NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — NOVEMBER 19, 2006

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have added lefthander A.J. Murray and righthander Alexi Ogando to the 40-man roster, preventing each from being stolen next month in the Rule 5 Draft.

Both are fascinating cases, Murray because he missed the whole season due to injury (before pitching well in the Arizona Fall League) and Ogando because he was an outfielder in the A’s system swiped by Texas for $12,000 last December and converted to the mound, where his Dominican Summer League stats (and his radar gun readings) were beyond belief. He was unable to come stateside in 2005 and 2006 due to visa issues, and it’s unclear whether those have been resolved for 2007.

If the new CBA didn’t change the provisions of Rule 5, there’s a very good chance neither Murray nor Ogando would have been protected, but both have a real chance to help Texas – though one a lot sooner than the other.

I’ll have more on both pitchers in the next Newberg Report, but for now, here’s a sneak peek at my piece in the 2007 Bound Edition on Ogando, one of 50 player features that appear in the book:

ALEXI OGANDO, RHP

I’d love to know whether Texas had this planned all along when they spent $12,000 to steal Ogando from Oakland in the minor league phase of the 2005 Rule 5 Draft…the A’s thought they could get away with leaving him off their AAA roster (which means they thought they had 78 Rule 5 eligibles more worthy of protecting), presumably because he was dealing with visa issues that were likely to keep him quarantined in the Dominican Republic for the foreseeable future…if the Rangers, without having had the benefit of working with Ogando, drafted him knowing they would make a pitcher out of him, it could make a great story one day…it’s a pretty good story as it is.

Ogando signed with Oakland in 2002, at age 18, reminding scouts of Vladimir Guerrero with his tall, lanky frame, his majestic power to all fields, and his impossibly strong right field arm…in 2003, his first season stateside, he hit .342/.379/.532 in the rookie-level Arizona League, finishing second in the circuit with seven home runs…in the same league in 2004, his percentages dipped to .267/.340/.450 but he again was the number two home run hitter in the league, going deep six times in 47 games.

Oakland was unable to get Ogando a work visa in 2005, and as a result he stayed home and played in the Dominican Summer League…hit just .246/.375/.406 but added a new dimension to his game, drawing 42 walks in 68 games (striking out 41 times).

When Texas drafted Ogando after the 2005 season, the club knew it would likely have as much trouble getting him stateside as the A’s had the year before…he joined the Rangers’ DSL roster and, when that club’s season began on June 3, he appeared in the opener – on the mound, finishing a 2-1 loss to the Astros by fanning two in a scoreless, two-hit ninth…he next pitched five days later, blanking the Astros again in three frames, permitting two hits and striking out three…three day later and several times thereafter, Ogando was in the lineup as a hitter, but soon it became clear that the pitching experiment was becoming much more than that…Ogando went 4 for 16 with a double and two RBI, drawing three walks and fanning four times, but his days on offense were numbered.

Ogando pitched six times in June, going 2-0, 0.00 with a save and scattering eight hits (.222 opponents’ average) and no walks in 9.2 innings, punching out 14…this was a man who had never pitched and he was not only getting half his outs on strikeouts – he was reportedly hitting 100 mph on the gun and wasn’t walking anyone.

Ogando became even less hittable in July, when he went 2-0, 0.53 in six outings spanning 17 frames, yielding 13 hits (.217 opponents’ average) and two walks while fanning 25…he was almost untouchable in August, giving up one run on three hits (.120 opponents’ average) and two walks in eight innings, striking out nine…all told, the righthander went 5-0, 0.52 with two saves in 16 relief appearances, walking only four batters in 34.2 innings while setting 48 down on strikes, and scattering 24 hits (.198 opponents’ average, no home runs)…left-handed hitters were as inept against Ogando as righthanders, and combined they grounded out 2.25 times more often than they flew out…but they struck out almost as many times as they were retired in play.

Guess what? As a hitter and outfielder, Ogando was a true five-tool player, running the 60 in 6.5 seconds…birthdate changed by a year and his name was changed from Argenis Benitez as a result of the AgeGate crackdown in 2003.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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