My last two articles have been spent detailing the top six spots of Texas Rangers 2012 batting order as I would like to see them. Obviously it will change based on who is injured or needs a rest, what hand the opposing pitcher throws with, or what Wash's gut tells him. I'm just outlining what I think the everyday lineup with everyday players should look like. Here's a recap of where we are so far:
1. Ian Kinsler--Kinsler proved last year that he can be effective in the leadoff spot.
2. Michael Young--As one of the top average and RBI guys on the team, I love getting him as many at bats as possible.
3. Josh Hamilton--The three spot is the perfect compromise for Hamilton between number of at bats and maximizing his power.
4. Adrian Beltre--Beltre at clean up makes sense to me. He almost never walks, so being surrounded by feared hitters will give him the best pitches to hit.
5. Mike Napoli--It will be a great surprise if Napoli repeats his 2011 performance. Even if he doesn't, I feel his approach and power potential locks down the number five spot for him.
6. Nelson Cruz--The only thing that keeps Cruz from moving up in the order is his colossal streakiness (if that's a word). He'll still have plenty of folks to drive in, and won't be as much of a rally killer when he's in a funk as he would be if he were higher in the order.
Today I will round out the bottom third of the order. There typically isn't a lot of talk about the bottom three spots, but I believe they can be a key part of a high caliber offense. Here's who I see filling them:
7. Whoever plays center field--I foresee a platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in center, at least to start the year. Gentry hasn't proven that he can consistently give quality at bats, and we just haven't seen enough of Martin at the big league lever to guarantee him a full time spot. It's entirely possible that one of them will stand out in spring training and win the job, but I think they'll both play a good deal in the early parts of the season. I do have high hopes for whichever one of them ultimately wins out, though. I would love to have one of these guys develop at the plate enough that they can take Kinsler's spot leading off. It'd be great to have a light hitting, high on base percentage speedster at the top of the order.
8. Elvis Andrus--Elvis hit second for the vast majority of the 2011 season. While the ultimate result is difficult to argue with, I feel Elvis should have been moved down in the order. His overall numbers weren't terrible (.279/.347/.361), but I'm much more comfortable with Young in the two hole. I also like the idea of Elvis causing havoc on the bases late in the order. I'm guilty of over appreciating the stolen base, and my pulse quickens just thinking of Elvis and Gentry/Martin on base at the same time. Elvis is another guy, and possibly the most likely, that could take the leadoff spot from Kinsler if he gets going.
9. Mitch Moreland--I like Mitch. I like Mitch a lot. I think he's going to develop into something really special. Unfortunately, he was a notch above useless at the plate late last season. Some of that was, undoubtedly, due to his bothersome wrist injury. I expect good things from Mitch this season, but as of now he belongs at the bottom of the order. Once he proves the problems were in his wrist and not his head, he may climb a spot or two. All this is, of course, assuming that the Rangers don't sign Prince Fielder. If they do, Moreland will be lucky to get an at bat here and there filling in for Cruz or Fielder (assuming he doesn't play all 162 again).
So there it is. That's what I'd like to see Wash run out there on opening day. Many will have other ideas, and I'd love to hear them. Heck, I could be convinced to shuffle a couple of spots depending on what mood I'm in. Overall, though, I think this lineup will get things done. With the quality of players you're working with it's difficult to come up with an order that doesn't make some kind of sense. I just can't wait for Kins to step to the plate for the first time...I could use some baseball.
Chris Kautz is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning.com. You can email him at Chris.Kautz@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @SDIChris