While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 28th farm system overview will be of the Texas Rangers. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: RHP Tyler Phillips
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 191 lbs
Drafted: 16th Round- 2015
Fastball: 50 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 60 Command: 60
Overall Grade: 56
It’s very rare for a 16th round pick to develop into an impact MLB contributor, and then you add in that he’s not considered a top-15 Rangers prospect by either MLB Pipeline or Fangraphs, it’s safe to say that the odds are stacked against Tyler Phillips. However, he’s a legitimate pitching prospect, and really ought to receive more recognition in this farm system. The 22-year-old doesn’t have an overpowering pitching arsenal, but his fastball comes at an interesting angle, which makes it difficult to hit; he also has a fantastic changeup, so he has a two-pitch mix that can get both righties and lefties out. Plus, although he won’t strike out a lot of hitters, he’s consistently shown the ability to induce ground balls, and better yet, also has posted walk rates below 2 BB/9 in each of the past three seasons. Once upon a time, the Rangers traded Kyle Hendricks for Ryan Dempster, a move that they certainly regret. Luckily for them, they have a carbon copy of the Cubs pitcher in their farm system. His margin of error is lower than most other prospects, but even with that in mind, Phillips appears to be a sure bet to settle into the middle of Texas’ rotation for years to come.
#2: RHP Yerry Rodriguez
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 198 lbs
Signed: September 2, 2015
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 52.5 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 55
Overall Grade: 55.875
For whatever reason, the Rangers have multiple pitching prospects that have completely gone under the radar, even though they should be valued as high-end young pitchers. Similarly to Phillips, Yerry Rodriguez isn’t a super dominant pitcher right now, but in a year or two, he could be making a major impact in Texas’ rotation. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, but with its excellent spin and fascinating movement, it’s actually a near un-hittable pitch at times. Therefore, it generates plenty of swings and misses, and when you combine that with his changeup and passable breaking ball, and he has the three-pitch mix necessary to succeed at the next level. Heck, I’m probably underselling his command, considering his highest walk rate in a season was just 2.57 BB/9; unlike Phillips, he’s also been successful striking out opposing hitters, and could even be a frontline starter. He’s only reached Single-A so far, but soon enough, he’ll soar through the minor leagues.
#3: RHP Hans Crouse
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 180 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2017
Fastball: 62.5 Breaking Ball: 65 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 55.375
While Rodriguez and Phillips will earn more rave reviews for their command, it’s Han Crouse who undoubtedly has the most upside of any pitcher in the Rangers farm system. With a high 90s fastball and deadly breaking ball, he has all the tools necessary to be a terrific frontline starter. However, there’s also major risk with him, which makes such a polarizing prospect. Aside from the concerns about his mound demeanor, per MLB Pipeline, he also has dealt with bone spurs, while he has a very violent delivery. Yet, at the same time, it’s rare to find a pitcher with his pitching arsenal, command, and deception, which is why Texas definitely should devote their resources to developing him as a starter. He’s a boom-or-bust prospect, but if healthy, he has all the capabilities necessary to have a Tim Lincecum-Esque impact for the Rangers.
#4: 3B Josh Jung
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 215 lbs
Drafted: 8th Overall- 2019
Hit: 55.55 Power: 56.65 Field: 50.405 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 42.5
Overall Grade: 55.00535
With a lot of young pitchers in their farm system, the Rangers definitely ought to be on the lookout for position player talent, especially with how their MLB roster is shaping up. They opted for a safer player in the 2019 draft, selecting Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung with the 8th overall pick. It was a bit of a surprise pick, as the 22-year-old doesn’t possesses a lot of upside, but overall, with his polish, the pick is well justified. Not only does he have the pure hitting skills you’re looking for, but Jung also will take his walks and doesn’t strike out much, and he should continue to tap into his raw power over time. Now, his limited athleticism isn’t ideal, as he’ll be an average defender at third base, but with his offensive skill set, there are so many reasons to be high on him. With how refined a player he is, I seriously believe that he could be producers in the majors in a year or two.
