Grading an MLB team isn’t an easy exercise.
Players who reach the major leagues are the best of the best. They might not be the best of the best when playing at the sport’s highest level, but playing in the majors is no easy task.
Also, these exercises often omit grading the general manager and manager of a team.
This one will not.
So, how did Texas Rangers leadership do?
Start in the front office, where GM Jon Daniels did his usual bargain hunting to build the team. However, he also signed a free-agent pitcher to a three-year, $30 million contract that rates as one of the best pickups in MLB.
Daniels held firm on a potential big deal at the trade deadline, though he made two smaller July trades that could have significant impact in 2020 — at least based on what the new acquisitions did the final two months.
But Daniels himself said that the Rangers finished short of their goal of reaching the postseason, and for that he receives a C.
Manager Chris Woodward, though, receives higher marks as a first-year manager (Daniels gets credit for the hire). Woodward’s primary goal was to build trust and implement a more aggressive use of analytics and biomechanics.
It appears that he did that, though the results of his first year might not be known until after next season.
Rather than give him an incomplete, Woodward will be judged on the work that was completed and what wasn’t (a winning team). Give him a B.
Not every player who saw the field for the Rangers is listed below. Do the contributions of Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly really need to be rehashed? Besides, the letters DFA are, in their case, pretty self-explanatory.
The following grades might be a little generous in some cases and not harsh enough in others. For instance, no one receives an F.
These are relative to the 2019 Rangers, so the scale reflects a Rangers grading curve.
Those with higher marks might have saved their seasons after bad starts or made a favorable impression for what they did behind the scenes.
Those on the other end of the report card weren’t trying to be bad and might have done enough in areas other than where they struggled to not have to go to summer school.
Without further ado, here is the Rangers’ report card for 2019.
Mike Minor: The left-hander was an All-Star. He dominated at times. He was one of two Rangers starters with 200 innings and 200 strikeouts, no matter how you look at the last one. He’s at the top of the class.
Lance Lynn: The second half of the 200-200 duo. Lynn made an early adjustment to not be quite as fastball-heavy, and it was wildly successful. He set a club record for most 100-pitch games in a season with 32, topping Nolan Ryan by one.
Danny Santana: The team MVP, right? He batted .281, hit 28 home runs, drove in 81 runs and stole 21 bases. He played seven positions, eight including one game at designated hitter, and twice avoided the injured list. Pretty valuable.
Joey Gallo: He nearly received an incomplete, missing more games than he played, but what he did in 70 games was worthy of an All-Star nod. His development into one of the league’s best hitters was the biggest thing that happened to the Rangers in 2019.
Willie Calhoun: If Gallo’s season wasn’t the best thing to happen to the Rangers, then Calhoun’s was. He hit as soon as he hit the majors in May, and he played much better in left field and ran the bases better. He proved he belongs in the lineup every day.
Shin-Soo Choo: Who led the Rangers in games played? Choo did. He also led them in runs (93) and walks (73). His .371 on-base percentage was the highest among qualifying players. He finished with a career-high 24 homers and was 15 for 16 in steals.
Hunter Pence: The Arlington native was voted an All-Star starter after the swing changes he made resulted in a surprisingly productive first half. He also brought intensity and leadership every day, things that will live on even if he doesn’t return in 2020.
Jose Leclerc: If not for his lousy April, Leclerc would be receiving an A. He pitched very well after losing the closer’s role early, and entered the off-season as the closer again. The stuff continues to be there, as 100 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings would suggest.
Jose Trevino: The catching situation for 2020 appears to be clearer after Trevino’s season. He showed leadership behind the plate, in addition the great defense that is his calling card. But he also hit, which was unexpected. He should be on the 2020 roster.
Nick Solak: Seen as the savior at second base, Solak also logged time at third base and can play the outfield. His right-handed bat, though, is what has everyone so excited. There’s power and an idea of how to hit, which was often missing at second this season.
