Rangers breaking in another kid

Last year, the Rangers gave a raw kid a big job, and Elvis Andrus came through with a fine season and a No. 2 finish in Rookie of the Year balloting. As Jeff Wilson writes, they're doing it again:

    This season's Andrus is Julio Borbon, installed as the starting center fielder after a flashy big-league debut last season. Though technically not a rookie, Borbon is a young player who must be productive to help the Rangers realize their postseason hopes.

    "We'll support Borbon the same way," manager Ron Washington said. "He's going to have some days out there when things may not go right, but he's a kid who wants to learn."

    The Rangers are confident that Borbon will find success even though he's going to have plenty thrown at him during his first full big-league season.

    He will be the primary leadoff hitter, facing right- and left-handed pitching, and he will be asked to help position the outfield during games.

    That's a considerable jump for a left-handed-hitter who had only 16 of his 157 at-bats against lefties and who played only four of his 46 games in center field last year.


    Washington will also give Borbon plenty of at-bats this spring against lefties. He hit a respectable .276 against Triple A lefties last year and has never lacked confidence against southpaws.

    The focus is to have quality at-bats against them, and the hits will follow.

    "I haven't shown it statistically, even though it was only 16 at-bats," he said. "I always feel comfortable with them. I like facing lefties. If anything, it keeps me more locked in."

It's cute when players say they like facing same-side pitchers. Better that than the other, I guess.

As a professional, Borbon has a .332/.380/.433 line against right-handed pitchers and a .260/.324/.331 line against left-handed pitchers.

It's not been a long career, and it's not likely that those numbers represent his true abilities against lefties and righties. But there's every reason to think Borbon will fare significantly better against righties than lefties.

Better that than the other, though, since there are a lot more righties than lefties in American League starting rotations. Not that Borbon is going to kill the righties, either. Fortunately, he doesn't have to. I'm not sure that I'd give him the leadoff role -- particularly against the southpaws -- but like Andrus, if Borbon plays good defense he's good enough to play regularly. And between his speed and his defensive stats in the minors, I think he'll play good defense.

I also think the Rangers might win an extra game or two if they had a right-handed-hitting fourth outfielder who could occasionally give the kid a break.