Rangers Injury Wildcards

The Texas Rangers' system stayed reasonably healthy as a whole in 2011, but Lone Star Dugout profiles 11 prospects who missed all or most of the campaign. In this feature, we look at the injury status of the players, their method of rehab, and how the injuries affect their standing as a prospect.

Omar Beltre – Currently a free agent, Beltre initially signed with the Rangers for a then-club record $600,000 all the way back in 2000. He has spent the last decade with the Texas organization through the minors, the well-documented marriage fraud scandal, coming back and reaching the majors in '10, and the '11 spring training diagnosis of spinal stenosis (a genetic disorder that results in narrowing of the spine) that sidelined him for the entire season.

Beltre underwent surgery on his spine in spring training, and he spent the remainder of the season rehabbing. He made two brief rehab appearances in the rookie-level Arizona League before the Rangers elected to continue his rehab and core strengthening programs.

When healthy, the 30-year-old righty features good command of a heavy 92-96 mph fastball and plus mid-80s splitter. He also has a fringy low-80s slider. Prior to the surgery, Beltre's two plus pitches were at least good enough to make a strong impact in a major league bullpen. But now, given the rare surgery, it's anyone's guess as to whether the stuff or stamina ever returns.

Manny Corpas – Corpas is also a free agent right now. The Rangers signed Corpas in April with the knowledge that he wouldn't pitch this past season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2010. Corpas is best known for his '07 campaign, in which he helped lead Colorado to the World Series as the team's closer, posting a 2.08 ERA and 19 saves in 78 relief appearances. The 28-year-old last pitched in 2010 and logged a 4.62 ERA in 56 games. He pitched 62.1 innings and yielded 66 hits, walked 22, and struck out 47.

Corpas spent the entire season rehabbing at the Rangers' minor league facility in Arizona. The Panama native is currently a free agent because he was on a minor league contract. He should be ready to pitch in spring training and, if the Rangers liked what they saw during the rehab process, the club could bring him back with an invitation to spring training for 2012.

Will de los Santos be healthy in 2012?
Ovispo de los Santos – The fireballing reliever appeared primed for a breakout in 2011 after posting a 2.77 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 26 innings between short-season Spokane and Single-A Hickory the prior season. De los Santos features a lively 93-98 mph fastball that touched triple digits during his time in Spokane. Both his fastball command and 82-83 mph slider also improved as the season progressed.

But de los Santos' '11 season never got underway. He was shut down through much of spring training with right elbow troubles. After throwing bullpens and live BP in extended spring training, he was shut down once again. The 23-year-old ultimately underwent a procedure to shave bone spurs off his elbow. Although he turns 24 in November, the righty has a major league-caliber arm and could move quickly upon returning if he's healthy.

Wilmer Font – Font was limited to only three appearances in '08 due to shoulder soreness and knee tendinitis. He missed all of this season after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in October of last year. A member of the Rangers' 40-man roster, Font was a starting pitcher prior to surgery but could now end up in the bullpen in an attempt to fast-track him to the major leagues.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty has a big body and an even bigger arm. As a starter, he often sits in the low-to-mid 90s (touching 96-97) and has bumped 100 in the past. His secondary stuff (big-breaking 69-74 mph curveball and low-80s change) and command showed progress in '10, though he was still fairly raw in both areas. Now 21, Font has one of the system's biggest arms and should be fully healthy by spring training. He could open at High-A Myrtle Beach.

Teodoro Martinez – The 19-year-old prospect was having a solid season at Single-A Hickory before a mid-July knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He appeared in 63 games, posting a .276/.333/.383 slash line with 20 stolen bases in 32 attempts.

Martinez underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee in August. He has been rehabbing at the club's minor league complex in Surprise since the surgery and is currently running. The speedy 5-foot-11 outfielder is expected to be ready for spring training 2012. He'll likely open the year in Hickory but could reach Myrtle Beach at some point next season.

Tim Murphy – Another Tommy John victim, Murphy had the surgery on September 22 of last year and is also set to return at spring training in 2012. The southpaw appeared to be on thin ice after a disastrous '09 campaign at High-A Bakersfield in which he posted a 6.80 ERA as a starting pitcher.

Murphy righted the ship after moving to the bullpen and making some key adjustments in '10. Perhaps the biggest adjustment was lowering his arm slot to a more natural position. The result was increased deception, more life on his fastball, and––eventually––more velocity. He finished the year with a successful stint in Double-A––22.2 ip, 19 h, 4 er (1.59 ERA), 4 bb, 23 k. After throwing his fastball at 84-88 mph in '09, he ticked up to 88-93 late in the '10 season with Frisco. His sweeping 79-81 mph breaking ball also missed bats with the ‘Riders.

