Collapse Distraction: Texas Rangers All-Time Rookies Team

Chip Stewart
10 min readJul 6, 2023

As a distraction from the Rangers’ current iteration of their inevitable gut-wrenching collapse — after several years of dull irrelevance, it’s like welcoming back a comfortable old friend you actually don’t like much — and look at some history being made this season by the club.

After more than 50 years of Texas Rangers baseball, we may finally have a legit rookie third baseman. One good enough to get Rookie of the Year votes. Good enough to finish with a WAR over 2, even.

Josh Jung, who already looks to be breaking the long string of first-round draft pick busts by the Rangers dating back to the early part of the 21st century, sits at 2.4 WAR right here around the midway point of the season. If that holds, he’d surpass Roy Howell’s mark of 1.9 for the 1975 club as the greatest rookie third baseman in franchise history.

He’s also got a solid chance to make the Topps All-Rookie Team and get a little trophy on his baseball card; the only previous guy to do this was Mike Lamb in 2001, who basically got it by default, despite a negative WAR.

Jung will likely also vault himself onto the Rangers’ all-time All Rookie club, which currently would look something like this, if I were to build it, which I suppose I have.

Texas Rangers All-Rookie Team

Catcher: Jim Sundberg, 1974

Sundberg led AL rookies with 4.0 WAR In 1974 and was named to the All Star team. He also got one vote for Rookie of the Year, good enough for a fourth-place tie with Rick Burleson. A solid backup here would be Pudge Rodriguez, who made the Topps All-Rookie team in 1991 and also finished fourth in ROY voting in just over half a season in the bigs at age 19.

First Base: Mike Hargrove, 1974

Hargrove was the lone Rookie of the Year winner for the Rangers for more than a quarter century, batting .323 with 4 homers and 66 RBI and posting a .395 OBP. His 3.3 WAR is a good bit ahead of other potential contenders like Pat Putnam (1.1) and Dave Hostetler (-0.2), who got ROY votes in 1979 and 1982, respectively.

Second Base: Bump Wills, 1977

By WAR, Wills has the best rookie season in Rangers history, with 5.4 coming from his .287 average, 9 homers, 62 RBI, 28 steals, and .361 OBP. He finished third in ROY voting behind Eddie Murray and Mitchell Page and made the Topps All-Rookie team. Ian Kinsler (1.9 WAR, 7th in ROY voting in 2006) would be the backup.

Third Base: Roy Howell, 1975

For now, this spot belongs to Roy Howell, the fourth overall pick by the Rangers in the 1972 draft who batted .251 with 10 homers and 51 RBI in 383 at bats as a 21-year-old in 1975. That was good for a 1.9 WAR, which leads all Rangers third basemen…at least until Josh Jung this year.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, 2009

As a 20-year-old, Elvis was a sparkplug to a team on the verge of regular contention, batting .267 (.329 OBP), stealing 33 bases, and flashing a nifty glove that helped bump up his WAR to 3.6. He finished second in ROY voting behind reliever Andrew Bailey in a vote that wasn’t as close as I thought it was going to be. Elvis bumped Jeff Huson from this spot, who had a solid 1990 season for a team in need, making the Topps All-Rookie squad.

Outfield: Adolis Garcia, 2021

El Bombi came out of nowhere to bring a jolt of energy to a moribund ballclub, showing off raw power (Rangers rookie record 31 homers), speed (16 stolen bases) and a rocket arm (16 outfield assists) to establish himself as the best Rangers rookie outfielder of all time. His 3.7 WAR ranked second among rookies in the AL behind ROY winner Randy Arozarena, though Garcia ultimately finished fourth in balloting.

Outfield: Oddibe McDowell, 1985

Speaking of bringing life to a deadly dull ballclub… Oddibe McDowell was bright like lightning, speed and power and a huge smile, making it to the big club after a little over a month in AAA and less than a year after being drafted as the 12th overall pick in 1984 out of Arizona State. He became the first Ranger to hit for the cycle in his first full month on the job and finished with 18 homers, 25 steals, and 2.4 WAR. Twelve-year-old me thought he was robbed of the Rookie of the Year, where he finished a distant fourth behind Ozzie Guillen (who didn’t deserve it) and Ernest Riles (who also didn’t deserve it) and Teddy Higuera (who definitely did deserve it).

