Texas and their affiliates announced initial minor league rosters yesterday. Here’s a quick rundown. If I don’t mention your guy, don’t worry. We’ve got a whole season in front of us, and I don’t want to use all my material in an intro.
I’ve listed top-30 prospect rankings for Baseball America (BA), MLB, and the most contrarian rankings for Baseball Prospectus (BP) and ESPN.
AAA ROUND ROCK EXPRESS
Round Rock, Texas
Pacific Coast League
Texas affiliate 2011-2018, 2021-present
Yerry Rodriguez (MLB 27)
Cole Winn (BA 3, MLB 3)
Cole Winn leads a group of eight faces familiar to Express fans. Winn isn’t first in line to replace a starter in Arlington if needed. He’s not any number on that depth chart. He’s just Cole Winn, prepping for an MLB debut to come when he’s ready, not when external circumstances dictate.
Rodriguez often dominated after switching to multi-inning relief late last season (perhaps not permanently, yet). A young 27, Robert doesn’t throw especially hard but spots impeccably and relies on a slider that has an invisibility cloak.
Tinoco (Rox), Tropeano (Dodgers most recently) and Winkler (Cubs) are offseason signings.
Sam Huff (BA 11, MLB 11)
Yohel Pozo (BA 28)
The Rangers have seven catchers with MLB experience including these four. Keeping all probably isn’t possible, particularly assuming the parent club drops to two catchers. Catcher development requires inordinate patience, but even so, it’s a critical year for Huff, who after returning from injury didn’t catch at all and didn’t hit all that well (aside from power).
Josh H. Smith (BA 9, MLB 7, ESPN 5)
Davis Wendzel (MLB 17)
Smith began 2021 in low-A (too low) and has only 127 plate appearances in AA. I thought he might spend a little more time in Frisco, but I wouldn’t call this assignment a surprise. Almost exclusively a shortstop professionally, Smith almost certainly won’t wear a uniform with “Rangers” on it without proficiency at other positions, so we’ll see how he’s used with the Express.
Everybody but Apostel can play second, third and short, and they probably will. Apostel dropped from the prospect rankings after an injury-plagued and so-so 2021, but he’s barely 23 and has a chance to regain ground.
Bubba Thompson (MLB 29)
Although omitted from the 40 last winter, Thompson had a strong 2021 that eased if not eliminated concerns about his bat. His power showed up in games, and his strikeout rate dropped from 32% to 26%.
I saw Taveras at length in 2021, and he genuine improved during his time in Round Rock, but it didn’t translate to a better showing in Arlington. He’s still just 23.
AA FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS
Texas affiliate since 2003
Cody Bradford (BA 23, MLB 20, ESPN 15)
Zak Kent (BA 17, MLB 21)
Jack Leiter (BA 1, MLB 1)
Cole Ragans (BA 24)
Avery Weems (BA 18)
Jack Leiter. Sorry, I don’t have anything to add to that. I just wanted to type his name again. He’s a Ranger.
Bradford, Kent, Ragans, Nordlin, Slaten, Weems and Wolfram combined for 95 of Hickory’s 114 starts last year. The first three finished 2021 in Frisco, and the rest are there now. Impressive to have an entire rotation graduate.
Barely 22, Garcia earned a 40-man spot before reaching full-season ball, lost that spot last winter, immediately re-signed and now has earned a promotion to AA. His overall numbers call that into question (.261/.299/.349), but he had a better second half. Garcia has always needed time to acclimate offensively.
Whatley has the field presence and defensive chops to play in the Majors, but even catchers have to hit a little, and he hasn’t (.203/.316/.282 in AA as a 25-year-old last year).
Ezequiel Duran (BA 4, MLB 4)
Duran, the headliner of the Joey Gallo trade (although not by a large margin), has rarely played short
Crim isn’t a monster physically (no offense), is best-suited to first and doesn’t appear in anyone’s top 30 that I know of, but man, the guy can hit. Crim spent a portion of last year in Frisco and clubbed 29 homers between there and Hickory. He then lorded over Puerto Rico (.406/.452/.594) last winter.
Ornelas’s promotion is a mild surprise, as he batted .261/.310/.394 for high-A Hickory and is still just 21. He can play all over and spent nearly a third of his time in center.
Knight and Tanielu are 29 and vets of AAA. But they’re needed in AA for now.
Dustin Harris (BA 5, MLB 6, ESPN 8)
Julio P. Martinez
Harris is pointedly listed as an outfielder. In the middle of 2021 I began seeing him described as a four-corner guy, which sounded swell but didn’t jibe with his near-constant presence at first. Harris did start at third more often down the stretch and will make his debut in the grass next week. He added power (20 HR) to his already superior contact ability, vaulting him up the prospect rankings.
Strahm isn’t a kid (soon 25, a senior sign out of San Jose St.) and has played in only 101 games in three years because of injuries and covid, but he’s got a nice mix of OBP skills, speed and defense.
Stowers (part of the Odor traded) hit the 20/20 mark last year in Frisco. The 24-year-old Fabian is a minor league free agent with 15 homers at AA Richmond last year.
HIGH-A HICKORY CRAWDADS
Hickory, North Carolina
South Atlantic League
Texas affiliate since 2009
Tekoah Roby (BA 14, MLB 15)
Josh D. Smith
Ricky Vanasco (BA 13, MLB 14)
Owen White (BA 7, MLB 8)
Based on everything I’ve heard about White lately, those rankings are going to appear conservative before long. Let’s hope so. Joining him is Englert, drafted two rounds after White in 2018 and with a similarly injury-delayed intro to pro ball. TK Roby, 2020’s 2nd-round pick, won’t turn 21 until after the season, Vanasco, placed on the 40 with a stitched-up elbow and no full-season experience, finally gets a chance to build on his breakout 2019.
