Greetings from 38,000 feet. Rule 5 Results
As expected, Texas lost no one in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers also declined to select anyone.
In the minor-league phase, Texas lost infielder Greg Miclat (Cards) and RHP Richard Bleier (Jays). Miclat and Frisco RHP Randy Henry were the return for catcher Taylor Teagarden. He was a handy AAA player but in no danger of forcing his way onto the 25-man roster. Bleier was eligible (at least in the Major League phase of the draft) for the third consecutive winter. Drafted in the sixth round of 2008, Bleier's best attribute was excellent control. None of his pitches (led by an upper-80s sinking fastball) really stood out, though. While valuable as an organizational player, he wasn't going to reach the Majors, not with Texas, anyway. The minor-league phase has no roster placement requirements; Miclat and Bleier are gone for good, barring reacquisition through standard channels.
Texas selected IF Russell Wilson from Colorado in the minor-league phase. A 2010 4th rounder, Wilson batted .228/.366/.342 for low-A Asheville in 2011. Since then, he's been unusually preoccupied with his hobby of quarterbacking the Seattle Seahawks. Texas can stash him on its restricted list, although I suppose another team could nab him next December. It's a zero-downside move for Texas, aside from Jon Daniels having to tell ownership that he spent $12,000 on a football player.
The Orioles selected Chicago OF Julio Borbon in the minor-league phase. Free Agent Departures
RHP Jake Brigham (Pirates) -- Texas's 2006 6th rounder spent all but a few of the last eight years with the Rangers, progressing fitfully upward and finally reaching AAA last summer. The Cubs traded Geovanny Soto more-or-less straight up for Brigham in 2012. He would have been my choice as an emergency callup from Round Rock when Texas's rotation was beset with injuries in early July.
RHP Carlos Pimentel (Cubs) -- From a prospect-ranking perspective, Pimentel peaked before he reached full-season ball in 2009. He turned heads again toward the end of 2012 when he moved into the bullpen and distilled his repertoire to a hard fastball-slider combo. Pimentel never quite showed enough to warrant 40-man protection or a Rule 5 flyer and became a free agent. There's a remote chance that the AAA Cubs field an entirely ex-Texas rotation next spring: Brigham, Pimentel, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez and Kyle Hendricks.
Minor league vets: P Colin Balester (Pirates), C Eli Whiteside (Cubs), IF Brendan Harris (Dodgers), OF Chih-Hsien Chiang (Orioles), Aaron Cunningham (Cubs),
Others of note still looking for a home, to my knowledge: RHP Johan Yan, IF Yangervis Solarte, OF Joe Benson. Arrivals
RHP Ross Wolf and OF Kalian Sams (a late addition to Frisco) re-signed.
RHP Nate Adcock (Snakes) -- Adcock was a Rule 5 selection who stuck, pitching 60 replacement-level innings for the Royals in 2011 and a lesser number in 2012. Last year, he suffered at pitcher-averse AAA Reno (6.38 ERA). He'll be in Round Rock as an insurance policy if the big league rotation blows up.
RHP Jose Contreras (Bucs) -- He's 42. Contreras pitched five walk-prone innings for Pittsburgh this year and 28 more for a couple of AAA squads. He's been hittable in the Dominican Winter League (5.88 ERA with peripherals befitting a 5.88 ERA).
RHP Zach Russell (Cards) --The 2007 49th rounder has pitched a total of 319 innings in seven years. He'll vie for a spot in Frisco's bullpen, I presume.
OF Bryan Petersen (Fish) -- Petersen enjoyed a decent MLB debut (.265/.357/.387 in 74 games in 2001) but crashed in 2012 (.195/.272/.257). In 2013, he passed unclaimed through waivers and spent the season in AAA New Orleans, where he batted .275/.363/.407 (a solid line for the PCL's toughest hitter's park). He's an outfield insurance policy.
OF Jake Smolinski (Fish) --Drafted 70th overall in 2007, Smolinski is a corner outfielder without much power or speed. He's batted .258/.353/.386 in 706 full-season minor-league games, rather wanting for someone who spends most of his days in left field. Still, he doesn't turn 25 until February, and the only risk for Texas is that he's a below-average AAA outfielder.
OF Brad Snyder (Snakes) -- Not Brandon, Texas' right-handed bench bat for much of 2011. Brad was selected 18th overall in 2003 (immediately after David Murphy, nine picks after John Danks), and Baseball America ranked him in Cleveland's top 10 for five years running. Unfortunately for him, that has amounted to only 37 MLB plate appearances. Although purely organizational filler at this point , Snyder will benefit the Express with his solid all-around game.
Late update: Texas has signed righty Doug Mathis to a minor-league deal. Mathis pitched 87 MLB innings for Texas during 2008-2010. Also signed: utility man Brett Lillibridge, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, reliever Armando Rodriguez and infielder Josh Wilson.
Fall and Winter Ball
As always, I caution you not to read much into winter stats. League acronyms: DWL = Dominican Republic, VWL = Venezuela, PWL = Puerto Rico, AFL = Arizona Fall League.
OF Jim Adduci (Toros, DWL) -- Adduci batted .264/.346/.403 in 20 games with Toros del Este.
IF Hanser Alberto (Gigantes, DWL) -- Spending most of his time at third with shorter spells at second and short, Alberto hit .183/.206/.200 in 20 games.
C Jorge Alfaro (Surprise, AFL) -- Alfaro batted .386/.438/.500 and was named to the league's All-Prospect team as well as the 6th best prospect in the league by Baseball America. Alfaro gunned down nine of 17 base-stealers and picked off two or three more. (Teammate Austin Hedges, a San Diego prospect, was equally effective in that regard.) I expect Alfaro to begin 2014 at high-A Myrtle Beach, where he spent last season's final week and postseason.
