With a Slow Start to the Season, Is Everything OK with Wyatt Langford?

Baseball is hard, even for the best players. Texas Rangers top prospect Wyatt Langford is looking to bust out of his power outage to start his career.

Wyatt Langford #36 of the Texas Rangers waits for a pitch during the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Field.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - APRIL 09: Wyatt Langford #36 of the Texas Rangers waits for a pitch during the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Field on April 09, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

After his robust Spring Training, Wyatt Langford found himself atop the list of probable AL Rookie of the Year candidates. Not quite a month later and Langford is scuffling at the plate.

The Texas Rangers selected Langford No. 4 overall in last summer’s MLB draft. He quickly shot through every level of minor league ball, finishing the season with Triple-A Round Rock.

Langford’s 2024 spring didn’t give the Rangers much of an option to start him anywhere but with the big-league club to begin the season. True to form, Bruce Bochy has used him all over the lineup. He was in the two hole for one game that Corey Seager sat out and has also seen action in the three through seventh spots in the order.

Most of Langford’s playing time has come at DH, while the other one third of his games he has occupied left field. In an ideal world, he would be in the outfield more often, but DH is the position that the Rangers had an opening and thus is the one that he has be filling.

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In 21 games and 93 plate appearances he is slashing .241/.312/.289, has scored 10 runs, driven in nine, has two doubles, one triple, and is still looking for that elusive first MLB home run. The lack of power thus far is the alarming issue.

Compare that to his Spring Training, where across 71 plate appearances Langford hit .365/.423/.714, scored 14 runs, drove in 20, had four doubles, and six home runs. It is easy to see why there is some concern about the lackluster start to the regular season.

Struggle with the Fastball

A quick glance at Langford’s Baseball Savant page, and it is clear to see that the fastball has given him fits this season.

He is only hitting .214/.248/.214 with zero extra base hits and 13 of his first 19 strikeouts have come at the hands of the fastball. This is a trend that is a small sample size and will not continue.

Even though he didn’t spend much time in the minor leagues, Langford played collegiately at the University of Florida. There he competed in the hotly contested SEC and faced power arms all of the time. Hitting high velocity isn’t going to be a long-term problem.

Another interesting trend with Langford to start the season is his numbers when the count is even. He has struggled much more when he is even with the pitcher as opposed to being ahead, or even behind.

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All of these anomalies should smooth out over the course of a long season, but they are still interesting to dive into when trying to figure out what is going on in the moment.

Wyatt Langford Getting the Rookie Treatment

It is somewhat expected for certain umpires to be harder on rookies than on veteran players. Close calls can go against the rookies and can compound the frustration of trying to get established and rolling.

Anyone that has been watching all of Langford’s at bats knows that he has been getting a ton of questionable strikes called against him. The most egregious example took X by storm as Angel Hernandez called the youngster out on three straight pitches that were not even close to the strike zone. Take a look at the video below and see for yourself how poor it was.

But here is one of the greatest things about Wyatt Langford. He simply went back to the dugout. He was obviously not happy with Hernandez’s calls, but he stayed calm. Langford shows poise beyond his years and his experience level. That is one of the many attributes that the Rangers love about him.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Contact?

Again, referencing Langford’s Baseball Savant page, there is way more blue – cold numbers – than there is red – hot numbers. But perhaps one of the red numbers is actually causing some of the struggles.

Langford doesn’t whiff very often and is in fact in the top 73 percentile in whiff%. That by itself is a great thing. That is unless it is leading to too many weak outs.

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Contact has not been an issue for Langford. He gets the bat on the ball at an extremely high rate. The issue has been that he isn’t driving the ball like he normally does. The kid is stout as an ox and can run like a deer.

He has been able to beat out many of the ground balls that he is hitting with his elite speed. Langford comes in at the 98th percentile for sprint speed this season indicating that very few are quicker. Quoting Jodie Foster playing Annabelle Bradford in the western movie Maverick, “Was that fast? I thought that was fast. Was it fast, was it?”

One thing that Langford could do is actually open up his approach slightly. Instead of trying not to strikeout, maybe he needs to unleash things. He doesn’t need to expand his zone at all, but sellout slightly more on the pitches in his desired area.

Someone with success at all levels over the past few years doesn’t need to revamp things over a lack of power during a small sample size. Heck, Julio Rodriguez – 32 bombs last season – as well as many other prominent players don’t have their first homer of the year either. It will come for Langford; it is just a matter of time.

Should the Rangers Send Langford Down to Triple-A?

Wyatt Langford is right where he needs to be. He is not hitting anywhere close to his potential and yet he is still producing and keeping things rolling with the offense.

With his speed and calm demeanor, Bochy is going to keep penciling in the rookie into the lineup. And don’t let anyone tell you that Langford isn’t going to win AL ROY honors either.

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Last season’s AL ROY, Gunnar Henderson, got off to a similar start to the season. Through his first 21 games in 2023, he hit .194/.357/.328, scored 14 runs, had four RBI, had three doubles, and two home runs. He would go on to score 100 runs, drive in 82, have an OPS of .814, and smashed 28 home runs.

The top shelf production will come. That is the kind of player that Langford is. Baseball is hard and he is struggling out of the gate, but this will be a blimp on the screen and not the norm as he moves through this season and his career as a whole.