The Texas Rangers are purchasing the contract of outfielder Steele Walker from AAA Round Rock, per reports. The Rangers are optioning Andy Ibanez to make room for him on the active roster. To make room for Walker on the active roster, the Rangers have designated Willie Calhoun for assignment.
This comes as a big surprise, at least to me — I’ve been dismissive of the idea that Walker would be up this year, particularly in the first half of the season. Walker, who turns 26 next month, split the 2021 season between AA and AAA, putting up a combined .241/.308/.400 slash line. As a 2018 2nd rounder out of the University of Oklahoma, Walker was mentioned as a possible addition to the 40 man roster this offseason, his first year of Rule 5 eligibility, although he was ultimately not added.
Walker is being added now, however, having slashed .297/.395/.487 in 86 plate appearances in AAA. He has hit .347/.458/.571 in 59 plate appearances against righthanders, though, with 8 walks against 5 Ks, and so I suspect he’s going to get a chance to be the big side of the left field platoon for the time being, relegating Eli White to fourth outfielder duties again.
Walker also has at least 70 grade swag, as Kennedi Landry wrote about this spring.
UPDATE — I asked both Tepid and Scott Lucas if I was underselling Walker’s swag grade:
It’s like when some site put 75 power on Gallo. If Walker’s a 70, there is no 80.— Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas) June 5, 2022
Fuck yes you did.— Tepid Participation (@TepidP) June 5, 2022
Andy Ibanez, who started the season as the regular third baseman, has seen his playing time diminish due to a putrid .216/.272/.276 slash line. Ibanez is 29, so there’s not a lot of growth potential that one would expect. His 2021 performance gave rise to some hopes he could be a useful major leaguer, but it may be that that was simply him having a career year.
As for Calhoun, well, I’ll have more thoughts on him last week. Suffice it to say that my reaction to the news is encapsulated here:
The Rangers have seven days to waive, trade or release him. My guess is that he’s dealt to a rebuilding team that hopes that a change of scenery helps him get his groove back.