ARLINGTON -- After a long offseason when the Rangers added starting-pitching depth and a bit of offense all over the field, things are more different in 2021 than they were at the start or the end of last season.
A lot of the 26-man roster is still up in the air, but the Rangers are committed to developing their young players and giving them the chance to win positions.
Consider this a working blueprint for more moves to be made.
Catcher (2): Jose Trevino, Jonah Heim
Trevino is the assumed starter going into Spring Training and has the leadership and defense to do so. He’ll have to adjust to the grind of a full 162-game season, but the spot is his for the taking, especially if his offense continues on an upward trajectory. Heim, who was acquired in the Elvis Andrus-Khris Davis trade, adds additional depth behind Trevino, along with veteran Drew Butera. No. 2 prospect Sam Huff will start in the Minors.
First base (1): Nate Lowe
President of baseball operations Jon Daniels said the Rangers brought in Lowe specifically to be the starting first baseman. That could change in Spring Training if Ronald Guzmán puts on a show, but Guzmán is 26 and out of options this season. If Lowe performs at the same level, he’ll likely edge Guzmán for the job.
Second base (1): Nick Solak
The Rangers aren’t shy about their youth movement, but manager Chris Woodward continues to emphasize that spots won’t just be handed to guys just because they’re younger. So, Solak will have to beat out Rougned Odor, who has played second base for Texas since 2014. Solak shuffled a lot between the infield and outfield last season, but the Rangers plan to keep him in one spot in ‘21. Woodward said Solak will need to be more productive than his .268 average and 23 RBIs from 2020, but he’s the best defensive fit for the Rangers at second base.
Third base (1): Rougned Odor
Third base is where it really gets interesting and probably the one position where the Rangers can’t point to a single player with an edge as the starter. They do have quite a few veteran options at the position, like Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt, but Odor may be the one after moving to a utility role. Odor is owed $24.6 million over the next two seasons and is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. He’s also never played third base, but Woodward said Odor is determined to stay in the starting lineup any way he can. Though he is likely to start there, it seems to be just a placeholder for No. 1 prospect Josh Jung, who will start the season in the Minors.
Shortstop (1): Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove Award for his impressive defensive abilities at third, then the Rangers made the decision to slide him over to shortstop this offseason, even before trading Andrus. Woodward and the coaching staff are committed to Kiner-Falefa at the position and see him as the best defensive option. He was also solid at the plate in 2020, hitting .280 on the season.
Outfield (3): David Dahl, Leody Taveras, Joey Gallo
Gold Glove winner Gallo is obvious here, but the other two spots can go a few ways, depending on the bats. Taveras is not a lock, but the Rangers clearly see him as the center fielder of the future. Dahl will make the Rangers better on the defensive end, but he’ll also need a bounce-back season at the plate. If DH options Davis and Willie Calhoun both perform at the plate, Dahl would most likely slide into center field to keep the best bats in the lineup.
Designated hitter (1): Willie Calhoun
The Rangers challenged Calhoun to improve defensively to get himself in the lineup outside of the DH spot. Both Calhoun and Davis struggled in 2020 though, and the starting spot will likely go to whomever can perform most consistently. Calhoun had injury struggles, but seems poised for a return to his 2019 form, when he hit 21 home runs to go along with 48 RBIs.
Starting pitching (5): RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Dane Dunning, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Kohei Arihara LHP Kolby Allard
Woodward has said the Rangers plan to “get creative” with the rotation this season following the shortened 2020. Gibson, Arihara and Foltynewicz are more or less locked in, but after that it’ll be a bit of a toss-up. Right-hander Kyle Cody and left-hander Taylor Hearn are probably two of the more talented young starters on the 40-man roster, but neither has a ton of innings at the Major League level.
Bullpen (8): RHP José Leclerc, RHP Jonathan Hernández, LHP Joely Rodríguez, LHP Brett Martin,LHP Hyun-jong Yang, RHP Jordan Lyles, LHP Wes Benjamin, RHP Josh Sborz
Both Justin Anderson and Demarcus Evans are still rehabbing from surgeries and won’t be ready for Opening Day, so this group, if healthy, is the most likely come April 1.