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Rangers to employ a balanced, athletic lineup

Versatile slugger Gallo gives Texas flexibility defensively
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have not touched their lineup since the end of last season. The same candidates for the Opening Day lineup are the ones that finished last season.

That may change before Spring Training, but it also doesn't mean the Rangers have a set lineup. If the Rangers don't make a move -- highly unlikely -- there are still decisions to make. Foremost among those would be where Joey Gallo plays after he spent last season shuttling between first, third and left field.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have not touched their lineup since the end of last season. The same candidates for the Opening Day lineup are the ones that finished last season.

That may change before Spring Training, but it also doesn't mean the Rangers have a set lineup. If the Rangers don't make a move -- highly unlikely -- there are still decisions to make. Foremost among those would be where Joey Gallo plays after he spent last season shuttling between first, third and left field.

"Well, he's got great flexibility as far as where he plays, the athleticism that he gives you in both spots, whether it's on the dirt or in the outfield," manager Jeff Banister said. "In the outfield, the ability to run balls down, a big guy that's athletic -- I think he could play anywhere in the outfield, really."

With just over five weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report, here is where the Rangers potential starting lineup stands as of today.

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Delino DeShields, CF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Shin-Soo Choo, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Nomar Mazara, RF
Joey Gallo, 1B
Robinson Chirinos, C
Rougned Odor, 2B
Willie Calhoun, LF

STRENGTH

On the surface, this should be a balanced, athletic lineup. There is speed and power, plus a mix of youth and experience. The Rangers were third in the American League in home runs last season and second in stolen bases. Mazara and Gallo could be on the brink of something big in the middle of the lineup, and DeShields showed last season he has the ability to be a dynamic leadoff hitter. Andrus, Beltre and Choo are all professional hitters, Chirinos continues to show improvement and Calhoun had a big season in Triple-A last year.

QUESTION MARK

There is imbalance in the lineup because the Rangers were second in the American League in strikeouts last season and seventh in walks. They need to close the gap on that. This is also not going to be the best defensive team in the American League, especially in the outfield. DeShields still needs to get better in center and Calhoun is better with the bat than the glove. Keeping Choo and Beltre healthy will remain a challenge.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

The lineup changes drastically if the Rangers sign center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He would move into center, leaving DeShields and Calhoun to battle it out in left along with Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua and Carlos Tocci. If DeShields is not in the lineup, it delivers a big hit to the Rangers' ability to manufacture runs. Odor is set at second base but could be pushed by either Robinson or Jurickson Profar. Gallo's ability to play the outfield gives rookie first baseman Ronald Guzman a chance to crack the lineup. Left-handed-hitting Brett Nicholas could push Chirinos behind the plate.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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