For those Rangers fans who have daydreamed about seeing Ian Kinsler’s upper-cut swing on a daily basis, this is what it looks like. This team received more bad news in the form of another DL stint for starting pitcher Alexi Ogando over the weekend, but the reason for the Rangers’ recent slide is all about the bats.
We knew the Rangers would have to win games in a different fashion this season because of the loss of Josh Hamilton. But now the Rangers are attempting to stay afloat without Kinsler and first baseman Mitch Moreland in the lineup. And with MLB now working with Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch, there’s a decent chance right fielder Nelson Cruz will miss a significant portion of the season.
The Rangers were able to build a sizable lead in the A.L. West because of consistent pitching. Rookies Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm have exceeded everyone’s expectations, although they’ve both shown cracks over the past couple weeks. For this team to have any chance to make some noise in the playoffs, general manager Jon Daniels will have to swing a deal or two before the trading deadline. And the Rangers can’t afford to wait long.
Whether they admit it or not, a lot of Rangers fans were OK with Kinsler missing some time because it meant more playing time for rookie Jurickson Profar. And while Profar has provided a glimpse of his immense potential, he’s also looked completely lost at times. It’s a little easier to see right now why manager Ron Washington was taking such a wait-and-see approach on the 20-year-old Profar.
Maybe a few more at-bats in Round Rock for Profar isn’t the craziest idea anyone’s had. And in the interest of transparency, I was just as excited as the next guy to have an extended look at Profar. What we’re seeing is an extremely talented, incomplete player.
But more importantly, we’re learning just how important Kinsler is to this lineup. I know he infuriates fans with his pop flies, but he also brings rare power to the leadoff spot.
Kinsler was hitting .302 with a .369 on-base percentage when he went on the DL. He had seven homers, 20 RBI and had scored 24 runs. Elvis Andrus has struggled mightily in the leadoff spot. He’s hitting .227 with an on-base percentage of .293 since taking over for Kinsler on May 17.
Kinsler’s absence has had a domino effect on the rest of the lineup. David Murphy was exposed badly as the No. 2 hitter and had to be dropped in the order during the Rangers’ road trip. Kinsler is a catalytic player capable of carrying a team at times. Right now, Adrian Beltre and Cruz are the only players in the lineup with that kind of ability. And no one knows how long Cruz will be around.
This will be another defining moment for Daniels. Will he try to wait on reinforcements like Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison, or will he make a major move? The Rangers missed on Zack Greinke at last year’s deadline and again in free agency. They were able to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, but that didn’t work. Judging by the current standings, it looks like there will be more buyers than sellers this time around.
Fortunately, the Rangers have a relatively deep pool of talent in the minors. And that’s one more reason why Daniels owes it to the players and fans to get something meaningful done.
You can only tread water for so long. And that’s exactly what the Rangers are doing right now. And pretty well, I might add.