The Minor League season may be coming to a close, but a lot of prospects and their respective seasons aren’t. Players are making a push for a call-up when rosters expand in September and are preparing for the possibility of making an impact for their MLB team down the stretch.
At 59-60, the Texas Rangers are a team right on the cusp of a playoff spot. The American League West has long been out of reach, but they’re just two games out of a Wild Card spot. A strong final month and a half will make or break the Rangers’ season, and some of their young talent could help them swing it in their favor. Here’s how that young talent has been doing in 2017.
10. Brett Martin, LHP
Since drafting him in the fourth-round of the 2014 Draft, the Rangers have been very cautious with Martin. He pitched sparingly in his first full season in 2015 and has spent time on the DL multiple times in the last two seasons. When on, Martin’s combination of fastball and curveball has hitters baffled at the plate. They both can be plus pitches and he’s consistently improving his ability to throw them for strikes. In fact, he’s shown consistent improvement at all parts of his game, even if his numbers may not show it.
2017 stats: (High-A Down East): 67 IP, 1-8, 5.37 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 71 K, 27 BB.
[the_ad id=”384″]Martin missed nearly two months of the season in May and June and has been decent since returning to the mound. He’s given up four earned runs in four of his last five starts and went at least five innings in all of them. He’s limiting his walks, not issuing more than two in a start since July 5, and limiting his home runs allowed, too. It hasn’t been a perfect season for Martin, but his six-inning, one-run, seven-strikeout performance on July 31, as well as his 10-strikeout performance on May 6, are good signs.
9. Ariel Jurado, RHP
Jurado was a little-known commodity when he signed out of Panama in 2012. Since then, he’s developed into one of the Rangers’ best pitching prospects. He’s reached Double-A at just 21 years old in large part due to his excellent command. His fastball isn’t overpowering, but it has plenty of sink and generates a ton of ground balls. Jurado’s slider is still developing, and it’ll go a long way in determining how well he’ll fit in the Majors.
2017 stats: (Double-A Frisco): 138.1 IP, 8-11, 5.01 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 84 K, 34 BB.
There’s been a little regression for Jurado in 2017 in his first season at the Double-A level. His strikeout, hits, walks, and home run rates have all gotten worse compared to his 2016 marks. However, it hasn’t all been bad for Jurado, as he’s consistently shown he can pitch deep into games. He’s gone at least six innings in 14 of his 24 starts and has failed to go five in just three.
8. Chris Seise, SS
Seise was one of the best shortstops in this year’s Draft, and the Rangers jumped on him with the 29th overall selection. The 18-year-old is profiled as a defense-first shortstop but has shown the ability to hit since making his pro-ball debut. He does have sneaky power to all fields and plus speed that makes him a threat on the basepaths.
2017 stats: (RK-AZL): 27 games, .336/.395/.509, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 23 R, 5 SB, 9 BB, 30 K. (Low-A Spokane): 12 games, .188/.245/.229, 5 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB, 15 K.
The Rookie-level Arizona League proved to be too easy for Seise. He batted .336 in 27 games with the Rangers and quickly was promoted to Low-A Spokane in just his first professional season. He’s struggled since joining the Spokane Indians, but in his last three games he’s 5-for-12 with an RBI, walk and two runs scored.
7. Hans Crouse, RHP
Another 2017 Draft pick, Crouse was taken by the Rangers with the 66th overall selection this past June. The 18-year-old already has an overpowering fastball that has reached 98 on the gun. It’s complemented by an impressive breaking ball that can be a plus pitch at times. Crouse hasn’t been tied down as a starter or a reliever at this point but would be a powerful force in either role.
2017 stats: (RK-AZL): 15 IP, 0-0, 0.60 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 4 BB, 22 K.
It’s been just about a good a start to a professional career as it can get for Crouse. In 15 innings, he’s given up just one run and six hits while striking out 22. Four of his eight outings have been starts, but the AZL Rangers have been using him for just two innings at a time as to not overdo it. In his last start on August 13, Crouse threw two perfect innings and struck out five.
6. Cole Ragans, LHP
A first name isn’t the only thing Ragans shares with Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels. His stuff, along with his delivery, has been compared to a young Hamels and was part of the reason the Rangers took Ragans in the first round of the 2016 Draft. Ragans’ fastball, curveball, and changeup all have great upside and continue to get better as he adds more power. At 19 years old, he’s already very well-rounded and should only get better with age.
2017 stats: (Low-A Spokane): 45 IP, 3-2, 3.80 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 66 K, 27 BB.
Ragans has been solid for the Spokane Indians in 10 starts this season. His strikeout numbers are way up, averaging 13.2 per nine innings. However, he’s been susceptible to the long ball and has issued far too many walks to the Rangers liking. 2017 has been a step in the right direction for the 19-year-old, but Ragans still has plenty of work to do.
