The Rangers are granting veteran outfielder Rafael Ortega his release from their Triple-A club, MLBTR has learned. The 32-year-old will head back to the open market in search of a better opportunity with a clearer path to big league playing time.
Ortega, 32, drew some attention in Yankees camp this spring and was viewed as a candidate to make the Opening Day roster late in camp. That didn’t happen, as the Yankees pivoted and signed Franchy Cordero while releasing Ortega, who quickly caught on with Texas.
Through 44 games and 199 plate appearances with Triple-A Round Rock this season, Ortega is hitting .226/.333/.381 with five home runs, 11 doubles and eight stolen bases. After a poor first month of the season, he’s logged a more palatable .247/.349/.427 slash with more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) over the past month (107 plate appearances). Overall, Ortega has walked at a hefty 13.6% clip against a better-than-average 17.1% strikeout rate.
Even with that recent uptick, the overall results haven’t been strong enough to compel the Rangers to find room for Ortega on the big league roster. That’s understandable, given a huge performance from right fielder Adolis Garcia, a breakout year at the dish for center fielder Leody Taveras, and solid contributions from a combination of Robbie Grossman, Travis Jankowski, Josh H. Smith and Ezequiel Duran in left field.
Ortega’s overall performance this year in Triple-A doesn’t stand out much, but he had a productive 2021-22 run with the Cubs, batting a combined .265/.344/.408 with 18 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 701 Major League plate appearances. He paired that slash with a strong 10.6% walk rate and a 20.5% strikeout rate that clocked in a couple percentage points lower than the average MLB hitter.
Ortega has ample experience at all three outfield spots both in the big leagues and in the minors. He’s lined up in all three spots with Round Rock this season but most frequently slotted in as the center fielder for the Express. Metrics like Defensive Runs Saved, Outs Above Average and Ultimate Zone Rating agree that Ortega has been a solid corner option in recent seasons at the MLB level but was below average (-5 DRS, -2 OAA) in 944 innings of center field work.