Outfield: Rusty Greer, 1994

Another guy to come out of nowhere, Greer was a 10th-round pick and an unspectacular minor league track record before earning a callup on May 16. He went 3 for 6 with a homer in his first game and never looked back, starting just about every game before the strike prematurely ended the 1994 season. Greer finished with a .314 average, 10 homers, a .410 on base percentage that remains the Rangers rookie record, and finished third in ROY voting behind Bob Hamelin and Manny Ramirez. His WAR was only 1.5, but that also came in just 80 games.

In the outfield, you’re going to have better WAR from Billy Sample in 1979 (2.7) or David Hulse in 1993 (2.8), but Greer did his magic in just over half a season, and somehow was docked for terrible defense despite looking pretty good in real life out there for his career.

Designated Hitter: Mark Teixeira, 2003

Drafted fifth overall in 2001 as a third baseman, Teixeira didn’t have a spot to play with Hank Blalock manning the hot corner and Rafael Palmeiro entrenched at first. He still worked in 116 games at first, 25 in the outfield, and 15 at third base, with 5 more at DH. In a time of inflated offensive numbers, Teixeira posted a respectable .259/.331/.480 line, hitting 26 homers and finishing 5th in ROY voting. By the next year, he was getting MVP votes.

Honorable mention here to Pete Incaviglia, who really should’ve been DHing in 1986 but wound up lumbering around right field, which killed his WAR. But he was fun to watch, batted .250 with 30 homers (a Rangers rookie record that stood until 2021), struck out 185 times to lead the league, and got named to the Topps All-Rookie team ahead of teammate Ruben Sierra.

Starting Pitcher: Yu Darvish, 2012

Still reeling from their historic collapse in the 2011 World Series, the Rangers pulled off the signing of the off-season, bringing Japanese phenom Yu Darvish to top the rotation. Darvish delivered, going 16–9 with a 3.90 ERA, striking out 221 batters, making the All Star team, and finishing third in ROY voting (some guy named Trout won) and ninth in Cy Young voting. He’s your Rangers rookie ace.

Starting Pitcher: Kevin Brown, 1989

Nolan Ryan and Ruben Sierra were the stories of the resurgent 1989 club, but Kevin Brown’s emergence was also huge. The 24-year-old former fourth overall draft pick went 12–9 with a 3.35 ERA over 28 starts, foreshadowing his many strong years ahead. Despite leading AL rookies with 3.6 WAR, he got just two third-place votes to finish 6th in ROY balloting, as Orioles closer Gregg Olson ran away with the award.

Starting Pitcher: Jim Bibby, 1973

Bibby started 1973 in St. Louis, flashing a horrid 9.56 ERA over 16 innings before being traded to Texas in June for minor leaguers Mike Nagy and John Wockenfuss. Bibby quickly became the top pitcher for a truly horrid team, leading the club with 9 wins, a 3.24 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 180.1 innings. On July 19, he tossed a no-hitter against the World Series champion Oakland A’s, striking out 13. He’d go on to win 19 games the next year before becoming part of the package that brought in Gaylord Perry in 1975. Bibby’s 4.0 WAR in 1973 remains the Rangers record for pitchers.

Starting Pitcher: Chris Young, 2005

Coming over from the Expos in a 2004 deal for catcher Einar Diaz, Young was solid down the stretch for the club that year as they surprisingly battled for a playoff spot, going 3–2 with a 4.71 ERA over 7 starts after his late August callup. He still had rookie eligibility in 2005, though, and he wound up a respectable second starter behind Kenny Rogers, going 12–7 with a 4.26 ERA in 32 starts, leading the club with 137 strikeouts. As good as the Einar Diaz-Chris Young swap was in 2004, that’s how bad the Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka deal was in 2006. Now Young is the Rangers GM, where he’s built a club that is inventing new ways to torment the long-suffering fan base in 2023.

