Just about every spring, there's a cinderella player who comes out of nowhere and contends for the final roster spot out of camp.
The Texas Rangers have actually experienced this pretty recently. In 2019, they brought Danny Santana into camp on a minor league deal. By the end of the season, he played in 130 games on the big league team, slashed .283/.324/.534 with 28 home runs and 81 RBI, and was named the Rangers 2019 Player of the Year.
This year, the surprise player could be 28-year-old outfielder Adolis García.
"There's a lot of talent here," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after Thursday night's loss to San Diego. "To see it all come out tonight, he kind of showed every aspect of his game. ... To show those things off, and show the type of player he is, this is what spring training is about, man."
Results aren't everything in spring training. However, García has a slash line of .478/.462/1.000 (1.462 OPS) with three home runs and a team-leading 12 RBI in 26 plate appearances.
Now, an on-base percentage lower than his batting average screams "lack of patience." And yes, García has walked only once this spring (compared to six strikeouts), but his two sacrifice flies impact that number. That would have a very hard time holding up over the course of a season.
García, a former No. 9 prospect in the Cardinals organization, has consistently been praised for his raw power and strong arm since he was signed out of Cuba in February 2017. However, he has also been identified as a "wild swinger" with an "uber-aggressive approach."
However, García has shown signs of growth this spring, indicting that maybe his astronomical Cactus League numbers aren't a fluke.
"It's been impressive," Woodward said. "The quality of the at-bat is as good as I've ever seen from him. I know he's put a ton of work into controlling the strike zone, staying short with his move, staying in the middle of the field. I can't say enough how much better this guy has gotten."
Heading into camp, García was down near the bottom of the depth chart in the Texas outfield. The Rangers outrighted him off the roster in January, and brought him to camp as a non-roster invitee.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, they have been ravaged by injuries. Both Willie Calhoun and Khris Davis, the leading candidates for at-bats as the designated hitter, will not be ready for Opening Day with soft tissue injuries.
Losing both players hurts, but the void left by Davis is especially damaging. The Rangers have desperately needed a right-handed bat with power to hit behind Joey Gallo. They finally have that in Davis.
In turn, García has seen the opportunity and taken full advantage of it. There may be only a couple of days remaining before the Rangers head back to Arlington, but they are still giving García a legitimate look at the eleventh hour.
"He's making a serious push for sure," Woodward said. "You see the power. You see the at-bat quality. I think one of the most impressive things tonight was the way he ran the bases. You see the arm strength from right field, almost throwing out a guy at third base. ... He was like shot out of a cannon from first base when he stole [second base].
"I'm really excited for him. I just want to keep him going. He'll be in there, probably not tomorrow, but on Saturday. I want to see more."