ALDS preview: INFIELD

rangers

TEXAS RANGERS (88-74)

We know what the Rangers have in the infield. There is a future MLB Hall of Famer at third in Adrian Beltre, a suddenly rejuvenated, and refocused Elvis Andrus at short, a dirt bad, hardnosed, “Dustin Pedroia-like” second baseman that goes by the name of Rougned Odor, and a sure-handed first baseman having a career year in Mitch Moreland. Prince Fielder, and Mike Napoli can also man first base, but Prince in the primary designated hitter, and Napoli will play left – at least for the first five-to-six innings – against lefties.

Yes, the Rangers’ infield is stacked. The only possible question may be who the utility infielder is, but that is rather easy, as Hanser Alberto is the only candidate who has played third, second, and short stop, and provides hella mojo on the bench. He is always the first to greet a runner after crossing the plate.

Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez should be your two options behind the plate. Chirinos because he is one of the best with the staff in recent memory, and Gimenez because he cannot seem to miss the baseball at the plate, and is Cole Hamels’ preferred backstop. Additionally, I am making the call right now – Napoli will make at least one start behind the dish this post season.

For those keeping record at home, that is eight position players already mentioned, and as outlined in yesterday’s article on the pitching staff, there are eleven players projected to the post season pitching staff. As we sit at 19 players on the 25-man-postseason roster, with an outfield to go, I regret to inform you, the reader, that Joey Gallo may make his way onto this run to the World Series.

The golden child gives Manager Jeff Banister flexibility at third, first and a corner outfield spot, as well as a possible game-changing bat off of the bench, but I hope I am wrong on this one. His addition also leaves five spots open for an outfield that will be dissected in tomorrow’s column.

To recap –

STARTERS: Chirinos, Moreland, Odor, Andrus, Beltre, Fielder (DH)

BENCH: Gimenez, Napoli, Alberto, Gallo

TORONTO BLUE JAYS (93-69)

According to our Blue Jays minor league pal, the Toronto organization relies heavily on the advanced metric stat of plus or minus. For those in need of a quick math lesson, to find the ‘plus-or-minus’ number of a certain player:

(number of runs batted in +  number of runs scored) – the number of games played

If a player is +/-10, said player has played to an “all-star” level and is helping his team win day in and day out. For the sake of giving some credit where credit is due, this certain Toronto prospect posted a minus eight this season. Again, do not think of the minus as a bad thing, instead just think that he accounted for a run in all but eight games this season. Impressive, yes.

However, this is where jaws begin to hit the proverbial floor.

Prince is the Rangers’ team leader in RBI, and posted a plus-18. Shin Soo Choo, thanks to a phenomenal second half, led the team in runs scored and posted a very respectable, plus-27. Moreland, in the midst of a career year, put together a plus-four, Elvis a minus-29, Odor finished at minus-five, Delino DeSheilds minus-one, Beltre minus-7, and Hamilton a minus-three ratio.

All are very solid years, according to the Blue Jays grading system, but after the year the Toronto hitters put together, they are almost laughable.

Take Oakland Athletics’ cast-off and Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson, for example. Donaldson accounted for 123 runs batted in, 122 runs scored, and appeared in 158 games. All three numbers are staggering, especially when you factor in the fact that he was traded in the offseason for Brett Lawrie (minus-25), Kendall Graveman (6-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.418 WHIP), Sean Nolin (1-2, 5.28 ERA, 1.621 WHIP), and high-A prospect Franklin Barreto.

Donaldson is manning the Toronto hot corner and supports a plus of 87. Eighty-seven. Simply astonishing.

Designated hitter, Edwin Encarnacion sits at a plus-59, starting catcher Russell Martin supports a plus-24, newly-acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has a plus-seven ratio since joining the Jays, and 27-year-old and Round Rock native Ryan Goins will be holding down second base with his minus-31. Yikes.

The Blue Jays infield is heavy on the corners, and because of Tulo’s injury to his shoulder blade, suspect up the middle. The injury may also directly affect the team’s ability to carry a third catcher to offset Martin’s porous defense. Encarnacion is a physical liability in the field, and the need to carry Rangers’ and Mariners’ castoff Justin Smoak and backup first baseman Chris Colabello (plus-two ratio) – who will provide, you guessed it, a right handed bat for the Toronto bench – are required additions, not luxuries.

Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole will both be added to the playoff roster – Navarro because he is the legitimate backup catcher, and seven-year vet Thole because the Jays’ have limited options off of the bench from the left side. However, Thole has never had a post season at-bat, and with the team’s need in other positions, he is the first guy I believe will be left off of the post season roster, if the Jays decide to add a little more speed in the outfield.

That leaves Cliff Pennington, a 31-year-old Corpus Christi native, as the Blue Jays’ utility infielder, and they will pray for Tulo to be able to continue to play through his injury – because after Cliff, the talent level literally falls off of a cliff.

Despite his age, Pennington is still averaging a launch speed right below the 89.28 mile-per-hour-league average of 88.04, so there is still some pop left in his bat. However, he carries a career .245 average with him into the ALDS, and has 14 total post season at bats. Not exactly a spark plug off the bench, swift of foot, or playoff experienced.

To recap –

STARTERS: Martin, Smoak, Goins, Tulo, Donaldson, Encarnacion.

BENCH: Navarro, Thole, Colabello (unlikely), Pennington.

 

Advantage: Donaldson is a beast, as is Encarnacion, but neither is astronomically better than the combo of Prince, Beltre, Napoli, and Moreland. The Tulo injury greatly affects his stock, and leaves Roogie and Andrus the far superior combo defensively and offensively up the middle. Behind the plate, Martin is the best singular option, but for the sake of keeping numbers close, the combo of Chirinos and Gimenez is an impressive plus-14, which is not far off of Martin’s plus-24.

In fact, while we are back on the Blue Jays grading system:

Team A’s starting infield plus DH: (485 RBI + 470 R) – 798 G = +134

Team B’s starting infield plus DH: (437 RBI + 387 R) – 827 G = -3

Since the All-Star break:

Team A’s starting infield plus DH: (228 RBI + 220 R) – 345 G = +103

Team B’s starting infield plus DH: (235 RBI + 208 R) – 407 G = +36

Team A, unfortunately, is the Toronto Blue Jays. Keep in mind though, this is only accounting for the starters, and not factoring in the flex players the Rangers often deploy. The Jays have the upper hand in the infield from a power and run producing stance, but the Rangers have the clear advantage in post season experience. Let’s hope that plays a significant factor.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Check out our previous positional previews below:

ALDS Preview: Pitching Staff

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Travis M. Smith
Travis has been a baseball fanatic since birth, and, according to his parents and multiple other reports, at the sophisticated age of three had the near-superheroic ability to regurgitate the statistics of every member of the 1992-93 Texas Rangers . The 2015 Tarleton State graduate dabbled in baseball at the collegiate level before falling into journalism and works full-time as the managing editor of the Glen Rose Reporter.

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