Rangers fill roster by protecting 6 prospects

November 16th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers added six players to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, ahead of the 5 p.m. CT deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft: infielders Luisangel Acuña and Jonathan Ornelas; infielder/outfielder Dustin Harris; and right-handed pitchers Zak Kent, Owen White and Cole Winn.

Earlier in the day, Texas traded reliever to the Braves for cash considerations, clearing another roster spot for the club to add all six. The 40-man roster is now full.

The Rule 5 Draft, to be held on Dec. 7 in San Diego this year, allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select non-roster prospects from other clubs. Players signed at 18 years old or younger must be added to their club's 40-man roster within five seasons, and players who signed at 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons. 

“I think the players have all earned it,” general manager Chris Young said of the roster additions. “These guys made a really pretty easy decision for us by the way they played and the interest that they’ve had throughout the industry over the last couple of years. I think that beyond that, we had some tough decisions with other players who were probably equally as deserving. But that's also a function of the depth of our Minor League system at this point. And these are good decisions to have.”

White is the only one of the six on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, sitting at No. 59. The fourth-ranked prospect in the Rangers’ system, White was selected in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft but has pitched only one full Minor League season because of injuries and the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown.

White split time between High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco in 2022, posting a 3.59 ERA and helping the RoughRiders to a Texas League championship. White struck out 104 batters over 15 games, and his 11.65 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second among Texas League Minor League pitchers (minimum 80 innings).

Winn, the club’s No. 10 prospect, posted a 6.51 ERA over 28 starts (121 2/3 innings) with Triple-A Round Rock. It was the first real speed bump for the 2018 first-round Draft selection, and the Rangers remain confident in his development and ability to bounce back from a rough ‘22.

Acuña (No. 7) and Ornelas (No. 21) are both versatile middle infielders.

Ornelas was named the Rangers’ Minor League Defender of the Year after leading the Texas League with 236 assists and posting a .973 fielding percentage at his primary position of shortstop, where he made 86 starts. He also had 29 at third base, four at second and four in center field. Ornelas batted .299 with a career-high 14 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Acuña had a slash line of .277/.369/.426 with 11 home runs, 47 RBIs and 40 stolen bases over 91 games between High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco this season. After the season, he went on to win an Arizona Fall League championship with the Surprise Saguaros.

Harris (No. 9) slashed .257/.346/.471 with Double-A Frisco with 17 home runs, 66 RBIs and 19 stolen bases over 85 games. He was selected to participate in the 2022 All-Star Futures Game during MLB All-Star weekend at Dodger Stadium. There, he went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.

Kent (No. 25) was one of the Rangers’ most consistent Minor League pitchers, posting a 3.94 ERA over 24 starts (109 2/3 innings) between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock.

A number of other eligible prospects were left unprotected, including No. 13 Antoine Kelly, No. 23 Avery Weems, No. 29 Mason Englert and Cody Bradford. Young emphasized that some were really tough decisions, but “there are only so many roster spots” available. 

“Again, I think it speaks to the talent floor of the organization being elevated, and I think it’s our hope that we're having really tough decisions and calls every year,” Young said.