By Jared Sandler | @SandlerJ

SURPRISE (105.3 THE FAN) — This is a big year for Mitch Moreland, plain and simple. For starters, it is his last season in his 20s, a sign that time is ticking for the Rangers to get the return on their patience with Moreland. The memories of promise from the 2010 postseason are fleeting, but not extinct.

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Several in the organization believe in Moreland and think he can become an impact middle-of-the-order bat. Clint Hurdle, the manager under whom Jeff Banister worked as a bench coach in his most recent and final role with the Pirates, issued high praise for Moreland in conversations with the new Rangers skipper.

“A guy I trust with [assessing hitters] believes Mitch can be a special player,” Banister said, referring to Hurdle. “And from what I’ve seen so far, I do too.”

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Many believe he’ll start the season hitting sixth, behind some combination of the Choo-Beltre-Fielder trio. That will put him in great position to drive in runs and see some pitches.

I don’t think Moreland will carry the Rangers lineup, but you can make a case he might be the most important player if this lineup wants to go from good to pretty good to great. A second power bat in the bottom-half of the lineup capable of hitting 30 home runs — a number by no means out of reach for a healthy Moreland — will be tough to face on a nightly basis.

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Let’s take a look at Moreland, BY THE NUMBERS.

.462

Moreland made his MLB debut in 2010, but really broke onto the scene during the playoffs that year. He hit .348 throughout the postseason, but really stood out when the lights were brightest in the World Series. Moreland hit .462 in five games, including a big three-run home run in Texas’ 4-2 win over the Giants. Overall, he posted the best batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of anyone in the series.

2

On June 9, 2012, Moreland became the second American League hitter ever to blast a ball into San Francisco’s McCovey Cove, a demonstration of the true power he has. Only Boston’s David Ortiz, one of the game’s most prolific home run hitters, had done it previously. While health and inconsistency has limited his ability to demonstrate his power the way many had projected, he has the potential to be among the league’s best if he puts it together.

.702

The Rangers OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) from their DH spot was 11th out of 15 American League teams last year and nearly 50 points below the league average. For teams loaded with arms in pitchers’ parks, that’s okay. But for the Rangers, that’s not okay. During the team’s two World Series runs, they got OPS season of .836 and .834 out of their designated hitters. With Yu Darvish already done for the year and some question marks with the rotation, they’ll need something closer to those marks if they want to compete into September.

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