Keep an eye on Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers fans.
The Texas Rangers have dwelt in the cellar of the AL West all year, but it hasn’t been that long since they were the class of the American League. Who knows? If Nelson Cruz makes that running catch in the World Series… Okay, I’ll stop. Too painful.
The 2018 season has been painful to watch for Texas fans. Even those waiting on a Cole Hamels trade that will yield them the next Rangers star were disappointed when Hamels, following a terrible run-up to the Trade Deadline, was shipped to the Chicago Cubs for peanuts.
But there’s hope for the future, because the Rangers have been re-stocking their farm system since the last Trade Deadline. One of those prospects who has finally cracked the big-league club is Willie Calhoun.
Calhoun is a former second baseman and converted outfielder. The Rangers acquired the 23-year-old at last year’s trade deadline from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yu Darvish. He was always heralded as a hitter, but his defense was so bad he was sent to the minors during the first round of cuts at this year’s Spring Training. But in the minors, not only has he hit, as promised, he’s improved his defense enough to get a look in the Major Leagues for Texas.
There has been an adjustment period to be sure, but Calhoun has held his own at the plate. His .663 OPS in 16 games this year is unimpressive, but entering Sunday’s game against Baltimore (he went 0-3 with a walk and a run scored) he was working on a five-game hit streak, hitting .323 in his past 11 games. So far, he hasn’t looked out of place in left field, avoiding errors in all of his chances.
Of course, with three true outcomes darling Joey Gallo coming off the disabled list, Calhoun will have to deal with roster churn to find time in the outfield. Nomar Mazara is still out with a sprained thumb but the veteran Shin-Soo Choo is still seeing time in right field.
Carlos Tocci is also playing for time in the outfield, and manager Jeff Bannister will likely split innings between Calhoun and Tocci to get a look at both young players this season. (Tocci started in center field Monday night against the Mariners). There’s a long time between now and next Spring Training, but who performs better in the outfield and at the plate could see some significant time for a much different Texas team next year.
Rest of the West
The Houston Astros, despite their injury problems and predictable downturn, remain safely atop the AL West standings, but things could take a turn at any moment. Houston just sent World Series MVP George Springer to the disabled list with a sprained left thumb, joining Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. They have a four-game lead over the Oakland A’s for the moment, but they also just added Roberto Osuna at the Trade Deadline, who could disrupt the clubhouse with his violent ways, and who recently had to schedule a closed-door meeting with his new teammates to explain (presumably) why he beat his wife. Osuna could disrupt the clubhouse and alienate the fanbase, or he could be part of the reinforcements the Astros need to hold onto the division. We’ll see.
The Trade Deadline might be over, but the Oakland A’s are still adding players. On Monday, General Manager Billy Beane managed to pry away Mike Fiers from the Tigers for two prospects. On Sunday, Beane managed to acquire the deposed Shawn Kelley from the Nationals for a six-pack international slot money to bolster his starting rotation, which has been held together with a huge ballpark, a quality bullpen, and spit.
The Seattle Mariners forgot how to win close games—and how to win any game this week. After a 2-0 defeat of Houston at home, they dropped five straight games, all at home, to the Astros and Blue Jays, before managing six runs on Sunday for a win. They’re now 2.5 games out of the playoffs, trailing Oakland. Manager Scott Servais seems like a patient man, but Seattle has to figure out how to score runs again. They managed only six runs in the Toronto series before their breakout on Sunday. Good thing they added a bat at the Trade Deadline in… Cameron Maybin? Perhaps their negative-19 run differential is catching up with them.
Rumors started to rise out of LA that longtime manager Mike Scioscia could step down at the end of the season. Scioscia swatted them down quickly, calling them ‘poppycock,’ (really). Could Scioscia’s denial simply be him wanting to keep the questions and distractions away from his team this year? Or is he really going to stick around in 2019? Place your bets. If Scioscia really wanted to quietly walk away from the Angels, the end of this season is the time to do it. And if he was planning on retiring or coaching somewhere else, wouldn’t he deny it now?