For the past few seasons, all of the hype surrounding the vaunted Texas Rangers farm system has mostly surrounded first basemen Chris Davis and Justin Smoak. Davis first put himself on the map in 2008, when he arrived on the scene as a 22-year old and hit .285 and belted 17 homers and 23 doubles in less than 300 at-bats. He struggled mightily after that, and in 2010 his playing time dwindled down to just 120 at-bats. His future with the organization does not look bright, as he is now a career .248/.300/.459 hitter who just hasn't been able to put his raw skills together over a full major league season. Smoak has been touted as a promising young player in the making, but with just one full season under his belt, not to mention the trade that sent the 23-year old Smoak to Seattle, it is unclear how exactly he will further his development as a player.
This all leaves the Rangers with one relatively unknown looking to make a name for himself at first base: 24 year-old Mitch Moreland. You may not have heard of Moreland, a 17th-round draft choice in 2007, a guy who scouts have never swooned over. Still, over his brief minor league career, he's shown the Texas Rangers one thing: that he can hit. At A-level ball in 2008, Moreland's first full professional season, he hit .324/.400/.536 with 18 home runs, 37 doubles, and 99 RBI. He followed up the next year at AA by hitting .331/.391/.527 with 16 home runs and 38 doubles. Then, in a partial season at AAA, Moreland hit .289/.371/.484 with 12 homers and 29 doubles before finally forcing himself onto the Texas Rangers, where he hit .255/.364/.469 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI in just 145 at-bats with an impressive OPS+ of 121.
Moreland continued to see success in the postseason, batting .348 with a home run, and if he shows improvement in his defense in Spring Training, he should have good job security at the position despite the displaced Michael Young, who currently is slated to serve as the team's primary DH. Even if his defense doesn't exactly progress this spring, it will be hard for the Rangers to take Moreland out of the lineup if he continues to hit the way he has, which isn't going out on a limb considering his track record. With an ADP of 201.2, Moreland is a bargain middle infielder that you can snatch up late in your mixed-league fantasy baseball draft or in the middle rounds of your AL-only draft. In AL-only formats, Moreland is worth being used as a solid starting player, but in mixed-leagues he still has not broken that threshold and his value is in being a very productive fill-in type player.
Projected 2011 stats: .282 AVG, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 65 Runs