Activated from the 60-day Injured List were RHP Josh Sborz, C Mitch Garver, IF/OF Brad Miller, and OF Eli White. Also on the 60 but traded to Cincinnati for cash was OF Nick Solak. Solak batted .252/.327/.372 as a Ranger, not bad in and of itself but not up to par when combined with positional flexibility that lacked plus defense anywhere.
Texas also lost four on waiver claims late last week: C Meibrys Viloria (SFO), RHP Drew Strotman (SFO), IF Andy Ibanez (DET), and RHP Tyson Miller (MIL). Such interest in the back end of the roster of a 68-94 team is surprising, but on the other hand, some or all could be re-run through waivers in the not-too-distant future.
As I’m sure you saw, Texas traded LHP Kolby Allard to his former home of Atlanta for RHP Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is owed $12.5 million in 2023, but Atlanta shoved a $10 million check made out to Ray Davis in Odorizzi’s pocket. He hasn’t been good since 2019 and probably won’t be next year, but hopefully he can provide 120-130 acceptable innings. Given the condition of the rotation at present, that’s valuable. Also, Allard probably wasn’t long for the 40-man roster, so Texas acquired Odorizzi for someone who had at best a depth role with the Rangers in 2023. Not a bad bit of business.
Texas declined the option on OF Kole Calhoun. RHP Jesus Tinoco was outrighted. Both became free agents. LHPs Matt Moore and Martin Perez, C Kevin Plawecki, and IF Charlie Culberson are also free agents.
All said, Texas’s 40-man roster stands at 34 in anticipation of Tuesday’s roster deadline preceding the Rule 5 draft in early December. I wasn’t expecting the annual roster crunch to be especially crunchy this year, and that seems to be proving the case. Texas had, and to some degree still has, a good number of players whom you wouldn’t mind having around but aren’t likely to be more than depth on next year’s squad. I feel the Rangers can add to the 40 whoever they see fit without worrying too much about crowding. They’ll have to clear room for free agents, of course.
Eligible is everyone not already on the 40 who signed prior to late-August 2018, plus those 19 or older who signed prior to late-August 2019. I count 60 eligible players (see my Rule 5 tab here), although I’m sure I’m off by a few.
RHP Owen White – Yes
IF Luisangel Acuna – Yup
IF Dustin Harris – Yes… if not with quite the assuredness of White or Acuna. Harris had a nice year but didn’t match his awe-inspiring 2021, and an injury limited him to 85 games. Still, he spent most of the year in AA as a 22-year-old and was playing outfield for the first time.
RHP Cole Winn – Yes, despite everything. Imagine another club grabbing him from the pitching-deprived Rangers and “fixing” him next March. It’s too gruesome to contemplate. His stuff remains solid, and if he can iron out the mechanical wrinkles, which he’s done before, he’ll soon be contending for an MLB rotation spot.
IF Jonathan Ornelas – The thought of Ornelas facing MLB pitching next April doesn’t inspire confidence quite yet, but he sure seems like the type who’d get swiped and hang on in a utility role. A contact-oriented bat, some power, some speed, positional flexibility including proficiency at short and center that extends beyond “he can play there if he has to.”
RHP Mason Englert – I liked what I saw of Englert in person back in May, but he wasn’t on my crowded list of potential 40-man additions at the time. 13 consecutive no-hit innings and a promotion to AA later, he’s on my list. My potential list, not the final list. Englert has better control than most of his peers and a decent repertoire. A tough call. I’m leaning no, but he’s in a group of five or six pitchers in which I expect at least one to be added.
LHP Cody Bradford – Not the last guy on this list, but the last I wrote up, because… I don’t know. At his best, Bradford is as unhittable as anyone in the system. Down the stretch and into the playoffs, he was the Frisco’s ace. Bradford’s velocity is deficient by modern standards, but he’s out there pinpointing while many his peers are still struggling with basic control. Could he avoid enough damage on balls in play to fill out a rotation? Work the 5th and 6th after the starter handles the first two times through the order? Maybe. Maybe.
