Another mixed-up position, where the traffic flowed through, and anyone handed the chance to take the job threw it away. Nelson Cruz threw it away at the start of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, came back up and stank again. Victor Diaz got time there early on, was doing okay but went down anyway. Marlon Byrd got in there when David Murphy took over in center, and Sosa and Wilkerson tried there too. All three outfield positions were the same, running people through to try and get someone to stick.
Nelson Cruz summary: Still waiting for Cruz to put it all together at the big league level. He’s been a minor league MVP, and was one of the keys when Coco was traded to Milwaukee, but he’s taking his sweet time adjusting to the majors, and Ron Washington has let him know it. Now 26, what does he have to do to win the job? Maybe nothing, because maybe Washington is already so frustrated with his inconsistency that he won’t give him a chance. He struggled badly in the early part of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, then came back with a new batting stance, started out really well (two homers in his first game back), but then stumbled and bumbled to the end of the year. His minor league OPS was 1.126, in the majors it was .671. With an improved second half, he will get another shot, but he may have already burned too many bridges to get a good go next time round.
Victor Diaz summary: Hit exactly league average during his month with the big club, but only had 104 at-bats in that time, and was used sparingly by Washington while he was up. His prospect status is still intact though, because he’s only 25 and killed at AAA (.917 OPS) when he went back down. Combined 23 home runs in both places, in under 400 at-bats, but will he be given the opportunity to play every day?
Others: Everyone else who played here (Byrd, Sosa, Wilkerson, Murphy, Hairston and Mahar) has been or will be covered elsewhere.
Minor leagues: Once again the Rangers have prospects in the middle minors, but little elsewhere. If anything they have too many average guys at the top, none of whom have enough opportunity to stand out. Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Mahar all took turns at right in AAA, with Mahar spending the most time there. He’s getting old for a prospect (26) and isn’t hitting very well, so may have leveled out. John Mayberry is one of the Rangers top prospects, combining for 30 home runs at A and AA. Following behind him are Anthony Webster and Jon Weber, similar names but neither is likely to do much. Weber in particular hit well at High-A, but is much older than the league, so is probably no prospect. In Low-A, KC Herren worked very well at an age-appropriate level, so could either continue to develop or fall off the tracks. Victor Barrios and Eric Fry split time at Spokane, neither showed much but each has time to put it all together. And in rookie ball, Miguel Velazquez did some good in a short period of time.
2008: It’s almost as if there are too many players for this spot, and if one slips even slightly, he will quickly be replaced. Long gone are the days when Juan Gone roamed right field, banging home runs all over the place. Now there’s a bunch of prospects, each one able to hit home runs in the minors but not yet in the majors. Unless they look for a free agent, the Rangers will likely begin with Cruz or Diaz in right, with Murphy/Byrd playing fourth outfielder and getting in there every so often. Don’t plan on any kind of stability here yet.
2009 and beyond: Surely one of these guys will step up and grasp the brass ring? Like the other outfield spots, it’s in so much flux that there’s no way to predict what might happen. Either the Rangers will go for a big name center fielder and let the four or five guys left behind battle for the left and right field spots, or they’ll decide they don’t have what they need and another big name will come into right as well. It’s been years since the Rangers had a productive outfield, they’ve let all three positions lag, and they need to get them working again before they can contend. John Mayberry is the great hope of the minors in right, and although he might have a chance at 2009, he’s more likely to be in Arlington in 2010.