Minor League Monday – Season Debut

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We’re back! Fresh off a successful 2015 season Minor League Monday has made it’s triumphant return.

We will be posting the first Monday of each month rather than every Monday. We will give a quick rundown of the club itself, and then give you an update of any top 30 prospect that is on that particular squad. Any top 30 player that is either injured or not playing, we will mention at the end and give an update on their rehab schedule (to the best of our knowledge) or let you know when you can expect them back in action.

Let’s get started!

Hickory Crawdads

21-9

1st Place (+ 0.5)

Hickory Crawdads LogoComing off a South Atlantic League championship in 2015, Hickory, much like every other Rangers affiliate, started the season on fire. They jumped out to an 8-2 start, led by 24-year-old second basement Andy Ibanez. What made their 8-2 start even more impressive is the fact that they played the first seven games of the season on the road and went 6-1. Hickory should continue to compete well in the SAL league because, what seems to be the normal now, they are loaded with talent. How long that talent stays there, though, is anyone guess.

 

Rangers Top 30 Prospects

#4 RHP Dillion Tate Tate was the Rangers first round draft pick last June and is really just getting his professional career started this season. He made some appearances with Short Season Spokane last year but was very limited due to his large increase in his innings from 2014 to 2015 as he transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation at UC-Santa Barbara. In two starts this season Tate is 1-0 and has allowed just one unearned run over 10.2 innings. He’s recorded 16 strikeouts to just one walk. He’s currently on the 7-day disabled list with a bum hamstring.

#7 CF Eric Jenkins – Jenkins is starting to name for himself. At just 19-years-old, he’s already developed a good base stealing instinct by swiping 28 bags on 31 attempts in his first season as a pro – right out of high school. Jenkins grades out with above average speed and defense which will allow him to cover center field with ease. He does have a below average arm but that apparently shouldn’t be an issue. Jenkins has struggled a bit this year slashing just .234/.282/.351/.633. He does have 15 stolen bases in 19 tries, too.

#8 RHP Michael Matuella – Matuella is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and should return soon. Matuella, before his UCL failed him, was considered the top overall pick in the draft. JD and company love the low-risk-high-reward guys and took a chance. If Matuella can recover from TJS, he will be the steal of the draft.

#11 LHP Brett Martin – Martin is repeating Low-A this year despite posting a 3.49 ERA over 92.1 innings last season. Being just 21-years-old, however, Martin is still growing. He has a three-quarters arm slot which creates good deception and makes his plus curveball even more effective. Martin has the highest ceiling of any left in the Rangers system – a mid-rotation starter. Read more about Martin here.

#12 SS Yeyson Yrizarri – Yey Yey as we like to call him, is known for his plus defense, plus speed and plus-plus arm. In short, he can cover some ground at shortstop. Don’t get too excited, though, his ETA to Arlington isn’t until 2019 as he is still just 19 years of age. Something Yrizarri needs to work on his is plate discipline as evident by his 16 strikeouts to just a pair of free passes.

#28 RHP Jonathon Hernandez – I have not seen Hernandez throw and really don’t know a lot about him but what I do know is that his ceiling appears to be a #4 starter. His velocity sits in the low 90’s and has the potential to sit the mid 90’s once he grows into his body. Hernandez is 5-1 with a 3.70 ERA but in 24 innings he hasn’t missed many bats – only 12 strikeouts and has struggled with his command – 12 walks. So that 1:1 K/BB ratio in Low-A been will need to improve.

#29  RHP Pedro Payano – Payano is starting his first full professional season after spending his first three years in Rookie ball and getting about a months worth of games in late last year. At just 21-years-old though, he has plenty of time to correct the issues that have plagued him thus far in his career. Payano played with Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman on the 2010 RBI Junior League Dominican Republic team. Payano grades out much like Hernandez does except he misses a few more bats with slightly above a 2:1 K/BB ratio.

#30 3B Ti’Quan Forbes – Forbes has yet to homer in his professional career but scouts believe that as he fills out and improves his pre-pitch routine and plate discipline, he has the potential to hit 15 a year. He has a lot of work to do as he hasn’t posted on OPS over .637 in his three seasons in the Rangers system. This year he’s slashing just .235/.297/.296/.593.


High Desert Mavericks

20-12

2nd Place (-2.0 GB)

high desertThe offensive haven that is the California League never lives down its name.  Three teams are averaging 5.5 runs or more per game and High Desert is one of them. High Desert also is home to the Cal League Player of the Month for April – Travis Demeritte. He is the second Rangers minor league to have won the award for the month of April joining Frisco’s Ryan Cordell of the Texas League.

