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Spokane Indians Season Preview

A look at the Rangers short-season affiliate prior to their Thursday opener


Greetings, LSB. It’s your old pal Coylio coming to you from the center of Happyfun Ranger Land, where the beer flows like wine and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. The Rangers have rattled off 4 in a row against two of the best teams in baseball, they’ve got a few shiny new toys to play with (and will be getting more today and tomorrow), and they’re about to get some good looks (and in many cases, first looks) at some shiny new toys they’ve added to the haul over the past couple years. I’m speaking of the start of short-season A-ball, with Rangers’ affiliate Spokane Indians set to get their season going on Thursday night.

Here’s a look at the full roster. There are players on their team born in 1999. You’re old.

Obviously the two biggest names to jump out at you are the Rangers’ first two picks from the 2016 draft, Cole Ragans and Alex Speas. The Indians have already named Cole Ragans their Opening Day starter. Before the full-season teams debuted there was talk that the Rangers would challenge Ragans a bit and skip him straight ahead to low-A Hickory, but as has been discussed before the Rangers took an across-the-board approach of patience and cautiousness with almost every one of their minor-league arms. As such Cole has spent the last couple months at extended spring training in Surprise, pitching on the backfields and workin’ on stuff. As usual I’ll mention his apparent likeness for Cole Hamels in both looks and game, the lefty Ragans with a tall, lean body and an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball sits in the low 90s with great command and he throws a potentially above-average curveball along with a changeup that looks like it’ll get the job done when needed. I tend to think of him having more upside than others do, mostly because he seems to be a real heady kid who sounds like he already knows what he’s doing on the mound.

There’s even more upside with 2nd-rounder Alex Speas, but unlike Ragans, who could fly through the lower levels over the next 15 or so months, Speas is unpolished and still a long ways off. Also tall, also lean, Speas throws a fastball in the mid-90s but can touch the higher stuff and has potential to crank that up on a more consistent basis as he adds muscle and weight to his extremely projectable frame. Naturally, as with the majority of so-called “raw” pitchers, there are some command issues, and Speas was said to have been a potential first rounder if he was a better strike-thrower. There could also be some mechanical issues, I’ve read that his delivery goes a little wonky in later innings and that it’s not repeatable enough. It will be very interesting to see what he looks like on the mound when the season starts and to see if there have been any significant changes, either physically or mechanically, since he was drafted a year ago. Alex is one who I’ve liked since the night he was drafted when, in his MLB Network player profile, he listed Jose Bautista as the MLB player he’d most like to strike out.

The Indians will sport some other interesting arms as well, like Tai Tiedemann, who made the switch from outfielder to pitcher in college before being drafted by the Rangers in the 8th round last year. He’s still learning how to pitch but the Rangers believe in the 6’6” righty who just celebrated his 21st birthday. A name I really like is Reiver Sanmartin. And by that I mean I really like his name. Sanmartin, also 21, has spent the last 2 seasons with the Rangers’ DSL teams and has put up some decent numbers in around 70 innings. I imagine Reiver had a fun time over the winter participating in the World Baseball Classic as an alternate for Colombia, though he never got into a game. The Indians will also have big righty Tyler Phillips, who has pitched with Hickory in 2017 but has been having a pretty rough go of it. He had a rough go in Spokane in his first stint with them in 2016 as well, so hopefully the 2015 draftee can find some success to build upon with the short-season guys. He’s only 19, so it’s not like he’s behind, anyway.

The offensive side of things has just as much to offer, with the Rangers’ 3rd and 4th picks from last year (that’s each of the first four, for those playing along at home) joining the team as well. They picked Kole Enright in the 3rd, a HS third-baseman who had his scholarship to Coastal Carolina revoked after the coach who recruited him left. But at least he knows how to properly use the word “humbling.” Enright is an athletic switch-hitter who shows a good amount of pop and a very pleasing approach for such a youngster. In 42 games with the rookie league team last year he slashed .313/.378/.420. He’s got a chance to be a real nice hitter. Now, I’d been reading tidbits about how he’s athletic enough for third base and has the arm for it as well, but the Spokane roster lists him as a second baseman. So. Let’s just throw the generic IF tag under his position for the time being.

Charles Leblanc was the Rangers’ Canadian 4th rounder, hailing from Laval, Quebec. He was a sophomore-eligible draftee who won the ACC batting title for Pitt while hitting .409 in his last year there, then he was immediately shipped to Spokane where he continued to hit, putting up a .766 OPS in his first year of pro ball. He was drafted as a shortstop but is unlikely to stick there, so perhaps he’ll slide to the hot corner while Enright mans second.

Miguel Aparicio was signed in the same international class as Leody Taveras and has played 25 games for Hickory this season, but, like Tyler Phillips, has struggled and is being relegated to a more age-appropriate level. One of the guys born in ’99, he’s 18 years and 88 days old, so just the fact that he’s already getting time in low-A is impressive. He popped up on some Rangers pre-season Top 30 lists before this season, but he’s got a long road ahead.

Finally, that brings us to Curtis Terry, who arguably carries with him the most intrigue on the roster, because dingers. Terry is listed at 6’2”, 255 pounds, and he’s about as straight-up of a first baseman as a prospect can be. With a thick trunk and a big swing, he’s got a heaping helping of raw power but it hasn’t really heaped itself yet, Terry struggling to put it into game action. Only 6 homers in 84 pro games for the 20-year-old, though he did slug .525 with the Arizona league team last year thanks to 17 doubles in 39 games. If the power starts to realize then he could become a real fun prospect to watch real quickly.

The roster will have some gaps filled in shortly with the arrival of some fresh-faced 2017 draft picks, presumably the slightly more seasoned college picks. So far, though, it looks like it could be a bright spot on what has otherwise been a pretty dreary year for the Rangers’ farm, and the Indians sport a meaty part of what could be the top end of the Rangers prospect lists here in the next 2-4 years.

Should be fun. Thanks for reading. Here’s Nick Swisher vs. Vicente Padilla.