The Texas Rangers player to get the most at-bats in winter league ball this winter is a guy that is the ultimate career minor league journeyman. Guilder Rodriguez has been playing minor league ball for 12 seasons, stepped to the plate over 3,700 times, played eight different positions, leaving catcher as the only position not played as he has come in as an emergency pitcher on four different occasions, and has never even received a cup of coffee in the big leagues. The light hitting middle infielder, he has a grand total of two home runs in those 3,700+ plate appearances, spent the winter in his native Venezuela, where he hit for a solid average and showed a good eye at the plate. He is not on the 40-man roster and has not even received an invite to major league camp, but he is just the kind of guy worth rooting for to get the call sometime this year.
Bryan Peterson is a guy I personally remember playing against in high school, where he was an integral part of the back-to-back national championship Chatsworth High School team. He eventually made it to the big leagues with the then Florida Marlins, but has put up a batting average barely over the Mendoza Line. While showing a good bat and flashing power in Mexico this winter, Peterson signed a minor league deal with a spring invite to big league camp. While his bat has been a question, he does have the range to be a decent defensive center fielder.
Sure handed shortstop prospect, Luis Sardinas, returned to his native Venezuela this winter. He posted an average above .350 while reaching base better than 40% of the time. His bat is not the tool that will allow him to stick in the big leagues, but instead is plus speed and fantastic glove will make him a big leaguer. The 20-year old is blocked in Texas by two pretty good middle infielders, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, but he could turn into one of the better bench gloves in baseball, assuming he is not dealt to a team that can make him a starter.
Speaking of Profar, he spent the winter in the Dominican, where he flashed the bat fantasy players everywhere were expecting last season. He reached base at a .339 clip, but only hit one long ball. He walked nearly 2.5x more than he struck out, after posting nearly the opposite in the big leagues last season. He is almost 21 years old, and still has a ceiling as high as any middle infielder in baseball.
Catcher and corner infielder, Robinson Chirinos needs a big spring if he hopes make the 25-man roster. This winter Chirinos was a member of Navegantes del Magallanes, who eventually lost in the semi-finals of the Caribbean Series. He hit .272 with an OPS of .745. He is entering his 13th season of pro ball, and his unique position flexibility will help keep him as an emergency option should there be an injury on the big league roster.
20-year old Rougned Odor, like Luis Sardinas, has his path to the big leagues blocked, but could become a very good big leaguer. Unlike Sardinas, Odor can really hit, putting up a combined .305/.365/.474 between High-A and Double-A at the age of 19 in 2013. Then he went to Venezeula for the winter, and his offensive numbers plummeted, with an OPS under .600. Sardinas and Odor could become a good big league double play combo, but there is no room for either of them, so don’t be shocked if one or both get moved sometime this year to fill holes at the big league level down the stretch.
Jose Herberto Felix is slated to be the fourth option as catcher for the Rangers this season, but is not yet on the 40-man roster. He struggled mightily in Mexico this winter, hitting just .175, so he will have to shine this spring if he wants to crack the 40 man.
One player that did not struggle in Mexico is a player that once had a ton of hype, and even hit a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw in the big leagues, Kevin Kouzmanoff. No, you don’t need to adjust the screen on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or whatever other device you have turned to thinking the others are stuck in the past, Kouzmanoff is back in a big league camp this year, and he crushed the ball this winter. He ended with a triple slash line of .348/.402/.554, all despite striking out 21 times while walking just six.
Merely being in a trade that got Eric Gagne out of town should make Rangers fans appreciate Engel Beltre, as well as David Murphy and Kason Gabbard, but Beltre will be battling Michael Choice for the fourth outfielder job this spring. Meanwhile, in the winter, Beltre got on base at a .347 clip for the Tigres de Licey in the Domincan, while patrolling center field and stealing eight bags.
Brad Snyder, once a highly touted prospect, has amassed a grand total of 36 big league at-bats, to go along with 4,226 in the minor leagues. His transaction page on Baseball Reference is littered with one year deal minor league deals, which he got again this year, and will again be in a big league camp. In 81 at-bats in the Dominican this winter, he struggled to make contact, hitting just .222, but flashed the power that once gave him that prospect title, 5 of his 55 hits left the ballpark. The Rangers have decent outfield depth, so it doesn’t appear there will be much of a chance for Snyder to spend time in the big leagues this season, but there are also much worse Triple-A options out there.
Mike Bianucci, Juan Apodaca, and Kalian Sams all struggled with the bat in various winter leagues, with Bianucci posting the highest average at .222. The three players have a combined 24 years of minor league experience, including seven at Triple-A, but none have cracked the big leagues. Each will serve as veteran depth in the minors this year, as none are on the 40-man roster.
One player that is on the 40-man is Jim Adduci. In fact, in 2013, he became the second generation Jim Adduci to make the big leagues, as his father spent parts of four years for three different teams at the highest level between 1983-1989. The younger Adduci spent the winter in the Dominican where he hit .264 and showed a decent eye at the plate. If he continues the good approach at the plate this spring, and flashes the power he showed in Triple-A last season, he just might have the chance to surprise some people and make the opening day roster.
Hanser Alberto is a guy I personally like a lot. He really struggled in the Dominican this winter, hitting just .183, will never be a big league regular, and won’t even be in big league camp this year, but he looks the part of a ballplayer. His swing and body make it easy say he looks like a mini-Adrian Beltre, and that is exactly how I would describe him. While most of his time in the minors has been at short, I think he fits best at third, where his decent arm and quick reflexes will play up. He will never have a plus on-base percentage, nor a high home run total, but the 21-year old still has room to improve and could be a valuable piece of the 25-man roster as early as mid-to-late 2015.