Are there any key players who are out of options going into Spring Training? That is always a big story in the spring. -- Casey K. DallasConnor Sadzeck is out of options, and Yohander Méndez has one left. Those are two critical situations for the Rangers as it was initially
Are there any key players who are out of options going into Spring Training? That is always a big story in the spring.
-- Casey K. Dallas
Connor Sadzeck is out of options, and Yohander Méndez has one left. Those are two critical situations for the Rangers as it was initially believed Mendez was out of options. But a review of baseball's complicated optional assignment rules found Mendez was eligible for a fourth option and thus can be sent to the Minor Leagues this season without being placed in waiver jeopardy. The Rangers said that was a significant development. That means he can get continued invaluable Minor League experience in the likely event he doesn't make the big league club.
Sadzeck being out of options means he must make the club or be exposed to outright waivers. The guy throws 97-100 mph with the fastball, so there could be room for him on the Opening Day roster. But he must show command and movement. Velocity is nice but is still hittable if not thrown with location and movement. If the fastball is flat or out of the zone, it doesn't matter how hard a pitcher throws.
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Does Jason Hammel really have a chance to make the Rangers rotation? It seems like their rotation is set.
-- Ryan S. Oklahoma City
If Hammel is as good as he was with the Cubs in 2015-16, the Rangers will find a spot for him. He wasn't quite as good the past two years with the Royals. The Rangers do have what appears to be a set rotation of Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Edinson Vólquez, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller. But, given their medical history, the Rangers would be extremely fortunate if all five are primed and ready to go on Opening Day. There could easily be a spot in the rotation for Hammel or somebody else if they show something in Spring Training.
While Delino DeShields has appeared to step up his defensive play, his offensive progress has seemed to lag behind. Similarly, Carlos Tocci appears to be much more defensively developed thus far. Do the Rangers have any interest in signing a center fielder like Adam Jones to provide some veteran leadership, offense and outfield insurance in 2019?
-- Carlton R., Austin, Texas
Jones would be a really nice fit for the Rangers as a fourth outfielder if they were closer to being a serious contender. Right now, though, the Rangers have not shown that much interest. It appears they are committed to DeShields in center and that should be a good thing. DeShields has had some tough breaks but he still has the talent to be a frontline center fielder and leadoff hitter.
We know pitching is the focus, but would the Rangers benefit from adding some positional depth like Derek Dietrich, especially since they lost John Andreoli? And will Patrick Wisdom get time in the outfield during Spring Training to expand his flexibility?
-- Don M., Rowlett, Texas
It does seem strange that a player like Dietrich has yet to sign, but then, neither has Bryce Harper. The Rangers could use more outfield depth, but the obstacle with Dietrich is he is a left-handed hitter. The Rangers need right-handed balance. Don't forget the Rangers are bringing switch-hitter Danny Santana to camp on a Minor League contract.
What is the real reason why they are installing synthetic turf? Are there really benefits to this or is this all about money. Surely, they knew this would be unpopular with the fans.
-- Paul F., Fort Worth
Fans don't like artificial turf because it looks different and plays much differently than natural grass. Players aren't fond of artificial turf because it can be tougher on the body than natural grass. The Rangers get that but insist this new synthetic turf will play and feel just like natural grass. They are putting a lot on the line in this decision. If they are right, the resistance to the new turf will likely fade. If the Rangers are wrong, they know they are going to hear about it, and the backlash could be fierce. The one thing to remember is synthetic turf, like any other high-tech product, is going to improve over time. This is not the same stuff used in the Astrodome, Kingdome, Metrodome or Rogers Centre. How good it is … we'll find out in 2020.
With the decision to go to turf made, was three any consideration in putting the same stuff in the facility in Surprise? Not sure how that would play out with the Royals being there, too.
-- Joe S. Garland, Texas
This synthetic turf has been installed in high school facilities so that would appear to be a possibility. The Royals probably wouldn't be in favor of it. A lot of it comes back to the original inference this brand of synthetic turf is no difference than playing on natural grass. Everybody is waiting to see if that is actually true.
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.