Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Surprise, AZ today for the start of spring training. Every season, teams around MLB invite non roster players to spring training. They are there to add depth or possibly find lightening in a bottle like 2019 MVP Danny Santana. Santana came to 2019 camp as a non roster invitee on a minor league deal. He didn’t even break camp with the Rangers. Some of this invitees are fringe major leaguers like Santana, who are looking for one more shot. Delino Deshields would be one of these players,  but most know he is back and will watch what he does. Others are minor leaguers who are invited to big league camp, but most likely headed to the minor leagues. One that comes to mind is Josh Jung. Jung however, isn’t on this list because he is already being watched by everyone who is a Ranger fan.

Let’s take a look at 5 players to watch in camp who could make the opening day roster. More importantly, they may be names who are not on Ranger fans radar. These are in no particular order.

Luis Ortiz, RHP

Ortiz is intriguing because he started out in the Rangers system after being their 1st round pick in 2014 and 30th overall. Ortiz proved why he was a first round pick out of high school in Sanger, CA. He pitched 20 innings after signing and was 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA. In 2015 he started 13 games for Hickory and was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 50 innings. In 2016 he continued his march up the system. He worked his way from High Desert to Frisco before being included in a trade to the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy.  He continued to do well in the Milwaukee system before being traded to Baltimore in 2018 as part of a deal to acquire Jonathan Schoop. Ortiz made his major league debut in 2018 pitching 2.1 innings with not much success. He started 2019 back in AAA Norfolk. He was called up for one start and again struggled. He never played in the big leagues in 2020 and was released after the season.

Sometimes a change of scenery is good for player. Getting an opportunity with a team that wants you or a different pitching coach can reboot a career. At just 25, Ortiz is still very young. He is also a former first round pick.

Best Case: He pitches this spring like the former first round pick he is and ends up at the back end of the rotation.

Most Likely: He is depth for a rotation that will need a lot of arms to fill in the needed innings. He starts out at Round Rock in their rotation.

Hyeon-Jong Yang, LHP

At 32 years old, Yang has had a nice 14 year career in the KBO. The Rangers made a surprise signing of Yang on the 12th of February. Adding depth has been a huge priority for the Rangers this offseason and Yang is just that. He ended up throwing 172 innings last season in Korea, which is much needed after a shortened 2020 MLB season. There is no doubt that there will be a lot of innings to fill after such a short season last year. Arihara and Yang both threw a lot of innings last year, which MLB pitchers did not. The issue is that the KBO is compared to somewhere between AA and AAA in America and Yang wasn’t stellar in 2020.

Best Case: He is the 4th or 5th man in the rotation or a part of an opener situation that the Rangers.

Most Likely: Look at Best Case.

Matt Bush, RHP

Bush has not pitched since 2018 after suffering a torn UCL. The former number one over-all pick as a SS for the San Diego Padres, flamed out and turned to pitching. With a fastball that touched close to 100 mph, Bush signed with the Rangers in 2015 after a couple of years out of baseball for legal issues. He ended up spending 2016, 2017 and 2018 with the Rangers closing 10 games in 2017. In 2018 he was shut down during the season and ended up having TJ surgery in July of 2019. He heads into spring trying to land a spot in the bullpen.

Best Case: He reasserts himself as a back end of the bullpen guy and gets traded to contender at the deadline for a prospect.

Most Likely: He doesn’t make opening day roster and signs somewhere else as a free agents.

Andy Ibanez, IF

Ibanez was an international FA signed by the Rangers in 2015 out of Cuba. Ibanez has produced at every level since signing with the Rangers, but not enough to crack the major leagues roster. He has a career minor league batting average of .285 in 486 minor league games from Class A to AAA. He spent 2018 and 2019 in AAA. Still not on the 40 man roster, he has an opportunity to change that this spring. Especially with so many open jobs on the major league roster. He is almost 28 years old and decisions will have to

Best Case: Ibanez beats out Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt for the starting 3B job until Josh Jung eventually takes over. Then he becomes what he was truly meant to be, a utility guy who can play around the diamond.

Most Likely: Doesn’t make opening day roster and ends up back at Round Rock if nobody else picks him up.

Adolis Garcia, OF

Garcia is the guy I liked to say is most likely to be the next Nelson Cruz. I say that because of the power he possesses that he can’t seem to translate to the major leagues. Nelson Cruz is very comparable. He was a Brewer prospect who couldn’t translate it to the major leagues. He was traded to the Rangers where he again failed at the big league level and was DFA’d. He clears waivers, goes to OKC and opens his stance. Then at 28 years old he figures it out and the rest is history as he continues to play at 40. Garcia was traded to Rangers after disappointing the Cardinals. He didn’t make the opening day roster for the Rangers in 2020 and spent the year at the alternative site. He was recently DFA’d and cleared waivers. He heads to spring training on a minor league invite. Does he open his stance and figure it out at 25? He is a guy who has hit 59 HR’s at AAA over 284 games. Yet it hasn’t been that good at the big league level.

Best Case: He hits 12 to 14 spring HR’s while hitting around .300 and makes the team as the left fielder. David Dahl moves to CF and Leody Taveras starts at AAA.

Most Likely: Doesn’t make opening day roster and becomes a free agent or starts at Round Rock.

Spring training is here and it’s time to open our eyes to players we aren’t supposed to.

Nerd Out!

Featured Image: The Athletic (Luis Ortiz)

 

 

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