Difference Maker: Mitch Moreland
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
The time is now for Mitch Moreland. It’s that simple and no matter how experts decorate it or try to use statistical data to project his season, Moreland MUST produce or his time with this team will end. He has been used in platoon roles versus lefties during his short tenure with this ballclub and because of a stable of capable hitters able to play first the past two years, Mitch never really got a chance to be the everyday starter.
As spring training came to a close, the case could be made that Moreland was the MVP at the plate (if there was such an award). He hit an even .400 and had four homeruns and 13 RBI in only 21 games. His approach and performance versus lefties was the most impressive and important aspect of this spring training for the Rangers ballclub in my opinion. Imagine if Moreland had come out this spring and really struggled versus lefties or at the plate in general? That forces an aging Berkman into an unnecessary role early on and could have pushed Mike Olt into a situation where he may have pressed even more than he did this spring (although that may not have been possible). This brings me to my worst case and best-case scenarios for this season concerning Mitch Moreland.
Mitch comes out of the gate and continues to struggle versus lefties and this trickles into his overall approach and production against righties as well. Berkman is forced to play a lot early on at first base. This may not catch up to the veteran until mid or late summer, but the effects on his legs and back will be evident at some point. This will also obviously trigger another move within our outside the organization to help the lineup and first base. Moreland has had a high strikeout rate against lefties in his short career with 44 strikeouts in only 196 plate appearances. He has more strikeouts than hits (41), so the concern is understandable and warranted. At the end of May if his numbers resemble these (.200/.275/.375) with a high K%, it could spell doom for the Rangers and Moreland’s career.
The Moreland we have seen this spring stays hot to start the season and Ron Washington really begins to trust him versus lefties more and more throughout the summer. This allows Berkman to be the DH and keeps him fresh throughout the summer and into the fall. Even though this lineup lost a lot this off-season, it still doesn’t mean that Moreland has to be an MVP caliber player at the plate this season. The fan base has convinced themselves of the narrative that Moreland must profile as a middle of the order run producer, but that’s not who he is or who he will ever be. If he can be productive and most importantly just consistent, this team will be in great shape. A slash line of .265/.335/.460 would be sufficient for what this team needs. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 HR and 60 RBI would be icing on the cake, but 15 HR and 45-50 RBI gets the job done as well and is more likely.