#5: RHP Cole Winn
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 190 lbs
Drafted: 15th Overall- 2018
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 54
Due to his overall refinement, Cole Winn was a high school pitcher that a lot of teams were to be rumored in during the 2018 draft, to the point where he was in consideration to be selected with the 2nd overall pick by the Giants. In the end, though, he landed with the Rangers, who were happy to select him with the 15th overall pick. His stock is definitely slightly down after a rough professional debut this season, but still, he’s another intriguing pitching prospect in this farm system. I love his fastball, which not only sits in the mid-90s, but also has a lot of rising movement. Additionally, his curveball is stellar, as it has true 12-6 break, and during the draft, he was cited for having plus command. Now, as mentioned, he did struggle to the tune of a 4.35 xFIP in Single-A, but there is a reason for that. According to MLB Pipeline, the Rangers purposefully didn’t have him make his pro debut until mid-May in 2020, which may have had an effect on him, as he got off to a very poor start before settling down to finish off the season. It’s unfortunate that Winn will have to deal with another major layoff from our current situation, as he had a chance to build off the momentum he created during the end of the 2019 season. Nevertheless, when play resumes, I expect him to stay in his groove, and he still has all the skills needed to be #2 or #3 starter.
#6: RHP Owen White
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2018
Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 53.625
The Rangers double-dipped with high school pitchers in the 2018 draft; they selected Owen White just one round after taking Winn, and also had him participate in a “de-loading” program. Yet, he still had to undergo Tommy John surgery in May of 2019, which has a tough blow to his development. At the same time, if there was a time for him to have the surgery, it’s now, when he’s just 20-years-old, and he’s still a very talented prospect. He’s a very athletic player with a repeatable delivery that lets him command his pitches, while his three-pitch mix is also more than adequate: a mid 90s fastball with good movement, a power breaking ball, and an above-average changeup. Due to the surgery, he’s definitely gone under the radar. That’s a mistake, however; he’s still young, and could be a #3 starter with the potential to be even better.
#7: 2B/OF Nick Solak
Height: 5’11” Weight: 190 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- NYY 2016
Hit: 55.5 Power: 54.4 Field: 44.5825 Arm: 47.5 Speed: 60
Overall Grade: 53.370525
Despite being a pretty well-regarded prospect coming out of Louisville, Nick Solak has now been traded twice in his major-league career. Last July, the Rangers made the move to acquire him for reliever Peter Fairbanks, a surprising move that was easy to understand from their perspective. After all, Solak has done nothing but consistently produce in the minors, and even found immediate success in 33 MLB games last season. Before the season was delayed, he figured to play a major role for Texas, which was rightfully deserved. Between his plate discipline and decent power, I do like his offensive profile, though, unfortunately, his high ground ball rates make me a little more tepid than I want to be. That’s an issue, as he’s a pretty poor defender with a weak arm, though perhaps that’s too harsh. At the end of the day, he has the versatility to play the infield and outfield, and is a solid athlete. With his on-base skills, decent pop, and athleticism, he has a lot of value, and he’s certainly someone that Texas is banking on to produce in the future.
#8: RHP Ronny Henriquez
Height: 5’10” Weight: 155 lbs
Signed: July 3, 2017
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 53.25
Undersized pitchers are always risky, which is perhaps why the Rangers were able to sign Ronny Henriquez for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Yet, despite weighing just 155 pounds, the 19-year-old is super strong, which is why he’s found instant success in professional baseball. After dominating with a 9.88 K/BB ratio in Rookie Ball in 2018, Texas aggressively promoted Henriquez to Single-A, and that didn’t faze him- he posted a strong 3.21 xFIP. Regardless of his weight, he’s already touching the upper 90s with his fastball, and once he fills out, one can only imagine how dominant that pitch can be when he fills out. Plus, he also has an advanced feel for spin with his breaking ball, while his changeup/splitter also can be a future above-average pitch. Between his pitch mix and command, there’s so much to like about Henriquez. Once we get a larger sample size from him, I expect him to trend up all prospect lists in a hurry.
