Posted on December 26, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Texas Rangers have had a fairly quiet offseason thus far. The reigning AL West champs are clearly in win-now mode, yet they have have been reluctant to get involved with any of the high-priced free agents on the market. Outside of bringing back Carlos Gomez, the Rangers have not made any notable additions. On the surface, that may be bad news for the team, but it could mean good news for young outfielder Delino Deshields.
Deshields was the 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft, being selected by the Houston Astros. However, the Astros left him unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft following the 2014 season, allowing the Rangers to grab him. Deshields had an impressive rookie season in 2015, finishing 7th in American League Rookie of the Year voting. However, despite being the opening day center fielder in 2016, Deshields struggled to find consistent playing time and he was even sent back to the minors for a couple months.
But as things stand now, Deshields could get more opportunities in 2017. Gomez is penciled in as the every day center fielder for the Rangers, with Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo expected to play the corner positions. However, with the Rangers hoping to get Choo more time at DH, a position with little clarity for the Rangers at the moment, it opens the door for Deshields to carve out an every day role in center field, pushing Gomez to a corner spot and making Choo the every day DH.
“That’s the plan,” DeShields said about becoming the team’s every day center fielder. “This offseason, I feel better physically than I ever have before, and I’m going to go in there and compete for a job. That’s what it’s all about. The competition level is higher, and that brings out the best in me. I want to be an everyday player. All the stuff that’s going on — re-signing Gomez — that’s great. It puts a little chip on my shoulder to go out there with some fire and show these guys I can be in the lineup.”
Desheilds says he spent last offseason trying to become stronger so he could show more power, but the 24-year old now admits that was a mistake. “My offseason program last year was a little different than this year,” he says. “This year I’m more focused on being more explosive and getting my mobility back.” Speed is easily the biggest asset that Deshields brings to the table, as he’s a strong defensive center fielder and a dangerous player to have on the base paths, and playing to his strengths could be what gets him more playing time in 2017.
The son of a long-time big leaguer also says he’s spending the winter getting in the right frame of mind for the season. “I’m just focused on getting the mental part of my game together, getting back my confidence and get my body right,” DeShields said. “The last several weeks, I have been working my tail off, get light again, clear my head a little bit.”
The Rangers could still change course and sign a player that alters the look of their outfield, but as it stands now, Desheilds will have an opportunity during spring training to prove that he should be the opening day center fielder in Texas for a second consecutive year. If Deshields can win that job, he’ll put himself in position to become a regular for the Rangers in 2017. Opportunity is definitely knocking for the former first round pick, and he seems determined to answer it.