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Thursday, April 14, 2011
Up-the-middle strength: Rangers 6th

By Richard Durrett


NEW YORK -- ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick's "Starting 9" this week deals with the strength of teams up the middle. He ranked the top-9 based on what 15 scouts and front office folks told him about each team's catcher, second baseman, shortstop and center fielder.

The Rangers came in sixth, behind the Phillies, Yankees, Orioles, White Sox and Diamondbacks. Here's what Crasnick said about Texas:
Let your mind wander for a minute, and it's amazing to think how formidable the Rangers could be at these four spots. Three years ago, they appeared to be awash in catching, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia newly arrived from Atlanta, Gerald Laird still on the roster and Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez in the pipeline. Fast forward to last October, and Matt Treanor and Bengie Molina were handling the catching chores in Arlington. And now it's Torrealba's turn.

The Rangers would also rank higher if Josh Hamilton were playing center field, but they moved him to left to better keep him in one piece over a 162-game season. Talk about irony: Hamilton is now out 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury after an ill-advised head-first slide.

It's the Texas double-play combination that makes everyone gush. Andrus has tremendous range and poise at age 22, and Kinsler has two All-Star appearances and a 30-homer, 30-steal season in his goodie bag. If manager Ron Washington needs to give those guys a rest, he can just plug in Michael Young.

Borbon is the weak link here, with a .323 on base percentage in 191 games. But he can fly, so there's always hope.

"He has a chance to be a top-of-the-order guy if he can ever develop a strike zone that's consistent,'' said a scout. "He's not real instinctive, but he's got the speed to outrun his mistakes. He'll make some Web Gems just on the ability to correct himself.''