Looking at the infield depth in the Texas Rangers minor league system, Andy Ibanez stands out as an option to get major league time in 2020.
When the name Andy Ibanez is mentioned, most Texas Rangers fans likely raise an eyebrow. He’s not a household name like Sam Huff, Anderson Tejada, Leody Taveras and others, but he has one the best shots at cracking the big league roster in 2020. Manager Chris Woodward said in an interview he would have no problem putting Ibanez in a Major League lineup. With that vote of confidence, Ibanez is back in Major League camp, looking to impress the skipper and the Rangers.
Although blocked at his primary position by Rougned Odor, Ibanez offers versatility. The La Habana, Cuba native has advanced through the minors as a second baseman, but has spent time at both third base (157 games) and at shortstop (26). He sports a .973 fielding percentage over the course of his minor league career, while committing 28 errors.
Kiner-Falefa has been a solid defender, above average at third base, but his bat has not played at the big league level. I think the Texas Rangers have a decision to make regarding IKF, and Ibanez may be the guy to do it. In the minor leagues, Ibanez is a career .285 hitter with 53 long balls and 29 stolen bases. He is a threat at the plate as well as on the basepaths. The closest comparison to Ibanez that played in the big leagues, in my opinion, is Adonis Garcia, brother of newly acquired Adolis Garcia. The elder Garcia manned the hot corner for the Braves for three seasons from 2015-2017. I think Ibanez could be a more productive big leaguer than Garcia, and he would be four years younger (26) if he made his debut this season.
The Rangers have Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Nick Solak in camp competing for the utility role. But, Eli White and Ibanez are both in camp and have a legitimate shot to be with the Rangers. instead of the Nashville Sounds. Solak is almost a lock to make the team out of camp, and if the centerfield experiment goes well, that just adds to his value. The only downside is that Solak cannot play shortstop, but with his big bat, the Rangers want to have him at typical power positions. Ibanez provides the defensive versatility, as well as the bat, to unseat Kiner-Falefa in the other utility role.
Andy Ibanez is a young, athletic player that the Rangers have stashed away in Triple-A for two years, pummeling minor league pitching and making his case to be in the big leagues. With the skipper’s approval, Ibanez is sure to get a look in spring if he performs well, as well as in the season if Rougie or Solak go down to injuries. He lacks the upside to be a true long-term option, but he could add depth nicely if called upon this season.