You could make a decent case for Edwin Correa in 1986 (12–14, 4.23 ERA, 189 strikeouts, 2.8 WAR) or Martin Perez in 2013 (10–6, 3.62 ERA, 6th place in ROY voting, started game 163 and pitched fairly well in a loss) here, or maybe even Mike Smithson in 1983 (his 4.0 fWAR led all AL rookies that year) or Mike Mason in 1984. But I think Young, pitching in a hitters’ era in a tough ballpark on a competitive club, gets the edge.

Swingman: Steve Comer, 1978

Another surprise, the undrafted Comer was nothing spectacular in two seasons in the minors, but he was one of the key pitchers on a strong 1978 squad, first as a long reliever and then in the rotation, where he tossed a 6-hit shutout in his first MLB start against the Twins in July. Comer finished with an 11–5 record and a 2.30 ERA over 30 games (18 starts) and 117.1 innings, largely filling in for the mercurial Dock Ellis in the second half of the season.

Closer: Neftali Feliz, 2010

It took more than 35 years for the Rangers to get their second Rookie of the Year, which Feliz earned in 2010 with 40 saves for a playoff-bound ballclub. His curveball to strike out A-Rod looking to send the Rangers to the World Series remains one of the greatest moments in team history. And then, thanks to a procedure by the Lacuna company we voluntarily underwent a few years later, we don’t remember anything that came after that for some reason.

Reliever: Jeff Zimmerman, 1999

An undrafted free agent with one season of minor league ball, Zimmerman didn’t make the team out of spring training in 1999. He wound up making the All Star team, finishing third in ROY voting, going 9–3 with a 2.36 ERA and being the key setup man for John Wetteland as the Rangers repeated as AL West champs. He posted a remarkable 3.9 WAR as a reliever.

And for your entertainment, some reference material, in case you ever needed to find Rangers who’d made the Topps All-Rookie team or received votes for Rookie of the Year.

Rangers to make the Topps All-Rookie Team

C Ivan Rodriguez, 1991

1b Mike Hargrove, 1974; Mark Teixeira, 2003; Pat Putnam, 1979

2b Bump Wills, 1977

3b Mike Lamb, 2001

SS Elvis Andrus, 2009; Jeff Huson, 1990

OF Adolis Garcia, 2021; Oddibe McDowell, 1985; Rusty Greer, 1994; Pete Incaviglia, 1986; Billy Sample, 1979; David Murphy, 2008; Cecil Espy, 1988; Nomar Mazara, 2016

RHP Yu Darvish, 2012

Rangers to receive Rookie of the Year votes

C Jim Sundberg, 1974 (4th place); Ivan Rodriguez, 1991 (4th place)

1b Mike Hargrove, 1974 (1st place); Pat Putnam, 1979 (4th place); Mark Teixeira, 2003 (5th place); Dave Hostetler, 1982 (6th place)

2b Bump Wills, 1977 (3rd place); Ian Kinsler, 2006 (7th place)

3b none

SS Elvis Andrus, 2009 (2nd place)

OF Rusty Greer, 1994 (3rd place); Oddibe McDowell, 1985 (4th place); Adolis Garcia, 2021 (4th place); Ruben Sierra, 1986 (6th place); Nomar Mazara, 2016 (6th place); Kevin Mench, 2007 (7th place); Delino Deshields Jr., 2015 (7th place); Cecil Espy, 1988 (8th place); David Hulse, 1993 (8th place)

SP Yu Darvish, 2012 (3rd place); Kevin Brown, 1989 (6th place); Martin Perez, 2013 (6th place)

RP Neftali Feliz, 2010 (1st place); Jeff Zimmerman, 1999 (3rd place)

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Chip Stewart

Lawyer. Journalist. TCU professor. Viewer discretion is advised.