The Rangers are expected to have intrasquad games and competition right from the beginning. Here are five issues that need to be addressed over their three-week Summer Camp.
1. Solak: Center field? Infield? Where?
Summer Camp offers the Rangers another chance to look at Nick Solak in center field. This time he will be doing it during intrasquad games at Globe Life Field rather than under the tricky conditions presented by Arizona in Spring Training. Solak played in just 33 games for the Rangers last season and hit .293/.393/.491.
That was enough to convince the Rangers that they need to find a spot for Solak in the lineup. Where? Center field has appeal. Texas sees Solak as being athletic enough to handle center even though he has just 22 games of Minor League experience there.
They also remain enamored with the idea of Danny Santana being their utility player rather than playing regularly in center. Santana offers a better option than Solak as a utility player because he can play short.
Second base is Solak’s best position, but the Rangers have Rougned Odor there. Solak will take ground balls at third and first base, and he can also play left field if needed. His versatility is clearly an asset, but Solak must also prove he can produce offensively for an extended period of time at the big league level.
2. First base: Guzmán, Bird or somebody else?
Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird were competing for the first-base spot in Spring Training, and there was no clear leader when camp came to an end. Guzmán was 7-for-33 (.212), and Bird was 3-for-29 (.103). Both are left-handed hitters, and Guzmán has struggled against lefties in his career.
3. Closer Leclerc
José Leclerc would seem to be a lock as the Rangers' closer just as Santana appears to be the obvious choice in center. But this is another position where Texas is weighing alternatives.
Leclerc has had his rocky moments as closer, and manager Chris Woodward has contemplated the idea of using him in an earlier role. That would allow the Rangers to use Leclerc’s enormous talent in a less-pressured but still significant role, possibly one that includes multi-inning game assignments.
That would require somebody else to step in as closer. Right-hander Rafael Montero is one possibility. He appeared in 22 games for the Rangers last year with a 2.48 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Veteran right-hander Cody Allen is another possibility. He has 153 career saves, but he has struggled over the past two years and was slow out of Spring Training with a sore elbow.
The composition of a bullpen is always a topic of conversation in any Spring Training, and it will be again in Summer Camp. With a 30-man roster to begin the season, the Rangers will open with more than the normal eight-man bullpen.
Left-hander Joely Rodríguez should have a spot, but he is dealing with a strained left lat muscle. He is not expected to be ready for Opening Day but shortly thereafter.
5. Young players
The Rangers have included right-handed pitchers Demarcus Evans and Alex Speas, catcher Sam Huff, infielders Sherten Apostel, Anderson Tejeda and Josh Jung, and outfielders Leody Taveras and Eli White on their 60-man roster.
None of them has played in the big leagues. All but Speas and White are ranked among the Rangers' Top 30 Prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. White may be the odd man out, but he has come on fast over the past year in his development as a center fielder.
These eight may not be ready for Opening Day, but they are on the 60-man roster for a reason, and nobody really knows how this season is going to play out.