Rangers sign seven, release seven

The Texas Rangers have made a flurry of minor league-centric moves in recent weeks, signing and releasing a handful of players. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the transactions and profiles the players involved.

The Texas Rangers recently signed seven players to minor league contracts and released seven others.

A handful of former Rangers have also recently inked minor league deals with other teams. That list (along with currently unsigned Rangers minor league free agents) can be found at this link and includes INF Andres Blanco (Nationals), RHP Manny Corpas (Cubs), C Robinzon Diaz (Angels), INF Esteban German (Japan), INF Nick Green (Marlins), and RHP Eric Hurley (Angels).

Texas declined its option on reliever Manny Corpas, who spent the 2011 campaign rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the club's minor league complex in Arizona. German recently signed a contract with the Seibu Lions of the NPB in Japan. The utility infielder had played the last three seasons in the Rangers' system, splitting his time between Triple-A and the major leagues. He posted a .301/.388/.411 slash line with 44 stolen bases in 123 games at Triple-A Round Rock last season.

The Hurley news comes via Angels television play-by-play man Victor Rojas. The 26-year-old Hurley was the 30th overall pick in the '04 MLB Draft, and he had previously spent his entire career in the Rangers' system. After missing the '09 and '10 seasons due to multiple shoulder and wrist surgeries, he returned last season and posted a 5.55 ERA in 16 starts, logging 46 strikeouts in 84.1 innings.

Texas had expressed interest in bringing Hurley back on a minor league contract, but he ultimately chose to move on. In his first year back from the surgeries, the right-hander featured an 88-91 mph fastball––touching 92 and 93 on occasion––to go with a slider and a split-changeup. His velocity, secondary stuff and command wasn't as sharp as it had been prior to the injuries––and he'll likely never feature the power stuff he did before shoulder surgery––but it's possible that he could improve while gaining strength in his second year back.

  • The club recently signed the following free agents––RHP Fabio Castillo, LHP Kyle Fernandes, RHP Derek Hankins, LHP Zach Jackson, 2B Matt Kata, C Chris Robinson, RHP Doug Salinas.

    Castillo has work to do, but he's still a relief prospect.
    Castillo, 22, became a free agent after the Rangers opted not to tender a 2012 contract to him, pulling him off the 40-man roster. The ream quickly reached a minor league deal with the reliever. Castillo was added to the major league roster last offseason after a breakout '10 campaign, but he scuffled last year, posting a 6.36 ERA in 42 appearances at Double-A Frisco. The prospect still has good stuff––a heavy 93-97 mph fastball, a solid-average upper-80s slider, and the occasional changeup––but he must refine his command in order to have consistent success. He'll likely return to Frisco to open the '12 season.

    Fernandes, 26, played six full seasons in the Boston organization after being selected in the 12th round of the '05 MLB Draft. The left-hander, who reached as high as Double-A Portland, is a sidearming reliever with a mid-to-upper 80s fastball. He pitched the entire '11 season in Double-A, where he posted a 3.73 ERA in 35 appearances. In 62.2 innings, he allowed 63 hits while walking 34 and striking out 57. Fernandes limited fellow lefties to a .217/.280/.241 slash line with a 28 percent strikeout rate in 93 plate appearances.

    Hankins, 28, was re-signed after splitting last season between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. The 6-foot-4 righty worked both as a starting pitcher and long reliever, filling a spot wherever needed. He will likely serve a similar role in 2012. Hankins logged a 5.89 ERA with the Express over 91.2 innings, yielding 109 hits while walking 34 and striking out 60.

    Jackson, 28, was also re-signed after playing the entire 2011 campaign with the Round Rock Express. Serving as a starting pitcher the entire season, the 6-foot-5 southpaw posted a 13-5 record with a 5.51 ERA in 152 innings. He allowed 185 hits, walked 56, and struck out 78. The former supplemental first-round pick throws a sinker in the upper-80s while also mixing in a cutter, curveball, and changeup. A resident of nearby Austin, Jackson is expected to fill a similar role at Round Rock in 2012.

    Kata, 33, is a Round Rock resident who will be playing his fourth consecutive season with the Express––including two as a member of the Houston Astros' organization. The veteran utility man played in 106 games last season, seeing action at second base, shortstop, third base, and left field. He was a strong contributor at the plate, hitting .293/.353/.480 with 30 doubles, 13 home runs, and 71 runs batted in.

    Robinson, 27, is a former third-round pick of the Tigers who played the last three seasons as a catcher at Triple-A Iowa of the Cubs' organization. Playing in 66 games in '11, the University of Illinois product batted .316/.345/.396 with 15 doubles and a home run. He also gunned down a team-best 19-of-52 (.365) attempted base stealers from behind the plate. Robinson should join two recently acquired backstops––Dusty Brown (free agent) and Luis Martinez (trade)––at Triple-A Round Rock.

