One of the question marks on a Texas Rangers team that doesn't have many heading into the 2012 season is the play at first base.
As we've discussed before, Mitch Moreland had a substantial decline in play over the second half of the 2011 season and it later was revealed that he was playing through a significant wrist injury that required off-season surgery.
The Rangers declined to get too serious in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, and wisely so as the Detroit Tigers forked over way too many years and way too much money for the 27-year-old with some weight issues.
Instead the Rangers went out and signed veteran Brad Hawpe to a minor-league deal, meaning he got an invite to spring training and has a chance to make the big-league roster. Hawpe is just eight months removed from Tommy John surgery (elbow reconstruction) meaning he can't throw a ball very far. So he'll focus this spring (most likely all season) on playing first base as an insurance policy for Moreland.
Hawpe, who's a Saginaw native, struggled last season, but he's had his moments during his 8-year MLB career, mostly with the Colorado Rockies. He's a career .276 hitter with four 20-plus home run seasons and one 100-plus RBI season.
Most of Hawpe's career has been spent in the outfield but last season in 44 games at first for the San Diego Padres he compiled a fielding percentage of .991, showing he's got plenty of talent at the position despite not having a ton of experience.
We'd venture to guess he's already better at first base than Michael Young so, barring any further setbacks, he'll likely make the big-league roster and be a key part of the Rangers' bench.