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The Leadoff

What should the Rangers do with Prince Fielder? It’s a really interesting question. There are plenty of options and we can discuss them all later, but I want to quickly point out why I think making him a bench player is a bad idea.

First of all, what do I mean by a bench player? I mean someone who plays less than 50% of the time and gets his starts to give guys a rest or exploit a favorable matchup.

The Rangers are currently “unplugging” Prince, a strategy I totally support, but if he doesn’t come out stronger from this experiment over the next few weeks, things might get tough.

The problem with Prince Fielder on the bench is that your team basically is playing a man down. He isn’t an option to serve as a defensive replacement, nor is he an option to serve as a baserunning replacement. The only other value for someone on the bench is as a pinch-hitter, but that’s problematic for a numbers of reasons.

1) He’s on the bench because he’s having the worst offensive year of his career.

2) Pinch-hitting is tough. Pinch-hitters have a .218 batting average since 2010, almost 40 points lower than those not pinch-hitting. Fielder has never been used consistently in that role and I just have a tough time believing he’d have success doing it in a season in which he has zero rhythm at the plate as is.

3) Let’s just say Fielder pinch-hits and walks or singles or doubles, you’re probably pinch-running for him. If you don’t, unless he pinch-hit for the DH or the 1B (which, typically, you’re not doing either because players in those roles are typically capable hitters), you will need to replace him defensively. No matter how you slice it, pinch-hitting Prince almost always becomes a multi-player move which depletes your bench.

So, what should the Rangers do? After he unplugs, pick spots that, because of the matchup, lend to a higher probability of success and see if he can catch some confidence and get going in the right direction. All the while, my guess is his chances come outside of the top-half of the order. Those chances don’t have to be everyday. Maybe you give him a couple days and if he doesn’t get anything going, you give him a couple days off and then couple days on again. I don’t know.

If none of that is working when July 1, or maybe even as late as the All-Star Break rolls around, I guess it will be time for the front office to get creative.

Stats of the Week

*The Rangers have matched a franchise record having won 9 consecutive series at home.

*Jurickson Profar has a hit in all 9 games he’s played this year, collecting multi-hit performances in 7 of them. He’s also picked up at least one hit in all 15 games he’s led off in his career.

*The Rangers are averaging 5.8 runs/game with Jurickson Profar in the lineup (9 games). Prior to his arrival, they were averaging 4.6 runs/game (47 games).

*Rangers relievers have allowed just 21.8% of inherited runners to score, 3rd best in the American League. League average is 30%.

Quote of the Week

“Since I got here, he was THE leader. He was a leader who was easy to follow.” -Adrian Beltre on Michael Young’s leadership.

“Leadership isn’t anything other than you being yourself.” -Michael Young

“For me the bigger takeaway is what Prince did. It won’t get talked about unless I say it, so I’m going to say it.” -Ian Desmond on Prince Fielder’s groundout in the 8th inning of their 7-3 win over the Indians.

This is a classy move by Desmond, who is obviously aware of his teammate’s struggles. A lot of what Desmond has brought to the table can be quantified, but he’s also a plus-teammate, which can’t be quantified, but can illustrated through moments like this.

Minor League Spotlight

*Connor Sadzeck is a 6-7 RHP in Double-A Frisco’s starting rotation. He’s a hard thrower who has struggled with his command in past seasons since the Rangers selected him in the 11th Round of the 2011 Draft our of Howard College in Texas. Sadzeck has done well in his first full-season with Frisco (take a look at his stats), though many people I talk to are torn on his future. While for some it is a discussion of starter or reliever, for others it is a conversation on whether or not he has what it takes to succeed at higher levels. He’s someone worth following though, as is anyone who can threaten triple digits on the gun.

Covering the Bases

*Shin-Soo Choo is continuing his rehab assignment this week and my guess is he’ll return next Monday.

*A.J. Griffin is scheduled to throw a bullpen today and might begin a rehab assignment on Thursday.

*My Postgame Poll (which you can find @sandlerj after each Rangers game) after Saturday’s game was simply asking fans who would have the better career between Profar and Odor if they had to guess. I was fascinated by how dead even the voting was and it really is an interesting debate. If I had to gamble right now on the future, I’d feel more comfortable choosing the player who has not had the significant health challenges just because it seems like the higher-percentage play so, for now, give me Odor. With that said, both guys are so fun to watch.

*The Rangers have gotten great production from their catchers this year. When Chirinos returns, either Holaday or Wilson has to go (presuming health), and that decision won’t be easy. My vote is still to keep Wilson on the island, but Holaday is presenting a compelling case for himself. With all of this said, I’d still say the Rangers should aggressively pursue Jonathan Lucroy. He’d present both an offensive and defensive upgrade and would be worth a reasonable price, but not one that should include one of the team’s premier prospects, which is what Milwaukee wanted this past off-season.

*Derek Holland looked really sharp yesterday versus Seattle, going a season-high 7 innings, striking out a season-high 6 batters. If you take away his two bad starts, his ERA is 2.31 this season. Now, I know you can’t take those bad starts away, but the point is that in nine of his 11 starts, he’s not only given you a chance to win, but, results-based, been really, really good, as opposed to being kind of consistently average the whole way. To me, there’s a difference.

*Cesar Ramos doesn’t get a ton of credit but I really think he’s done a very nice job helping out this team in the rotation and the bullpen. He throws strikes, works quickly, is good with runners on base, and is versatile in how he can be used. When A.J. Griffin comes back, he might return to the rotation or he might return to the bullpen. If he returns to the bullpen, both he and Cesar Ramos can fulfill a few different roles and wouldn’t necessarily be two of the same.

*Jurickson Profar’s injection into the team’s lineup and the spark it has provided is similar to what Delino DeShields did for the lineup last year. They do different things, play different positions, and Profar’s emergence was around a month later than Delino’s was last year, but both have had a similar impact.

*Speaking of catchers, here is Bobby Wilson on a variety of topics.

The Walkoff

Michael Young was my first ever “favorite Rangers player” whose career I remember virtually in full. I knew him as a tremendous baseball player and, through the word of others, a tremendous person. During an era in the sport in which integrity came into question, Young was a beacon of hope that there were guys having great success the right way on the field while remaining high character individuals off of the field.

Young wasn’t a “can’t miss prospect” or someone with undeniable physical tools but I think that was part of the appeal. He earned his way to top and worked his tail off to stay there, not by necessarily doing the sexy thing, but doing the tough things really well.

During the bare years of the early 2000s, Young was one of the few, if not the only constant reason why watching Rangers games remained more than just a habit, but an exercise of enjoyment. While he might not have been the best player on the World Series teams, he helped carry us to that era and remained incredibly important. Young bestowed leadership and a team-first attitude we crave in our athletes, sacrificing an individual agenda a number of times for the team agenda.

Salute to you, MY. You will always be my first ever “favorite Ranger.”

Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus on what Michael Young has meant to them.\

Michael Young on what making the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame means to him:

Until tomorrow, Peace Be the Journey

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