MLBbro Willie Calhoun’s name has rang bells in MLB circles for years, but now the buzz has settled and there is a different question being asked–has Willie Calhoun officially become a reclamation project?
Calhoun requested a trade last week after being demoted to Triple-A Round Rock, and if granted, would be his third organization since being drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.
After a promising 2021 that was impeded a bit by injuries, Calhoun and the Rangers were awful to start the season. It’s a small sample size, but Calhoun didn’t look impressive in his 44 at-bats. He only managed six hits, seven runs, one homer and two RBI while hitting an ugly 64 points below the Mendoza line (translation: a .134 batting average).
With numbers like this, Willie seemed like a no-brainer casualty to the May 2 deadline to trim rosters. However, when the move was announced, one person who wasn’t pleased or expecting it was Calhoun himself.
It seems as though Calhoun and the Rangers front office simply haven’t been on the same page since he was acquired in the Yu Darvish deal in 2017. First, there was the service-time issues that he dealt with under the old CBA. He was cut after spring training in both 2018 and 2019, even after losing 24 pounds in order to make the roster in 2019.
Calhoun battled, put his trust fully in Chris Woodward’s coaching staff and finally got through to the bigs. “I do nothing but trust (the coaching staff) now.” Calhoun said before the 2020 season. If they tell me to come out here in the freezing cold in just shorts, I’m doing it; I’m doing whatever they say. Whatever they have to say for me, I have to just listen and do it, regardless.”
Woodward had worked with Calhoun since his Dodgers days, so the pair were very familiar with each other.
Poised to make a huge splash in 2020 as their everyday left fielder, a 95mph Julio Urias fastball to the jaw ended any talks of a breakout for the youngster. Since that moment, it has been a complete 180 for Calhoun, in both production and his trust of Woodward and the coaches.
You see, Willie is listed at 5’8, 200 pounds, so all the modern-day analytics regarding launch angle do not play into his skillset. He mentioned as much in his latest interview with The Athletic, the very same publication that posted those “I trust the coaches” comments in 2020.
It would seem Calhoun and Woodward are on completely different pages.
“I don’t agree with some of the hitting philosophies from the new guys,” Calhoun said in reference to the Rangers’ new hitting coach Tim Hyers. “I don’t process that too well. I’m not 6’4”, 230 pounds; I can’t hit pop-up home runs. I don’t have that leverage.”
While Willie feels that he’s been the victim of poor coaching and forced metrics, his skipper has a different perspective.
“Willie needs to make — I wouldn’t say a significant change. But he’s got to have a little bit more understanding of how that sort of works best for him.”
If Willie does eventually grow into the ballplayer he was projected to be, chances are it won’t be in a Texas Rangers uniform. The problem is, if Calhoun isn’t allowed to be the best he can be because the coaching staff is trying to fit a square pig into a round hole — rather than nurture his abilities and maximize his potential — then riding the elevator between the minors and majors won’t bear any fruit.
MLBbro Willie Calhoun has worked hard to become part of the future of the Texas Rangers franchise.
The one thing that has slowed his progress is the laundry list of injuries that he has suffered throughout his short career.
2020 was the season when the injuries hit him the hardest. Despite a season that started late due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Willie missed time due to a hip flexor and a hamstring injury. But it was this facial injury on March 8th that Calhoun and Rangers fans remember the most.
A Julio Urias fastball near the end of spring training broke Willie’s jaw that required surgery. He never got in sync hitting only .190 with one home run and 13 RBI in 29 games.
After another slow start to last season with a groin strain, Calhoun’s consistent play made him a staple at the lead off slot for Texas. The hottest streak in his career was halted by another pitch that broke his forearm that required surgery.
But a batting helmet change called a C-flap has helped Willie Calhoun get ready for this season in two ways. One, it will allow him to get back to crowding the plate to use the entire field to put the ball into play. Two and most importantly, it will allow him to be more confident at the plate, something according to MLB.com, he was starting to get away from.
“I kind of got off the plate the last two years, and I’m not wearing the C-flap anymore, so I feel like that was a big thing for me,” Calhoun said. “I just told myself that I was going to be able to go back to staying on top of the plate and go back to that approach and I’ve been hitting with my whole life. The last few years, I’ve been so off the plate and stuff because…I wouldn’t say I was timid or scared, but I mean, in a way, I was. Especially after I got hit in the arm. But this year, I’m going right back to [hitting] on top of the plate — how I used to do it.”
Calhoun and the Rangers hope this adjustment will help him more at the plate against left-handed pitching where he struggled early in his career.
This MLBbro was a centerpiece in the Yu Darvish trade back in 2017; so, his talent is undeniable to the organization. Both parties are looking for improvement on his six homer, 25 RBI performance from last season.
Willie Calhoun finally worked his way into being a main staple in the Texas Rangers lineup. But after fracturing his forearm when he was hit by pitch in Saturday’s game, he adds to a long list of unfortunate injuries he has suffered early on in his career.
This is the second time a hit by pitch will cause Calhoun to miss significant time. On March 8, 2020, he was hit in the jaw by a Julio Urias fastball in one of the final spring training games of the season.
That seemed to start a string of injuries in 2020 for Calhoun. Even with the start date of the season being pushed back due to COVID, he missed the beginning of the year with a hip flexor and would also miss most of the month of August with a hamstring injury.
He finished the 2020 season with a .190 batting average in only 29 games with just 13 RBI and one home run.
A groin strain caused Calhoun to miss the start of this season, so many feared the deja vu scenario of another slow year could be in the cards for Calhoun. This was not the case though, as he had earned a consistent role in the starting lineup with his play this season.
There is never a good time for injury, and Calhoun was playing some of his best baseball of the season before he went down. In the seven games prior, he was batting .375 with a .438 slugging percentage and scored three runs.
Calhoun underwent surgery to repair the fractured ulna bone in his left arm on Tuesday. And while the Rangers have no timetable for his return, he appears to be in good spirits as he is hopeful to return before the end of the season.
The Rangers are in rebuild mode and Calhoun is going to be one of the most important pieces in getting the team back into playoff contention. They acquired him a few years ago in a deal that sent Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In years prior, the Rangers had too many options and not enough lineup spots, which many times left Calhoun as the odd man out of the starting lineup. He made the most of his opportunity this season, and will look to continue his strong play when he returns to the team as well as into next season.
Demarcus Evans and Jason Martin forced their way onto the Texas Rangers’ big league roster after dominating during their first few weeks of the minor league season.
Now, they’ll look to prove they belong after a few injuries will give them a chance at earning major playing time.
These two MLBbros will have to answer to high expectations from Rangers’ fans. Both were called up from Triple-A last week after the team lost pitcher Kyle Gibson and outfielder David Dahl.
Black Arm On The Rise
Evans literally started his career off with a bang in September of 2020. He gave up home run number 662 to the great Albert Pujols and then beaned fellow MLBbro Justin Upton in the head before retiring the sides. He didn’t give up another run that season in four total innings pitched.
So far this season, he’s duplicated his 2020 stats, allowing one run in his four innings of work, while his strikeouts have increased. And he will have many more innings pitched this season if he continues to deal.
Evans has been schooling his opponents since being drafted out of Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi in the 25th round of the 2015 draft.
He was named the Rangers 2018 minor league Reliever of the Year after going 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA while striking out 103 batters in just 56 innings for the Hickory Crawdads in Class A South Atlantic League.
In 2019, he was called up to Double-A to play for the Frisco Roughriders. There, he went 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 60 strikeouts in just under 38 innings. That earned him the 2019 MiLB Relief Pitcher of the Year award as well as winning the Rangers minor league Reliever of the Year award for the second season in a row.
Evans is an MLBbro that’s on the verge of breaking out.
Jason Martin Is Up Next
To keep it simple, if Jason Martin can hit, Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward will have no problem keeping him in the lineup. And really, Martin’s been mashing since Spring Training.
He continued to punish baseballs in the 15 games he spent in Triple-A Round Rock. Martin hit seven home runs and drove in 16 runs while having a .755 slugging percentage and.413 on base percentage.
Martin originally was drafted by the Rangers’ Silver Boot Rival Houston Astros in the 8th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. During the 2018 offseason, he was involved in the trade package that sent him and a few others to Pittsburgh in exchange for Gerrit Cole.
