Image credit: (Photo by Tracy Proffitt/Four Seam Images)
UPDATE (7:15 p.m. ET): The Rangers announced Tuesday night that Adolis Garcia (oblique) and Max Scherzer (back) were removed from their World Series roster. Texas added Ezequiel Duran and Brock Burke as replacements.
When Rangers front office staff convenes Tuesday morning following their 3-1 win over the D-backs in Game 3 of the World Series, it will be a bittersweet experience. Texas took a decisive 2-1 series lead, but the organization now faces a pair of agonizing decisions following key injuries to Max Scherzer and Adolis Garcia.
The Rangers find themselves in a particularly precarious position attempting to replace the production of Garcia, a playoff hero who could be out the remainder of the series.
Garcia immediately grabbed at his left side and winced in pain after flying out to center field in the eighth inning of Monday’s win. The broadcast showed Garcia doubled over in the dugout shortly after and Texas immediately removed him from the game. Garcia was scheduled to undergo an MRI following the game.
“We’ll see where he’s at,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “Left side tightness. We’re being optimistic there, but we’ll know more tomorrow.”
Garcia is in the midst of an all-time playoff performance. He went 20-for-62 (.323) with eight home runs and 22 RBIs over 15 games. He also provided strong defense in right field, evident Monday night when he threw out Christian Walker at the plate from right field to keep the game scoreless.
If Garcia’s injury causes him to miss the rest of the World Series, the Rangers have several options to replace him in the lineup, even if matching his production is nearly impossible.
Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowsi are both on the World Series roster and appeared in right field at times for Texas in 2023. Josh Smith, also on the roster, appeared in 18 games in left field. All three have their warts. Grossman has struggled mightily in the postseason, going 2-for-19 with 10 strikeouts. Jankowski may be better served as a defensive replacement. Smith posted a 78 wRC+ in 232 plate appearances in the regular season.
The Rangers are most likely to promote Ezequiel Duran from the taxi squad to take Garcia’s spot on the roster if he cannot play. Duran is primarily an infielder, but he did play 34 games in left field and one in right this season for the Rangers. Duran was one of the Rangers’ standouts of the first half, but his bat cooled dramatically as the season wore on.
But there’s also a far less traditional option who could potentially replace Garcia’s production—one the club at least has to ever-so-briefly consider: 2023 first-round pick Wyatt Langford.
Langford had an unusual path to the No. 4 overall pick and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Coming out of Trenton (Fla.) High scouts thought he had an interesting bat, but they were concerned about his body and defensive position. He went unranked on the BA 500 and also played in just four games as a freshman with Florida in 2021. He quickly stormed onto the national radar with a monstrous sophomore season with the Gators in 2022 when he tied a program-record 26 home runs and led the team in most offensive categories, and then followed up on that exceptional hitting ability and power production in 2023, where many scouts viewed him as a comparable all-around talent to No. 1 player in the class, Louisiana State’s Dylan Crews.
Langford’s ascendant pro debut was a focus in our review of the 2023 Rangers draft class.
Langford rocketed through Texas’ system in his pro debut. He pushed his way to Triple-A Round Rock after just 39 professional games. The outfielder hit .360/.480/.677 with 17 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs over 44 professional games, and solidified himself with one of the best post-draft performances of the 21st century.
Langford’s combination of plus bat-to-ball skills, elite on-base ability and plus game power is unmatched metrically in the minor leagues. Among hitters with a minimum of 100 plate appearances Langford is the only player in the minor leagues with an in-zone contact rate above 85%, a chase rate below 16% and a 90th percentile exit velocity of at least 107 mph.
If a club needed to add a prospect from the minor leagues who had yet to make their big league debut to a postseason roster, Langford is arguably the top choice. He’s certainly within the top three. He’s one of the best prospects in baseball, even if he has only 200 plate appearances on his pro resume.
But there’s plenty of reasons to go with the safer choice as well, which will likely keep Langford off of the World Series roster.
First, it’s incredibly rare for a player to make his major league debut in the playoffs, let alone the World Series. It’s not unheard of, though. MLB has granted wide latitude to clubs adding players to postseason rosters as injury replacements as long as they are in the organization on Aug. 31.
The Royals added Adalberto Mondesi to their World Series roster, and he made his MLB debut in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series. Mondesi had not played above Double-A before the World Series began, and was not on the 40-man roster until Oct. 27, when the Royals brought him up for the World Series.
Shane McClanahan and Ryan Weathers each debuted in the 2020 playoffs with the Rays and Padres respectively. In 2006 the Athletics promoted Mark Kiger to their active roster after multiple players went down with an injury.
A fairly large difference between the examples mentioned above and Langford is they were all on their respective organization’s taxi squads and had been getting live at bats or mound work.
Langford’s last game at Triple-A was on Sept. 23. He has been out of his typical in-season routine for the better part of a month at this point. Getting his timing back and getting him up to speed in a matter of 24 hours would be incredibly difficult, no matter how talented the player is.
For these reasons, the Rangers will almost certainly go with Ezequiel Duran. But Langford’s impressive talent is such that it’s worthy of consideration, if only for a minute.