Who should the Rangers target in free agency?
-- Paul F., Fort Worth, Texas
Anthony Rendon, the Washington Nationals' third baseman, who can be a free agent at the end of the season. End of story, final answer and no need to phone a friend.
You want to break the bank going into a new ballpark? Do it for a 29-year old, right-handed-hitting third baseman from Texas who would fit in the middle of the order amid all those left-handed hitters. He won’t be cheap, and his agent is Scott Boras. The competition will be fierce. But it’s hard to remember a potential position player free agent who would be a more on-target fit for the Rangers than Rendon.
Give us a rundown of outfielder Bayron Lora from the Dominican Republic.
-- Mark H., Midland, Texas
Lora is 16 years old, and the Rangers gave him a $3.9 million bonus because -- according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez -- he is tall (6-foot-3) and strong with excellent bat speed and raw power. He is still working on his swing, but has good mechanics at the plate and a feel for the strike zone. Lora is projected as a corner outfielder with an average arm and good speed on the basepaths.
That’s a pretty hefty bonus for a player who is 16, but you have to be aggressive when it comes to international signings, and especially in the Dominican Republic. The island has too much talent to ignore.
With the new Top 30 Prospects list out and the Rangers having two new faces at the top of their list -- Josh Jung and Sam Huff -- what are their ceilings? Which players would you compare them to?
-- Travis H., Benbrook, Texas
These guys have a chance to be middle-of-the-order bats, but ceilings and comparisons are almost folly to consider. When the Indians acquired pitcher Corey Kluber from the Padres, he was considered a fifth starter at best. Wonder what Michael Young’s ceiling was when the Rangers acquired him from the Blue Jays? Paul Goldschmidt was an eighth-round pick by the D-backs. Let them play and don’t rush them. Give them time to develop. Don’t put labels, don’t put limits and don’t take projections as gospel truth.
What is Rangers’ plan for the 26th slot on the roster when it is implemented next year?
-- Nick S., Arlington, Texas
Nick Solak or Isiah Kiner-Falefa. They might be the perfect player for that spot: a right-handed hitter who can play multiple positions. Look for the Rangers to investigate the possibility of Solak playing first and third base this September. He can be used in the outfield. But a right-handed-hitting utility player would be the best fit for the 26th man.
Looking at just this year in a bubble, if you could only keep one and had to trade the other in the crowded outfield, would you keep Nomar Mazara or Danny Santana? Santana has had the better offensive season, plays better defense at a more challenging outfield position, and is much faster on the base paths. Maz just seems to be leveling out and the outfield is lefty heavy.
-- John S., Fort Worth, Texas
Everything you said is right on. So I would keep Mazara. Why? Because this offense is too light in the middle. They need some of the big bangers of yore. The Rangers are missing that badly, especially with Joey Gallo on the injured list.
Mazara has not been that, no question about it. But besides Gallo, he is the one Rangers player with the sheer physical ability to be that player and he is just 24. He is a free agent after 2021. I’d ride it out right to the end because there is still much in there that somebody is going to unleash. Remember how long it took for Nelson Cruz.
Who knows, but I will say this: for a club that has been clobbered by injuries to Minor League pitching, the Rangers prospects are looking much better than they were two months ago. I'd still like Palumbo to shake his streak of bad luck lately, but those three are certainly looking quite promising. The reality is that if two break with the team next year, the Rangers would be doing good. They still need to find one more veteran starter to go with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn.