In the game of baseball, strong middle infielders are just as important as anyone else on the field. Whether you’re playing second base or shortstop, your team depends on you to not only snag every ground ball that you can but also turn every double play that you can. For more than a decade, the Rangers had one of the best middle infielders in the game in Elvis Andrus. Now that he has moved on by trade to the Oakland Athletics, let’s take a look at how the current Texas Rangers double-play combo is doing so far in 2021.
Versatility At Second
The four-spot on the field has been occupied by Nick Solak for the majority of this season. The Rangers think very highly of Solak and the skills that he brings to this ball club, both defensively and offensively. He is as versatile as you can get, and he is still young and eager to learn. Since joining the Rangers in 2019, the 26-year-old Solak has played in both the infield and outfield. His preferred position seems to be second base. So far, he has a .985 fielding percentage when playing there. While it may not be perfect, it is very solid. Offensively, in his 46 starts this year, he is hitting .257 with eight home runs, 21 RBI, and 31 runs scored. He also has two stolen bases. He has been, and will continue to be, a vital part of the Texas Rangers double-play combo.
Sharp At Short
It certainly doesn’t hurt your team’s cause when one-half of your double-play tandem is a Gold Glove award winner. Much like Solak, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has played three positions since joining the Rangers in 2018. He started out as a catcher, moved to third base, and now he has been playing shortstop since the departure of Andrus. In his career, Kiner-Falefa has played 64 games in the six-spot, and he has a .974 fielding percentage in that stretch. 47 of those games have come this year. In 2021, he has a fielding percentage of .972 at shortstop. Needless to say, he has been good, but not perfect with his glove. That is to be expected when you’re learning a new position.
Kiner-Falefa has had a solid bat this year. He is hitting .281 with five home runs, 18 RBI, and 28 runs scored. He has also shown some speed. He has ten stolen bases to go along with his 52 hits on the season. He usually bats seventh in the lineup, and he seems to be making the most of it. That’s what you look for in any ballplayer, regardless of where they are positioned. If they are just as strong with their bat as they are with their glove, then you need to do what you can to hold onto them for as long as you can. All in all, this infield of Solak and Kiner-Falefa is a good one. Granted, they are still learning, but the fans have plenty of reason to be excited. Here’s to a great season for the Texas Rangers double-play combo.
Embed from Getty Images