OF Engel Beltre (Licey, DWL) -- A winter vet at the tender age of 24, Beltre has a .250/.286/.288 line in 16 games. Beltre is out of options. He has too much talent not to be on someone's Major League roster in April, but to fashion a career in the Majors he'll need to rediscover the (relative) patience displayed in Round Rock, where he matched his modest career high of 28 walks in just 94 games.
C Robinson Chirinos (Magallanes, VWL) -- Texas's #3 catcher is hitting .274/.346/.397 in Venezuela.
C Jose Felix (Guasave, Mexico) -- Felix is active and busy after missing much of 2013 with a hand injury. Playing for his hometown team, he's hitting .171/.247/.200 in 25 games.
OF Leonys Martin (Licey, DWL) -- Debuting at the beginning of December, Martin is hitting .150 through five games.
1B Brett Nicholas (Surprise, AFL) -- Nicholas batted a modest .230/.273/.393 in the AFL but was the MVP of the Fall Stars game, which doesn't count in the statistics. He homered twice and singled. During the regular AFL season, he rapped seven doubles and a homer.
IF Rougned Odor (Magallanes, VWL) -- Odor ran on fumes at the end of his winter term, batting .155/.197/.207 in his last 17 games after a .333/.395/.487 start. No reason to worry at all.
IF Jurickson Profar (Licey, DWL) -- Unlike most hitters, Profar doesn't expand his strike zone during batting practice. Next year's starting second baseman (as of press time) treated the winter league like a cage session, drawing 24 walks in 115 trips to the plate (21% rate) versus only ten strikeouts. Profar batted .284/.398/.439 with seven extra-base hits. He concluded his winter foray in mid-November.
IF Ryan Rua (Surprise, AFL) -- Playing mostly at 3B, Rua batted .175/.268/.365 with four homers in 17 games. He should return to Frisco next April.
IF Luis Sardinas (La Guaira, VWL) -- Sardinas produced a heady .354/.418/.441 line down south, far above anything he's offered in the US. Sardinas batted .288/.340/.347 between high-A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco this season. Anything more than doubles power is too much to ask from him; he'll improve his lot most by drawing more walks.
RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (Surprise, AFL, and Escogido, DWL) -- Bonilla pitched five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts as a late AFL addition. In the Dominican Republic, he's fanned three in three more scoreless frames.
LHP Joe Burns (Melbourne, Australia) -- Much to even his own surprise, Texas's one Australian participant is starting for the first time as a professional. The soft-tossing lefty has whiffed 26 against just five walks and has a 2.08 ERA in 30.1 innings. The 2012 28th rounder posted a 4.89 ERA in low-a Hickory. http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/news/article/tex/rangers-joe-burns-maximizing-his-australian-baseball-experience?ymd=20131127&content_id=64259916&vkey=news_tex
LHP Alex Claudio (Ponce, PWL) -- The lefty changeup specialist has 10 Ks and just two walks in 11.2 innings. He's been atypically homer-prone, yielding three compared to a modest total of seven in 167 stateside innings.
RHP Neftali Feliz (Toros, DWL) -- Notably, Feliz did not pitch in Texas's last ten games. Resuming in-game activity three weeks ago, Feliz has two walks, seven strikeouts and a 4.05 ERA in 6.2 innings.
RHP Wilmer Font (Caracas, VWL) -- Font sports a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings but has walked or hit 12 of 54 batters (22%). Font was granted an extra option because of losing the entirety of 2011 to Tommy John surgery. He'll need it. To my eyes, Font's progress stalled in 2013. Grudgingly offering a "show me" slider or change every 10th pitch or so isn't going to cut it.
RHP Ryan Harvey (Surprise, AFL) -- Harvey fanned six in 3.2 Arizona innings. He has a low-90s fastball and low-80s slider. Harvey was tough to hit but lacked control in Myrtle Beach.
RHP Keone Kela (Surprise, AFL) -- Aside from Alfaro, Kela turned the most heads among Texas players in Arizona by achieving triple-digit velocity on multiple occasions and fanning 10 in 8.2 innings. He also pitched a scoreless 8th in Surprise's championship game victory. More recently, Kela pitched a couple of scoreless frames for Magallanes in Venezuela.
LHP Will Lamb (Surprise, AFL) -- Stretched out as a starter, Lamb endured an exceptionally rough Fall League campaign, walking nearly one of every five batters, and posting an 8.63 ERA in 19.2 innings. I suspect he'll return to Myrtle Beach next April.
LHP Joseph Ortiz (La Guaira, VWL) -- Ortiz is probably Texas's most active winter participant over the years. My records don't go back far enough, but I presume that Ortiz was born on a mound in La Guaira and threw his first Winter League pitches while confined in a baby walker. Now fully grown, Ortiz has a 3.52 ERA, 13 strikeouts against four walks in 15.1 innings.
LHP Robbie Ross (Toros, DWL) -- After a rocky debut (0.1 IP, 6 runners, 4 runs), Ross pitched well in three follow-ups, allowing 12 runners and striking out 11 in 13 innings. He was a starter there, and, like last year, will begin Spring Training as a rotation candidate.
RHP Matt West (Surprise, AFL) -- Coming off Tommy John surgery, West pitched 9.2 innings in Arizona, walking seven and fanning ten. In his final appearance, West's fastball ranged from 93 to 95, and he offered a 73-75 MPH curve. We'll find out in 2014 if he can match the steady mid-90s heat he offered before the surgery. He'll be using his final option in 2014 but perhaps could secure an additional option like Font.
Odds are I've omitted someone or something, but we're approaching an excessive 2,000 words.
Newberg Report (newbergreport.com)