Rangers thinking how their infield will shake out

Rangers thinking how their infield will shake out

Rangers thinking how their infield will shake out
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rangers are looking for catching help. Manager Ron Washington was jokingly asked Tuesday at the Winter Meetings if Ian Kinsler could catch.

"Probably could," Washington said. "He's a good athlete."

Putting Kinsler behind the plate would solve several questions for the Rangers as they examine how to put together their 2013 infield, but it's not going to happen. Washington isn't even sure if Kinsler will be moved anywhere even though the club has discussed the possibility of moving him to first base.

"Right now, Ian Kinsler is our second baseman," Washington said. "I'm not thinking about first base."

The Rangers do need to think about the makeup of their infield. They are at the Winter Meetings trying to sign either outfielder Josh Hamilton or pitcher Zack Greinke, they are still looking for more bullpen help after signing Joakim Soria and they are looking for another catcher to pair with Geovany Soto.

They are not looking for infield help. But they do have more infielders than spots in the lineup, and figuring out when and where they are all going to play is an integral part of putting together their 2013 team.

"Well, some of those guys you named, they show up every day to play," Washington said. "Some of those guys are going to have to get at-bats other ways. In between now and April 1, we'll figure that out, but right now to say completely what my plans are, I think we've just got to let it play its way out."

The Rangers finished this past season with Adrian Beltre at third, Elvis Andrus at shortstop, Kinsler at second base and Mitch Moreland at first, with Michael Young serving in the role of designated hitter/utility infielder. But the team also has Mike Olt, who can play third and first base, and Jurickson Profar, who can play either short or second and is ranked as club's top prospect by MLB.com.

Second base is more likely. The Rangers have little interest in moving Andrus off of shortstop or trading him, even though rumors of a deal with the D-backs for outfielder Justin Upton still persists. But if Profar does play second base, that affects multiple players who have had big roles on three straight playoff teams.

It would force Kinsler to first base, it would reduce Moreland to a part-time player and it would cut into Young's playing time. Young has played 77 games at first base over the past two seasons, his most at any defensive position. He has played 65 games at third base, 30 at second and just five at shortstop.

Young also finished last season with a .277 batting average, his lowest since 2002. His .682 OPS was the lowest of his career. But at this point, general manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers did not come to Nashville trying to trade him. Washington is preparing for Young to be in a similar role as last season.

"I think we'd just better see when we get into Spring Training and see how things play its way out," Washington said. "Michael is a part of this team, and as far as I'm concerned, he'll continue to be a big part of this team. There's some youth that's going to be infused, and we've just got to wait and see how that process works."

Moreland finished the season hitting .275 with 15 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .468 slugging percentage. He missed five weeks with a strained left hamstring and he had just 46 at-bats against left-handers. But he has a chance to give the Rangers a badly-needed left-handed bat with power in a lineup loaded with right-handed hitters.

"We're still high on Mitch, and we certainly expect Mitch to come back and put together the year that we know he's capable of putting together," Washington said. "And hopefully once he does that, it can be something that we can expect for many years to come."

Much of this all comes down to how much the Rangers want Profar in the lineup. Profar, who won't turn 20 until Feb. 20, spent last season at Double-A Frisco, hitting .281 with 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs and 62 RBIs in 126 games. He stole 16 bases, had 66 walks against 79 strikeouts and finished with a .452 slugging percentage.

That earned him a September callup to the Rangers, and he was 3-for-17 in limited playing time. He had a home run and a double in his first two Major League at-bats against the Indians on Sept. 2.

There is a good chance that his playing time won't be limited next season.

"What I saw was quite impressive," Washington said. "The game of baseball does not scare him, and that's a tough attribute for a young kid to already have, and he certainly has it. The game doesn't scare him, and because the game doesn't scare him, that means he won't be taken aback by adversity. Because in this game it's full of adversity, and if you can't handle adversity, then this game will eat you up.

"I don't think the game will eat him up, especially how he feels about the game of baseball, and experienced players, but not only players but coaching staff that he will have him around, we will not let him fail. He's quite an impressive kid."

Profar's presence has given the Rangers much to think about this winter and it's part of what they are working through here at the Winter Meetings.

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.