Texas Rangers: What to expect from rookie Willie Calhoun

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: Willie Calhoun
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: Willie Calhoun /

The Texas Rangers announced Tuesday that they’re purchasing the contract of rookie Willie Calhoun, so what exactly does that mean for the rookie?

Texas Rangers nabbed second base prospect Willie Calhoun as the pivotal piece in July 31’s Yu Darvish trade. Although some scoffed at the return for the Rangers, Calhoun could bring something to this lineup that they have badly needed: a great pure hitter.

Hitting for average

Calhoun knows how to get on base. For the season, Calhoun has batted .300 at the AAA level with a .355 on base percentage. He’ll bring with him to Arlington the most vital skill set necessary for a young hitter, making contact.

In 534 plate appearances, Calhoun has struck out just 61 times. For a lineup that boasts some of the game’s biggest strikeout guys (I’m looking at you, Joey Gallo and Mike Napoli), his ability to just simply meet the ball with the bat is extremely valuable.

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From the looks of it, this season hasn’t been a fluke by any means for Calhoun, either. He batted .350 in A-ball in 2015. He did hit just .254 at the AA level, but his .242 average on balls in play suggests that some of that could be attributed to luck.

As for 2017, Calhoun has gotten hits often and has hit them well. Given the adjustment to MLB-level arms instead of AAA, an average over the next 20 days of .255 is a pretty reasonable expectation.

Hitting for power

The other huge tool going for Calhoun is his ability to hit the ball with authority. His .572 slugging percentage and .927 OPS have everyone drooling over what he can do. Calhoun has 31 home runs and 93 RBIs in what has been an outstanding AAA season.

In 2016, Calhoun hit 26 home runs, so we know the guy has legitimate power. Unlike average though, power tends to translate pretty well between levels of play. For instance, Calhoun homered every 18.63 at bats in 2016 with Tulsa. After moving up to AAA, that number dropped to a home run every 15.68 at bats.

I’m sure physics has a lot to do with that in regards to pitch speed and exit velocity. But, maybe that’s a discussion for someone else. The point is, he has homered even more often against stiffer competition. Calhoun is primed to get his MLB shot. For the sake of argument, let’s say he maintains a similar home run pace. Expect to see two to three home runs from him between now and the end of the season. Keep in mind, that estimate comes with the expectation of part-time play. If the rookie plays every day, that number could theoretically jump to five or six.

Hitting the big leagues

All in all, if anyone expects breakout numbers from Calhoun this fall, try to temper your expectations. This move has more to do with the Rangers needing outfield help than what he did this season.

The AAA season has ended for Round Rock, so it really just makes sense to give him some playing time at this level. In short, instead of seeing Calhoun sit around and watch baseball on TV, they’d rather have him in the clubhouse around veteran players and maybe swinging the bat a few times.

He’ll get a lot of play in the outfield: particularly in the later innings. Think of it like an early spring training for Calhoun. Except, instead of facing primarily AA/AAA guys in big league uniforms, he’ll see higher-quality arms throwing to him.

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All that said though, he’ll have some wow moments. Expect to see well-hit balls and excellent plate discipline. By the time the season ends, Calhoun will leave Rangers fans looking to see more and that’s exactly how it should be. It certainly won’t be the last they see of him.