Spring training is full swing for the Texas Rangers, with Game No. 7 of the Cactus League on Monday, but players have been hanging around the Surprise Recreation campus since before the Super Bowl.
Pitchers and catchers held their first workout Feb. 13, the first full-squad workout followed five days later, but a large majority of the players on the Rangers’ spring roster arrived to the desert well ahead of their due dates.
In other words, there has been plenty of time for players, coaches and club officials to be bowled over by the performance of one player more than any other. And there have been a number of candidates, as all but one healthy player has yet to appear in a game.
But who have been the biggest spring eye-openers?
The following is a list from a group that includes: manager Chris Woodward, pitching coach Julio Rangel, general manager Jon Daniels, shortstop Elvis Andrus, designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo, center fielder Delino DeShields, left fielder Joey Gallo and right-hander Shelby Miller.
What they said is below, though without attribution. Each of those polled is assigned a number, but that number does not reflect the order of the paragraph above.
Three players were named twice. One of those polled said that his top performer was too close to call, so both of his are included for a total of six making favorable first spring impressions.
The left-hander acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the three-team Jurickson Profar trade is one of the two players who received two votes, and why not?
The Colorado native has logged three innings over two appearances, and allowed one hit while striking out six. He started Sunday against the San Diego Padres and tossed two perfect innings.
But it’s not just how Burke has pitched but how he goes about his work and how attentive he is when not on the field.
Voter 1: “He seems like a dog on the mound. He goes right after you. He’s got good stuff. You can see it on the field.”
Voter 2: “Just the way he carries himself. It’s almost like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to do.’ He’s made it look easy, where some of the guys who have been successful, there’s been a little fight to it.”
The other player to receive two votes, Martin is a reliever now after spending almost all of his career as a starter.
That started to change last season, when he struggled with Double A Frisco (7.28 ERA, 1.88 WHIP) and was sent to the bullpen.
All Martin has allowed in two appearances, covering two innings, is a single. He has also struck out three.
Voter 3: “Oh, Brett Martin. He’s really been impressive. I think he’s found his best role, and his pitches play better as a reliever.”
Voter 4: “After what he did a year ago, I’d say he’s made the biggest improvement. The step forward in a year’s time, it’s been drastic.”
Someone was going to select Pence, right? Well, two of the eight did. No one has said a bad word yet about the veteran outfielder, who grew up in Arlington, and all are wowed by his passion for baseball that is still intact after 12 seasons.
Pence is also starting to see results from the swing changes he made during the off-season, batting .267 in 15 at-bats with three doubles, and he hasn’t been shy on the bases with three steals.
Voter 5: “I like Hunter Pence. He just brings good energy every single day. Just seeing how he goes about doing his business and he’s so positive. It’s been really impressive.”
Voter 6: “That’s an easy answer: Hunter Pence. That guy’s something else. As soon as I met him, he was talking so positively. I was like, ‘This guy is for real.’ It’s not a show. That’s something you need in this game, teammates like that. That’s probably my favorite teammate I’ve played with now.”
Perhaps a surprising appearance on this list, but the voter who select Hernandez has been blown away by the right-hander, who signed a minor-league free agent in December.
Hernandez made his MLB debut in 2017 with the Cincinnati Reds, finishing with a 5.18 ERA in 19 relief appearances. He pitched in the minors for three organizations last season, the Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers.
Voter 7: “He has stuff, but it was his presence on the mound. He didn’t seem nervous. Just attacking hitters. He doesn’t have much major-league service time, but he showed a lot of confidence.”
The Rangers wanted to see Guzman have a good spring to solidify his spot at first base, and he’s responding so far.
Guzman had clubbed three home runs entering Monday and was batting .429. Even his outs have been well-struck as he works on a swing that will allow him to hit to all fields and add power.
Voter 8: “From the offensive said, he’s been the best one going on the team. Even when he’s not getting a hit, he’s crushing the ball at someone.”
The two-way player has yet to play two ways, though he’s on the path toward pitching in a spring game, but one way has been impressive enough.
Davidson, who has 46 homers the past two seasons, entered Monday tied with Guzman for the team lead (three) and also has doubled. He has made some changes to his swing, as it seems just about every player in camp has, and the results are showing.
A corner infielder, Davidson is competing with Patrick Wisdom for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Voter 2: “Davidson is a guy who comes to mind because the swing part of it, he’s got a chance to be really special. I know he’s had a bunch of big-league time and had success in the big leagues, but he’s got a chance to sustain consistent success with what he’s done with his swing.”