Monday evening, Tim Cowlishaw published a piece over at the DMN site in which he asked if the Rangers are -- or will be in 2015 -- better than the Astros. In answering his question, he pointed mostly to home runs as the reason why the Rangers will now lag behind their in-state rivals, because home runs are apparently the only way to score runs, strikeouts be damned.
Of course, this came less than two days after Cowlishaw once again bemoaned that Jon Daniels let Nelson Cruz get away. The reason for him pointing it out on Twitter was because Cruz is apparently continually proving Daniels was an idiot because he hit a Spring Training home run. I suppose if the bar isn't all that high, it doesn't take much of a leap to jump to conclusions.
That said, I would challenge Tim to hold off on judging Cruz until he's played a full 81 home games at Safeco Field. Even Adrian Beltre wasn't immune to the park that has been known to sap the power of right-handed hitters, and Cruz is older now (34) than Beltre was back then (age 26-30 seasons).
Beyond just disagreeing with Cowlishaw on the premise that I would have been hesitant to lock Cruz up for more than the approximate $14.25 million per year Seattle signed him for, the short-term has started to look a little bit brighter as well.
For starters, the hope is that Shin-Soo Choo will be fully recovered from his 2014 injuries -- minus a worrisome "sore triceps" muscle -- and will be able to serve as the right fielder. Leonys Martin figures to get the bulk of the reps in center field. Left field has players like Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Carlos Peguero, and Ryan Ludwick competing for playing time. That doesn't even mention the power potential coming down the pipeline in players like Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and even to some degree, Jorge Alfaro.
For now, it's Carlos Peguero I'd like to go back and give more than a passing mention. While I've been pretty convinced for several months now that the left field job is Ryan Rua's to lose, I'll admit that there's something about Peguero that intrigues me. Actually, a lot of somethings.
It might have a little something to do with the 30 home runs he hit in 418 Triple-A appearances in 2014. Or the 21 and 19 he popped in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Even to some extent, his Spring Training performance -- even though it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things -- has lent some credibility to the notion that a shortened swing just might help him finally adjust to Major League pitching.
And that, I think, is where he intrigues me the most. See, prior to the 2009 season, the Rangers had another hitter that had shown potential to mash Triple-A pitching but struggled at every opportunity to consistently hit Major League pitchers. After a tweak in which he opened up his stance, Cruz earned another opportunity to play right field for Texas heading into the 2009 season, bolstered heavily by a strong Spring showing.
Going into that 2009 season, Cruz was entering his age-28 season. Peguero finds himself heading into his age-28 season in 2015. Like Cruz, Peguero is showing flashes of potential in his Spring at-bats, and it isn't like he's never done this before, having had a strong Spring in 2012, 2013, and 2014 as well. The main difference? Cruz is a right-handed hitter, and Peguero is a left-handed hitter.
At the very least, the Rangers appear to be prepared to give Peguero a chance to be a part of some sort of platoon. If there's even an ounce of potential that the Rangers can uncover that other teams have been unable to -- yes including the Seattle Mariners, who originally signed him -- he just might be a piece that the ball club can use.
Will he be anything close to what Nelson Cruz was? That remains to be seen, but there are enough similarities in their early career arcs that it has me writing this now. Perhaps I have a case of baseball fever, and in the stupor of waiting for Opening Day, I'm looking for a needle in a haystack.
Carlos Peguero may not even make the ball club out of Spring Training. Or he might surprise a lot of people and earn more playing time than expected, something that I would hope comes from untapped talent rather than a rash of injuries like would have happened in 2014.
At the very least, we're less than 13 days away from Opening Day, and players like Carlos Peguero are exactly what keeps Spring Training fun as the grind of getting through camp begins wearing on players and fans alike.