A converted infielder, Freeman didn’t catch after returning from an injury last year, but he’s once again behind the plate.
Luisangel Acuna (BA 10, MLB 10)
Thomas Saggese (MLB 28)
Picked 29th overall in 2017, Chris Seise’s constant stream of injuries have limited him to 82 pro games. Given his luck, he was probably healthiest during 2020. Acuna stuck to second base after mid-July. He has the arm for the left side and was back at short during intersquads. The 19-year-old Saggese (2020, 5th round) walked at will in low-A and split duties between second, third and short.
Evan Carter (BA 8, MLB 9)
Trevor Hauver (BA 22, MLB 19)
Aaron Zavala (BA 12, MLB 12)
The Rangers drafted the then-unheralded Carter in 2020 based on where they thought he’d rank had his senior high school season not been truncated by covid. A prescient move, given how quickly Carter established his prospect bona fides. They’ve treated him the same way now, promoting him to high-A despite a back injury that ended his 2021 after six weeks.
Hauver is 23 now and had a decent showing in Hickory (.246/.357/.426) but hasn’t staked out a position, so figuring out where he fits is probably easier with a return engagement.
LOW-A DOWN EAST WOOD DUCKS
Kinston, North Carolina
Texas affiliate since 2017
Not a bad set of pitchers despite the absence of top-30 recognition. Teodo features a triple-digit fastball and high-spin curve. The 19-year-old Santos has good control and touched 97 in camp. Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa fanned 38 in 22.2 innings with the rookies last year. He’s nicknamed “Bubba,” and given the length of his birth name, I might just list him as simply Bubba in the game recaps. Kindreich (2021, 8th round) struck out 18 against three walks in eight rookie innings.
Dotson and Tejeda were entrusted with critical relief innings during Down East’s playoff drive last September.
If all goes to plan, you’ll read the name Efrenyer Narvaez frequently. How many catchers, even in rookie ball, can post a .353/.428/.500 line?
Maximo Acosta (BA 21, MLB 13)
Thoracic outlet syndrome reduced Acosta’s pro debut to 17 lackluster games and dimmed his star a little. Still, he earned the promotion to full-season.
Daniel Mateo (BA 30)
Smith, more highly regarded than Dustin Harris when both were acquired for Mike Minor, has barely played because of hamstring problems. Like Seise, he could regain status quickly with good health.
Galan started the rookie season 0-for-13 with ten strikeouts, and proceeded to hit .274/.350/.573 and rank second with ten homers in 47 games.
Unassigned Players Ranked By BA or MLB
3B Josh Jung (BA 2, MLB 2)
IF Justin Foscue (BA 6, MLB 5, BP 3)
Glenn Otto (BA 15, MLB 26, BP 8)
OF Yeison Morrobel (BA 16, MLB 18)
OF Bayron Lora (BA 19)
LHP Mitch Bratt (BA 20, MLB 23)
IF Cam Cauley (BA 25, MLB 22)
RHP Dane Acker (BA 26, MLB 24)
LHP AJ Alexy (BA 27, MLB 25, BP 10)
IF Danyer Cueva (BA 29, MLB 30)
OF Anthony Gutierrez (MLB 16)
Jung you know about. Foscue has back soreness. Acker is coming off elbow surgery. The rest are in limbo between MLB and AAA, with fates determined in the next few days, or are too green to earn their first full-season assignment.
Other Unassigned Players
LHP Brock Burke
RHP Matt Bush
RHP Demarcus Evans
RHP Greg Holland
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Brandon Workman
IF Charlie Culberson
OF Joe McCarthy
OF Steele Walker
OF Jake Marisnick
IF Matt Carpenter
Limbo is crowded.
Released / Retired
OF Carl Chester — The player to be named in last year’s trade for Nathaniel Lowe. Chester batted .1856/.235/.305 in AAA last year.
RHP Mason Cole – Sorry, Aggie fans. Texas 27th-round selection in 2019 had a walk-heavy 4.01 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 24.2 innings for Down East last year.
RHP Luke Schiltz – Picked three spots ahead of Cole, the 21-year-old fanned and walked 19 in 16.1 innings with a 7.71 ERA for the rookie squad last year.
RHP Adam McKillican and Connor Sechler – free agents who reached A levels in 2021.
RHP Josh Advocate – Texas’s 20th-rounder from 2017 has retired. He missed most of 2021. Advocate pitched well in long relief for high-A Down East in 2019.
RHP Nick Yoder – Also retired. Texas’s 34th-rounder for 2019.
RHP Collin Wiles signed with the Athletics. Wiles spent nine years in the Texas system, most recently acquitting himself well during his first action in Triple A. RHP Joe Gatto signed with Philly. Texas signed Gatto to a Major League deal the previous winter, only to see him pitch so poorly in Surprise that he was designated for assignment and unclaimed. Gatto quickly improved enough to pitch well in AA and AAA, but not well enough for Texas to re-40 him.
1) Sean Bass of The Ticket, Michael Tepid and I recorded a podcast Wednesday, focusing on Tepid’s visit to Arizona. Link in signature.
2) The Dodgers traded for Craig Kimbrel one day after the pen allowed a homer to Corey Seager.