Let's take a look at the infield as we continue to get prepared for spring training with our Surprise positional outlooks.
Today's position: First base
The biggest free agent on the market is Prince Fielder, and while the Rangers have said obtaining Fielder is "unlikely," you never know what may transpire. We've discussed Fielder a lot on this blog and the reason Texas is mentioned as a possible destination is that there's a need. The Rangers didn't get much production from the position in 2011.
Actually, since the Mark Teixeira trade, the club has attempted to find a full-time first baseman who can produce consistent offensive numbers. Among those who have played the position since: Justin Smoak, Chris Davis, Jorge Cantu, Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland.
Again, don't count the Rangers out of the Fielder sweepstakes. But as of now, Moreland is the first baseman.
Moreland's 2010 season, especially how he improved after getting called up in June and then his solid postseason performance (in which he became the everyday first baseman even against left-handed pitchers, making Cantu a bench player), made him the club's first baseman heading into 2011. But knowing how he struggled against left-handed pitching, the Rangers traded for Napoli and had Young learn first base to give them options. But Moreland was the guy.
He's still the guy as the Rangers head into 2012. A wrist injury bothered him for most of the second half of the season, making it difficult for the club to fully evaluate him. He ended up hitting .259 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 2011, which included batting .241 after the All-Star break and .167 in September. Moreland was just 3-for-29 with two homers and three RBIs in the 2011 playoffs.
But how much of that was Moreland's injury? It bothered him enough that he had surgery this offseason. Moreland is a hard worker and committed to improving. He showed enough promise late in 2010 that the club wants to see what he can do in 2012. But he won't have to do it all alone. Young played the position some in 2011 and said in December that he's focused on detail work there this spring. Napoli can also play first.
So it will be interesting to see how Moreland looks this spring and how the position shakes out. He's going to come in a little bit behind but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.