We continue our ranking of the top 10 Texas Rangers with a look at the starting center fielder.
No. 6: Leonys Martin
2014 stats: 155 games, 533 AB, 146 H, 31 SB, .274/.325/.364
2015 projected stats: 524 AB, .264/.318/.387, 2.3 WAR
AL West rank: Let’s be honest: The best center fielder out west is defending American League MVP Mike Trout (.287/.377/.561) of the Los Angeles Angels. He led the big leagues in WAR (7.5, per Baseball Reference), offensive WAR (8.3) and total bases (338) in 2014 -- just a fantastic season. Does anybody come close? Not really. Martin is a solid player who is still growing, and veterans Coco Crisp in Oakland (who batted .246 in 2014, his lowest since 2009) and Seattle's Austin Jackson (range factor of 2.62 per nine innings) have good speed and cover a lot of ground. It’s just hard to compete with Trout.
Outlook: Is this ranking too high for Martin? The expectations have increased for him as he enters his fifth big league season. Manager Ron Washington didn’t trust the left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers (.250 against southpaws in 2014), but interim manager Tim Bogar did. Why not? Martin is an everyday player and should hit against everyone. Under new skipper Jeff Banister, Martin will not only hit against lefties but also bat leadoff. One of the main reasons the Rangers liked Banister is his desire to play young players every day. Martin said he just needed the confidence from the manager’s office to play better against lefties last season -- and indeed, the Rangers saw improvement late in the year. Martin also got better defensively and can’t afford any regression in his play there. The 26-year-old had a career-high 194 total bases the past season, and that number should increase when he is the leadoff hitter.
Projections from Steamer Projections, via FanGraphs.