Texas Rangers pitching prospects Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando, banned from setting foot on United States soil the last five years because of their parts in a visa fraud ring, are expected to gain admittance to the U.S. in the next few weeks.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and assistant general manager Thad Levine, who have dealt with the saga since 2005, said the club was told that the U.S. State Department would grant both players waivers to enter the country. ESPN Deportes reported the players already have the visas to enter the United States and that both are planning to attend spring training in Surprise, Ariz.
Once there, they would have to apply for reinstatement by Major League Baseball before they can be sent to a minor league club in the U.S. for the 2010 season.
The Rangers think highly enough of the right-handed pitchers that they are expected to play in Double-A or higher when the season begins. In 2000, the Rangers gave Beltre a $600,000 bonus, then the largest the club had given an international signee. His last minor league stop in the U.S. was in 2004 with Class A Stockton. Ogando was acquired in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2005 from Oakland at a cost of $12,000. Both players are on the Rangers' 40-man roster, but on the restricted list. If they are reinstated, the club would have to make corresponding moves to clear space for them.
Both would be considered for the Rangers Top 10-20 if not for their longstanding visa issues. Both possess overpowering fastballs and advanced breaking stuff, which is not surprising due to their advanced age. Reports from the Ranger's FO seem to reflect that they will start in AA or AAA. To bad these kids got caught up in a marriage-visa scam. Nice to hear that they are getting a second chance.
Daniels said both pitchers possess "plus fastballs." Beltre has hit 100 mph on the radar gun, and Ogando, a converted outfielder, throws in the 92-96 range. Daniels sees Ogando as a reliever. Both have played winter ball in an effort to stay ready.
"Every time we got to the end of the line," Daniels said, "one of our other scouts would see these guys throw and say, 'We have to keep trying to get them in. They have big league ability.'"
Ogando was 0-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 31 strikeouts and one walk in the Dominican Summer League last season. He also pitched 12 innings in winter ball and had a 2.25 ERA with nine strikeouts and four walks. Beltre had elbow discomfort, according to ESPN Deportes, that limited him to just 3 2/3 innings in winter ball. He did pitch 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Dominican Summer League last season, with 10 strikeouts and three walks.