Baseball America continues rolling out their league top 20 lists, and in the low-A South Atlantic League, three members of the Hickory Crawdads make the cut.
2014 first rounder Luis Ortiz is #6 on the BA Sally League list. The 19 year old righthanded pitcher gets praise for the improvement on his changeup and ability to repeat his delivery well, and BA notes that his velocity would often improve as the game went on, going from the low-90s early on to as high as 97 later in the game.
The Crawdads pitching staff was impressive this year, and so it isn't surprising that Ortiz is joined on the list by another Crawdad righty, Ariel Jurado. The 19 year old out of Panama wasn't really on most folks' radars coming into the season, but with a low-90s fastball and what BA describes as an above-average changeup, he put up a 2.45 ERA this season in 99 innings of work, with 95 Ks against just 12 walks.
Rounding out the Ranger contingent on this list is Jairo Beras, the notorious 20 year old rightfielder who has drawn comps to Juan Gonzalez, but who is still figuring out how to convert his tools into skills. Beras, who is #12 on the BA list, ended the year with a .291/.332/.440 slash line, but showed improvement over the course of the season and has shown signs that the light came on this year.
The notable omission among Rangers prospects -- to me, anyway -- was Yohander Mendez. The 20 year old lefty only threw 66 innings, with the Rangers looking to be cautious with him because of his history of shoulder issues, but he struck out 74 batters on the year against just 15 walks, putting up a 2.71 ERA. Mendez already has a great feel for his changeup, by most reports, and only health and durability is keeping him from being a top prospect.