Yesterday, word came out that the Rangers had signed a pair of minor league free agents -- second baseman Yangervis Solarte, and righthanded pitcher Collin Balester. Neither player is likely to contribute at the major league level, but hey, nothing else is going on, so let me tell you a little bit about them...
Solarte is a switch-hitting second baseman who was originally signed by the Twins out of Venezuela. He never played regularly in the Twins' system until 2011, when he put up a .329/.367/.466 slash line. He was signed by the Rangers as a minor league free agent last offseason, and there was some enthusiasm about Solarte in spring training and early in the year when he was producing solid offensive numbers.
However, Solarte was never really considered an option as a utility infielder, since he can't play shortstop. He can handle second base, third base, and left field, but the inability to play short limits his usefulness on the major league roster. Moreover, he cooled down as the season went on, and ended up hitting .288/.340/.405 on the year for Round Rock.
Solarte is basically a depth signing, a guy who will likely play close to full-time for Round Rock again, while filling in a multiple positions. He turns 26 in July, so he's at a point where this likely is what Solarte is.
Ballester is an interesting pickup, as he has 185 major league innings under his belt, although not good innings, for the most part. Ballester was a 4th round pick of the Expos in the 2004 draft, and made his major league debut in 2008. He appeared in 110 innings over 22 games for the Nationals in 2008 and 2009, all as a starter, and posted an awful 5.87 ERA with a 73 ERA+.
He then pitched in relief for the Nationals in 2010 and 2011, and wasn't terrible, but wasn't great, either. He was traded to the Tigers after the 2011 season for Ryan Perry, and posted a 6.5 ERA in 18 innings.
Ballester has also accumulated 393 innings in AAA since 2007, and has a 4.47 ERA there, with 7.3 Ks per 9 against 3.3 walks per 9, and 0.9 homers allowed per 9. He throws out of the bullpen in the mid- to upper-90s, and has a slider to go with his fastball, but doesn't seem to be that great at missing bats.
Ballester was a top 100 prospect once upon a time, being ranked #95 on the BA top 100 list heading into 2007 and #86 heading into 2008. Alas, he's now 26 years old, and a journeyman looking to battle for a roster spot this spring and provide depth for the Rangers in AAA.