DeShields set on making mark with Rangers

DeShields set on making mark with Rangers

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Rangers squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields had a specific goal in mind concerning his offseason workouts this winter.

"Not come into camp looking like a linebacker," DeShields said. "Getting explosive and getting my mobility back."

He also has a goal for Spring Training.

"Compete for a job," DeShields said. "I want to be an everyday player."

Who might surprise for each club in 2017?

That's why DeShields may be the most intriguing player coming into Rangers camp and why he also has a chance to be the biggest surprise when Spring Training is over.

DeShields' RBI single

He is intriguing because his unique talents are a perfect match for the top of the Rangers' lineup. He could be the biggest surprise because he seems to be forgotten when people start trying to figure out the Rangers' batting order this winter.

Right now the Rangers line up with an outfield of Nomar Mazara in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right, leaving DeShields as the fourth outfielder with Mike Napoli getting ready to come on board as the first baseman. Josh Hamilton, who missed all of last year while recovering from left knee surgery, may be the leading candidate to be the designated hitter.

But DeShields could shake up that possible scenario. It is possible for DeShields to force his way back into center field, with Gomez shifting to one of the corner spots and Choo getting the majority of his at-bats at DH. It could happen in Spring Training or it could happen early in the season, as it did in 2015.

That's the year DeShields came to camp as a Rule 5 pick from the Astros organization with no Major League experience. But he won a spot on the Opening Day roster as the fifth outfielder and eventually worked his way into the everyday lineup despite getting off to a slow start offensively.

As of May 7, DeShields was hitting just .154. But from that point on, he played in 106 games and hit .268 with 77 runs scored, 20 doubles, 10 triples, 19 stolen bases and a .348 on-base percentage. The Rangers won their division with DeShields leading off and playing center field.

That was his role going into last season, but the Rangers weren't so forgiving about his slow start this time. In 2016, Mazara was the sizzling rookie that had the Rangers excited and he pushed DeShields aside in the lineup while Ian Desmond took over in center.

DeShields was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, spent two months there and then returned in July in a reserve role. He was not on the postseason roster.

DeShields put aside that disappointment and went to work this winter trying to get his speed and athleticism back. He admitted he made a mistake last year trying to get stronger and ended up getting away from what makes him a dynamic player.

The Rangers have enough linebackers. They could use a dynamic, impact offensive player at the top of the lineup.

DeShields, more than any other Ranger, has all physical attributes necessary to be that type of player, and that's why he could be the biggest surprise in Spring Training.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.