Inbox: Is Kinsler right man to use atop batting order?
Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan fields questions from Rangers fans
Why are the Rangers sticking with Ian Kinsler in the leadoff spot? Aren't there others with better on-base percentage? Wouldn't Kinsler's power potential be put to better use in a later spot?
-- Bud G., Plano, Texas
Manager Ron Washington likes Kinsler in the leadoff spot for one main reason: he scores runs. The two offensive statistics that Washington looks at most are runs scored and RBIs. As far as on-base percentage, over the past two years, Kinsler has a .340 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter. That ranks 13th out of 29 leadoff hitters with at least 500 plate appearances and is about 20 points lower than what's considered good for a No. 1 guy.
But Kinsler ranks seventh with a .795 OPS, which means he gives you a little more power than the average Michael Bourn, plus he still has the ability to steal bases. The alternatives are Elvis Andrus, who seems an ideal No. 2 hitter, or the center fielders, who will likely bat ninth in front of Kinsler anyway. If Kinsler follows through with some of the stuff he is working on this spring -- like getting in a better hitting position to drive the ball -- then it shouldn't be an issue.
Why aren't the Rangers looking at Derek Lowe as a starter? He has been a front-of-the-rotation guy for many teams, including one that won the World Series.
-- Paul F., Fort Worth, Texas
Lowe just arrived, and the club is still evaluating him. Right now, the Rangers are really feeling the temptation to put Nick Tepesch in the rotation despite his relative lack of experience. He has looked that good in Spring Training. Lowe certainly could develop into a rotation candidate, and it has been discussed. But he could also have great value as a middle reliever who can pitch multiple innings.
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Is Joe Ortiz going to make the team after having a great spring?
-- James A., Oklahoma City
The Rangers are going to have two left-handers in the bullpen and Michael Kirkman -- the star of the spring -- will be one of them. Robbie Ross will be the other, if he does not make the rotation. Then you have Nate Robertson and Ortiz, and a third left-hander is a possibility. Robertson is also having a great spring, but the Rangers are still evaluating if his sidearm action will work against right-handed hitters. Fair or not, one thing working against Ortiz is he still has options, so he may end up being valuable Triple-A bullpen depth.
I noticed that center fielder Jim Adduci, who I don't believe has yet played in the Major Leagues, was hitting .424/.486/.758 through 21 Spring Training games. I know that Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin are probably locks and Julio Borbon is in the mix for an outfield position and out of options. But how do the Rangers assign Aducci to the Minor Leagues with that line without him losing all hope in humanity?
-- Aaron R., Dallas
Adduci has definitely caught the Rangers' attention, and the uncertainty of Nelson Cruz's situation adds to the intrigue. But with an outfield of Cruz, David Murphy and the possible platoon of Martin and Gentry in center, there is no room for Adduci right now. He may be the No. 1 victim of Texas' insistence on going with a seven-man bullpen.
Stop me if you've heard this one, but Jeff Baker has absolutely been tearing it up. You should have stopped me by now. My question is this: Does he compete with Mitch Moreland, who himself has had a nice spring, for first base, or is Moreland a lock for first and Baker more or a man off the bench?
-- Jacob M., Waco, Texas
Baker has had an excellent spring and is going to make the team. But the Rangers are committed to giving Moreland a chance to play every day, including against most left-handers. Baker is still exactly what the club needs: a veteran right-handed hitter off the bench who can play multiple positions.
I know Leonys Martin may be the future in center, but what is wrong with a guy like Craig Gentry who hits .290, plays some good defense and steals a base?
-- Carl M., Fort Worth, Texas
Gentry has had an excellent spring and has surprised some people by showing more pop in his bat in the past. He is going to be an integral part of the Rangers, but Martin has earned his way into a prominent role as well. Gentry is definitely a winning piece.
When Neftali Feliz comes back, what role do you see him taking?
-- Curtis S., Fort Worth, Texas
The Rangers have made it clear that he will be used in relief this season. Beyond that, it still seems likely that he'll stay in the bullpen. That's where he has been successful and, in looking into the future, that's likely going to be the biggest need for the Rangers beyond this season.
With Jurickson Profar having little left to prove in the Minors, is there a possibility they could trade Elvis Andrus for a top-notch starting pitcher?
-- Patrick S., Kilgore, Texas
The Rangers aren't going to trade Andrus. He was their starting shortstop on two World Series teams. As general manager Jon Daniels said, the left side of the infield is a strength, and you don't break up your strengths. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Profar playing a full season in Triple-A.
Can you update us on Joakim Soria? Early offseason had him back in May. Then some projections changed to mid-April. Haven't heard anything since. Reportedly, he's throwing live batting price now. When should we expect to have him back 100 percent?
-- Trog D., Addison, Texas
Soria has not yet pitched live batting practice. He is throwing off the mound in the bullpen and said Tuesday he is two weeks away from live batting practice. So the best guess on Soria's return is mid-May or the beginning of the June.
Is Yu Darvish pitching from the windup this spring when the bases are clear? Although he was impressive last year pitching exclusively from the stretch, don't you think a full windup will aid his deception, velocity and ball movement?
-- Bruce A., Fort Worth, Texas
Darvish has plenty of velocity and movement. Control and command was a big issue for him last season, and he seemed to improve when he simplified his delivery. Hitters and pitchers are always tinkering, but that seems to work best for Darvish right now.
When the Rangers declined to make a qualifying offer to Mike Napoli, was it because of his performance in 2012, or did management have some indication of the physical problem that turned up in Boston?
-- Sandy M., Dallas
Texas simply did not want to pay $13 million. The club was able to sign A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto for $10.25 million. Napoli was coming off an injury, so the Rangers knew there might be some physical issues. But they still expressed a desire to have him back, so they probably didn't know the extent of his hip problem.
Are you not bothered that the Rangers' Spring Training hats are a different shade of blue than the jerseys?
-- Travis A., Edmond, Okla.
No, the horrible wireless Internet contraption here in the desert bothers me far more. Call it a preference of substance over style.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.