Edinson Volquez: Forget the numbers, which are somewhat grisly. Volquez missed more than half the season because of an elbow injury, but he remained with the team and tutored young pitchers. He did the same when rehabbing in Arizona. Take a bow.
Shawn Kelley: He was willing to pitch at any point in any game, and he did. He took over as closer for Leclerc and was rolling before a growth was discovered in his throat in May. But Kelley returned quickly and effectively.
Kolby Allard: Brought in by a trade with Atlanta, the left-hander could find himself in the 2020 rotation. He isn’t overpowering, but he knows how to pitch and won’t back down. Of the rookies who pitched this season, he was the best.
Rafael Montero: He’s not young and comes with big-league experience, but he was coming off of injury and had to start the season in the minors. The Rangers promoted him in July, and for the final month was an effective eighth-inning reliever.
Emmanuel Clase: His ability to move strikes with a 100-mph cut fastball allowed him to quickly move from Low A Hickory to the majors by Aug. 2. He’s not a finished product, but he was impressive and should be on the Opening Day roster.
Elvis Andrus: Relative to his career, Andrus had a fine season. Relative to his career-best season in 2017, the Rangers need more at shortstop. Andrus knows it. The Rangers might give him some competition in spring training, but he will there on Opening Day.
Nomar Mazara: He receives a D for disappointing (again), but Mazara arguably had the best season of his career. Injuries grabbed him late as he seemed to be grabbing a hold on some suggested swing changes. He will be shopped in the off-season.
Delino DeShields: No one on the team has DeShields’ skill-set of speed and defense, and winning teams have players like him. He won’t enter spring training with job security, other than being on the roster. He must do more that the plate.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa: A loyal soldier, Kiner-Falefa attempted to transition to catcher until the Rangers pulled the plug on that in July. He’s an infielder again, and he could be a utility man for seasons to come.
Logan Forsythe: The veteran ended the season injured but started it as a key piece who could play all four infield spots. He didn’t hit for much power, but he always gave a professional at-bat and worked pitchers.
Jeff Mathis: The offense was nearly non-existent, but the Rangers didn’t sign him to be a force in the lineup. He helped upgrade the defense at catcher and worked well with pitchers, especially Minor and Lynn. Mathis can’t be an automatic out in 2020.
Brett Martin: No rookie logged more service time this season than Martin, who surprisingly cracked the Opening Day roster and held his own much of the season. He will have to win a bullpen spot in the spring, but he’s a good bet.
Jesse Chavez: The veteran leader of the bullpen, Chavez struggled early on before becoming one of the Rangers’ most reliable relievers. He struggled during a stint in the rotation, and his season was cut short because of a minor elbow surgery.
Adrian Sampson: A lack of starting depth gave Sampson another crack at the Rangers’ rotation, and he fared well in the first half. The second half, though, was a different story, and he was back in the bullpen. That appears to be his future role with the Rangers.
Joe Palumbo: The left-hander experienced the ups and downs of being a major-league rookie, but he showed competitiveness and stuff when he wasn’t dealing with an injury. He will be given a chance to win a bullpen spot next spring.
Brock Burke: See Palumbo, Joe.
Jonathan Hernandez: It should surprise no one if this righty, armed with plus stuff and an ability to work multiple relief innings, ends up on the Opening Day roster. It should surprise no one if the Rangers send him to the minors to try starting one more time.
Rougned Odor: How does he not get an F? Well, he did hit a team-high 30 home runs and play decent defense at second base. But he led the team in strikeouts, had the worst average (.205) among all qualifying MLB hitters, and his contract is sinking the position. Woodward, though, sees something, and that should count for something.
Ronald Guzman: His second MLB season did not see him take the step the Rangers had hoped, and they will consider upgrading first base in the off-season. His defense is tremendous, but he needs to show something at the plate.
Ariel Jurado: The right-hander was better than he was in 2018. He pitched well early on in relief and sprinkling in some nice starts, but was ineffective late. Maybe his future is in the bullpen. At this point, though, he appears headed back to the minors for 2020.