Jason made his Major League debut for the Pirates on April 5, 2019. He singled in his first career at-bat and with his performance in that game joined Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata as the only Pirates since 1948 to record a hit, a run and steal a base in their Major League debut.
After shoulder surgery held him to only appearing in seven games in 2020, Martin became a free agent and signed with the Rangers on December 14th, 2020. He recorded his first hit and stolen base of the season while pinch-hitting in the 8th inning of Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Mariners.
With Dahl out for the foreseeable future and Kris “Krush” Davis struggling early, Martin can earn a spot on a Rangers’ roster that is full of young yet unestablished talent.
Evans and Martin join California-born left fielder Willie Calhoun, flame-throwing reliever Taylor Hearn and Davis as MLBbros on the active roster for Texas.
You can watch them this week play a three-game set against interleague rivals, the Colorado Rockies.
Baseball is a game of streaks. Over the course of the season, each player is hoping to put together more good ones than bad ones.
And the bad ones do come, even for the best of the best. Who’s hot and who’s not across MLB? Let’s take a closer look.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Ever since our own Rob Parker called out Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ behemoth has been ripping the cover off of the baseball.
Judge entered Monday night’s game with the Texas Rangers hitting a ridiculous .571, with 12 hits in his previous 21 at-bats. Over his last six games, he hit five home runs and pushed the Yankees to a 4-2 record. Judge sent four fans home with souvenirs during New York’s most recent three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles and secured AL Player of the Week honors.
The rest of his numbers are just as impressive. The Judge laid down the law, scoring eight runs and driving in six while striking out only once. His 1.973 OPS topped all hitters in that time.
With these breakout performances, Judge raised his season batting average from .245 to .298, his slugging percentage from .352 to .399, and his OPS from .824 to 1.009. HE also garnered
The Rangers silenced him in a 5-2 win, but if this is the Aaron Judge that the Yankees get for the rest of the regular season, he could be in real contention for the AL Most Valuable Player award for the first time since 2017.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
No one in Major League Baseball is hitting the ball better than Tim Anderson. Anderson extended his hitting streak to 12 games as the ChiSox battered the Minnesota Twins 16-4 on Monday. After going 2-for-5 with two runs scored, Anderson is hitting .448 during his streak. He’s had multiple hits in seven of those games.
It’s no coincidence that the White Sox began winning games once Anderson got back to playing like the Silver Slugger award winner he was in 2020.
Chicago is 17-7 over its last 24 games and sits on top of the AL Central standings. Anderson has 34 hits in those games, with four home runs, 14 RBIs, and 20 runs scored. Only Yordan Alveraz and Josh Rojas have higher batting averages over the last month. Tim also ranks third in MLB in hits and stolen bases in that span.
What happened to Jackie Bradley Jr.? It seemed like he was beginning to turn his career around last season in Boston. He set career highs in batting average (.283) and OBP (.364). His slugging percentage was its highest since 2016 when Jackie made his only All-Star Game appearance.
However, this season his stick has fallen off a cliff.
His batting average has done a complete 180. Actually, Jackie’s looking up at 180. His .153 mark at the plate is the worst of his career, as is his .229 on base percentage. He did hit one offensive milestone in May.
The rest of the month has been a disaster with Bradley posting just two hits. He’s gone hitless in each of his last six games. The two hits this month also equals the total number of multi-hit games he has this season. And over the last 30 days, his batting average has fallen nearly 100 points.
Whatever your faith is, light a candle for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
With parts of five seasons under his belt, Willie Calhoun is trying to stick with the Rangers this year. He hasn’t played in more than 83 games in any season since making his debut in 2017. Nothing has been a bigger factor in that than his inconsistent hitting.
Calhoun has been better in 2021, hitting .278 entering Monday’s games. He seems to have broken out of a slump with a homer and two hits on Monday, but this past week, as Texas ran off six straight losses, Calhoun once again hit a rut.
In five games since May 10, he was 1-for-18 with three strikeouts. His only hit was a solo home run in a one-run loss to the Houston Astros.
Considering his play earlier this season, however, he seems to be trending in the right direction overall. It certainly looked that way when he took Gerritt Cole deep over the centerfield wall to help the Rangers snap that losing streak.