The Texas Rangers had 25 minor league players become free agents this week, having accrued enough service time that they were eligible for free agency if not added to the 40 man roster.
Those players are as follows:
A mix of interesting names and guys who I have barely heard of there. Some thoughts on the guys I have thoughts on...
David Garcia...man, I stayed on the David Garcia train for a long time. Defended the decision to add him to the 40 man roster after 2020, was relieved to see them re-sign him after he was non-tendered after 2021. A well regarded signee out of Venezuela who got a $800,000 bonus as part of the team’s 2016 J-2 class, his rep has been that he’s a quality defensive catcher whose bat would need to catch up. He slashed .228/.295/.346 for Frisco in 2022, but he’s a switch-hitter who doesn’t turn 23 until February. He is probably the one guy on this list I’d most like to see the Rangers bring back on a minor league deal.
I mentioned on Twitter that Lucas Jacobsen was the one player, other than Garcia, of the free agent eligible guys who I thought had a shot at being added to the 40 man roster. And maybe with a less-crowded 40 man situation that would be the case. A 27 year old lefthanded reliever picked in the 27th round in 2016, Jacobsen has only thrown 73 innings as a pro (87 if you include his 13 innings with Auckland in the Australian League in the 2019-20 offseason) due to injuries. But throws hard and misses bats, putting up a 2.29 ERA between AA and AAA in 2022. He did that in only 19 innings, though, because, well, he spent much of the year on the injured list.
Miguel Aparicio was part of the same J-2 class as Leody Taveras, has a similar skill set, and there were those who, at one time, thought Aparicio might be the better player. He’s a terrific defensive outfielder, has tools, has shown some flashes, but just hasn’t had sustained success with his bat. He looked like he was finally putting it together for Hickory in 2021, slashing .274/.367/.567 in 48 games and earning a promotion to Frisco, but he struggled with Frisco and then got hurt. He spent most of 2022 on the injured list, appearing in just 42 games, almost a quarter of them rehabbing in the ACL, and didn’t hit.
Jack Kruger...remember him? He’s a catcher the Rangers claimed on waivers from Anaheim in 2021 because they needed a body who could play catcher. He never played for the Rangers, which was unfortunate, because there were lots of jokes ready to go if he ever caught Dane Dunning. It was also unfortunate because he’s only appeared in one major league game, catching one inning for the Angels, and never having a plate appearance.
Kevin Gowdy was usually listed as the second guy the Rangers got from the Phillies in the Kyle Gibson trade, but he was really more of the third guy, since Josh Gessner was probably a better prospect even at the time. A second round pick in 2016, he had just 42 professional appearances in almost exactly five years as a pro before coming to Texas. He wasn’t good in Philly, but hey, take a flyer on a guy, maybe you can help him figure something out. He figured out how to put up a 9.90 ERA in a relief role for Frisco in 2022, so yeah...
Joshua Javier was the PTBNL in the deal that sent Jake Diekman to Arizona. A lefty, he barely pitched in 2021 and didn’t pitch in 2022, so I guess he was injured.
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Fernery Ozuna briefly got some hype due to the fact he throws really hard and came out of nowhere after being released by the Diamondbacks, where he was an outfielder, and being signed and converted to pitching by the Rangers. He struggled with his command while pitching for Frisco in 2021, did better for Frisco in 2022, got promoted to Round Rock, and got rocked.
We had such hopes for Sherten Apostel. He was acquired as the PTBNL in the Keone Kela deal as a power hitting third baseman with patience who seemed likely to have to move to first base, but whose bat would play there. He got into a few games during the COVID season of 2020 because it was open tryouts and he was on the 40 man roster, then spent most of 2021 and 2022 on the injured list, and didn’t hit when he was healthy.
We also had such hopes for Demarcus Evans, a big, high-spin righty reliever who had a ridiculous 0.90 ERA in 60 innings in 2019, splitting the year between high-A and AA, striking out 100 of 235 batters faced and allowing just two home runs. He spent time in the majors in 2020 and 2021, but his fastball velocity disappeared over time — after averaging 93.9 mph on his four seamer in 2020, he saw his velocity drop over the course of the 2021 season, until he was throwing in the high-80s late in the year. Evans spent some time in 2022 at extended spring working on his mechanics, but never got out of AAA. If he can find that lost velocity, he has a good chance of getting back to the majors, but who knows if that will ever happen.
James Jones turned 34 in September. He was last in the majors in 2015, as an outfielder, with the Mariners. The Rangers acquired him in the Leonys Martin/Tom Wilhelmsen trade after the 2015 season, and he converted to pitching late in 2016. He had Tommy John surgery at least once and has struggled to stay healthy, but he’s stuck with it, and my guess is the Rangers will look to bring him back again for 2023.
I still don’t understand why Elier Hernandez was ever in the majors this year.
Yohel Pozo put up an 820 OPS for Round Rock this year and only appeared in 30 games as a catcher. Doesn’t walk, doesn’t strike out, and only has doubles power. If he were an acceptable defensive catcher he’d be able to carve out a major league career, but he’s not, and the bat won’t play at 1B or DH.
Ryder Ryan was the PTBNL in the Todd Frazier trade. He was an okay middle reliever for Round Rock in 2022, and if he hangs around long enough he might get a cup of coffee at some point.
Josh Sale was a nice redemption story, a former first round pick whose bad life decisions de-railed his career before it ever got started, and who had been out of affiliated ball since 2014, but who turned his life around and got a shot at Round Rock this year. It was fun when he hit some when he first joined the Express, but his offensive performance declined steadily as the season went on, and he ended the year with a .229/.343/.420 slash line for the Express.
Kelvin Gonzalez is a guy who could pitch in the majors one day. Acquired from the Kansas City Royals for international bonus money in 2018, he had an impressive season for Hickory in 2019, but missed 2021 and most of 2022 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He turns 25 in December, and after missing most of the past three yeras, no one is paying attention to him, but I would wager the Rangers will make an effort to re-sign him, and wherever he lands, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands on someone’s 40 man roster before 2023 is up.