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If the MLB season does happen, which Rangers would make the 50-man player pool?

Evan Grant makes his projections, including which players would make the active roster.

Let us, for a moment, put aside the current world around us and take a quaint, fanciful approach to the baseball season. We’ll call it: optimism.

We’re going to assume MLB and the players association will work through the myriad issues related to health protocols, COVID-19 contingency plans and payrolls. We shall assume there will be a season. A season unlike any other, but a season nonetheless.

Our exercise now: Construct a Rangers roster and an accompanying taxi squad to account for the 50-player pool of talent each club would be allowed. It’s still uncertain if active rosters will be 26, 28 or 30 players. But, hey, details. We’ll go with 30, leaving 20 for the taxi squad.

There are a ton of questions to be answered about contract splits and escape clauses for guys on minor league contracts, but the biggest question is this: What’s the general philosophy? Do teams approach the pool as their entire minor league system for the season, or do they worry only about what gives them the best chance in an 82-game sprint for the playoffs?

“It’s unlikely that we will have guys on the taxi squad that we would not be comfortable with at least considering for big league time this year,” general manager Jon Daniels said this week.

“I don’t think we’re comfortable taking up many spots, if any, with players that can’t help the big league team this year. It’s likely we’ll have a more condensed schedule, maybe fewer off days, potentially some doubleheaders in there. To limit yourself and have fewer players to choose from, that could be a major limitation.”

OK, good to know.

The other important element is that with an expanded big league roster, versatility, which managers typically crave, becomes less of an asset. You have the luxury to specialize, to take guys who have one particular tool to help you.

With that in mind, here’s our projected 50-man pool. Those we project to be on the active roster are bolded:

Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos  participates in a drill during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.
Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos participates in a drill during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Catchers (4 in pool/2 active): Robinson Chirinos, Jeff Mathis, Jose Trevino, Nick Ciuffo

What’s up: The delayed, shortened season works against Mathis. In a full season, it was entirely possible Trevino would have taken over as the backup midway through; if the club starts at the midway point, perhaps Mathis’ presence is less relevant. It might also allow them to keep Blake Swihart on the taxi squad. They like Swihart’s positional versatility, but with an expanded roster and a shortened season, specialization may be worth more. Ciuffo is a better receiver.

In the pool: The big issue is the handling of top prospect Sam Huff. He won’t be ready for the majors this year. Would whatever extended development camp the club puts together be enough work for him?

From left, Texas Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzman, second baseman Rougned Odor, shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Todd Frazier chat in a dugout while waiting for their turn for batting practice during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.
From left, Texas Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzman, second baseman Rougned Odor, shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Todd Frazier chat in a dugout while waiting for their turn for batting practice during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Infielders (8/6): Elvis Andrus, Greg Bird, Todd Frazier, Ronald Guzman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Andy Ibañez, Rougned Odor, Yadiel Rivera.

What’s up: Specialization helps Ibanez and Rivera. Rivera was the best fielder in camp. With the roster expanded, his late-inning defense could be an asset at multiple positions. If the Rangers have an infield injury, they could use Ibañez for his bat early in games and replace him late with Rivera. It might mean the Rangers would not have room for versatile Matt Duffy, who lacks a standout tool.

In the pool: While Bird had an “out” in his minor league contract, his best route to the big leagues might be to stick with the Rangers and see how things work out with Guzman. In an 82-game season, nobody will get a long leash.

Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo canÕt make a sliding catch on a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs catcher Josh Phegley during the third inning of a spring training game at Surprise Stadium on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.
Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo canÕt make a sliding catch on a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs catcher Josh Phegley during the third inning of a spring training game at Surprise Stadium on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Outfielders (10/7): Willie Calhoun, Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Gallo, Adolis Garcia, Scott Heineman, Rob Refsnyder, Danny Santana, Nick Solak, Leody Taveras, Eli White.

What’s up: The expanded roster gives the Rangers latitude to take a defensive-minded center fielder. The question is whether they’d keep the 21-year-old Taveras. He could have a role as an excellent late-inning defender, but he’s struggled to prove himself as a hitter. White has shown real feel for center field, is a more advanced hitter and can play other positions. Taveras probably needs daily at-bats, at least to start the season.

In the pool: The last man in the pool decision might come down to Duffy vs. Refsnyder. Duffy has had more success in the majors but has struggled since an Achilles injury; Refsnyder had an intriguing year at Triple-A in 2019.

Texas Rangers pitcher Corey Kluber stretches with teammates during a training workout at the team's training facility on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.
Texas Rangers pitcher Corey Kluber stretches with teammates during a training workout at the team's training facility on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Starting pitchers (11/5): Kolby Allard, Jason Bahr, Kyle Cody, Luke Farrell, Kyle Gibson, Corey Kluber, Jordan Lyles, Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, Joe Palumbo, Tyler Phillips.

What’s up: There will be teams that make adjustments to six-man rotations or more “openers,” but the Rangers’ rotation should be the backbone of this team. Barring a health issue, the Rangers should be able to go with their intended five-man rotation and bolster it with extra relief arms. The expectation is this group will be capable of 85-90 pitches or at least five innings from the start of the season.

In the pool: With Brock Burke out for the season with a shoulder injury, the club is thin on depth options. Kyle Cody, who missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, is on the 40-man roster and has refined command. Being in the pool gives him, at the very least, a chance to pitch against advanced minor leaguers. He’s about to turn 26 and has never pitched above Class A. He needs to pitch against advanced minor leaguers.

Texas Rangers pitcher Jose Leclerc (right) laughs with Edinson Volquez (36) Juan Nicasio (left) and Brian Flynn as they participate in a fielding drill during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz.
Texas Rangers pitcher Jose Leclerc (right) laughs with Edinson Volquez (36) Juan Nicasio (left) and Brian Flynn as they participate in a fielding drill during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Relief pitchers (17/10): Joe Barlow, Jesse Chavez, Demarcus Evans, Ian Gibaut, Nick Goody, Taylor Guerrieri, Taylor Hearn, Jimmy Herget, Jonathan Hernandez, Derek Law, Jose Leclerc, Brett Martin, Rafael Montero, Juan Nicasio, Joely Rodriguez, Alex Speas, Edinson Volquez.

What’s up: An expanded bullpen gives the Rangers the chance to use both Hernandez and Hearn as multi-inning, power-throwing bridges to the back of the bullpen. It will reduce the workload on both. The biggest question here might be if Chavez, who was shut down in spring training, will be ready for the regular season.

In the pool: The Rangers shut down Speas, who was coming back from Tommy John surgery, after he emerged from rehab throwing 102 mph. They were concerned he came out too hot. But restrictions were taken off for this season, and there was hope he’d zoom through the minor league system. The 22-year-old right-hander could be an overpowering late-season weapon.

Find more Rangers stories from The Dallas Morning News here.

In This Story

Evan Grant, Rangers beat writer/insider. Evan has covered the Rangers since 1997. He has twice been named one of the top 10 beat writers in the country by the AP Sports Editors. His passions outside of covering baseball are his wife, Gina, his two step kids, two crazy dogs & barbecue. Let's not discuss the cat. Evan graduated from Georgia State University, but oddly is a Georgia fan.

egrant@dallasnews.com @Evan_P_Grant
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