What a season. What. A. Season. The minor league year has wrapped up and until the kiddos report to instructionals (this week), and until the Arizona Fall League begins (October 8th), we're just kinda chillin', taking stock of the year that was. As with any season, there were kids who rose up, and kids who fell down. That's the nature of the beast. I think, overall, with regards to the inevitable farm rankings, Texas will still make an appearance in the back half of many pundits' Top 10 systems in the game. Even looking through my rose colored glasses, I still see some potential high-impact position players combined with a few middle/back of the rotation arms. There's a few bullpen bets, and, of course, a few high-profile international signings we've yet to see. Combine all of that with a somewhat surprising early splash made by a few of the college arms drafted in June, and I still see one of the better systems in the game.
I'll write a few pieces about some of the standout performances of 2013 in hopes of offering something other than Wild Turkey and great sex to keep you warm this winter. The first, and most fun, will be the youngsters who sorta burst on to the scene this year. The second will be the bummer piece about kids who may have stumbled a bit, and the final entry will be the kids who were who we thought they were.
First, let's talk happy. These guys may not be household names, but they all had a damn fine season. Everybody loves rootin' for a dark horse to make the big leagues right? Well, any one of these dudes might be your pony.
Roogie: This was an obvious one. He was a prospect at the beginning of the season, but he wasn't considered the 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th best prospect in the system. Obviously, the promotions helped, but I'm not sure even without some of those defections, he wouldn't have found his name in one of those slots on many of next year's pre-season rankings. He began 2013 as the youngest player in the Carolina League and ended the year as the youngest player in the Texas League. The seductive part of that statement is the underlying fact that he was one of the best players in the Carolina League, then he was one of the best players in the Texas League. I've hyped Roog up enough over the last few years, so you know I'd adopt the little shit if I could. But I think the better outcome is that you're going to adopt him. Rangers fans in general are going to adopt him. He can hit and he plays the game as if every inning is his last. He's a second baseman, and unfortunately despite my best, non-subtle efforts, not a catcher. Also, he has time, tons of it, since he doesn't turn 20 until next February. Given the infield logjam, I have no idea what his fate will ultimately be, but I do know that I'm likely to get to see him play at least 30 more times in Frisco next season, and for that, I'm excited.
Alec Asher: The 2012 4th rounder led the entire farm with 139K. Over 26G he averaged 2.7BB/9 and 9.7K/9. He is a very big, sturdy dude who gives me the impression that you'd have to talk him out of a bar squabble or try to convince him that jumping the 4-wheeler over that creek is a bad idea. He's from Florida, and in my own highly scientific research, I've found that only people from New Mexico are crazier than those from Florida. Since all prospect writers loathe comps, I'm going to make one because it's just so damn obvious it has to be said. Alec reminds me(and lots of other folks) of Colby Lewis. Not pre-Japan 94-97 Lewis. Post-Japan-91-95mph-with-4-pitches-good-pitchability-nasty-competitive-streak-go-right-at-hitters Colby Lewis. Also, easy mechanics and a + to ++ beard complete the comparison. In 2013, he skipped Hickory altogether, earning a place in the Myrtle rotation and ended the season with a 32-inning scoreless streak. See you in Frisco, Big Cat.
Jose Leclerc: I know, I know. It's not cool to get excited about a bullpen arm. But howsabout a 19 year-old who skipped two levels then racked up 77K against 21BB in 59 innings for Hickory. Can I get excited about him? Because I am. I'd heard from a scout over the winter who'd seen Jose in the DSL and said he was electric. I went stalking him in Spring Training and lucked into a single inning on my first day. The radar gun being held by the unsteady hand of another young farm-arm was consistently reading 96 and the ball was jumping on the overmatched hitters. The fastball sat in the mid-to-upper 90s throughout the season. His assignment to full-season ball didn't really surprise me because he has stuff. Electric stuff. Not a big kid, and I'm not sure if they'll try him as a starter, but with a potential + curve, and an emerging CH he was reportedly showing good feel for as the season wore on, I'm shucking the shackles of cool, and I'm excited about Jose Leclerc.
