LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Texas Rangers
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
The Texas Rangers made what could be deemed as possibly the biggest steal of the off season by signing free agent pitcher, Jacob deGrom, which by all accounts, he was heading back to the New York Mets. Will this pay off for the Rangers for this season and beyond?
Even with a history of injuries, the Rangers are banking on deGrom to get back to his dominating form and stay healthy for a full season. Could that be too much to ask of deGrom? The Rangers will need a healthy team if they want to get back to winning baseball. The last time the Rangers made the playoffs was in 2016, after winning their division. Since then the highest they have finished was in third place (twice).
Jacob deGrom is probably going to be one of the most watched pitchers in the majors this year as he takes his game from an almost definite playoff contender in New York, to a team hoping to ride his coattails to the playoffs. The key will be his health and if he can regain his dominating force on the mound. Will he go back to pitching with power and throwing 100 MPH fastballs with ease, or will he change into a pitcher that masters the strike zone with off-speed pitchers that keep him on the field longer and less stress on is arm.
The DeLand, FL native started his professional career when he was drafted by the Mets in the 9th Round of the 2010 June Draft.
He appeared in six games in his first pro season in the minors and was 1-1, with a 5.19. The 2011 season would be missed by deGrom as he suffered a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his pitching elbow. The righty made a comeback in 2012, was 9-3, with a 2.43 ERA. Then after a full 2013 season in the minors and seven games in 2014, the Mets called up deGrom and the rest his history.
National League Rookie of the Year (2014), 4-time All Star (2015, 2018, 2019, 2021), 2-time Cy Young Winner (2018, 2019), 2-time NL Strikeout Leader (2019, 2020). Is the best behind deGrom or can he lead the Rangers to the promise land? Big shoes to fill for a pitcher most feel has lost his dominance on the mound.
For the 2023 season, Jacob deGrom is a must watch.
Bubba Thompson was drafted by the Rangers in the 1st Round of the 2017 June Draft and in five seasons in the minors he showcased pop in his bat and speed on the bases. After the Covid-19 Pandemic suspended the 2020 minor league season, he was sent to Double A in 2021 and hit 23 doubles, nine triples, 16 home runs, 52 RBI’s and stole 25 bases.
The Rangers moved him to Triple A for the 2022 season, and he was second in the league with 48 stolen bases. He batted .303, which was his best batting average of his minor league career and hit 12 doubles, four triples, 13 homes runs and drove in 48 runs.
On August 4, 2022, the speedster made his major league debut and finished the game 2 for 3. In his next game, he started where he left off in the minors with his speed, as he stole his first MLB base, and ended up swiping two on the night.
From August 13 to August 19th, he enjoyed a seven game hitting streak and on August 30th, he hit his 1st MLB home run. For the month of September, he hit safely in 16 of the 26 games he played in.
In his first Spring game of the 2023 season, he went 1 for 2, with a double and two RBIs.
Entering the 2023 season, Thompson looks to lock in the left field starting job again and help a Rangers team that is building up to compete for a playoff spot. As per manager Bruce Bochy, he recently called Thompson a “Game Changer”.
Keep an eye out for Thompson as his speed will bring the fans out to Arlington to watch some exciting baseball again.
The key to any pitching staff is the man behind the plate, the General on the field, as we all call the catchers. The Rangers spent money in the offseason and brought in pitchers they felt could help them compete with the elite teams in the league. Guys like Martin Perez, deGrom, Andrew Heaney, and Nathan Eovaldi could make the Rangers rotation one that teams fear, but it will start with the catchers position.
In 2019, Mitch Garver hit 31 home runs and drove in 61 runs, and batted .273, in only 93 games behind the dish. But since then his numbers have declined as so has his time on the field, as he has been plagued by injuries.
In his absence over the past two seasons the Rangers found a viable replacement who was capable of putting up some power numbers at the plate. Jonah Heim, drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2013, spent seven seasons in the minors, before making his MLB debut on August 25, 2020 with the Oakland Athletics.
On February 6, 2021 he was part of the trade that sent Elvis Andrus to the Athletics, while sending Khris Davis, Heim and Dane Acker to the Rangers. That season he batted just .196, but hit 13 doubles, 10 home runs and drove in 32 runs through 78 games behind the dish and two games in the DH spot in the lineup.
In 2022, he appeared in 127 games, 111 behind the plate and hit 20 doubles, a triple, 16 home runs and 48 RBIs.
Mitch Garver is looking to have a bounce back season and put up the numbers that he is capable of, but waiting in the wing is the 27 year old Amherst, NY native who is ready to be the General on the field for the Rangers.
Keep an eye out for Heim as he looks to be the Rangers main catcher behind the plate in 2023.