RHP Avery Weems – Tempting. A hard-throwing lefty with a mean slider, better control than I had in mind when reviewing his stats. He’s started most of his career, but I’m inclined to forecast him as a reliever. I lean against adding a reliever who isn’t ready to contribute to the big-league club almost immediately unless he’s clearly of the closer variety. 40-man space is too dear.
RHP Zak Kent – Like Bradford, Kent began the season alarmingly poorly, then regained and surpassed his former stature as the season progressed. I was impressed by his AAA debut, when he succeeded despite having temporarily left his solid slider back in Frisco. He looked like a starter, not a reliever-in-waiting, and more inclined to hit his spots and live with contact rather than trying to bury everyone. Yet another who I don’t have a strong feeling for but could see being added.
RHP Ryan Garcia – Finally active after an eternity on the shelf, Texas’s second-round pick from 2019 pitched well and reached high-A late in the season. I doubt he’s picked, but continued progress could put him on the list in a year.
RHP Antoine Kelly – Seemingly a lock when acquired for reliever Matt Bush in July. Why add a Rule 5-eligible prospect if not to protect him? Perhaps the Rangers thought the same, but Kelly’s already iffy control worsened considerably as a Ranger.
RHP Daniel Robert – Occasionally untouchable with his fastball reaching 98 and a sweeping slider, Robert would look better than half the MLB bullpen one outing and struggle to retire anyone the next. From June onwards, opponents batted only .184/.308/.245, but his ERA was 5.86 because the bad nights were bad indeed. Saying a reliever needs to be more consistent sounds like lazy analysis, I’ll admit, but the upper minors are positively clogged with eye-catching relievers nowadays. The ones who reach and stay in the Majors have set themselves apart with consistency. Whether or not Texas protects him, the Rule 5 draft will feature plenty of Robert-like pitchers.
IF Blaine Crim – Crim just hits: .305/.368/.519, 60 doubles, 61 homers in 295 minor league games. Is it enough? The bar for first basemen is so, so high. Unfortunately, the one place Crim didn’t hit was AAA Round Rock — .278/.298/.296 with underwhelming Statcast data – but Crim has always been streaky, and he was there for only 13 games. He strikes me as someone more likely to force the issue in-season than to get a spot now.
LHP Grant Wolfram – Earned a trip to Arizona this fall and pitched well in the desert. Wolfram switched to relief in AA, continued to miss bats, and kept the ball in the part much better than at Hickory, but his control tumbled to a combined 18% BB/HBP rate.
IF Davis Wendzel – Like fellow Big Twelver Josh Jung, Wendzel played up the middle a fair amount in college. Unlike Jung, Wendzel appears to have some genuine positional flexibility, and he flexed substantial power late in the season. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of his plate appearances ended with a strikeout or popup. He’s also missed more time to injury than Jung, which is saying something. Maybe next year.
OF Kellen Strahm – Strahm batted .314/.417/.482 from June onwards after a poor start. He has a real shot, but I think the likely scenario is standing out in Round Rock when the parent club has need for an outfielder.
OF Jayce Easley – Easley had a terrific fall in Arizona (.375/.556/.583) while playing everywhere but first and catcher, somewhat belying his regular season stats (.230/.372/.345) and nearly complete absence from the infield the past two years. A future, perhaps, but 2023 is too soon.
IF Chris Seise – The former first-rounder thankfully made it through the season in one piece, but he won’t be added.
Minor League Free Agents
Another 25 Rangers minor leaguers became free agents late last week, mostly by accruing enough service time. A rundown of some:
RHP Jean Casanova – Much more promising than his 35th-round status would suggest, Casanova missed all of 2022 to an elbow injury and tossed only 52 innings the last four seasons.
RHP Scott Engler – Deep repertoire for a reliever, reached AAA until felled by a torn elbow ligament. Has a shot.
