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Lulu, Yohander, and Evan Van Hoosier

The Rangers decided the 80 grade names were ready for AA.

Frisco is a pretty exciting place to be right now if you enjoy watching young pitchers with TORP ceilings. With the addition of Luis Ortiz and Yohander Mendez, the 2016 Frisco Roughriders have one of the best rotations in AA. Evan Van Hoosier is a surprisingly interesting addition as well. Van Hoosier was suspended 50 games, and he's returned with a pretty swing and a good approach at the plate. Evan is off to a pretty hot start and has the potential to turn himself into a pretty good MLB player.

I've had the opportunity to watch these guys and all three are obviously different from the majority of AA players. With Yohander and Ortiz you hang on every pitch because both have the potential to make even the best of hitters look like a slumping backup catcher. With Evan Van Hoosier you pay a bit more attention to the at bats, not necessarily because he is uniquely gifted or a premium athlete, but because he has a very advanced hitting approach and a quick stroke that he can use to put the ball anywhere on the field. So without any more delay, here are my observations of the new kids in Frisco.

Luis Ortiz -€” RHP

Lulu's listing says he's 6'3" 230 pounds, but let's only say this once; Luis Ortiz is 240 pounds of muscle, bones, and a bit of something else. Regardless of that fact, Ortiz is a very good athlete. The 30th overall pick in the 2014 draft controls his motion to the plate well and his motion seems mechanically sound. Ortiz was projected as a guy who had a future role of a MORP, but then decided he could throw 96 miles per hour fairly regularly and the MORP projection became a TORP ceiling projection. As it stands, Luis Ortiz might have the highest ceiling of any of our starter prospects, including Dillon Tate.

It looks like Ortiz throws a 4-seamer that blurs in there at 94-96. On Monday, Luis also threw one pitch that hit 98 on multiple scout guns. His Fastball is fantastic and he commands it well and it will play well anywhere any time. Lulu's big junk offering is an 86 MPH slider that breaks late and breaks hard. 4/6 of his strike outs came on the slider and he probably would have had more, but he didn't use it in situations where he could have. Ortiz's changeup is probably average as it tends to be a bit flat, but he uses it well and it looks like a fastball out of the hand. He likes to drop it in for a first pitch strike sometimes and it really messes with the hitter's timing. Lulu throws a tight spinning curve, but he doesn't seem to have a great feel for it yet. He left it up to hitters multiple times and he was lucky that they all stayed in the park. It has the potential to be a solid pitch once he gets the command down.

Ortiz has some problems to fix though. He stays around the zone a lot, which isn't necessarily a good thing because his command of the zone is a bit of a problem. He threw a lot of middle/middle pitches on Monday that were missed because he was pitching against one of the worst AA teams in the history of AA. He's going to learn somehow that he can't leave flat changeups in the middle of the plate to good hitters. Once Lulu refines his command and game strategy his stuff will play nicely. Lulu is a bit ahead of Yohander in terms of development of his secondary pitches so his ETA could be as early as the middle of 2017. Lulu's likely future role is probably a MORP, but the potential to be a #1 starter on a first division team is there and when you watch him pitch, you start to believe.

Yohander Mendez -€” LHP

Yohander is a 6'5" 200 pound LHP that the Rangers signed out of Venezuela 5 years ago. He's worked his way to AA over the course of 4 years and sports a career 8.9 K/9 to go along with a 2.66 ERA in the minors. Mendez pitched his first game in AA on Saturday and there is some serious talent in that left arm.

Mendez doesn't have what you would call an overpowering fastball; he sits 89-92 although it's possible he adds a tiny bit of velocity over the few years. His fastball dances though, it tends to run in on lefties and he knows how to break it back over the plate to get a strike on the inside corner to righties. His fastball will play up a bit due to the movement and if he can improve his command it could be deadly. Yohander's changeup is his money off-speed pitch at the moment, which he throws around 83 MPH. His arm speed is similar to the fastball arm speed and he can locate the pitch to hit corners or bury it low for a swinging strike. He generates quite a bit of swing and miss with the changeup low. Yohander mixes in a curveball, but it's probably never going to be an amazing pitch. It's a slow loopy curveball that will play up if using sparingly though; akin to how Darvish uses his to drop in a surprise strike from time to time. The slider that Mendez is working on is the pitch that he needs in order to see a great deal of success in the MLB. Right now the slider is pretty inconsistent; he will throw a flat hanging slider one pitch, and then throw an 84 MPH sweeping slider that lefties cannot get close to. If he can get to the point where he can find consistency and throw that dirty slider every time, he's going to be something very special.

Right now Yohander is just great where he's at as a 21 year old getting a shot in AA. Mendez flashes some great stuff, but he needs to work on mechanical consistency and command. He will most likely finish out the season in AA, but there's a chance he will get a start or two in 2017 if everything goes perfectly. Otherwise there is a solid chance he will be fighting for a rotation spot by 2018 and doing his damnedest to fulfill his calling as an MLB starter.

Evan Van Hoosier -€” 2B, LF, CF

Evan Van Hoosier is the only person on the Roughriders who has a name as cool as Yohander Mendez. Van Hoosier is 22 years old and 5'11 185 pounds so he isn't exactly a physical specimen, but he is an obviously talented athlete. Drafted out of college in 2013, Evan quickly started to show that his bat is real. Unfortunately he got caught taking an illegal substance and was suspended for the first 50 games of 2016. Van Hoosier is back now and he's showing why we should care about that.

Van Hoosier has mostly played second base, left field, and center field where his athleticism plays well and his fringy arm doesn't hurt him too much. Van Hoosier will likely see most of his reps going forward at 2B, but it's possible that he sees quite a few reps in LF as well. Evan has quick reactions and good range for his size and he should be a solid defender at either of those positions. Van Hoosiers real value will be with the bat and there's a good chance his bat will carry him onward. He has a very smart approach to each at bat and doesn't seem to get fooled very often. Evan's got a quick stroke to go along with solid bat speed which gives him surprising power to both gaps. I haven't witnessed an EVH dinger yet, but his history says that they will come. Van Hoosier is not a burner on the base paths, but his good instincts will play well on the bases and he will likely swipe a bag here and there.

Evan Van Hoosier's path to the big leagues is fairly simple and he is a lower risk kinda player. As long as he hits and continues to play a solid 2nd base, he will eventually get a shot somewhere on some team to be a big leaguer. The remainder of 2016 is going to be important for him and if he plays at a high enough level we could see Van Hoosier in the bigs within a year or two. A realistic role for Van Hoosier is a starter on a second division team, but I'm a big believer that good hitters with good swings often find themselves being better than prospect evaluators believe them to be.