuted on Sept. 9 and played in seven games last season, hitting .100 with just 20 at-bats. Jung -- the Rangers' No. 1 prospect -- spent the entire '20 season at the alternate training site in Arlington.

“I don't think [guys like Apostel] would have been up last year if there was a normal season,” Woodward said. “I do want to see these guys. The biggest thing for us [with] a lot of these guys is to get them playing, get them developing, growing, learning and improving.”

Young told Morosi that Odor especially could get time at multiple positions, as he also tries to bounce back from struggling in the 2020 season when he hit .167.

“We're going to try to put him in a lot of different positions,” Young said. “We'd like to see him spend some time at second, third, potentially in the outfield a little bit, and just see if and where he's improved, and how during this offseason, he's been able to kind of make the steps and strides that we need to see in terms of the player that we believe he can become.”

Young did say that the Rangers are giving Nick Solak the opportunity to win the starting second-base job with Odor in a utility spot. Solak played both infield and outfield in 2020, but isn't expected to do as much shuffling in '21.

Woodward emphasized that almost every position is up for grabs during Spring Training and everybody has a chance to earn a starting spot the way Kiner-Falefa did at shortstop.

“I do think it's important for the entire team to understand that it's a healthy competition, pretty much everywhere,” Woodward said. “Everybody's got to earn it the way Kiner-Falefa has [at shortstop]. That's what I want the rest of the organization to understand.

“It may take a couple years, especially for these younger guys. We're trying to build better men along with better baseball players so when they learn that, they're never going to take anything for granted.”