Rangers manager Ron Washington got a jump on Opening Day, announcing his preferred lineup for the March 31 season opener vs. Philadelphia. An early look reveals a solid combination of on-base percentage, power and grit.
Lead off was an easy choice – Shin-Soo Choo. He has 1,130 career plate appearances hitting lead off, hitting .300 with an on-base percentage of .413, 33 home runs and 153 walks. If he can match those type of averages in 2014, he gives Washington a valuable tool to get off to fast starts.
Elvis Andrus will hit second, a natural spot for him. His .338 career on-base percentage in this spot is the key stat. If he and/or Choo can get on base early and often, it could be the real key to the offense.
The surprise move by Washington – Prince Fielder in the three-hole, rather than hitting clean-up. He’s had 4,489 plate appearances hitting fourth and only 681 hitting third. But clearly Washington feels that having Fielder bat before Adrian Beltre at four will generate more offense since the two compliment each other well in that order. Having players like Choo and Andrus in front of Fielder are also keys, with more chances to drive in runs.
Beltre is used to hitting clean-up, including 132 homers and a .521 slugging percentage in 2,708 career plate appearances in that spot.
Many forget about Alex Rios, acquired at the trade deadline last year from the White Sox. Hitting fifth, He typically has not hit this high up in the lineup, but his gritty play and ability to put the ball in play make him a good choice here.
Mitch Moreland recently avoided arbitration with Texas and will hit sixth for Washington. This is the danger zone of the lineup, as Moreland will be depended upon to deliver some offense during the long season. Can he ever become the consistent hitter needed to be a full-time DH? If he can, the Rangers will reap some serious benefits at a needed area of the lineup.
Catcher Geovany Soto will hit seventh, a spot he is very familiar with. He’s hit here more often than any other spot over his career. He doesn’t have to be spectacular; just contribute some key RBIs and the occasional homer here and there. He’s not Pudge, but he should be solid.
Jurickson Profar will begin his first full-time role with the Rangers in the eight-hole, a perfect spot for him to settle in and work on becoming a solid hitter and offensive contributor. Don’t be surprised if he flourishes and begins inching up the lineup a spot or two as the season goes on.
Hitting ninth will be Leonys Martin, another perfect spot for a player of his talents. Production from your ninth hitter in the middle of games is vital, turning the lineup over and hopefully giving the big guns RBI opportunities. Martin is comfortable here and should continue to produce.
Taking an overall look at the lineup, Washington’s combination clearly has the ability to produce some runs. The big bats up front should do their thing. The spots to watch are six and seven. If Moreland and Soto can simply add some pop and consistency (as well as a walk or two), this offense can get humming.