The Rangers shuffled their backup catcher situation this evening, selecting Meibrys Viloria onto the MLB club and optioning Sam Huff to Triple-A Round Rock. Texas also reinstated infielder Josh Smith from the 10-day injured list, brought back Mitch Garver from the COVID-19 IL, and returned Zach Reks and Jesús Tinoco to Round Rock. (Tinoco will no longer occupy a spot on the 40-man roster, as he’d been added to the MLB team as a designated COVID substitute). To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Viloria, outfielder Eli White has moved from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list.
Viloria is headed to the big leagues for the first time as a member of the Texas organization. He played in 67 games with the Royals between 2018-20, hitting .215/.267/.287. Kansas City outrighted him off the 40-man roster last April, and he elected free agency at the end of the season after spending the entire year in the upper minors. Viloria latched on with the Rangers on a non-roster pact just before the lockout.
The lefty-hitting backstop has spent the entire season with Round Rock. He’s posted an eye-opening .344/.471/.512 line through 155 plate appearances to earn his way back to the majors. Those results have been propped up by an unsustainable .444 batting average on balls in play, but he’s also walked at a massive 17.4% clip. Viloria’s still just 25 years old and was a fairly well-regarded prospect during his time in the Royals’ system, so perhaps he’ll be able to carry some of that form over against big league arms. He still has a minor league option year remaining, so the Rangers can freely move him between Arlington and Round Rock now that he’s on the 40-man roster.
Huff heads back to Triple-A, where he’s posted a .260/.349/.575 line in 19 games. He’s hit .282/.320/.352 in 27 MLB contests this year, but he’s collected only three extra-base hits and is striking out at a 28% clip. Huff has run into a rough patch since the calendar flipped to June, while first baseman Nathaniel Lowe has caught fire. Between Jonah Heim at catcher, Lowe at first base and Garver’s return at designated hitter, there wasn’t going to be room in the lineup for Huff most days.
Smith missed nearly three weeks battling a shoulder sprain. The rookie steps in at third base tonight, where he’s likely to split time with fellow first-year player (and former Yankees prospect) Ezequiel Durán. Garver and starter Glenn Otto both went on the COVID list two weeks ago; Garver steps back into the MLB lineup, while Otto is headed to Round Rock for what figures to be a brief rehab stint before being activated.
White, meanwhile, suffered a fracture in his right wrist last week. He underwent surgery and is unlikely to begin any baseball activities before the start of August, meaning he’ll miss at least a couple months.