Sam Huff is in his eighth season in the Rangers organization and his second stint in the Major Leagues this season. After Texas designated Sandy Leon for assignment on June 14th, the team recalled Sam to the major leagues. However, playing time for Huff has reduced to one appearance since his recall. Last Sunday, in the Rangers’ comeback win against Toronto, Huff entered the game for Mitch Garver in the seventh and had two plate appearances, a groundout, and a walk. Texas currently holds three catchers on their roster, with All-Star candidate Jonah Heim receiving the bulk of work and Mitch Garver easing into catching starts. It leaves Huff with limited work, and it’s a less-than-ideal situation for a player who’s still developing.
“Wherever they ask me to go, I’m going to go. At the end of the day, if I’m here, if I’m in Round Rock playing every day, or if I’m here playing every day, it’s just being ready. It’s being the player they want and being available,” Huff said when I asked if limited playing time is better than regular at-bats at Triple-A from a developmental standpoint.
“I think you can develop in many ways, even if you are playing or not playing, regardless of the situation,” Sam added. [Major Leagues] are a different game. Triple-A is to prepare you for the everyday reps, and once you get here, it’s more of a how can you stay? There’s no issue with my capabilities of playing. It’s you have to be ready whenever happens, happens. When opportunities open up, take advantage of it and make most of it. It’s more of a waiting opportunity.”
Go, @sirhuffington35, go!
— Round Rock Express (@RRExpress) June 2, 2023
Before last week’s call-up, Huff was 2 for 10 with an RBI and a walk during the five games he played (two of the games he entered late). The three starts in May were all as the designated hitter. Equal all of the workloads, and Huff played five total innings behind the plate at the Major League level this season (he’s been in the majors for 16 days this year).
So does Sam feel like he’s still growing as a player? “It’s hard to say,” Huff said. “There are many players that can do this every day, and some players can’t do it; they need to play. I think you learn this at a younger age, it’s unfortunate, but it really isn’t because you’re here to help the team. If they bring me in the 7th, or if they start me tomorrow, or if they play me at first or DH, I’m going to be ready.”
Being a backup catcher with limited playing time is familiar to a few members of the Rangers staff. Manager Bruce Bochy spent nine years in the Major Leagues with 358 career games under his belt between the Padres, Astros, and Mets. Therefore, he understands the difficulties. “I was in that boat, and it’s not easy,” Bochy said. [Sam] just has to keep doing his stuff with Bobby Wilson, stay sharp behind the plate, working on his hitting. You never know when we may need him for a few games behind there.”
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) September 8, 2022
As for playing time, that’s a challenging puzzle to crack for the skipper. “That’s the tough one. Where to get Sam to fit in and give him time not just behind the plate, but give him at-bats and try to keep Mitch going too. That’s the issue you have with three catchers. It gets you insurance running for one of these guys late in the ballgame and gives that coverage you like to have, but at the same time, I think about Sam.”
Huff told me he hadn’t had that conversation with Bochy yet, but there may be one soon. “I’ll probably pick [Bochy’s] brain a little bit; it’s always fun talking to Boch. I think he has a lot of information from the standpoint that he was coaching Buster. He’s been with three World Series teams; he’s helped the organization win when they are at their lows or at the time not successful. Talking to Bobby and everyone, it’s picking their brains and understanding what they did to keep them present and ready to play. At the end of the day, when they call your name, you have to be ready.”
Transaction for Tuesday:
-INF/OF Brad Miller injury rehabilitation assignment transferred from Round Rock (AAA) to Frisco (AA).
— Texas Rangers PR (@TXRangersPR) June 20, 2023
With Brad Miller transferring from Round Rock to Frisco for rehab, it appears Miller is close to rejoining the club after hitting the injured list on May 31st with an oblique. Both Frisco and Round Rock slate to play at home, and it appears Brad could rejoin the team after the Yankees series. That said, the two players who have had little to no playing time the past few weeks have been Huff and Josh Smith. Smith’s versatility and speed are more of an asset for the present time, while possessing a third catcher isn’t necessary. It appears likely Huff will go back to Round Rock in the upcoming week.
The real issue becomes after the 2023 season when Sam Huff is out of Minor League options. If the Rangers truly believe that Huff is a part of the team’s future, then playing time will be crucial, or even if the team wants to use Huff as leverage to gain better trade value. It’s a decision the Rangers need to make soon; the question is, what route will the team take?