Five Mid-Level Prospects Who Could Contribute in 2016
Last week, fellow SDI writer and all-around
trash fantastic editor Brice Paterik and I came up with our top 15 Rangers prospects. For each player on the list we will write an article, counting down from 15 to 1, running each Tuesday and Thursday. Today, I have written a paragraph on five players who did not make the cut for the list but have a shot at making the big league roster at some point in 2016.
LF/RF/3B/1B Patrick Kivlehan: The player to be named later from the Leonys Martin trade, Kivlehan is a much needed right-handed corner bat. At 26 years old the 2012 4th round pick is older than your average prospect, not having played baseball until his senior year at Rutgers. A year ago Kivlehan tapped into his power, hitting 22 bombs, although perhaps at the expense of his contact rate. He struck out at a 3% higher rate and saw his batting average drop from .300 in 2014 (Double-A) to .256 in 2015 (Triple-A). Reports have all five of his tools grading at right around average. Being a RH LF/RF/3B/1B who spent all of 2015 in Triple-A, chances are Kivlehan cracks the bigs at some point in the season if not from Opening Day. It may be a Kivlehan/Ryan Rua Spring Training battle for the 5th outfield spot, with Kivlehan getting the edge going in with the Rangers likely wanting Rua to get more regular action than he did a year ago.
OF Jared Hoying: A fellow 26-year-old outfielder, Hoying has a lesser chance of making the 2016 roster. Having spent two and a half seasons in Triple-A Round Rock, it seems as though the Rangers have made their thoughts on Hoying clear. Especially so in the 2014 campaign, with players such as Jim Aducci, Jake Smolinski and Ryan Rua getting the call yet no Hoying. Being left-handed had something to do with it, but nonetheless has meaning. However, anyone in the upper levels who can play center field well and has hit 49 home runs and 40 stolen bases over the past two seasons is in a position to be an emergency call up. A large part of his struggles in 2015 (.214/.263/.433) were due to an abnormally low .229 BABIP which makes the numbers a bit misleading. Hoying’s power numbers held steady with 2014’s and his K rate improved. Now entering his sixth full minor league season, it may be now or never for Hoying in the Rangers organization.
3B/2B/LF/RF/SS Drew Robinson: Robinson is an interesting prospect. He doesn’t make a whole lot of contact, but he walks at an extremely high rate. A year ago, he hit .231. But the 23-year-old had an OBP of .360. He isn’t great at any spot on the field, yet can play decently at more than a couple. I’ve talked to scouts who saw him as a future big league utility man and one who thinks he might be better off as a pitcher. However, Robinson is versatile having played at 3B, 2B, SS, LF and RF in his time with Frisco the past couple years. He also is elite an drawing walks and has a bit of pop as well (21 home runs in 2015). With Robinson, it will all depend how he performs as to whether or not he makes his debut this year. If the former 4th round pick does well, he may be one of the first injury replacements. If not, he won’t receive a look.
C Pat Cantwell: Pat Cantwell is not a hitter. In his four year minor league career, the Stony Brook product has hit over .250 just twice and a year ago batted .187 and .136 in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively. His career slashline sits at .238/.318/.310. He’s clearly not going to scare anyone at the plate. He will, however, play plus defense behind it. At some point in his career, this skill will earn Cantwell a big league cup of coffee. He currently sits at 6th in the Rangers organization depth chart behind 40-manners Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez and probable AAA-ers Bobby Wilson, Michael McKenry and Brett Nicholas (though the latter may be more of a 1B). Clearly it will take a significant amount of injuries and/or struggles from the group in front of him, but Cantwell is your prototypical emergency call-up catcher.
RHP RP John Fasola: Like Cantwell, it would be quite a surprise if Fasola was able to crack the roster in 2016. In fact, it would in all likelihood signify something has gone wrong given the current strength and depth of the Rangers bullpen. In 2015, the 24 year old reliever out of Kent State dominated the Low-A South Atlantic League before struggling with the hitter friendly High-A California League. In 26.1 Low-A innings, Fasola K’d 34 while walking only four. In 29 High-A innings, those numbers were 30 and nine. Fasola’s two primary pitches are his fastball, which according to MLB.com sits at 92-94 and touches 96, and his slider. A bargain of a 31st round pick, Fasola has emerged into a legitimate relief prospect. Expect him to start 2016 with Frisco, perhaps on a quick path down 35 to Round Rock with a good April and May.