Langford lets loose with speed, defense in strong debut series

March 31st, 2024

ARLINGTON -- Rangers rookie is a five-tool prospect, and he prominently displayed four of those tools on Sunday in the series finale against the Cubs at Globe Life Field.

Though the Rangers eventually lost, 9-5, as the Cubs scored four in the ninth inning and Texas failed to secure a three-game sweep to open the season, Langford made himself known all day long.

Langford’s game-tying triple in the fourth inning -- his first big league extra-base hit -- was the Rangers’ third hardest hit ball of the day, with a 103.4 mph exit velocity. It would’ve been a home run in 14 ballparks, per Statcast, including Wrigley Field.

Langford is the first Texas hitter to record a triple within the first three games of his Major League career since Hanser Alberto on May 29, 2015, against the Red Sox.

“He smoked that triple, showed his speed on that,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “He's just doing a real nice job.”

Langford also drew a first-inning walk, showcasing one of his other elite abilities. Along with the hit tool and the power, MLB Pipeline's No. 6 overall prospect also has an elite control of the strike zone. He walked more than he struck out during both his college career at Florida and in the Minors last season.

Langford has come out hot in his first three big league games against the Cubs, going 4-for-12 with three walks (one intentional) and three RBIs. At 22 years and 137 days, he is also the youngest Rangers player to bat in the two-hole or higher in the starting lineup since Leody Taveras hit second on Sept. 27, 2020, against Houston (22 years, 19 days).

“I compare him to [fellow rookie Evan Carter],” Bochy said. “The both of them, they're just mature beyond their years. It's pretty impressive really at their age to have a discipline [that] they do at the plate. Wyatt, he just has that sense of belonging up there and that's what you love about him. He's getting a lot of attention, but he's handling everything so well.”

Langford, who made his MLB debut on Opening Day, has 70-grade power to all fields, with a 60-grade hit tool. And while he’s an above average outfielder (50-grade) and runner (55-grade), those weren’t ever the highlights of his profile.

Even so, he made sure to flash the leather and the speed in the loss.

After DHing in his first two games because of the Rangers' loaded outfield, Langford finally got time in left field on Sunday, and was immediately challenged in the top of the second inning when Cubs left fielder Mike Tauchman torched a 98.5 mph liner in Langford’s direction.

The rookie read the ball well off the bat before sliding to his knees and robbing Tauchman of extra bases. The ball had a .420 expected batting average, per Statcast.

“I was just trying to catch the ball, really,” Langford said. “I got a good jump on it and I made a good play. I feel like everyone's always known I've done pretty fast with my times down the line and stuff like that. I've gotten better in the outfield as I've got more experience, really.”

Langford entered his first year of college in 2021 as a catcher and occasional third baseman. That following season at Florida, he transitioned to the outfield, where he has remained ever since. He’s progressed to turn himself into a quality defensive outfielder who can make the routine plays, as well as the diving or sliding ones like he did on Sunday.

General manager Chris Young said during Spring Training that the club wasn’t going to call up Langford to be a full-time designated hitter, despite the trio of Carter, Leody Taveras and Adolis García holding down the three outfield spots.

Langford is going to continue to get reps in the outfield, especially in games when García could use a DH day, or in similar situations.

“He’s been playing a good outfield [in camp],” Bochy said. “I'm guessing he was probably a little excited to get out on the field and play out there instead of DH. I put him in the two-hole today, but I can put him in the three-hole or the five-hole or wherever, it doesn't faze him, so good game by him.”