Mind the Gap

Ronald Martinez

Looking at the Rangers' upper level pitching prospects who could contribute in 2013

I'm not here to tell you what the big league team should do. I have no idea what they should, or will do. I write about the minor leagues. And I usually do it whimsically. I don't really think too much about free agency other than when guys I tracked as prospects are the names being bandied about. I tend to mentally turn the kids loose once they start playing in triple tiered stadiums. But this season is different, primarily because I'm being asked about it a bunch. The joy in the game, for me, is trying to ascertain if and when Jurickson Profar has the ability to contribute and compete at the big league level. Beyond that, I got nuthin'. (my answer to those questions by the way is "yes" and "now")

Having said that, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the free agency class and the possible winter goals of the organization as it relates the current state of the farm system. An area I see being neglected in the public speculation ring (by no means, by the actual organization) is starting pitching. Saying a baseball team has "enough starting pitching" is like saying an NBA team has "enough centers" or an NFL team has "enough cornerbacks". There isn't "enough". I think Rangers fans found that out to some extent last season, I'm of the belief that partially based on the farm system, Texas is far from settled with regards to starting pitching at the big league level in the immediate future, so I figured I'd take a moment and give a cursory rundown on what your favorite team is growin'.

OK, here's what ya got on the farm:

I think Justin Grimm, Martin Perez, and Chad Bell all begin the season in AAA. They are all capable of pitching at the big league level sometime in 2013. Heck, an awesome Spring Training and a injury or two and anyone of these kids could be in a Rangers uniform sooner rather than later. Grimm has great makeup, Perez has great stuff, and Chad Bell is a homegrown version of the crafty lefty that seems to stymie Texas' bats several times every season. These fellas are likely to be joined in Round Rock by the unusually reliable Barret Loux and possibly right handed cutter kid, Nick Tepesch. Loux spent all of 2012 in Frisco and Tepesch spent the back half of the season there. They too, are capable starters, though they are clearly further from being major league ready. A wild card in the equation is Neil Ramirez who began '12 in Round Rock, pitched very poorly, had some shoulder issues, had some mechanical inconsistencies, and ended up making 12 starts for Frisco, 4 of which I charted in person. Man, oh man, was it peaks and valleys for him. He had games when the FB was sitting 88 touching 91, then had games when the FB sat 92 touching 95. So this is the posse of starters you have first up. Frankly, not top-of-the-rotation stuff. I hate saying that because development can continue, but hey, you wouldn't want to read this if I didn't have an opinion, right? Obviously Marty P has projection left given his age, but I think he's changed as a pitcher, and it's for the better. If Grimm keeps working his slider and gets more comfortable with the darting two-seamer, who knows? This group has a lot of big league arms, but not likely (m)any 1s or 2s. (let's get this out of the way now. 1s and 2s are super, freaky-deaky rare. And they tend to show up by the time they're about 9. Saying someone projects as a #3 only makes them a completely awesome and wealthy baseball pitcher for about 13 years)

I've left off, perhaps Texas' finest pitching prospect, Cody Buckel. Cody is a fantastic prospect and following his mid-season promotion to Frisco, I saw him start three games and come in after a few innings of an abbreviated Grimm start. He has ridiculously advanced pitchability for anyone, much less someone who turned 20 in June. I've often said about him, that while he's not overpowering, 0-2 is a hitter's guess. He'll throw any pitch, any time in the count and get strikes with 'em. He's not a big kid, and most scouts I spoke with still project his ceiling to be that of a #3. (I'm slightly more bullish--but I'm a goofy writer, not a scout). Another Tepid favorite is Everybody's Favorite Fireballer, Luke Jackson. Luke is 6'4", 21yrs old, has a fastball that runs into the mid-90s and he struck out 146 hitters in 129.2 innings. What else do you need to know? He was a mid-season promotion to Myrtle Beach and in the friendly confines by the sea, he was at times, unhittable. I think the organization pushes him a bit, so he'll be in Frisco at some point in 2013, but he ain't gonna be in Arlington. Not yet.

Now, on to two of my favorite pitchers to watch both of whom I've left off these lists, because although they've started often, and could start again, the consensus seems to be they are ultimately relievers. Roman Mendez and Wilmer Font have nasty stuff. I'm like all other prospect dorks that don't care for comps, but I've heard Roman's name used alongside Alexi Ogando and LaTroy Hawkins enough times to warrant being mentioned. As for Wilmer, I'll always be a fan of The Fontster Monster and I'll never forget speaking with him minutes after he'd been called up. Despite being the only person to hit 100 on the Frisco stadium gun in 2012, his lack of secondaries likely makes him a bullpen piece. But oh, what a piece he may be.

So there you have it. These are the names of the next batch of farm-fresh starting pitchers the Rangers are growing. You can take this information and draw your own conclusions. Me? What do I think? I think Texas takes a boatload of money and shows up on the front door of...

Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!

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