On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the claimed outfielder Rafael Ortega off waivers. The 22-year-old hand been designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers on December 30.
The native of El Tigre, Venezuela was originally signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent. This is the second time Ortega has been claimed on waivers this off-season, as he joined the Rangers via a claim from the Rockies in November.
Ortega was ranked 15th among Rockies prospects prior to last season according to Baseball America. BA called him “an energetic leadoff hitter with good speed.” The right-handed throwing center fielder is said to have a plus arm, which is accurate.
The left-handed hitter has some power despite being 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, but can be prone to strike out.
Ortega’s 2013 was curtailed by a hairline fracture to his shin suffered in June, but when he did play, his results were disappointing. He posted a .228/.315/.297 line in 178 plate appearances with Double-A Tulsa.
Ortega has logged over 30 steals in three of his last four healthy years and has a career line of .298/.358/.416 in six seasons. He made a brief, six plate appearance MLB debut as an injury fill-in with the Rockies at the end of the 2012 season.
The Cardinals seem to like Texas’ excess outfield prospects as Ortega is the second one they have claimed off waivers this off-season. He joins Joey Butler, a right-handed hitter added in October. The Cards also acquired prospect outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Angels in the Peter Bourjos trade.
Ortega becomes the 39th member of the Cardinals organization’s 40-man roster. Though the Memphis roster is jammed with outfield candidates, including Butler, there is less of an issue at Springfield. Since Ortega managed just a partial season on the Texas League in 2013 and did not master the level, a return to Double-A to open 2014 seems likely.
To see the entire Cardinals organization by level and position, check out the Roster Matrix, free and always updated at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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