Outfielder Eric Jenkins has been promoted from low-A Hickory to high-A Down East, which our friend Tepid noted on Twitter. Tepid also points out that catcher Melvin Novoa has been promoted from Hickory to Down East.
Jenkins, 21, was the Texas Rangers second round pick in the star-crossed 2015 draft. Jenkins is fast and is considered a quality defensive center fielder, but he’s struggled to hit as a professional, putting up a 609 OPS in 2016 in Hickory and a 553 OPS in 2017. He appears to be taking a step forward this season, however, as he has a .291/.339/.447 slash line in 113 plate appearances for Hickory, with 16 steals in 19 attempts.
This is reminiscent of the Rangers promotion of Ronald Guzman from Hickory to their then-high-A affiliate, High Desert, in 2015. Guzman, like Jenkins, was coming off two disappointing seasons at Hickory, and started the season in low-A for his third go-round. He showed improvement in 2015, however, and after just 25 games was promoted. Jenkins still has work to do to climb up the prospect ranks, but this is a good start for him, and hopefully he’ll take advantage of the promotion.
Also being promoted, per Tepid, is catcher Melvin Novoa. Novoa put up a .281/.338/.467 slash line in Spokane in 2017, and is slashing .322/.378/.478 in Hickory this year. The 22 year old out of Nicaragua has played more DH than catcher, as the Crawdads have had a three man rotation behind the plate of Novoa, Sam Huff and Yohel Pozo. With Down East, he will presumably share catching duties with 2017 3rd rounder Matt Whatley.
UPDATE — We now know who is replacing Novoa and Jenkins in Hickory. 2017 first round pick Bubba Thompson and 2017 eighth round pick Tyreque Reed are being sent to Hickory from extended spring training. This is pretty exciting news.
Thompson, the 26th overall pick of the 2017 draft, is a true centerfielder and an elite athlete. His plate appearances in the complex league after being drafted were somewhat limited because of some knee issues, but he ended up putting up a .257/.317/.434 slash line in 123 plate appearances. Thompson turns 20 in June, and so it makes sense for him to get a shot at low-A, rather than hold him back until Spokane starts play, though if he struggles a lot in the Sally League he could end up heading to Spokane later this summer.
Reed, who turns 21 in June, is an absolute unit, listed at 6’2” and 260 lbs. He’s a righthanded hitter who is a bat-only guy, someone who will have to mash to make it to the majors as a first baseman or a DH. He looks like he has a chance to do that, though -- he put up a .350/.455/.617 slash line in the complex league last year. He’s going to strike out a lot, walk a fair amount, and hit some balls a real long way.
Both of these guys are going to be fun to follow as they get their feet wet in full season play. Expect growing pains, but also watch to see how they respond and adjust as the season goes on.