Rangers Designate Willie Calhoun, Select Steele Walker

The Rangers announced that they have selected the contract of outfielder Steele Walker. Infielder Andy Ibanez has been optioned to make room for him on the active roster. To create space on the 40-man roster, outfielder Willie Calhoun was designated for assignment.

Walker, 25, was originally drafted by the White Sox but joined the Rangers as the return in the trade that sent Nomar Mazara to Chicago. In 2020 and 2021, Baseball America considered him to be one of the top 30 Rangers prospects, though he fell off the list this year after a disappointing 2021 campaign. In 111 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year, he hit .241/.308/.400 for a wRC+ of 83. He’s turned things around this year, however, hitting .297/.395/.486 for a 126 wRC+.

That line comes in just 20 Triple-A games, but it’s evidently enough that the club wants to see if he can carry it to the big leagues with him. Kole Calhoun and Adolis Garcia have been mainstays in the Texas outfield, though it’s been a rotating cast of characters that have been suiting up next to them, including Ibanez, Brad Miller, Eli White, Zach Reks and Nick Solack. Miller is on the injured list and no one else has taken sufficiently taken over a regular role, creating an opening for Walker to get this audition.

As for Willie Calhoun, this move will almost certainly conclude his tumultuous relationship with the Rangers organization. Just over a month ago, he was demoted to Triple-A and didn’t thin words when speaking about the situation, telling the media that he had asked the team to trade him. Furthermore, he also questioned the club’s coaching strategy. “I don’t agree with some of the hitting philosophies from the new guys,” Calhoun said. “I don’t process that (information) too well. I’m not 6-4, 230 pounds; I can’t hit pop-up home runs. I don’t have that leverage.”

Calhoun was the headlining prospect in the deal that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, though he’s struggled to cement himself at the big leagues since then. In 253 games over the past six seasons, he has a career batting line of .241/.300/.407, 85 wRC+. Despite that sluggish output, he’s likely to garner interest around the league based on his previous prospect status, with teams hoping that a change of scenery could help him get his career back on track. Despite many up-and-down seasons, he’s still just 27 years old and came into this campaign with three years and 33 days of MLB service time. He’s in his final option year, meaning any acquiring team wouldn’t even have to commit to an active roster spot for Calhoun, and could control him beyond this season through arbitration.

Of the three prospects the Rangers got in the Darvish deal, AJ Alexy is now the last one still with the organization, as Brendon Davis was lost to the Angels in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2021 season. Alexy made his MLB debut last year but is currently struggling in Triple-A. Through 48 2/3 innings this year, he has an ERA of 6.29.

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