Spring training preview: First base

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
8:00
AM CT
Note: Spring training will arrive before you know it. To get you ready, we'll take a look at every position between now and February, when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz.

Prince Fielder Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesThe Rangers will have a new look -- and more production -- at first base this year with Prince Fielder.

Today's position: First base



For the first time since 2007, the Rangers go into spring training with a first baseman who has put up some of the best numbers in the league at his position.

Not since Mark Teixeira was the club's first baseman going into that 2007 season -- he would later be traded, of course, in a deal that helped reshape the franchise -- has the team had a player that projects for big-time power and production from a spot in the field where you'd expect to have it.

That's not a shot at anyone in particular, just a fact that Texas has run through a gaggle of first baseman, but hasn't been able to find one who can produce consistently since Teixeira left. Enter Prince Fielder. He hit .279 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs and an .819 OPS. And those numbers were some of the worst of his career.

Texas as a team at first base in 2013: 25 homers, 65 RBIs and a .223 batting average. Fielder immediately makes that position a whole lot better. No team in the AL had a lower batting average at first base than Texas. The club was 10th in runs scored at first (the only playoff team worse than that was Tampa Bay) and second-to-last in OPS.

Now, the club comes into spring projecting as one of the better clubs at first base. Fielder should enjoy hitting at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington 81 regular season games a year and when he's not playing the position, the Rangers should still have power with Mitch Moreland in the lineup there.

Moreland, who has had the job the past few seasons, hit .232 with 23 homers and 60 RBIs. He was hitting the ball well before a hamstring injury, so you wonder what kind of season it might have been if not for that. The Rangers wonder too, which is why they aren't going to trade him for just anything. And at this point, Moreland's defense and power is a nice thing to have backing up Fielder at that spot. Moreland hit just .185 with runners in scoring position, so improving in the clutch is likely on his offseason improvement list.

OUTLOOK: How can you not think it looks bright? Fielder brings power and production in the form of a middle-of-the-lineup left-handed hitter. He's slated to bat third, though manager Ron Washington has all spring to tinker with that. Fielder is a feared hitter and with the right-field porch in Arlington, he should be able to increase that home run total.

Moreland gives the club another option -- perhaps allowing Fielder to DH some -- at first and has improved defensively. They need more from Moreland at the plate, but the pressure won't be on him as the primary first baseman anymore.

The position has become an offensive strength of the club with one trade. It cost them All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler (and some money too, in that Fielder doesn't come cheap). But it's a big boost to the lineup.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
10 3.06 182 144
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .327
HRA. Beltre 17
RBIA. Beltre 68
RA. Beltre 68
OPSA. Beltre .880
ERAY. Darvish 3.06
SOY. Darvish 182