The situation with High Desert and the City of Adelanto hasn’t resolved itself yet but the Mavericks are playing their home games at Heritage Field in Adelanto. How long the Mavericks stay in California is really anyone’s guess at this point. Rumors are flying around that they may end up out of the Cal League completely.

Rangers Top 30 Prospects

#5 RHP Luis Ortiz – LuLu is the Ranger second-ranked pitching prospect behind Dillon Tate. There was some that thought Ortiz may skip High Desert due to the high offensive outputs and then issue with the city but none of that happened. Oritz has been really impressive so far posting a 3.32 ERA with 25.3 K%. His workload might end up being monitored more closely as he’s already posted 21.2 innings and his career high was set last year was right at 50.

#6 RHP Jairo Beras – While repeating Low-A in 2015, Beras improved in just about every statistical category but the big improvement came in his K rate – improving from a 31.1 to a 25.1. He has maintained that plate discipline this year in High Desert with just a slight increase to a 26.4 K-rate. He is the prototypical Rangers low risk/high reward type of player and the Rangers are hoping he pays off.

#10 SS/3B Josh Morgan –  Morgan flirted with some catching duties during Spring Training but that experiment appears to be over as he has played nothing but shortstop and third base for the Mavericks. Morgan has struggled just a bit as his numbers across his slash line are down but he is showing a bit more power as his ISO has jumped from .074 to .125. That might be contributed to the Cal League, however.

#13 RHP Ariel Jurado – Jurado, like a lot of pitchers, has struggled in High Desert. His BB/9 has nearly doubled, his K/9 has fallen by nearly 2/9. His ERA has doubled but against other top 20 MLB prospects, he’s performing well – posting a 23.8% K rate and a 4.3% BB rate while holding the opposition to a .245 average.

#14 LHP Yohander Mendez – Mendez has been a strikeout machine in High-A posting a 36.2% K-rate (12.75 K/9). He’s allowed just five runs all year and his 26.6 K-BB% is what unicorns are made of. If Mendez can keep this up, we can all enjoy his pitching in Frisco before too long.

#19 2B Evan Van Hoosier – Van Hoosier is still serving his 50 game ban that was levied to him in early November of last year.

#20 SS Michae De Leon – De Leon is still just 19-years-old so his struggles to this point aren’t totally surprising but being his age and in High-A ball is pretty telling of how the Rangers view this shortstop. His bat isn’t much and may not ever be much but his solid glove work may still land him a spot in the big leagues.

#21 3B Travis Demeritte – Demeritte has already served his 50 game ban for PED use last season and has come into this year and played pretty damn well. He was named the Cal League Player of the month for April and has slugged 10 home runs in just over 100 at bats. His .396 BABIP is probably unsustainable so I would expect him to cool off pretty soon. He is striking out at 39% rate so that in and of itself is concerning. He will need that to improve drastically. And quickly.

#22 C Jose Trevino – Once having taken over the SDI Twitter account for a Q&A, Trevino is still the Rangers top ranked catcher and the only catcher that is ranked in the top 30 Rangers prospects. Trevino’s plus arm allowed him to throw out 34% of would-be base stealers last year and he has shown great improvement in his receiving and blocking skills according to some pro scouts.


Frisco RoughRiders

22-7

1st Place (+4.5)

roughriders

Man, Frisco is the place to be this year – if you like watching winning baseball. The Roughriders are the best team in the Texas League right now, and it’s not even close.

The key part of the minors though is the development of the players. When I’m in Frisco, nine times out of 10 I couldn’t tell you what the score is. But it’s not like Spring Training where the players don’t care whether they win or lose. The players want a championship, jump around on walk-offs, and celebrate wins. The Frisco RoughRiders have done a lot of celebrating thus far, winning 22 of 29 games. Seven of eight series’ have gone the way of Frisco who hold a 4.5 game lead on Midland and an eight-game head start on third place Corpus Christi. If you get the chance to get out there, you need to go see Lewis Brinson, Ronald Guzman, and company.

Top 30 Rangers Prospects

#2 OF Lewis Brinson Brinson has faced a lot of off-speed pitches so far and for the most part has handled it well. To this point, his slash line is .276/.319/.506 but his 13.7% K-rate is the lowest it has ever been and that line should improve once his BABIP regresses up to his mean. While it would be nice to improve on his 4.2% BB-rate, trading walks for fewer strikeouts is a deal I would make with Brinson. His defense in center is still and easy plus and has received plus home-to-first run times. In non-scouting and non-statistical terms, he’s done well.

#15 OF Ryan Cordell In 2015, Cordell really struggled at the Double-A level. He hit .217/.263/.335 and struck out in over 30% of his plate appearances while struggling to find a position in the field. His K-rate this year has improved to 25.4%, but the quality of contact has improved even more. Cordell has already surpassed his home run total in about 120 fewer trips to the plate and is hitting line drives on 21% of his batted balls. In the field, he is getting better reads on balls and is looking more capable of manning more than just left-field. That helped him on this catch the other night. Cordell was also named the Texas League Player of the month in April.

