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2017 Minor League Rotation Projections

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A look at the possible starting rotations for the Rangers’ Minor League affiliates.

MLB: Spring Training-Texas Rangers at Cincinnati Reds
Chi Chi Gonzalez
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Hello again, LSB. It’s your old pal Coylio. Today I’ll be taking you through some 2017 rotation possibilities for the Rangers’ farm. First, a disclaimer: these are very loose projections. As you know the minor league ladder can be fairly capricious depending on health, talent, pedigree, performance, and a hundred other factors, and if one guy gets hurt or struggles it can domino effect all the way down the system. Some of these projections are where the youngster will start out the year, some are where they could end up if things go well for them or poorly for others. Without further ado let’s get into it, starting with the AAA affiliate in Round Rock.

Round Rock Express

  • Nick Martinez
  • Chi Chi Gonzalez
  • Yohander Mendez
  • Connor Sadzeck
  • Dillon Gee/Mike Hauschild/Adrian Sampson/Tyler Wagner

The Express will be throwing out a who’s-who of possible 5th starters/swingmen for the big league team, and I imagine the four or five guys who lose out on it will be relegated back down. You know Nick Martinez, he’ll most likely be up and down between Round Rock and Arlington all year depending upon the needs of the big league club, as he has for the last two seasons. You know 2013 first-rounder Chi Chi Gonzalez as well; he only pitched 10 innings in the majors last year, and he was not very good. He wasn’t very good in Round Rock either, and the reasons have been widely reported. He only just turned 25, though, and will spend 2017 working on missing bats and finding that slider. Yohander Mendez positively flew through the system last season, culminating with two relief appearances with the Rangers towards the end of the year. This season the lefty (and Rangers’ #2 prospect) will hopefully get as many innings as possible and buildup his stamina so as to hold up against the workload of a major league starting pitcher.

Connor Sadzeck is primed to debut in 2017, whether it will be as a starter or as a reliever is the question. I would guess that it’s as a reliever and they unleash the arm, allowing us to see some triple-digit (and possibly erratic) fastballs from the 25-year-old. UTA’s own Dillon Gee will also compete for a spot with the Rangers after being Tyson Ross’s TOS buddy and signing a minor league deal. Mike Hauschild is an interesting name, one who Jon Sickels listed as the #17 prospect in the system, but I wouldn’t get too attached. The 26-year-old is a Rule 5 pick who is highly unlikely to stay on the ML roster all year. Adrian Sampson and Tyler Wagner both appear to be stand-up gentleman and productive members of society.

Frisco Roughriders

  • Ariel Jurado
  • David Ledbetter
  • Adam Quintana
  • Reed Garrett
  • James Dykstra/Austin Bibens-Dirkx

This is the calm before the storm for the Roughriders’ rotation, which I’ll be getting to in a bit. As it stands, from this bunch, only Ariel Jurado is considered a legit ML prospect. Ariel had a good showing in 2016, putting up strong numbers in High Desert and similar numbers after being bumped up to Frisco in July. The Panamanian Devil has a fastball that induces a lot of ground balls, and will work to improve the breaking stuff in 2017. Meanwhile the SP edition of the Ledbetters had a decent 2016, and will join twin brother and RP Ryan, who has been pitching out of the Riders’ pen since June of last year. Adam Quintana and Reed Garrett are two sides of the same coin, both not offering much in the way of prospect stock but both maybe possibly one day providing ML depth, if you squint hard enough. James Dykstra is of no relation Lenny and that’s about all I have on him. Austin Bibens-Dirkx is a 31-year-old filler guy most notable for that weird ‘x’ at the end of his name.

Down East Wood Ducks

  • Brett Martin
  • Joe Palumbo
  • Pedro Payano
  • Tyler Davis
  • Collin Wiles


The Wood Ducks (a name that, I’ve decided, I really like) will have an extremely intriguing rotation to start the year, with four of the guys listed likely to end up in Frisco at some point this year, and maybe sooner than later. Brett Martin will look to stay healthy and attempt to build on his “everything clicked” moment from last year, a 7 inning, no-hit, 15 strikeout performance in his last start of the season. It’s very possible he starts the year in Frisco. Joe Palumbo and Pedro Payano are both 22 and were both stellar last year for Hickory. Palumbo actually worked as a reliever with the Crawdads for most of last season before being converted in late June, and in his 7 starts opposing hitters posted a .577 OPS against him. Payano put up similar numbers in 74 innings, led by a nasty changeup, and could very well be the Joe Palumbo of 2017. He could return to Hickory to start the year, but after two highly successful campaigns with the ‘Dads it doesn’t seem he has much left to prove there. Collin Wiles is another one who might start the year at AA. The former first rounder appeared to have found something in 2015 when he put up an ERA under 3 for Hickory, but then he went to High Desert in 2016 and his HR/9 spiked to 1.3 from around 0.5 for his career. Hopefully it was mostly a desert thing, and he can find quick success Down East and move on up. That leaves Tyler Davis, who takes the mound every game wearing shoes with live goldfish in the heels.

Hickory Crawdads

  • Wes Benjamin
  • Jonathan Hernandez
  • Luke Lanphere

Once the shoe falls with a few of the Down East guys and they move on to greener pastures in Frisco it’s going to be these young’uns that fill in for them. They all lie somewhere on the spectrum of “yeah he could be something someday” to “yeah he’s a dude.” Wes Benjamin is a lefty the Rangers took in the 5th round of 2014 who put up sneaky-good numbers in what was basically his first year as a pro after undergoing Tommy John shortly before being drafted. He could be a back-end starter in a few years. Johnathan Hernandez is someone who has garnered a bit of national attention as a lower-ranked guy on some Rangers prospect lists the last couple years after posting a 0.0 HR/9 in 45 innings in 2015. He wasn’t as good but was still serviceable with the Crawdads in ’16, and it’s important to remember that he cannot yet legally purchase a beer. He could swing back through High-A ball to start the season before the org. takes a look at where they stand.

Luke Lanphere is a 21-year-old who split time between Spokane and Hickory last year and will look to resume his tradition of putting up mid-3s ERAs while spending more time with the Crawdads. After Lanphere it’s an absolute hodge-podge of possible youngsters who could fill up the last spot or two, depending on who’s healthy and who looks good in camp. The possibilities include but are not limited to Jake Lemoine, Michael Matuella, Coles Ragans and Wiper, Demarcus Evans, Nick Gardewine, maybe even Alex Speas if they think he’s ready. The point of contention for most of these guys, but especially the first two, will be health and consistency.

Thanks for reading. As always, I’m happy to contribute to the LSB community and I, of course, am getting more and more amped for the season to begin.

I’m gonna close out on a random note and tell you all that I really, really miss Cody Buckel. Thank you for your time and have a pleasant baseball.