5. Bubba Thompson, OF
The Rangers like Thompson enough to steer him away from football and attending Alabama to play baseball. They took him with the 26th overall selection in this year’s Draft, and he signed for $2.1 million. Thompson makes great hard contact from the right side of the plate and has solid power potential for his age. He also has elite speed that will help in the outfield and on the basepaths.
2017 stats: (RK-AZL): 18 games, .279/.347/.500, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 13 R, 4 SB, 4 BB, 18 K.
So far, so good for Thompson after making his professional debut in June. Not only is he making contact, but he’s finding gaps and letting his legs do the work, logging five doubles and two triples in 18 games. He’s also put the ball over the fence twice and has stolen four bases for the AZL Rangers.
4. Yohander Mendez, LHP
MLB.com lists: Top 10 LHP Prospects (#10)
The Rangers signed Mendez out of Venezuela in 2011 when he was the most expensive pitcher on the international market. The tall lefty broke out in 2016, jumping all the way to Triple-A and eventually the Majors at the end of the season. His fastball sits in the low 90s with potential to increase if he builds up more strength. His best pitch by far is his changeup, which he uses to miss bats and keep right-handed batters guessing.
2017 stats: (Double-A Frisco): 123.1 IP, 7-7, 3.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 109 K, 40 BB.
Mendez looked to have a great chance at starting the season in Triple-A and joining the big league club at some point. However, he has stayed at Double-A Frisco all year and has pitched well in 21 starts. While he’s issuing fewer walks in 2017, he’s given up far more home runs than he ever has in his career. His 1.5 HR/9 is a long ways from the 0.3 mark he posted in 2016 and the 0.8 mark for his career. It’s been the dark spot in an otherwise great season for the 22-year-old.
3. Ronald Guzman, 1B
MLB.com lists: Top 10 1B Prospects (#9)
Like Mendez, the Rangers signed Guzman as an international free agent in 2011. While he started off his professional career slowly, he’s since come a long way and made his Triple-A debut last year at just 21 years old. He has a simple swing that provides power to all fields but has been known to be too eager at the plate, not drawing many walks.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Round Rock): 108 games, .317/.385/.471, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 71 R, 4 SB, 40 BB, 72 K.
Guzman has been making the case all year that he’s ready for a big league debut. His batting average has remained above .300 all season, currently sitting at .317, and he’s put 12 balls over the fence in 108 games. His patience at the plate is still a work in progress, but he’s successfully limited his strikeouts compared to recent seasons with just 72 so far this year.
2. Willie Calhoun, 2B/OF
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#68), Top 10 2B Prospects (#4)
Calhoun was the centerpiece prospect in the recent Yu Darvish trade with the Dodgers at the deadline. Now with the Rangers, he went straight to Triple-A Round Rock and ranks as their No. 2 prospect. He’s a very well-rounded hitter with great hitting ability and an impressive strikeout rate. Calhoun also has tremendous power for a second baseman and has shown he can work walks as well.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Oklahoma City): 99 games, .298/.357/.574, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 64 R, 3 SB, 36 BB, 49 K. (Triple-A Round Rock): 12 games, .283/.327/.587, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB, 5 K.
Calhoun’s nearly 100 games with Oklahoma City helped him raise his stock enough for the Rangers to target him in the Darvish deal. Not only did he hit for average, hovering right around .300, he also mashed 23 homers and drove in 67 runs. He struck out just 13 more times than he walked as well. Calhoun has also made quite the impression in 12 games with Round Rock. He’s already hit four homers and has driven in 10 runs while batting .283.
Calhoun has quickly become one of the Rangers’ most exciting prospects and could sniff an MLB debut as early as this year. He has plenty of value in dynasty formats, as well as in deeper leagues. If he does force his way onto the big league squad, he could provide help for fantasy teams down the stretch and in the playoffs.
1. Leody Taveras, OF
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#32), Top 10 OF Prospects (#10)
Taveras wasted no time in establishing himself as the Rangers’ top prospect after signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He excels with all five tools while hitting from both sides of the plate and playing a solid center field. At just 18, there’s the chance one of his tools could regress and another could get better, but he remains a very exciting prospect nonetheless.
2017 stats: (Single-A Hickory): 116 games, .258/.320/.380, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 66 R, 18 SB, 40 BB, 78 K.
As is the case with most highly touted 18-year-old prospects, patience is key with Taveras. He’s a star in the making, but still has plenty of work to do. Taveras has been on a tear over his last 10 games. He’s slashing .357/.449/.643 with two homers, six RBI and seven walks over that span. His five tools are enough to make him a must-own in dynasty leagues, even if he’s at least three years away from an MLB debut.