May 21, 2024

The Rangers announced today the addition of seven new players to their minor league roster, all of whom have been invited to the Spring Training camp. While the signings of Diego Castillo and Jesus Tinoco were previously reported, the team also welcomed three players with Major League Baseball (MLB) experience: outfielder Derek Hill, catcher Andrew Knapp, and outfielder Elier Hernandez.

Derek Hill, who has played in the MLB for the past four seasons, starting with his debut with the Tigers in 2020, signed a minor league deal with the Nationals last winter. Despite being designated for assignment by Washington in July, Hill opted for minor league free agency after the regular season. Although his MLB batting record has been modest with a .229/.279/.314 slash line in 304 plate appearances, Hill has shown promise in the minors, boasting a .288/.348/.472 batting line with 22 homers and 28 steals (in 35 attempts) over 756 Triple-A plate appearances.

Detroit Tigers: Derek Hill should be getting big league playing time

 

While Hill’s numbers may raise some questions, his speed, success in Triple-A, and ability to play all three outfield positions make him a valuable addition on a minor league contract. With free agents Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowski, Hill and Hernandez provide the Rangers with outfield depth at the Triple-A level, especially with the anticipation of top prospect Wyatt Langford’s MLB debut in 2024 and Evan Carter’s established role as an outfield regular for the upcoming season.

Elier Hernandez, returning for his fourth consecutive season with the Texas organization, initially signed with the Royals in 2011. The 29-year-old outfielder has been a consistent performer at Triple-A Round Rock, notably excelling in the past two seasons, leading to his MLB debut in 2022 with Texas, where he posted a .442 OPS over 35 plate appearances in 14 games.

MLB Trade Rumors on X: "Rangers Sign Derek Hill, Andrew Knapp, Elier  Hernandez To Minors Contracts https://t.co/rz8fBCiFB6  https://t.co/VgYHjRnu3e" / X

Andrew Knapp, at 32, brings the most MLB experience among the trio, having played in 325 games from 2017 to 2022. The majority of his appearances (309) came as a part-time catcher and backup with the Phillies. After entering free agency in 2021, Knapp played for the Pirates, Mariners, and Giants in 2022, spending the entire 2023 season at Triple-A with a combined .233/.328/.377 batting line over 358 plate appearances for Detroit and Houston’s top affiliates.

With Mitch Garver now with the Mariners and likely to fill a designated hitter (DH)-only role, the Rangers sought additional depth behind the plate. Jonah Heim is set to start, and Knapp could compete for the backup role in Spring Training. Considering the lack of other catchers in the organization with MLB experience, Texas may look to sign one or two more catchers on minor league deals to further strengthen their options heading into camp.

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