As we embark on the offseason, let's take a look at seven key questions facing the Rangers.
Today's question: Who plays center field in 2012?
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels reiterated again on Monday that the club would prefer Josh Hamilton play left field.
"You can hurt anywhere, but the wear and tear is greater in center field than in left," Daniels said.
Texas went into spring training last year with the same plan and committed to Julio Borbon as the starting center fielder. But Borbon struggled, hitting just .232 in April and then ended up in the minors and hurt. Thanks to contributions from Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry, Hamilton was still able to play most of his games in left field. But the club wants to see that number increase even more in the hopes of keeping its star slugger healthy.
So if that's the plan, who plays center field in 2012? The Rangers have plenty of in-house candidates and Daniels indicated that's the direction they are probably headed. Let's take a look at a few of the possibilities:
* Craig Gentry. The 27-year-old became a valuable addition after getting recalled on May 7 when Nelson Cruz was placed on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps muscle. He hit just .194 in May (7-for-36) as he adjusted to life in the big leagues. But after that, Gentry was consistently solid. He hit .299 the rest of the season, including 14-for-41 with six RBIs in September.
Gentry is one of the fastest players in the big leagues. His first home run was an inside-the-parker, and he had 18 stolen bases in the regular season without being caught. Gentry covered plenty of ground in center and it was clear that he was most comfortable in center, having not played the corner spots much in his career.
* Endy Chavez. In the need for more outfield depth, Chavez was called up on May 14 and stayed with the Rangers for the rest of the season. Chavez recovered from right knee surgery in July 2009 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and was healthy in 2011. He hit .301 (77-for-256) with the big league club in 2011 and had 24 multi-hit games (eight games of three or more hits). Chavez also has good speed and was 10-for-15 in steals. He started 66 games with a team-high 59 in center field. Chavez is a free agent this offseason, BTW.
* Leonys Martin. The Cuban signed with the club earlier this season and was sent to Arizona to get at-bats before moving on to Double-A Frisco and then Triple-A Round Rock. Martin hit .348 in 29 games in Frisco and was sent to Triple-A for another challenge. He batted .263 in Round Rock and did slow down his production the last few months of the season. But overall, he showed all the skills the Rangers expected. He has good baseball instincts and tremendous speed. He'll arrive in spring training hoping to show he's ready for the big leagues.
David Murphy also factors in here. He's another example of the depth they have in the outfield, but we're focusing on the main CF candidates.
Which of these candidates do you think should play center field next season? Will it come down to a spring training competition?