2/4/2013 4:20 P.M. ET
Rangers' non-roster invites provide intriguing options
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Two rotation candidates, bullpen help, potential backup catchers and one veteran who could win a role as a utility player stand out among the 23 players coming to Rangers camp on a Minor League contract.
Every year, the Rangers have at least a couple of non-roster players make the team on Opening Day, and it will likely be the same in 2013. Here is a brief rundown of the 23 players who will be in Rangers camp this spring trying to do just that.
IF Jeff Baker -- Baker is just what the Rangers need: a right-handed hitter who can play first, second, third and the outfield. The only drawback is he has never played shortstop. Baker, 31, has 646 career at-bats against lefties with a .296 average, 25 home runs, 102 RBIs and a .498 slugging percentage over eight seasons with the Rockies, Cubs, Tigers and Braves.
RHP Randy Wells -- Wells is coming off an elbow injury and was 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA in four starts and eight relief appearances last season with the Cubs. But he made 82 starts for Chicago from 2009-11 and was 27-30 with a 4.05 ERA. He is a classic fifth starter: can pitch innings, gives up hits, limits walks, does not overpower hitters. His fastball averages below 90 mph.
RHP Kyle McClellan -- McClellan did not pitch for the Cardinals after May 17 last season because of a strained right elbow and torn labrum. He has been mainly a reliever for the past five seasons but made 17 starts for the Cardinals in 2011. McClellan has a four-pitch arsenal, including a cut fastball that has helped him hold left-handers to a career .211 average. He is very similar to Scott Feldman.
RHP Evan Meek -- Shoulder problems limited Meek to 30 innings in the Majors the past two years after an All-Star season for Pittsburgh in 2010. In 70 games that year, he had a 2.10 ERA and a .185 batting average, going right after hitters with a 94-mph fastball and a curve.
LHP Nate Robertson -- Rangers scouts watched Robertson throw this winter and decided to take a chance on someone who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2010. From 2004-08, he made 154 starts and six relief appearances for the Tigers, going 48-63 with a 4.81 ERA. The Rangers are looking at him as a reliever. Elbow problems derailed his career.
LHP Neal Cotts -- Cotts was on the verge of making the team out of Spring Training last year when he suffered a strained left ribcage muscle. That kept him from pitching in the big leagues for the first time since 2009. His career was derailed by four hip surgeries. Cotts, 32, was 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA in Triple-A last season and held left-handers to a .275 average.
RHP Yoshinori Tateyama -- Like Cotts, this sidearming right-hander keeps trying. Tateyama, 37, has a 5.75 ERA in 53 games for the Rangers the past two years, allowing 8.1 hits, 2.5 walks and 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings while shuttling between Arlington and Triple-A.
C Eli Whiteside -- Whiteside has a career catcher's ERA of 3.34. That is the lowest among active Major League catchers with at least 200 games caught. One reason is that he spent the past four seasons with the Giants. He was a backup on the 2010 World Series championship team and got a chance to play in 2011 when Buster Posey was out for the season. Whiteside played in 82 games and hit .197 with a .264 on-base percentage and a .335 slugging percentage that year.
C Konrad Schmidt -- Undrafted out of the University of Reno in 2007, Schmidt has worked at becoming a solid Triple-A catcher with good offensive numbers and plus defensive ability. He was 1-for-15 in two short stays with the D-backs in 2010 and 2012. Schmidt hit .277 with 24 doubles, seven home runs, 47 RBIs and a .413 slugging percentage in Triple-A last season.
OF Aaron Cunningham -- Cunningham has hit well in the Minor Leagues, with a career .303 average and .485 slugging percentage. But he hasn't carried that over to the Major Leagues. He has 501 plate appearances in the past five seasons with the Athletics, Padres and Indians, hitting .219 with seven home runs, 51 RBIs, a .280 on-base percentage and a .347 slugging percentage.
RHP Collin Balester -- The former Nationals reliever can throw 94 mph with his fastball and has a good curve. He has some good strikeout numbers but command issues have been a problem. Over parts of the last five seasons with the Nationals and Tigers, he has 5.30 ERA with 9.4 hits, 3.8 walks and 7.0 strikeouts per nine.
IF Brandon Snyder -- Snyder is another right-handed hitter who can play first, third and the corner outfield. He had 44 at-bats against lefties last season and hit .318 with three home runs and eight RBIs. He can also catch in an emergency.
1B Brandon Allen -- A left-handed power hitter, Allen had some good seasons in the Minors but has never hit in the big leagues. In 116 career games and 344 at-bats with Arizona, Oakland and Tampa Bay, he has hit .203 with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs, a .290 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging percentage. He has also struck out 137 times.
C Jose Felix -- Felix was the organization's Minor League Defender of the Year Award winner in 2010 and has always been rated highly as a defensive catcher. But his bat has not emerged. In 2 1/2 seasons in Double-A, he has hit .248 with a .268 on-base and .336 slugging percentage. Felix has to show he can hit to regain prospect status.
RHP Yonata Ortega -- Ortega was signed out of the D-backs organization and has never pitched above Double-A. His 93-94-mph fastball and split-finger pitch once made him a closer candidate, but he averages 4.8 walks per nine innings along with 9.2 strikeouts.
IF Yangervis Solarte -- A switch-hitter who can play multiple positions, Solarte made an impression in camp last Spring Training when he hit .318 with a .591 slugging percentage. He was solid for Triple-A Round Rock, hitting .288 in 130 games with 28 doubles, 11 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .405 slugging percentage. He hits the ball; he doesn't strike out much or draw many walks.
OF James Adduci -- Adduci is a 6-foot-2 outfielder with more speed than power and has yet to play in the big leagues. He has 153 career stolen bases but just 24 home runs. He has a career .355 on-base percentage and .366 slugging percentage in nine Minor League seasons.
OF Joey Butler – A right-handed hitter with power, Butler hit a combined .305 with a .390 on-base percentage and a .482 slugging percentage in Triple-A the past two years. He also hit 32 home runs in 919 at-bats but struck out 266 times with 122 walks.
RHP Cody Buckel -- The winner of the 2012 Nolan Ryan Award as the Rangers' top Minor League pitcher, Buckel goes to camp as a long-shot candidate to be the fifth starter. He split time between Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco last season, posting a 2.49 ERA while averaging 6.5 hits, 3.0 walks and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
RHP Nick Tepesch -- Another long-shot fifth-starter candidate, Tepesch also split time between Myrtle Beach and Frisco. He was 11-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 28 games, averaging 9.2 hits, 2.4 walks and 7.1 strikeouts per nine.
RHP Jacob Brigham -- The Rangers traded him to the Cubs for catcher Geovany Soto, but Brigham developed elbow problems. The Rangers took him back and gave up Barrett Loux in return, so that shows they still have a high regard for Brigham.
RHP Johan Yan -- Yan intrigues the Rangers because he has developed a good sidearm delivery, but he walked 4.8 batters while striking out just 6.2 per nine innings between Frisco and Round Rock last season. A former infielder, he is still classified as a "project."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.