Texas Rangers Positional Preview: First Base

The Starter

Mitch Moreland stepped to the plate in Game 3 of the World Series in front of the home crowd begging for a victory, and a prayer, for a Cinderella ending to the 2010 season.

He delivered.

Now the first base position is one of intense focus on this Texas Rangers ballclub. Moreland steadily became less and less effective at the plate as last year wore on and the situation devolved to the point that Mike Napoli and Michael Young were forced to make platoon starts at first, a position where their defensive liability glared.

A few weeks after the ending to the 2011 World Series (which will go un-discussed in this article) the news seemed to trickle out that Moreland would need surgery on his wrist for tendonitis and that the injury had plagued him for about half the season. The same half that saw Moreland’s numbers steadily drop like a quarterly profit chart for Blockbuster.

How effective can this injury be at hampering offensive effectiveness? In baseball, reaction timing is crucial. One can’t simply guess which pitch the pitcher will throw, you much study, predict, and then adapt. What the injury does is take away the ability to adapt to a pitch because in order to generate power, Moreland was forced to start his swing early and commit to it. He was not able to properly adjust his bat speed when he guessed fastball and got a slider in the dirt. It also takes away the option of a check swing; the wrist just isn’t powerful enough to withstand it.

But how much does that matter?

Moreland has shown he has difficulty hitting lefties. Personally, I think that his pitch recognition is well below average, leading to some absolutely awful looking swings. He is streaky at best and hasn’t yet had a full, healthy, season.

On the upside, when he does connect he can hit the ball a mile. He recorded the longest home run at the ballpark last season. A 472 ft walk off blast against the Astros. He is above average defending the bag, but on this Rangers team there certainly isn’t anyone that is going to challenge Moreland.

The Bench

Mitch Moreland isn’t an ideal choice. In a perfect world he would be one of the last components to the most complete baseball team Texas has ever fielded. I still believe he is unproven. More than anything, Ranger fans just want him to stay healthy less we incur the wrath of Brad Hawpe at 1B or Mike Young.

The Projection
The projections for Moreland don’t look great. Most writers at FanGraphs have him sitting around .265/.330/.430 which is nothing to write home about. Actually it’s pretty bad if I’m going to be completely honest. But, as I have written before, the offense that the Rangers have is pretty heavy in power and production. It may not be necessary for Moreland to put up the numbers that are more typical from the 1B position, because of the production the Rangers get from the CF position. And the C position. And the 3B position. RF so on and so on. The ShutDownInning Staff projects Mitch to have the following season:  

                   Avg     HR  RBI SB  BB    K    E 
Moreland  ..272    19     65    1     43    96   3

In 2010 Mitch stepped to the plate and took the most memorable swing (at the time) in Rangers history. Now in 2012 the team will ask him to step to the plate everyday to be a part of a team still chasing history.   

Mike McGehee is a Shut Down Inning staff writer. You can email him at Mike.McGehee@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @SDIMikeMcGehee
Mike McGehee

Leave a Reply