RHP Demarcus Evans – Among the most dominant minor league relievers I’ve covered, wiping out batters with a high-spin fastball and hammer curve. As he reached the Majors, his velocity declined, and incorporation of a cutter/slider didn’t help. He could make it back, but it won’t be easy if he’s still throwing 91.
RHP Kelvin Gonzalez – Low-A Hickory’s relief ace during 2019’s deep playoff run. Reached the upper 90s then but missed 2021 with elbow surgery and didn’t pitch much last season.
RHP Kevin Gowdy – Part of the Kyle Gibson / Ian Kennedy trade. A 9.90 ERA with matching peripherals in 40 AA innings in 2022.
LHP Lucas Jacobsen – Injuries, covid, and an eternity in the lower levels left me totally ignorant about Jacobsen entering 2022. He immediately impressed with a nice outing during Jack Leiter’s pro debut, and after missing yet more time, he fanned 20 in 14.2 innings in AAA. If I had the power to unilaterally renew one free agent’s contract, it would probably be his. Perhaps David Garcia.
RHP James Jones – Seven (!) years in the organization following the Leonys Martin trade. The converted outfielder’s fastball velocity has ranged from 90 to 100.
RHP Fernery Ozuna – Lost a few tics on the fastball but compensated with a often staggering changeup. His walk rate quintupled upon promotion to AAA Round Rock.
RHP Ryder Ryan — Ryan delivers mid-90s with ease plus an occasionally impressive slider. Righties have batted only .204/.290/.358 with a 30% K rate against him the past two seasons in Round Rock, while lefties have clubbed .315/.416/.545.
C David Garcia – Garcia lacks the required seven years of service time but had already reached free agency after 2021 when released and re-signed. He became the exemplar of “not at all ready for MLB but not worth losing” when added to the 40-man roster despite no full-season experience after 2019. Still just 22, Garcia’s bat has yet to warm to AA pitching, but I wouldn’t count him out yet. Catchers take time.
C Yohel Pozo – Pozo once again hit AAA pitching with comical ease, albeit with less power than in 2022. He also got, well, kind of big over the previous winter, although I don’t know how much that mattered since he almost exclusively DH’ed during his 2021 stint in Arlington.
IF Sherten Apostel – Injuries limited Apostel to 87 games the past two years, he’s pretty much a 1B now, and his impressive power is undermined by a huge miss rate.
OF Miguel Aparicio – Briefly a top ten prospect, Aparicio spent an eternity in Hickory before finally breaking out in 2021, but success in Frisco eluded him.
OF Josh Sale — Sale batted .229/.343/.420 in 72 games with Round Rock, exceptional for a 30-year-old out of affiliated ball for eight years but not enough to warrant a 40 spot.
Arizona Fall League
The season ended Saturday with a victory in the championship game by Surprise. IF Luisangel Acuna, OF Trevor Hauver, and RHP Grant Wolfram had the honor of playing both on Saturday and in Frisco’s Texas League championship-clinching victory in late September. Down East OF Jayce Easley was Surprise’s RF and leadoff hitter Saturday. RHPs Daniel Robert, Kumar Rocker, and Nick Starr, C Cody Freeman, and OF Aaron Zavala appeared for Surprise during the season but didn’t play Saturday.
Acuna made a game-saving catch-and-throw in the bottom of the 9th. More on the AFL later.
Tampa Bay hired Jon Daniels as a senior advisor. You may recall Daniels as the former general manager and then president of baseball operations for the Texas Rangers.
Philadelphia designated righty Hans Crouse for assignment and successfully ran him through waivers. Texas’s 2017 second-rounder quickly reached the Majors after being traded along with Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy, but he spent much of 2022 injured and didn’t pitch well in AAA.
Oakland claimed former Texas IF Yonny Hernandez on waivers and designated former Texas minor leaguer RHP Collin Wiles.