    Salinas, 23, pitched last season at High-A Bakersfield in the Reds organization, where he spent part of the year as the team's closer. In 47 appearances, the Venezuela native logged 14 saves and posted a 4.47 ERA. He totaled 50.1 innings and allowed 46 hits, walked 19, and fanned 55. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound hurler has surrendered seven earned runs in 14 innings (10 relief appearances) with the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason. While Salinas could return to High-A in '12, he is perhaps most likely to pitch out of the Double-A Frisco bullpen depending on his spring training performance.

  • Prior to signing these players, the club had reached deals with five minor league free agents earlier in the offseason––C Dusty Brown, INF Alberto Gonzalez, INF Luis Hernandez, OF Orlando Sandoval, 2B/OF Yangervis Solarte.

  • The Rangers also released seven players earlier this week––RHP Andrew Doyle, LHP Juan Grullon, INF Mitch Hilligoss, LHP Kasey Kiker, LHP Paul Strong, INF Jimmy Swift, C Carson Vitale.

    Doyle was suspended twice in two full seasons.
    Doyle, 24, was Texas' fourth-round pick in the '09 MLB Draft out of the University of Oklahoma. The righty never logged more than 54.2 innings in a professional season, spending time on the team's suspended list in 2010 before being slapped for a 50-game ban last season after a second violation of MLB's Drug Testing and Prevention Program. Doyle made 20 relief appearances between Single-A Hickory and High-A Bakersfield last year, posting a 3.93 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 27 hits allowed in 34.1 innings. In one particular late-season relief appearance with the Crawdads, he flashed an 88-90 mph sinker and an 81-82 mph slider.

    Grullon, 21, was cut after a strong summer at short-season Spokane in which he logged a 3.11 ERA with 37 punchouts in 37.2 innings over 20 relief appearances. The 6-foot-0 lefty has a whippy arm action from a low-three quarters arm slot, flashing an 89-92 mph fastball, a sweeping 81-83 mph slider, and the occasional mid-80s changeup. Despite posting strong results during his five-year career, Grullon opened the '10 campaign back in the Dominican Summer League due to an unspecified disciplinary issue.

    Hilligoss, 26, is a former sixth-round pick of the New York Yankees who joined the Rangers' organization in a deal for outfielder Greg Golson prior to the 2010 season. He split time between the High-A and Double-A levels in each of the last two seasons, hitting a cumulative .258/.304/.358 in 111 games last year. Hilligoss played a number of positions in '11, rotating between first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field.

    Kiker, 24, was the 12th overall pick in the '06 draft and finishes his Rangers career having never pitched above Double-A. While the 5-foot-10 southpaw never flashed quite the raw stuff that he showed in high school, Kiker led the Texas League with 120 strikeouts in 126 innings in '09 due to a deceptive 88-91 mph fastball––touching higher on occasion––and a plus changeup. But he then struggled across the board in '10 and '11, losing his velocity, walking far more than a batter per inning, and struggling to repeat his mechanics. Kiker spent last season a level down––at High-A Myrtle Beach––where he posted a 7.05 ERA and walked 52 batters in 44.2 innings while throwing his fastball anywhere between 84-90 mph, often sitting in the mid-80s.

    Strong, 21, signed for $300,000 out of high school in '09 but never advanced past the rookie-level Arizona League in two full seasons. Although his numbers were decent––including a 3.34 ERA in 32.1 innings last summer––the 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefty battled his mechanics, velocity, and control through his career. Strong flashed an upper-80s fastball with a promising curveball in his debut instructional league, but his fastball had dipped into the mid-80s with a loopy low-70s curveball during the last two years.

    Swift, 24, signed as an undrafted free agent last summer after finishing his career at Creighton University. In just 48 games, the utility infield split his time between four different levels––rookie-level Surprise Rangers, short-season Spokane, High-A Myrtle Beach, and Double-A Frisco. Between them, he went 51-for-166 (.307) with nine doubles, three triples, and four home runs.

    Vitale, 23, is a catcher and also a Creighton product. Drafted in 2010, he opened last season in extended spring training and was later assigned to short-season Spokane. His season was cut short after only 16 games––when he split time behind the plate with Jorge Alfaro––after breaking both his collarbone and foot during a collision at home plate.

  • Subscribe to LoneStarDugout.com today! Only $79.95 brings you one full year of Total Access Pass and all premium content on LoneStarDugout.com, Scout™ Player and Roster Database (including the 'Hot News' at the top of the site), Breaking News and Information, Total Access to all Scout.com Websites, and Player Pages, detailing the progress and careers of players from high school, the minors, and the pro ranks.

    Sample the LoneStarDugout.com Total Access Pass™ at no risk for 7 days, then pay only $7.95 or $21.95. If you want to save 2 months off the monthly subscription price, simply choose the annual LoneStarDugout.com Total Access Pass™ at $79.95.

    Future Rangers Top Stories