The Texas Rangers continue to have hope that Carlos Tocci remains a viable player in their future.
At least that’s the public stance shared by manager Jeff Banister and general manager Jon Daniels on Sunday before the club’s 7-2 loss in the series finale against the Yankees.
Tocci, who was acquired in the Rule 5 draft last December, has struggled to gather much momentum at the plate in his first year in the majors. Although his defense has been very good in a limited role, that was never in question as a prospect.
It was all about whether he could prove to be productive at the plate. In 44 games in 2018, he’s batting .176 with a .222 on-base percentage. The Rule 5 limitations meant the Rangers had to keep him on the 25-man roster (if he was healthy) or risk being forced in sending him back to the Phillies.
That has hamstrung the club with outfield versatility and forced them to option Drew Robinson to Triple-A Round Rock before Sunday’s game when they activated Delino DeShields off of the concussion list.
Robinson rejoined the club on Aug. 4 after spending the previous two and a half months at Round Rock. Left hip soreness put him him on the disabled list in May and he hit .308 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 49 games with Round Rock. He was 2 for 6 with a double and four walks in six games since his return.
“It’s a tough situation for Drew,” Banister said. “I’m sure when he got called up [on Aug. 4] he probably felt like this was going to be the one and he was going to show the improvements and he would get to stay and be apart of this club but the challenge is we still have another outfielder that is coming back.”
Robinson, of course, will be called back up when rosters expand on Sept. 1, if not earlier.
“He’s got his confidence back,” Daniels said. “It’s a situation right now where we don’t have spots for everybody. From a player’s perspective, that’s a tough thing to hear. It’s hard to be patient when you don’t see an obvious opening ahead of you but these things have a way of working themselves out.”
Banister was encouraged with Robinson’s improvement at the plate.
“I know it’s frustrating,” he said. “This is the time to go head down, go hard and stay focused in on what you’re doing. He made some nice adjustments in the batter’s box. We know what he can do defensively for us. He had much more competitive at-bats. The swing and miss is down.”
Tocci may have also shown improvement, but the results are harder to quantify with a smaller sample. He batted .086 with a .200 on-base percentage in 27 first-half games. In 20 second-half games, he’s batting .240 with a .240 OBP.
“We’re really pleased with where he’s at defensively. We’re pleased with his work ethic,” Daniels said. “The quality of his at-bats has improved but his defense is still definitely ahead of his offense.We’ve committed to this point, we’ll certainly ride it out.”
Daniels said Tocci will benefit with additional developmental time, including playing Winter ball and putting some muscle mass on his thin frame.
“Sometimes when you take a Rule 5 player they’re a little more prepared to contribute right away and sometimes they’re on a little bit more of a development path and Carlos falls in the latter category,” he said. “There has always been some level of question on how much he’ll hit, especially on the power side.”
But, Daniels pointed out, Tocci has hit for average at lower levels.
“He puts together a good at-bat, not a lot of swing and miss,” he said. “He’ll have to make more adjustments but we think he’s capable of that.”