Local BBWAA gives awards to 2019 Rangers

Santana, Minor receive top honors from baseball writers

January 25th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers put a punctuation mark on the 2019 season by celebrating the five winners of their annual team awards on Friday night.

Here is the rundown of the winners, as selected by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Player of the Year

He won because: Santana came into camp as a non-roster invite and began the season in the Minor Leagues. After being called up early in the season, he played in 130 games and hit .283 with 28 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .534 slugging percentage. He also stole 21 bases and played every position but pitcher and catcher.

He said: “To me, it was one of the best moments. I took advantage of the opportunity. It is a moment I have been waiting for for years. For many years, I struggled to get what I achieved last year.”

Competition: Joey Gallo, Shin-Soo Choo, Hunter Pence

Role for 2020: Right now, Santana is the Rangers' starting center fielder. The Rangers also love him as a utility infielder who can play multiple positions, so acquiring a center fielder is still a possibility.

Final word: “I have the same mentality," Santana said. "It is a new season. Every ballplayer’s dream is to have a position. Not that I don’t want to be the team’s utility player, but I would like to have one position. Center is the position I have played the most the last few years.”

Pitcher of the Year

He won because: Minor made 32 starts and went 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. He also struck out 200 batters in 208 1/3 innings. Both were career highs. He and Lance Lynn were one of the best starting-pitching duos in the Majors last year.

He said: “I felt Lance could have won that award, too," Minor said. "If you take away a couple of his starts early in the year ... I think he deserves it as well."

Competition: Lance Lynn, Rafael Montero

Role for 2020: Minor and Lynn should be at the top of the rotation, although they should have competition for the title of No. 1 starter from Corey Kluber. Minor is a free agent after this season, but he is hoping the Rangers will bring up a contract extension at some point in Spring Training.

Final word: “For sure. I feel like I’ve endured the worst part of it," Minor said. "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the direction [general manager] Jon Daniels is going, and I want to be a part of it. I don’t want to jump ship now when it’s going to be good.”

Rookie of the Year

He won because: Solak only played in 33 games for the Rangers, hitting .293 with five home runs and 17 RBIs. He had a .393 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage. His .884 OPS was the third highest for a Rangers rookie with at least 100 at-bats.

He said: “Looking back on it, it’s always going to be a whirlwind with everything that happened and how fast it happened," Solak said. "But it was a dream come true, being able to make my Major League debut and come up and play well and help the team win. It’s something I’m looking to build on.”

Competition: Jose Trevino, Kolby Allard

Role for 2020: Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa go into camp trying to win jobs as utility infielders. There is still a possibility that Solak could push Rougned Odor out at second base.

Final word: “Go out there and compete," Solak said. "Utility is a role that I have embraced. It has become fun carrying all those gloves in the bag and having them ready to go that particular day, maybe multiple ones in the same game.”

Harold McKinney Good Guy Award

He won because: Choo enters the final season of his seven-year contract as one of the leaders on the club. He has endured much during his time with the Rangers, as observers debate the original wisdom of Choo’s contract. But he has done what the Rangers expected of him and has been one of the standup players in the clubhouse.

He said: “I signed with the Rangers not just to play baseball, but to help bring everybody together," Choo said. "To win this award, I can’t do it all by myself, it takes all 25 guys, whether you come from a different club or up from the Minor Leagues.”

Competition: Jesse Chavez, Jeff Mathis, José Leclerc, Shawn Kelley

Role for 2020: Choo will still play the outfield, but it is likely that he’ll get most of his at-bats at designated hitter.

Final word: “I can’t believe this is my seventh year with the Rangers,” Choo said. “Time goes fast. This game, it’s not easy to play for one club for seven years. Whether you are a good player or a bad player, that’s still not easy.”

Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man

He won because: Calhoun has been sent to the Minor Leagues five times in the past three seasons. He didn’t readily accept the demotions, but he stayed after it and showed in the second half of last season he belongs in the Major Leagues.

He said: “What stood out the most is when I came back in the second half and [manager Chris Woodward] let me breathe and I didn’t have to get 10 hits a game," Calhoun said. "For him to communicate that with me, I was able to take a deep breath and let me play my game. If I don’t get a hit, I know I can come back and be in the lineup tomorrow.”

Competition: Luke Farrell, Adrian Sampson, Joe Palumbo

Role for 2020: Calhoun goes into Spring Training as the starting left fielder, but he still has to show he can be an everyday player and handle himself defensively.

Final word: “This Spring Training is the first one where I don’t have to press and try to do too much to make the team," Calhoun said. "This Spring Training, I am just going to work hard, make sure I don’t get complacent. I want to be great and help the team win.”