The UCLA product should begin next season in the Frisco bullpen. He––like Font––has completed his rehab process in Arizona and is currently at home preparing to return for spring training next March.

Peralta's velocity ticked up at instructs.
Denny Peralta – Peralta missed the entire '11 regular season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery but returned to game action at fall instructional league, where he was extremely impressive. Prior to surgery, Peralta relied on his advanced command and secondary stuff (curveball changeup) rather than his fastball (87-90 mph), despite his 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame. After pitching the '08 and '09 campaigns in the Dominican Summer League, he made eight appearances (four starts) with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in '10. He posted a 4.26 ERA in 25.1 innings, yielding 33 hits and fanning 25 without issuing a single walk.

The right-hander looked like a much different pitcher at instructs––right after returning from surgery––although it was obviously a small sample. He began popping 93 mph on the radar gun during bullpen sessions right before he returned to game action. Then, in one particular instructs game, the 22-year-old flashed the same advanced command to go with an 89-94 mph fastball, a big-breaking 78 mph curveball, and a changeup at 81-82 mph that showed good fade and sink.

It's probably too early to make any definite comments about Peralta, but that he can bump 94 mph with good secondary stuff is at least promising. If he continues flashing that type of stuff, he could be in for a breakout 2012 campaign. The curve and change were both mature offerings, and he was creating a good downhill plane on solid-average to plus velocity from his 6-foot-4 frame.

Randol Rojas – The 21-year-old righty was limited to only 38.1 innings in '11 after an early-season bout with biceps tendinitis ended up knocking him out for the entire season. Rojas never underwent surgery and spent the year rehabbing in Surprise. The Venezuela native has turned himself into an intriguing prospect after signing for less than $5,000 in December '08. Assuming he's healthy and ready to go by the '12 campaign, he remains a decent under-the-radar arm due to his 87-91 mph sinker, mature curveball, and feel for a changeup. Though he isn't particularly projectable at just 6-foot-0 and doesn't project to add much more velocity, he has a polished three-pitch mix and shows a feel for the mound. He was off to a strong start (3.52 ERA in nine appearances, five starts) before suffering the injury last season.

Luis Sardinas – Since the talented shortstop signed with the Rangers for a reported $1.5 million bonus in the summer of '09, his biggest battle has simply been staying on the field. Sardinas has appeared in just 40 total regular season games with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers over his two seasons. The results have been pretty good. As a hitter, he's 48-for-155 (.310) with 11 walks, 25 strikeouts, and 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts. He's also a burner on the base paths. Defensively, the Venezuelan shortstop is a potential plus-plus defender with excellent range, smooth actions, and plus arm strength.

Although he is just 18 years of age, all of that is now called into question. Sardinas has undergone two shoulder surgeries in the first two years of his professional career. He hurt the left (non-throwing) shoulder on a swing-and-miss in '10 before hurting the right shoulder while doing the same thing during a game this past summer. Only time will tell whether the surgeries will effect his game offensively or defensively.

Sardinas still has supreme talent and plenty of time to reach the major leagues if he recovers. However, as one of the smaller players in the system (despite his 6-foot-1 frame), he will have to mature physically and add strength in order to avoid the injuries and play the 140-game grind that is a minor league schedule.

The switch-hitting prospect suffered the injury on July 19, and he could end up missing a chunk of 2012 as he continues to rehab from surgery.

Mason Tobin – The former Rule 5 selection was recently outrighted off the Rangers' 40-man roster, and the Angels declined their option to acquire him back for a $25,000 fee. Now full property of the Rangers, Tobin will likely spend at least part of the 2012 campaign rehabbing from his latest right elbow surgery. He made the major league bullpen out of spring training, flashing a low-to-mid 90s sinker and two usable secondary pitches in his slider and changeup.

While Tobin has always featured legitimate power stuff, his issue continues to be staying healthy. A series of right elbow injuries (and Tommy John surgeries) have limited him to 101.2 career innings in five professional seasons, including just eight frames in the last three seasons combined. Still only 24 years old, the former Angels prospect will look to work his way back to health next season through the minor leagues.

Brett Weibley – The Rangers' 19th-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Weibley is a bit of an unknown because he had Tommy John surgery before his first full season. The Kent State product was mostly a third baseman in college before putting more of a focus on the mound in his sophomore and junior campaigns.

The 21-year-old righty has a good frame at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, and his fastball touched 96 mph while playing in the Cape Cod League after his sophomore season. But the results have yet to follow, as he posted an 8.36 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28 innings at short-season Spokane in '10––his only professional experience to date. Weibley should return to game action early in the '12 season.

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