Rangers Farm Report: Offseason Action and Transactions

Sean Bass, Michael Tepid, and I found quiet spaces away from our weather-marooned kids to record the year’s first Diamond Pod. Rotation, left field, a look at prospect and system rankings, much more. Links in signature.

International Signings

Texas’s major signing was Bahamian shortstop Sebastian Walcott for a report $3.2 million, accounting for roughly three quarters of a bonus pool that had been reduced by $1 million for signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien the year before. More famous than Walcott, if not nearly as amply compensated, is OF Pablo Guerrero ($200k), son of Vlad. Texas also signed 25-year-old Cuban outfielder Geisel Cepeda.

International Releases

Per local reports, the Rangers released OF Bayron Lora, the marquee signing from the 2019-2020 period. Lora received a $3.9 million bonus, higher than for all but three players outside of Japan and Korea. In early 2021, he was the driver in an auto accident that resulted in injuries to himself and the death of one passenger. He didn’t come stateside or play anywhere in 2022, and now we know why: a two-year suspension related to allegations of domestic violence.

Even ignoring all that, Lora’s brief professional career was disconcerting. Reviews were polarized from the get-go, with all acknowledging his massive power potential but many skeptical of his likelihood of achieving it. Lora batted .218/.431/.401 in 2021’s Dominican Summer League, superficially productive but with many more walks than hits and a 38% strikeout rate. Not that DSL stats are trustworthy, but my analysis of a dozen or so years of batter data revealed exactly zero successful big-leaguers who’d struck out that often at that level.

It’s not uncommon for international prospects of his stature to lose luster quickly. The nature of the system, in which players are scouted and unofficially signed at such a young age, practically guarantees early flameouts. Indeed, of the five highest paid international signings of 2019-2020, only one currently ranks among his organization’s top ten prospects: Jasson Dominguez of the Yankees. Unlike Lora, however, the rest are at least employed.

Minor Transactions

Back with the Rangers: LHP Lucas Jacobsen, RHP Jean Casanova, RHP Scott Engler, RHP Fern Ozuna, RHP Nick Snyder, C David Garcia, OF Sandro Fabian, OF Elier Hernandez, OF Josh Sale.

Among Texas’s minor league free agents, I had Jacobsen, Engler and Garcia atop a mental list of who I’d like to see return, so thanks to the Rangers for thinking of me. Engler is recovering from TJ surgery but should be available for a majority of the season assuming a typical recovery.

New to the organization: LHP Danny Duffy, RHP Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Jacob Barnes, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Zack Littell, RHP Reyes Moronta, C Sandy Leon, 1B Yoshi Tsutsugo, OF Jackson (fka Clint) Frazier, OF Travis Jankowski.

Kennedy hasn’t pitched that well since being traded by the Rangers in July 2021: 20 saves also but 18 homers and 110 runners in 74.1 innings. The Royals traded Duffy to the Dodgers mid-2021, but he’s pitched only a handful of minor league innings since then because of a flexor tendon injury. In the Majors, he’s worked almost exclusively as a starter. Known best as a 4th outfielder with the Padres, Jankowski has bounced around four organizations in the past three years. A top-100 prospect for several years, the 28-year-old Frazier has struggled to reach his potential. The Yankees and Cubs have outrighted him the past two seasons.

Some Texas minor league free agents signed to deals elsewhere: RHP Demarcus Evans (Yankees), LHP James Jones (Dodgers), RHP Ryder Ryan (Seattle), C/1B Yohel Pozo (Oakland), C Meibrys Viloria (Guardians).

And more signings by former Rangers: OF Willie Calhoun (Yankees), 1B/P(?) Ronald Guzman (Giants), OF Nomar Mazara (O’s), RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (Marlins), IF Hanser Alberto (White Sox), RHP Robbie Erlin (Dodgers), RHP Joe Wieland (A’s), RHP Reed Garrett (O’s), RHP Wilmer Font (Pads), LHP Alex Claudio (Brewers), 1B Curtis Terry (O’s), LHP Locke St. John (Twins).

RHP AJ Alexy was traded to the Twins after being designated for assignment by Washington. Then, the White Sox claimed him on waivers. IF Yonny Hernandez was traded to the Dodgers after Oakland DFA’ed him. The Giants traded outrighted OF Steele Walker to Detroit for cash.

Winter Ball

RHP Grant Anderson, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – In 19 innings across 14 appearances, Anderson fanned 24 (38% rate) against just three walks with just two runs allowed. Anderson received more attention as a potential 40 addition / Rule 5 loss than I envisioned, but he remains a Ranger and will try to crack the Rangers’ bullpen during 2023.

OF Angel Aponte, Leones del Caracas (VEN) — .238/.304/.333 in 16 regular-season games, .333/.385/.500 with two doubles and a triple in nine postseason games. Caracas made the Serie Del Caribe which is being hosted in that very city, but Aponte isn’t on the current roster.

OF Jax Biggers, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) – Playing entirely in the outfield, Biggers batted .278/.390/.313 with 21 walks and seven steals in 34 regular season games. He added three singles and a double in three postseason games, but his Tuatara were eliminated in the semifinals.

Tuatara are indigenous only to New Zealand, and despite the resemblance, they are not lizards. Thank you, Wikipedia.

1B Blaine Crim, Indios de Mayaguez (PR) – Crim joined at the end of the regular season and was hitless in eight trips to the plate. In the postseason, Crim batted .217/.308/.370 with one memorable homer that sent his squad to the league finals. Mayaguez won again to reach Serie del Caribe in Caracas, but like Aponte, Crim’s winter excursion is over.

IF Ezequiel Duran, Aguilas Cibaenas (DR) – .255/.283/.431 with two homers, three doubles and a steal in 13 games. Starts in left (5), right (3), second (2), third (2), and center (1).

RHP Josh Gessner, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) – Gessner enjoyed the southern hemisphere less than his two Texas teammates, surrendering six runs on nine hits and four walks in four innings while fanning six. Gessner did not appear in the postseason.

OF Abi Ortiz, Gigantes de Carolina (PR) – Ortiz played only twice but delivered, collecting a single, double, and walk in five plate appearances.

IF Keyber Rodriguez, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) — .265/.289/.434 with five homers, six other extra-base hits, and six steals in 34 games, mostly at short. Rodriguez added five singles and a walk during the three-game playoff.

IF Chris Seise, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – Seise batted .158/.179/.211 in 16 games. In addition to his usual shortstop, Seise started one game and third and another in center.

OF Kellen Strahm, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – A teammate of Seise, the outfielder hit .180/.317/.200 with seven walks in 17 games.