#23 1B Ronald Guzman Over the past couple years, Ronald Guzman has been largely disappointing. Being a first baseman Guzman has to hit to make it and he hasn’t done enough of that over his career. He’s started 2016 hitting the ball very well (36% line drive rate) and has improved his glove at first to something near average. While I’d like to see him hit for a bit more power (five home runs, three doubles), strike out less (24.8% K-rate) and the .453 BABIP won’t hold, Guzman looks to be taking steps forward at 21-years-old.

#25 RHP Jose Leclerc After a rough first two starts to the year, the Rangers moved Leclerc to the pen (which has always been his likely landing spot). The walk problem has still been there (ten in sixteen innings) but the stuff has ticked up and created a lot of swinging strikes. He’s struck out 21 batters and allowed eight runs. In a game, I recently attended he induced 10 swings and misses in two innings.

#26 RHP Sam Wolff Wolff is off to a good start after missing the 2015 minor league season to an Achilles injury. The 25-year-old has a 4.50 in six starts and has looked like a back of the rotation pitcher.

#27 RHP Connor Sadzeck He still throws hard. What he hasn’t done so far is walk batters, having done so only 11 times in 34.2 innings after 41 in 60.1 innings in 2015.

NR – RHP Matt Bush Bush has been very impressive – having missed years serving his prison sentence, his control and command don’t indicate an elongated break. In 16 innings, the right-hander has 16 strikeouts and four walks. His fastball is a bit flat and his curve is more average than plus, but with his premium velocity and surprising control/command he should figure into a big league bullpen as a 6th/7th inning guy and I wouldn’t expect his debut to be too far off.


Round Rock Express

17-12

1st Place (+3.0)

rre As with the majority of the organization (three out of the five teams), the Round Rock Express currently sit in first place. With a roster featuring Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, Andrew Faulkner, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, and 12 other players with big league experience (17 is a lot even for a Triple-A team) it’s not hard to see why. Graduated from the team is Nomar Mazara but that hasn’t slowed down the Express and their electric offense.

Throw in a few Yu Darvish rehab starts, and it’s easy to see why the Express lead the PCL in average per game attendance at just over 9,000 a night.

Rangers Top 30 Prospects

#1 3B/OF Joey Gallo Gallo has put up very good numbers thus far – seven home runs, .254/.400/.642 AVG/OBP/SLG, 20% BB-rate, ranks 6th in PCL in OPS. Most importantly he has cut his K-rate 15% from his 2015 time in Triple-A and is down to 24.7% this year. This tendency to have a steep decline in strikeouts in his second year at a level is one he’s shown throughout his career. Gallo is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss up to a month.

#17 RHP Luke Jackson Has a 4.35 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 10.1 innings but eight walks to go with that. BB/9 has been an issue for him at Triple-A (6.08 in ’14, 4.78 in ’15, 7.2 in ’16). Jackson is going to have to improve his command and miss more bats if he wants to be a staple in the big league bullpen.

#18 LHP Andrew Faulkner Has thrown 6.1 innings since his demotion to Triple-A. The lefty has continued to struggle with both control and command but has allowed only one run. His 7.7 K-BB% is a vast improvement from his -9.5 in the big leagues but its nowhere close to where it needs to be.

#24 OF Patrick Kivlehan Continuing his Spring Training woes which took Kivlehan from on roster projections to an early cut, the corner infielder/outfielder is slashing .196/.296/.299 and is striking out at a career-high 25% rate. It doesn’t look like Kivlehan will see the big leagues anytime soon, at least not with the Rangers.

Notable Rangers

Chi Chi Gonzalez Chi Chi’s K-rate is down from 2015 and his walk rate up, with 14 free passes in 34 innings. Gonzalez has to improve in both categories. His slider is said to be improved from a year ago, but still behind what it was in 2014. He’s still just 24 but a little bit of worry is starting to creep in with the lack of swing and miss stuff.

Jurickson Profar – Some rumblings have started to surface that Profar doesn’t have the arm to play shortstop, at least at the moment, and some feel that the across the body motion he would need to throw to first from second, would put too much pressure on his shoulder. That makes you wonder where Profar would play. The stick doesn’t appear to have lost any time though as evident by his .275/.347/.385 slash line.

SDI Minor Leagues
The SDI Minor League Staff is led by Minor League Coordinator Grant Schiller who covers Spokane, High Desert, and Frisco. Minor league enthusiast Travis Smith covers the Hickory Crawdads and Round Rock Express. Occasional contributions are courtesy of Billy Casey.

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