Delino Deshields Needs a 2015 Odor Demotion

May 11, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields (7) attempts a bunt against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’s the baserunning. Maybe it’s the strikeouts. Maybe it’s the 16-for-84. Maybe it’s the defensive issues. Maybe it’s the fact that he was dropped way, way down in the lineup and still did not improve his game. One way or another, in my humble opinion, it’s time for Delino Deshields to get a fresh perspective on things in the minor leagues.

Around this same time last year, many had the same opinion about one Rougned OdorRecall that at the end of April, Odor was hitting .147. Eight games into May, he was sent down to, “get back to the type of player that got him here: Gritty, gutty, tough at-bats” (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News). It worked. Odor came back in the middle of June, after tearing things up in Triple-A Round Rock, and ended up hitting greater than .300 over the next three months. That’s the kind of revival that Deshields needs, but a lot has to go into consideration before pulling the trigger.

Can the Rangers afford to lose his presence as a speed threat?

Make no mistake, Deshields is still the fastest Texas Ranger on the 25-man roster. The problem is that, in a small sample size, he’s run himself into more outs than should be acceptable for someone you want to see on-base. This year, Deshields has already been caught stealing three times – out of five attempts. He’s made three outs being picked off or taking ill-advised chances. Last year, he was only caught eight out of thirty-two attempts and was picked off twice – all year.

Deshields’ on-base percentage is also dipping. With another 0-for, his OBP would dip below the .300 mark. Keep in mind that Shin-Soo Choo, considered an on-base machine, at his worst, had a .340 OBP. Last year, Deshields finished the year with a .344 OBP. That’s more along the lines that the Rangers need for their center fielder and leadoff hitter to reach.

There’s also the issue of his strikeout to walk ratio, which of course factors into his ability to get on base. Deshields finished his rookie campaign with around a 2:1 K/BB ratio – 101 to 53. So far, this year, he’s up almost an entire strikeout – 23 Ks to 8 walks.

In short, Deshields’ presence only matters if he can continue to get on base, and while his straits aren’t as dire as Rougned Odor’s were last year, they’re certainly not up to par with the expectations of a championship team.

By sending Deshields down, however, you expose one of the Rangers’ flaws – speed. Deshields’ absence leaves Elvis Andrus as the fastest on the squad, with Odor as a relatively distant second. Andrus is not a bad option to have, but both Odor and he are just two options, and Andrus is a bottom of the order hitter. Odor is slightly (slightly) above average in terms of speed, with his baserunning prowess making up for what he lacks in MPH. Even the bench options can’t be viewed as speed options. An option would be to move Andrus back to the 2-spot, although, given how well Nomar Mazara has been performing, it’d be tough to switch the two. Andrus, instead, might drop to the 9-hole and be a secondary leadoff hitter. Regardless, the lineup construction would require a bit of creative thinking. Luckily, the Rangers have a man who can be creative with a lineup.

Can Ian Desmond handle Center Field?

The Rangers’ top off-season acquisition, Ian Desmond, has started three games in Center Field, and hey, he’s doing better there than in the eighteen games in left! I kid, obviously, since Desmond’s only had seven chances in center. But as skeptical as I want to be about Desmond handling full-time center field duty for roughly a month, I was just as skeptical about him converting to the outfield when the team signed him, and he’s certainly adapted to that far better than most could have imagined or hoped.

Until either Choo or Josh Hamilton return, Ryan Rua would assume full responsibility of left field. Even when Choo returns, keeping a platoon of Rua and Choo in left field might prove to be a better option, at first, than just turning the reigns back over to the guy just returning from a calf strain. Sure, that’s an expensive platoon partnership, but I’d rather be cautious with the team’s long-term investment.

At this point in the season, with more than three-quarters to go, I’ll be comfortable with Desmond roaming center field for now – after all, shortstop, where Desmond played previously, requires the most range of the infield positions and is regarded as the general of the infield. Center Field requires the most range of the outfield positions and is regarded as the general of the outfield. If anyone could handle the job, currently on the roster, it’s Ian Desmond.

What do you do with Deshields when he comes back?

Herein lies the issue. The Outfield Logjam has already been addressed here, as has the hot topic of what to do with Nomar Mazara when the time comes. But when Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton come back, The Rangers will have six outfielders vying for four spots. For me, it comes down to how Mazara is playing. If Mazara is going at the current productive pace he’s on, then Deshields is the odd man out, without question. Truthfully, sending Mazara down to see if Deshields can get it back together in ten days might be an attractive option to an organization trying to keep a top guy around for an extra year of control.

Deshields, as has been discussed amongst the SDI crew, is better suited as a fourth outfielder. Whether in a platoon or as a straight-up bench guy who can be a speed threat later in the game, Deshields probably shouldn’t be handling everyday duties. That, of course, assumes that Ian Desmond is doing fine out in center field. Then again, you would have a fourth outfielder in Hamilton. A fifth outfielder in Rua. Is this where we discuss Deshields being a great trade chip? It’s certainly possible.

That being said, your other optionable outfielder is Mazara. You’d want to keep Rua around for his versatility, but a four-man outfield of Desmond-Deshields-Choo-Hamilton isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility. Choo could be on the block. Desmond could be on the block. You can read about the scenarios in the aforementioned Outfield Logjam article, but that article also assumes that everyone is performing at their peak level. Deshields may honestly not make it out of Triple-A, if he gets demoted.

All of these things tend to sort themselves out, as the saying goes. One thing’s for sure – something needs to change with Delino Deshields, and his demotion, not Mazara’s, may be exactly what unlocks the right combination for a championship outfield.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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