Texas Rangers Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? Week 15
Welcome to our weekly series where we’ll take a look at a few Rangers who are on heaters and more who are ice cold in something we’ll call “Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?”
The last week of Rangers baseball hasn’t been a good one. They won five straight series, then saw that streak end in a two-game set against dreaded Houston and are now coming off a three-game sweep in Boston. Remember that fun three-week stretch? Well, it’s over.
Ronald Guzman — Hey, memo to Joey Gallo: One of the two positions you’re willing to play looks like it might be taken. Sorry, bud. Guzman has transformed from a desperation call-up into a big-leaguer in a matter of months. He’s, of course, hit his bumps, just like any other kid, but he’s on a heater at the moment. In his last six games, Guzman is batting .471 with a 1.176 OPS and he’s an above-average defender at first base.
Jurickson Profar — The former top prospect in all of baseball, turned huge disappointment, has become an everyday player for the Rangers in some way or another. In his last five games, the utility player extraordinaire is hitting at a .316/.381/.526 triple-slash and is finally arriving as a viable big-leaguer, albeit a bit later than the Rangers would’ve liked, as his trade value is severely diminished by the fact he’s about to be arbitration eligible.
Shin-Soo Choo — #TheStreak lives on. Choo, who has been vastly under appreciated in his time with the Rangers because of his huge contract, is finally an All-Star for the first time in his career, and he now has the longest on-base streak in Rangers history and the longest in all of baseball this season. For the year now, Choo is batting .290 with a .399 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. That’s the definition of an #elite player.
Delino DeShields — The speedy center fielder is likely to miss a few games after a collision with Ryan Rua on Wednesday, but it just might do him some good. In his last six games, DeShields is batting a good ol’ .000 with one walk and eight strikeouts in 22 at-bats. Disgusting.
Joey Gallo — Remember my memo to Gallo? Well, he’s losing much leverage for any positional demands with his performance this year. In his last six games, he’s batting .111 with a putrid .606 OPS. He’s now batting .186 for the year.
Martin Perez hasn't lived up to expectations, but here's why the Rangers shouldn't give up on him
Eric Nadel, Texas Rangers radio play-by-play announcer and Ford C. Frick Award winner, answered questions about the team during a live chat recently. Here are some highlights:
Do you think the Rangers should move on from Martin Perez?
Nadel: Why would they want to move on from Perez ? Who do they have right now that is more deserving of those innings? I agree that he has not yet lived up to expectations, but his stuff is still excellent and he might put it together.
What is going on with Cole Hamels? Do you think the Rangers will be able to salvage a deal with his diminishing trade value?
Nadel: I don't know why he has pitched poorly the last few times, but he has probably hurt his trade value. He should have three starts left before the deadline, maybe even four. Then we will see what he brings, maybe packaged with a reliever.
Unfortunately, these three bad starts in a row probably killed any chance of the Rangers trading him sooner rather than later (closer to the deadline) as he needs to pitch well again a couple of times, I think.
Was Keone Kela robbed from an All-Star appearance? What're the chances of him still making it?
Nadel: Well, he is certainly more deserving than Joe Jimenez, but the tigers had to have a representative. and if Nick Castellanos had been chosen, Choo would have been squeezed out. Since Choo is 35 and much closer to the end of his career than Kela, I prefer Choo being our representative. The guys who should be really miffed are Blake Snell, leading the league in ERA, and Jed Lowrie, second in RBI for a surprisingly good Oakland team. Bet they both get in as injury replacements. Maybe Kela will too.
What do you think is Isiah Kiner-Falefa's most natural position?
Nadel: I'm beginning to think it's catcher! Even though he's an infielder and looks very good at third base, his ability to block low pitches, frame, and call the game has been astounding. I think he has a great future as a catcher/infielder.
How Hamels’ start on Friday could impact chances of a trade from Rangers
Any off-day during the course of 162 games is welcomed, but off-days on the road generally aren’t as sweet as those at home.
Sometimes, though, players find themselves in or near their hometowns, or in cities where they once lived or played and still have a home. Such was the case Thursday for Cole Hamels as the Texas Rangers took a day off following a three-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox.
The left-hander still has a home in the Philadelphia area, which is just up the road. He said that he plans to spend the day there ahead of his start Friday at Camden Yards to open a three-game series against the Orioles.
Maybe the comforts of home, or one of his homes, is what he needs to snap out of the funk that has engulfed him at an inopportune time for his team.
The slump hasn’t hurt the last-place Rangers in the standings, but his trade value has sunk and will keep sinking if he continues to struggle.
Hamels has made it clear that his uncertain future ahead of the July 31 trade deadline isn’t distracting him, and he doesn’t want to start pitching better to enhance his trade chances.
He wants to be better because he believes that he is the pitcher he was when the Rangers got him in 2015.
Does he have a handle on it?
“As much as I can,” he said.
That might not be wildly reassuring, but the Rangers continue to receive calls on Hamels during his struggles. He has allowed seven runs in consecutive starts and has an 11.81 ERA in his past three to lift his ERA from 3.41 to 4.28.
Their thinking is that teams know Hamels’ track record and the dependable pitcher he usually is, and it’s their belief that a few good starts could heat up the phone lines.
They also know that they traded Yu Darvish last year after he surrendered 10 runs in his final start before the deadline.
Then there’s this: Hamels was struggling leading up to the 2015 trade deadline, was skipped one turn through the rotation, and tossed a no-hitter in his final start for Philadelphia.
He shut down the rebuilding Chicago Cubs then. He will face the going-nowhere Orioles next, but he has a 1-5 record with a 5.35 ERA in his career against them and is coming off a start in which he recorded only two outs Saturday at Detroit.
“I thought his stuff his last outing was as sharp and crisp as he’s been,” manager Jeff Banister said.
The shortest outing of his career wasn’t all his fault. An error in center field made three of the seven Tigers runs against Hamels unearned, but he also walked two hitters and gave up a pair of loud hits.
Hamels (4-8) has been reviewing video from recent seasons and discovered that his mechanics this year aren’t as consistent as in the past. The result had been having to expend more energy and the loss of his release point as his pitch counts mounted.
He also feels as if he has become too predictable with his pitches later in games.
The mechanics have been ironed out some, and he has had more strength. But with that has come less command of his off-speed pitches, and hitters have made him pay when he has been up in the zone.
“It’s trying to identify my best release point and how I got to the release point,” Hamels said. “It’s been something I’ve been working on. Just refining and refining.”
Hamels hasn’t heard anything new on the trade front. He’s a smart guy and knows the situation. He also knows that he has some leverage in the form of a 20-team no-trade list that will make things tough on the Rangers.
He does not want to be traded.
And the Rangers aren’t just going to trade him to dump his salary. It seems unlikely that they will pick up his $20 million club option for 2019 and will pay him a $6 million buyout. Perhaps Hamels returns for less on a one- or two-year deal.
The Rangers are going to need starters, after all. Reliable starters.
They believe Hamels is more than just reliable, even in light of his recent struggles.
Will another team believe that ahead of the trade deadline? A nice start Friday would help.