10 spring issues: Replacing Josh Hamilton
Today's issue: Replacing Josh Hamilton's production at the plate.
But replacing most of that production is key to the club's offensive success in 2013. Hamilton provided power and production in a key spot in the lineup. As spring training gets set to begin, that spot belongs to Lance Berkman, who was signed this offseason.
"It’s an interesting spot in the lineup because it’s the spot that makes the world go around in the lineup," Berkman said earlier this offseason. "You need contributions up and down the lineup, I’m just saying that of all the lineup spots it’s the most critical. You’ve got to have someone hitting third that can get on base, drive guys in."
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"I’m not sitting here with my chest out saying I’m a 3-hole hitter. I think I can do the job, and certainly if I’m healthy and things are going well I think I have a skill set that is suited for that spot," Berkman said. "But by the same token, there are other guys on this team that could easily hit there and if they’re doing a better job, then that’s where they need to be."
It will take more than Berkman, even if he repeats his 2011 season. Another newcomer could help him. A.J. Pierzynski is the club's starting catcher on a one-year deal. He's coming off a season in which he had 27 homers and 77 RBIs. With Mike Napoli out of Texas -- and despite not hitting well for most of the season, he still had 24 homers -- Pierzynski could make up for that production. So it will take others to help collect Hamilton's numbers. Nelson Cruz, in need of a bounce-back season, would be on that list. But after the report by the Miami New Times, we'll see if MLB's investigation results in some sort of punishment for Cruz.
This lineup remains deep. Adrian Beltre, the club's MVP last season, returns and has put together two strong seasons in Texas already. Perhaps Mike Olt gets more time and helps that production. Maybe Mitch Moreland increases his homer and RBI totals, as well.
But making up for Hamilton's production at the plate can't rest with one player alone. It must be a group effort. Maybe spring training will give us a sense of which of those players look primed to do that.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.