The Texas Rangers' full season minor league affiliates start play today, and all four teams have interesting pitchers taking the mound for them tonight.
Round Rock is in Iowa facing off against the Iowa Cubs, with Nick Martinez getting the ball for the Express. Martinez, of course, has spent much of the last couple of seasons in the majors, and is a prime candidate for a callup should the Rangers need a starting pitcher early in the year. First pitch will be at 3:08 p.m. Central.
Frisco is also opening on the road, against the Royals' AA affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. 22 year old lefty Frank Lopez is starting for the Roughriders -- he started the 2015 season in high-A High Desert, and earned a promotion fairly early in the year to Frisco, where he scuffled a bit. Lopez is looking to establish himself as a legitimate starting rotation option after being exposed to the Rule 5 draft last year. 6:25 p.m. Central is first pitch.
High Desert opens at home tonight, having staved off being locked out, and will have Yohander Mendez going. Mendez, 21, was one of the high-priced signees from the team's 2011 J-2 class, but has struggled with shoulder issues until last season, when he put up a 2.44 ERA in 21 games for low-A Hickory. Mendez is already on the 40 man roster, and if he can stay healthy, he could shoot up the prospect rankings. 8:35 p.m. Central is the start time.
Finally, the low-A Hickory Crawdads will have lefty Brett Martin take the mound. Martin, who turns 21 later this month, has been i.d.'d by quite a few folks as someone to watch this year, and is seen as a potential breakout candidate. He's repeating low-A, though that likely has more to do with numbers and available rotation slots in High Desert (as well as the unusual situation there) rather than Martin being seen as being not ready for high-A ball. Hickory faces off against Kannaspolis at 6:05 p.m. Central.