Don't discount the importance of the bench for the Rangers in 2012. The bench certainly had an impact in the World Series.
Today's position: Bench
We'll make a few assumptions as we start discussing the bench. One is that the starting outfield is Josh Hamilton, Craig Gentry and Nelson Cruz. There are no guarantees on anything, but Gentry will be given a chance to earn the job and at this point, we'll slot him there.
That leaves David Murphy as the next outfielder on the list (and someone we discussed in our left field outlook earlier this week) and puts the fifth outfield spot up for grabs. Julio Borbon, Leonys Martin and Brad Hawpe will be in camp. Martin, just like Engel Beltre, probably isn't ready for the big leagues quite yet. He hit the ball very well in Double-A last year, but then struggled at Triple-A. He's worked hard this offseason on several facets of his game and we'll see what he's got in Surprise.
Hawpe is an interesting possibility, in that if he can prove he's healthy, he can play first base and the outfield. He had Tommy John surgery last season and is out to show that he can still play. He says he feels good and will be ready to go for spring training. He could figure into the mix on the bench if he shows something (he's on a minor-league deal). Brandon Snyder, signed from the Orioles organization, also plays first base and will be at spring training. Remember, of course, that Michael Young and Mike Napoli can play first on days when Mitch Moreland isn't in the lineup.
The club is still in the market for a utility player that can handle shortstop. So that's likely a bench spot there. Luis Hernandez was signed to a minor league deal and can play short, so he'll get a look. Others will trickle in as well (similar to what the club did in 2010 before deciding on Andres Blanco).
And as we discussed in our Surprise positional outlook opener, Yorvit Torrealba comes in as the backup catcher. But he'll get plenty of playing time in the heat and both Napoli and Torrealba could be in the lineup at the same time some, as well, something we saw in 2011.
So we'll see how it all shakes out. The utility infield spot and how the Rangers handle the final outfield spot in forming their bench will be interesting this spring.