#9: 3B Davis Wendzel
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 205 lbs
Drafted: 41st Overall- 2019
Hit: 55.55 Power: 46.35 Field: 55.4455 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 42.5
Overall Grade: 52.7772235
Interestingly, one year after double-dipping with high school pitchers, the Rangers did the same with college third baseman; after taking Josh Jung with the 8th overall pick, they selected Baylor product Davis Wendzel with the 41st overall pick. Given his age and strange profile, it was unclear where Wendzel would land in the draft. Alas, he was taken before the second round, and it’s easy to see why. As alluded to, he’s not your traditional third baseman, as he doesn’t hit for much power, but he’ll be able to get by despite that; he has a great approach at the plate with good contact skills. Plus, despite being a subpar athlete, he’s actually a sound defender at third base, so he’ll contribute on both sides of the ball. Without much power or athleticism, Wendzel doesn’t have the most upside. However, he does have the makeup to be an everyday player, though given that he’s already 22-years-old, the Rangers will be betting on that happening sooner rather than later.
#10: SS Jonathan Ornelas
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 178 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round- 2018
Hit: 51.55 Power: 55 Field: 52.615 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 50
Overall Grade: 52.73955
Even when the Rangers finally took a position player in the 2018 draft, they still went the high school route; they drafted Arizona prep shortstop Jonathan Ornelas in the third round. Despite having a very aggressive swing, the 19-year-old doesn’t strikeout much, but although he has above-average power, he doesn’t generate as much as you’d expect for someone who swings as hard as he does. My main concern with Ornelas is that even at his age, he’s already an average athlete. Therefore, he may ultimately end up at third base, and right now, I don’t think he has enough offensive upside to stick there. If he can tweak his swing, perhaps there’s room for him to grow. Regardless, it’s safe to say that he’s a work in progress at the moment.
Best of the Rest
- Brock Burke, similarly to Nick Solak, was a surprise acquisition from the Rays in a three-team trade that sent Jurickson Profar to the A’s. The extension he creates with his 6’4″ frame causes his fastball velocity to play up, while his breaking ball is above-average. He’s another pitcher in this farm system that projects as a future #3 starter.
- He has no outfield defensive abilities, but Heriberto Hernandez has an advanced approach with serious power numbers; he may be a future designated hitter.
- Joe Palumbo and Taylor Hearn are both lefties with durability concerns. Both have control issues, but both have one pitch that stands out. (Palumbo’s curveball and Hearn’s fastball)
- He’s a very hyped-up prospect right now, and since he’s a catcher, I’m keeping a close eye on Sam Huff. Still, I have major concerns about his on-base skills and his defense, so I’m less bullish on him than others.
- He’s a good athlete with infield/outfield flexibility, power, and switch-hitting ability, so Keithron Moss is very intriguing. Unfortunately, he has severe swing-and-miss concerns.
- Leodys Taveras has long been considered one of the top prospects in the Rangers farm system, and his center field defenses fantastic. However, I’m not a believer in his offensive abilities.
- Acquired from the White Sox for Nomar Mazara, outfielder Steele Walker was very accomplished coming out of Oklahoma, but he doesn’t have any standout skill.
- Anderson Tejada has raw power and good shortstop defense, but he has strikeout issues and I don’t see him posting ideal on-base percentages.
- Chris Seise literally has the same exact profile as Tejada, though shoulder injuries are a major reason for his lack of development.
- With his arm strength and power, third baseman Sherten Apostel is a prospect that is highly regarded. Yet, high ground ball rates and poor defense make me skeptical about him, though I love his ability to draw walks.
- Signed for $4 million in 2019, Bayron Lora has 80-grade raw power, but his lack of athleticism, poor corner outfield defense, and swing-and-miss concerns mean he has a long road ahead to becoming an impact contributor.
- Another major international signing, outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez just doesn’t have the offensive skill set to be an everyday player.
- Bubba Thompson’s athleticism and raw power convinced the Rangers to spend a first-round pick, but he has very poor on-base skills.
Farm System Overview
It’s not a farm system that gets a lot of recognition, but quietly, the Rangers have arguably a top-five farm system in all of baseball. The amount of pitching depth they have is impressive, as they have a lot of underrated pitchers. Therefore, they’re well-positioned to deal with any setbacks with the development of a couple of their pitchers, and are well-positioned to soon replace their veteran pitchers. Over time, they’ll need to continue to add more young position players, but at the very least, it’s a very deep group of prospects.