[Hello, LSB. It’s your best friend, Coylio. With the regular season coming to a close for all of the Rangers’ Minor League affiliates I wanted to keep yall updated with how the kids fared in 2017. I’ll be posting these sporadically over the next couple-few weeks. I plan on being pretty casual with it; they’re not going to be in any particular order, I’ll be grouping some together, and I’ll be mixing in the more serious prospects along with guys who are just fun to read and write, or ones whose seasons contained some intrigue. First off is a guy who deserves his own post, Rangers 19-year-old lefty Cole Ragans.]
Coming into the year, Ragans may have been a little underrated, even as the Rangers’ first round pick in 2016. Almost all pre-season rankings had him listed behind the older and more advanced Yohander Mendez and Ariel Jurado. And then in June when the shortened Low-A season was firing up and Mendez and Jurado had both been kind of meh so far at AA Frisco, it took around three weeks for Ragans to show that he was the best pitching prospect the Rangers have on the farm.
After a rough 2017 debut with Spokane on Opening Night, Cole didn’t allow an earned run across his next three starts and went into July sporting an ERA in the 2’s and a K/9 in the 13’s. The Rangers had already shown that they would be patient with Ragans, having him pitch only 7 innings as a Rookie baller last year, and by starting him out in Spokane this year when it was rumored before the season he’d skip Low-A and move right on to Hickory. The Rangers continued their slow roll by allowing six days rest between starts, and by keeping him on a leash of around 5 innings or mid-to-low-70s pitchcounts for the first month or so of the season. They let him build up into the mid-80s as the year went on, and then in his next to last start of the regular season they let him ball out and throw 97 pitches (although those 97 pitches only got him through 4.2 innings). Ragans showed durability while being surrounded on Rangers’ lists by guys like Matuella and Martin and Palumbo. So that alone was extremely refreshing.
As the season progressed Ragans’ numbers leveled off a bit (to the point where, you know, he wasn’t like the best pitcher the Northwest League has ever seen), but he continued to put up extremely promising numbers for a 19 year old in a league where he was over 2 years younger than the average player. He finished the regular season at 57 and a third innings with an ERA of 3.61 and an FIP of 3.80. He continued to strike out opposing batters at a remarkable clip, and ended up setting the Spokane Indians record for strikeouts in a season, beating out Derek Holland’s 83 from 10 seasons ago. He also made the end-of-year All-Star team alongside Indians OF Miguel Aparicio.
In terms of stuff, his somewhat self-perpetuated comparison to Cole Hamels has been widely discussed both on this site and on the baseball Twitterverse. They have the same basic repertoire, an eerily-similar motion, and, obviously, the same name. Ragans rocks the fastball/curve/change and they’re all decent or better and he often dominated Low-A competition with his stuff. The FB sits around 92-94 and is expected to increase in velo as he matures and adds muscle. His motion is very fluid and repeatable, I assume because he was watching Phillies games from a young age and practicing in front of a full-length mirror. And the term “advanced pitchability” is used a lot when discussing Ragans, and his potential to cruise through the lower levels is starting to come to fruition. He has some control issues, not at all uncommon with such a young pitcher, and they were on display with his BB/9 in the 5’s. But overall Cole’s “debut” season is a unanimous success. He’s slated to start Game 2 of Spokane’s first round series of the NWL playoffs tonight in Vancouver.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers do with him next year. There’s been much talk about how the Rangers have been handling their young pitchers this year, but we’ll see if their patience holds up now that they have some pretty shiny toys to play with at the lower levels, especially ones like Ragans who could probably hold up if he were to, say, skip Hickory and the A-Ball level and start 2018 as a High-A Wood Duck.
To close things out here’s some vid that Tepid P. caught of Ragans warming up in the backfields in Surprise. And here’s video of a Cole Hamels simulated game, if you’re interested in a side-by-side.
Thanks for reading. Look for more in this series of prospect reviews that I couldn’t come up with a clever name for.