The Texas Rangers tend to be aggressive with their minor league assignments for their top prospects, putting high-ceiling guys on teams where they are mostly facing older, more advanced competition. The thought process is that a these players will develop more, and learn more about making adjustments, struggling against advanced competition than beating up on players of their own generation.
That can result in assignments that, to those of us on the outside, seem puzzling. The perfect example at the start of 2014 was sending 18 year old outfielder Jairo Beras to low-A Hickory. Sending an 18 year old to low-A is aggressive, but not that unusual, particularly when we are talking about a highly-touted and advanced player...in the case of Beras, though, it raised some eyebrows, because Beras is viewed as particularly raw. His game skills were thought to be lacking, and he had just 70 plate appearances in the AZL in 2013, putting up a .250/.314/.438 line. Most outside observers expected Beras to play for Spokane in the short-season A Northwest League, or even return to the Arizona Rookie League, at least to start off.
Instead, the Rangers sent Beras to the low-A South Atlantic League, where he was the third youngest player at his level on Opening Day. And Beras started off the year looking like the third youngest player in low-A ball, putting up a paltry .176/.240/.176 slash line with 29 Ks in 75 plate appearances in the month of April. He didn't get his first extra base hit until his 22nd game of the season, on May 1, and while he was a little better in May, he still wasn't anywhere close to good, putting up a .214/.267/.286 slash line in 75 plate appearances.
There was some speculation that this was just a way to get Beras some game action and at bats while waiting for the short-season leagues to start, and I think a lot of folks thought he would get assigned to Spokane once action there cranked up. On June 14, Beras had a .190/.257/.224 line on the year, and it seemed inevitable he would get moved.
But Beras wasn't sent to Spokane, and then a funny thing happened...all of the sudden, he started to hit. On June 15, Beras went 3 for 5, while hitting his first home run on the season. The next day he went 3 for 4. Beras was 1 for his next 16 before exploding in his past four games, going 10 for 14 with a pair of walks, a pair of doubles and a pair of homers. Over the 10 game stretch from June 15 to June 30, Beras has put up a .436/.476/.769 line, which brought his overall season line to .235/.296/.324.
A hot 10 game stretch doesn't prove anything, but it is a welcome sign of life for a guy the Rangers controversially invested a ton of money in, and who hadn't been doing a whole lot. Aside from raising his OPS dramatically in the past two weeks, its an indication of what Beras is capable of, and a flash of why the Rangers thought so highly of him that they angered the rest of MLB by giving him a $4.5M signing bonus.
Hopefully, this is the result of something clicking with Beras, and he's turning the corner. He's obviously not going to continue to hit like this the rest of the way, but if he could just perform respectably for the final two months of the minor league season, that would be encouraging, and his progress going forward will be something for us to watch.