by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
A year ago Delino Deshields Jr. was viewed as a significant fantasy asset. Coming off a strong 2015 campaign, where he hit .261 with 83 R and 25 SB over 492 PA, he posted a miserable 2016 season (.209 in 203 PA in the Majors, he spent time at Triple-A and didn’t make the team’s postseason roster).
An afterthought when the preseason started, it’s fair to wonder if Deshields could force his way into the Rangers’ plans (whether it’s Opening Day or later on this season). While the leadoff/centerfield role is filled by Carlos Gomez, leftfield is a different story where Deshields is one of several candidates:
Profar is the preferred choice, though it remains to be seen if the career infielder can handle the position defensively (he played 18 games in LF in ’16) or if he can stay healthy. Gallo continues to struggle making contact, including a 34.6% strikeout rate at Triple-A last season. Rua is more of a utility player who may be a short-term bridge, but it’s hard to imagine him getting an extended look.
That leaves Deshields, who is doing his best to force the issue this spring (stats are through Saturday):
.257 (9-35), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 8 R, 5 SB
He has also shown a good eye at the plate, with 8 K vs. 8 BB on the spring. A lot of his resurgence has come thanks to improved conditioning. According to Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (click here for the article):
“He’s lean after looking like a linebacker a year ago, and he is moving around the bases quicker than ever. He’s also right mentally, which for him was his biggest off-season project after only a one-week stay in winter ball.”
In the same article Wilson provided the following quote from manager Jeff Banister:
“Delino is putting together a very nice spring, similar to what we saw in ’15,” he said. “The ability to use the speed, he’s put some speed on the ground, but he’s barreled some balls, too. That’s his game. We know that when he gets on base, with the shape he’s gotten himself in, the small-ball aspect for him is going to be huge.”
With speed seemingly hard to find, the potential for Deshields to be back towards his ’15 outlook has to put him on our radars. A year ago we had projected him to hit .276 with 34 SB, and while we aren’t about to expect those levels in ’17 that’s the type of upside he brings with regular player time (even hitting at the bottom of the lineup). Monitor the situation closely, because if he wins an everyday job he immediately becomes a must own option.
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs, Star-Telegram