When asked about possibilities of a third baseman for Texas in 2021, Rangers manager Chris Woodward mentioned somebody so far off the radar, so unlikely, so way out in left field (so to speak), that it was a total shock.
How unlikely? Ibañez, the twenty-seven-year-old right-hand hitting infielder who’s spent four years in the Rangers minor league system after defecting from Cuba in 2014, isn’t even on the Rangers 40-man roster. He has never been brought up to the big leagues in a September call up or as an injury replacement, despite putting up minor league numbers that would warrant it. He’s never been given the chance to replace major leaguers who have failed to produce.
But all Ibañez has done in the minor leagues is hit. Get on base. Make contact. Which are three things the most recent crop of Rangers major league infielders have failed to do with regularity.
All he does is produce. And get overlooked.
In his four minor league seasons at mostly Double-A and Triple-A, Ibañez put up an on-base percentage of .352. To put that into context, Isiah Kiner-Falefa led the team last year with an OBP of .329. Ibañez’s .352 is in the same vicinity as Hunter Pence’s All-Star season of 2019.
It’s not like he struggles once he moves up a level. His two Triple-A seasons have been his best offensively, hitting .291 with a .359 OBP. He slugged twenty home runs at Nashville in 2019.
The whole thing has to be frustrating to Ibañez in a “what do I have to do to get noticed” kind of way. It’s like he has middle child syndrome. Ignored in favor of the more established, yet undeserving, players. Overlooked in favor of the younger, more popular players.
Maybe new general manager Chris Young will finally notice. Maybe, because of the gaping hole the Rangers have at third, Ibañez will finally be given a legitimate look.
Having his manager mention his is a good start. At least he know his name.