The Rangers have had two pitching prospects — Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando — on their roster for several years now, though they’ve been unavailable to join the club or its minor league affiliates because of a visa problem. The kind of visa problem that comes from taking part in a human trafficking ring. I hate it when that happens.
But their luck, and by extension the luck of the Rangers, has changed, as the State Department appears poised to lift their visa restrictions and allow them to come to play in the U.S. The long and the short of it is that Beltre and Ogando were pawns in a much larger fraud, and since their restrictions, each have worked to educate others about the dangers of human trafficking, which more or less earned them a second chance.
And based on the scouting reports, they should get a good shot at taking advantage of that second chance. Each has serious heat, and each have pitched well in winter ball. Assuming no problems in spring training, each should be starting at AA ball which, given how often teams use AAA to stash minor league veterans instead of prospects these days, is practically a step away from the big club.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.