Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections are a good measure of what to expect from players in the upcoming baseball season. We'll take a look at the Rangers' projections on a position-by-position basis. Szymborski can be found on Twitter at @DSzymborski.
Today we'll look at the projections for the Rangers center fielder. Last year saw the Rangers' chosen long-term center fielder, Leonys Martin, fall by the wayside in favor of rookie Rule 5 selection Delino DeShields, who'd spent his time in the Astros' minor leagues as a middle infielder. DeShields got his shot and never looked back, earning Rangers Rookie of the Year honors and actually finishing seventh in the balloting for AL Rookie of the Year honors using his big-time ability to get on base and then do damage on the base paths. Center field will be all his in 2016, and the Rangers hope he can build on what he did as a rookie.
DeShields:532 plate appearances, 21 doubles, 6 triples, 5 home runs, 42 RBIs, .247 batting average, .326 on-base percentage, .351 slugging percentage, 31 stolen bases
There is some concern out there about DeShields' long-term ability to play center field at a high level due to his lack of arm strength and his raw approach in the field. But he did improve with his angles in 2015, which was a positive sign.
DeShields earned his accolades at the plate and on the bases, however, and Szymborski's projections for 2016 see a pretty significant drop-off from his rookie season — never an unheard of thing in baseball once pitchers get a good book going on a hitter.
DeShields hit .261/.344/.374 last year with 22 doubles and 10 triples in 40 fewer plate appearances than he's projected to have this year. That's a bit concerning if you're a Rangers fan. He did only steal 25 bags last year, so the projections have him improving in that area.
DeShields' maturation will be a key factor to the team's ability to build on last year's surprising success, and it'll be interesting to see how he performs in his second year (first full season) in the bigs.