Willie Calhoun entered spring training as the favorite to start in left field for the Texas Rangers on opening day.
Just halfway through Cactus League play in Arizona, though, the Rangers have decided that the exciting young slugger will be the opening night left fielder for the Round Rock Express.
On Tuesday, the Rangers told Calhoun, their No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America, that he was being optioned to Triple-A.
The 23-year-old Calhoun, Texas’ top acquisition in the trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, was hitting just .243 with one home run, five RBIs and a .606 OPS in 37 at-bats. A bigger issue for the converted infielder was his defensive play in the outfield.
“We’ve seen his ability as a hitter,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister told reporters in Surprise, Ariz. “We challenged Willie to get to work on the defensive side of his game.
“He’s going to be a good player, but we’ve got to do some work on the defense to complete that.”
If the Rangers keep Calhoun in Round Rock until May, they will gain another year of service time before he can become a free agent.
The move means Drew Robinson and Ryan Rua are likely to platoon in left field for the Rangers.
Texas also optioned Ronald Guzman, the team’s first baseman of the future, to Round Rock. Guzman, the club’s No. 6 prospect, according to Baseball America, was a long shot to stick with the big league club, which has Joey Gallo and Rua as first base options.