Nick Williams: Nick fooled a lot of people during his senior year at Galveston Ball. Tools out the wazoo, the passion for the game wasn't always apparent. I've chatted with at least 3 scouts who saw him extensively in high school who've said it just didn't look like he enjoyed baseball all that much. Good. Because he does. He likes baseball just fine, and he likes hitting baseballs a whole lot. Other scouts' perceptions might have helped drop a first round talent into Texas' lap in the second round of the 2012 draft. Nick hits. And hitting is good. .293/.337/.543 19 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers for Hickory this season. He showed a better arm than what we thought he had, and even though he primarily played LF, I heard more than one good report about him looking very comfortable in CF. You gotta hit to be a prospect. Nick can hit, and in 2013, he did.
Randy Henry: This isn't about glamour. It isn't about radar guns lighting up, or whiff after whiff. It's about a farm system's #1 goal: to produce players who can help the big league team win games. That's it. And guys like Randy Henry can fill a role. He's not a huge guy, and his 4-seamer touches 94, but his slider has good, hard late break and his cutter can be a ground ball factory. 50 innings pitched for Frisco this season, 7 walks and 40 strike outs. 6 earned runs, 1 homer allowed, and a 0.77 WHIP. The 23 year-old Arnett, Oklahoma native throws lots of strikes with movement and good command. He avoids the meaty part of the plate and he goes right after hitters. Again, this ain't a glamorous pick. If he keeps his command in check, he could end up as a 7th inning bullpen arm in the big leagues. Randy's not a top of the rotation starter, hell he's not a middle of the rotation starter, or a back of the rotation starter, or a fire starter, but he might be able to help someday, and that's what matters.
Nick Martinez: Nick is a fun one to root for. An 18th round pick, the former college 2nd baseman made a total of 15 appearances on the mound before the Rangers drafted him. Now, 2 years later, he looks like a legitimate candidate to become a big league starter. Again, this isn't top of the rotation stuff. But it's good, and it's getting better. Primarily working a 91-94FB that he commands down in the zone very well, a good CH that is most effective when dipping in around 80, a decent CB, and a somewhat seldom seen slider, Nick impressed in 2013 between Myrtle Beach and Frisco. Though still a bit new to pitching, he's picked up on the fact that throwing strikes is important. Over 327.1 minor league innings, he's averaged only 2.7 walks per 9 while striking out 8.1 batters. A continued focus on further developing his slider along with a 2-seamer, could put Nick in an even better position to succeed at higher levels, and perhaps, even the highest level.
Nick Martinez 8.27.13 in Frisco, TX (AA) (via Tepid Participation)
Chi Chi: This is the horse who wins the 3 races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. I didn't necessarily see it coming, and I'm not sure anyone did. (Though I bet in a few years, some guys are certain to say they did!) The 23rd pick in the June draft, Chi Chi should have tapered off a bit as the summer wore on. He should have tired, having pitched since the first game of Oral Roberts' season on February 15th. He should have stammered a bit, adjusting to pitching every 5th day. But he didn't. He did just the opposite. His stuff got better. If, while at ORU, he would have had the stuff he showed at the end of the season in Myrtle Beach, no way he lasts until the 23rd pick. For the Pelicans, he was sitting 94-96 (mostly 92-94 pre-draft) with run or the nasty cut he'd been known for in college. Good slider too. Drafted as a "polished" kid and a "potential fast mover", Chi Chi lived up to the billing and it's clear the team thinks very highly of him. I spoke with a scout who had seen him extensively in college then saw him once in Myrtle and he said it appeared Chi Chi was using his lower half more than he did while pitching in school. I've not seen him in person yet, but since I'm based in Frisco, sounds like I'll get that opportunity sooner than we might have once thought.
So theres yous guys goes. There's ya' some names of youngsters who had salty 2013 seasons. It's still a speculative game, and it's more likely none of these guys spend a minute in the bigs than it is all of 'em do, but what the hell, we're all having a good time. I'll be back next week with maybe my most dour piece of the year, the one about guys who had a forgettable season. That one isn't fun to research, write, or post, so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go prepare for that by imagining I'm riding a unicorn up a double rainbow with Olivia Wilde. Thanks!
Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!