Fall Ball Fun (So Far)

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Fall baseball is underway for a group of young players seeking further development in hopes of reaching the Majors one day. As fun as it is watching the top prospects and pros go off to play winter ball, fall instructs is another animal that is a different kind of fun to track. A handful of potentially important Rangers minor leaguers are getting in work on both sides of the ball, so let’s take a look.
On October 9th, Texas bid adieu to Jeff “Homerun Maker” Baker and reinstated pitcher Matt West from the 60-day Disabled List. West is looking to make a bid to return from Tommy John surgery and his time in Arizona is the start. West is also interesting because the Rangers have stuck by him since drafting him in 2007 and helping him transition from an infielder to a pitcher and now through recovery. He’s being used in relief, as expected, which will allow him to develop a feel for the game again and allow him to get his rhythm back. He had one clunker of an inning out of four and two-thirds pitched (two runs on three hits), but as he starts to solidify on the mound, he could be a name to really watch some 2014 MiLB club assignment time.

Brett Nicholas and Ryan Rua: the intriguing duo to track in Arizona. Nicholas is a 25 year old first baseman, who spent 2013 in Frisco. He ended the season with a .289/.357/.474 slash, but his winter is off to a bit of a slow start. He definitely will not stand to be an option for the big club at first base, but if he has a nice winter and gets assigned to either Frisco or Round Rock, he could get a look in September on the 40-man. Rua is in the same position: blocked on all sides in the majors by Kinsler and Profar, yet still doing some very note-worthy things. He was a part of the intriguing Hickory team for most of 2013, and was elevated to Frisco as well, where he actually performed well for the club. He’s also off to a slow start this winter. Both players and their 2014 assignments may indicate the club’s intentions about their development and whether they have plans to get one or both trade-candidates ready for the July and winter trade periods of 2014.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jorge Alfaro. His ascension to Mount Arlington is eagerly anticipated and he is certainly making strides to get there as quickly as he can. His 2013 was fun to track, as he was also another “alum” of the 2013 Hickory club. His winter has started strong, and looks to get even better. He’s batting .414/.424/.517 in 29 at bats; again, a small sample size, but that’s still a very strong start for a relatively young hitter. The key to tracking Alfaro is his defensive progression, and how that will keep developing over the next 2 seasons or so. Pudge Rodriguez having a presence in the Rangers organization is meant exactly for players like Alfaro, who are fully expected to be reach the big club at some point, and sooner rather than later or with another club. He also presents a reason to find a viable 2-3 year option at starting catcher, which may prompt the Rangers to pursue Brian McCann to help bridge the gap that should lead to Alfaro.

This handful of minor leaguers will hopefully contribute to the Rangers successes, either via direct contribution or trade. Guys like Nicholas and Rua, unless they finally find a way to really break out and don’t look back, will stand to develop as guys who will not make the Rangers big club, but may just be good enough for another club who will give them a shot to start or at least value them in some capacity for a trade. West and Alfaro seem to have a bit more of an expectation placed on them, so their development will be equally important.

Sarah Powers is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning.com. She can be reached at sarah.powers@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @Power_Play86.
Sarah Powers

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