Something peculiar has been happening at third base for the Texas Rangers the past four seasons. Their third baseman has been improving as a hitter. Of course, this is what you want from a player at the professional level. Normally, this type of improvement is reserved for someone who is in the beginnings of their professional career.
Adrian Beltre will begin his 17th season in Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers in 2014. For those of you searching for the Fountain of Youth, you might want to look under the third base bag at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Last season at the age of 34, Beltre posted a .315 batting average, the third highest average of his career and the fourth best average in the American League. His 2013 on-base percentage of .371 ranks as the second best mark of his career.
How can a player at his age continue to set near career highs with sixteen years of year and tear on his body? As it turns out, Adrian Beltre is becoming a more patient hitter as his age advances, while still maintaining his power stroke.
He had the highest contact rate of his career last season at 85.6%. One of the key factors that contributed to this number is the amount of balls he made contact with outside of the strike zone, also a career best at 77.9%.
As his age has advanced, Beltre has adjusted by swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone. He is not swinging wildly at bad pitches. He is swinging confidently at good pitches that are just missing their mark. Swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone greatly helped him amass 199, barely missing his career best total of 200, which was achieved in 2004.
If you really want to judge what kind of hitter he has become the past few seasons in Texas. You need to look no further than “the streak” he amassed this past summer. He went 78 straight at-bats without a strikeout. This happened while facing elite strikeout pitchers like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Mariano Rivera.
His power and run production has remained rock solid. He hit 30 homeruns last season and has averaged a little better than 30 home runs per season since joining the Rangers in 2011. Now with the addition of Prince Fielder to the Texas Ranger lineup he won’t have as much pressure to produce in the heart of the Texas Rangers lineup.
I believe his statistics next season will be similar to what he posted in 2013.
The third base position drops significantly in production once the first four to five players are taken off the board. I rank Adrian Beltre behind only Miguel Cabrera at the third base position going into 2014. I believe he will have a better year than David Wright or Evan Longoria that are ranked just behind him.
Adrian Beltre: Early 2014 Projections
*We’re partnering with Tanner Bell of Smart Fantasy Baseball (whose early projections are seen above) to crunch even deeper, so that we might provide the most accurate projections possible for 2014. Look for our full Crackerjack projections in our 2014 Draft Kit coming in February.