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Spitballing 2021 minor league prospect assignments

Taking a way too early look at what the lineups, rotations and bullpens in the minors might look like in 2021

Not only are the bleachers filled with fans to watch the New Photo by Joe Costa/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

In discussion of the recent trade that sent three minor leaguers who had nominal experience above complex league ball to the Tampa Bay Rays for Nate Lowe, Jake Guenther and a player to be named later, one of the things I discussed as a possible factor in the Texas Rangers making this deal was the large number of players they have in the age and experience range of Osleivis Basabe, Alexander Ovalles and Heriberto Hernandez. MLB eliminated the short-season leagues, meaning that having players go to Spokane in the Northwest League would not be an option in 2021, which creates more of a logjam in terms of getting players playing time — and even if the Rangers did still have Spokane available, there would be tough decisions being made about who to send to full season ball and who to keep back in the complex league.

This got me thinking about who will be where in 2021 in the Rangers’ minor league system, particularly given the complications of there being no 2020 minor league season, prompted me to try to figure out where players will be for the coming minor league season for the four full season leagues, just for my own edification. And then once I did that, I figured, well, I might as well share my work with folks here, because why not.

I am going to preface this by saying this is simply the best guesses I can make at this time. I am probably going to be wrong about a number of players. There will be guys who are injured or traded or released or otherwise not available when the season starts, there are guys who I will simply flat get wrong in my guesses about where they are, and there are probably a few guys who I have simply forgotten or overlooked. So take all this with a grain of salt.

I will also say that part of what I’ve struggled with is figuring out whether players are going to move up to where we would expect them to have been in 2021 if 2020 had been a “normal” season, or if a player who spent 2019 in low-A will be going to high-A for 2021. It will most likely be some combination, of course,

So here is my current table:

Round Rock AAA Frisco AA Hickory High-A Down East Low-A
C Huff Pozo/Novoa Garcia/Whatley Florentino
1B Apostel Gunther Terry Harris
2B Yonny Dorow Foscue Moss
SS Tejeda Ornelas Seise Acuna
3B Jung Wendzel Chavez Barreto
LF Walker Enright Diosbel Smith
CF Chester Bubba Aparicio Carter
RF Adolis JP Martinez P. Gonzalez Aponte
DH Ibanez Biggers Strahm Easley/Maximo
SP Burke Bahr Winn Tejada
SP Palumbo King Alexy White
SP Hearn Phillips Henriquez Mendoza
SP Allard Latz Crouse Dotson
SP Cotton E. Martinez Bradford Serrano
SP Benjamin Arredondo Yerry Slaten
RP Barlow Matuella Javier
RP Speas Uvila D. Robert
RP Bush Engler Ragans
RP Evans Snyder Weems
RP Gatto K. Gonzalez Ozuna
RP Anderson
RP Ramos Lemoine

Some comments here...

Some of the pitchers in AAA could, obviously, be in the majors to start the year. Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo or Kolby Allard starting the season in the majors wouldn’t be at all surprising, for example.

Some of the position players I have in Round Rock to start the season could start the year in Frisco. The starting infield I have for the Express, for example, could end up being the starting infield for the Roughriders instead. The fact that AAA players will start the season in April and AA and lower players will start the season sometime in May would seem to make that a little less likely, but still, all four of the infielders, as well as Sam Huff, would seem to be potential candidates for Frisco. Andy Ibanez is listed as a DH just so he’s listed here, but would seem likely to be an infield starter if any of those guys start the year in AA.

The infield in Frisco is obviously going to be impacted by what happens in Round Rock. I could be overly aggressive here with Jonathan Ornelas, and he could be in high-A, with Chris Seise in AA. Or both Ornelas and Seise could start the year in Hickory, with Anderson Tejeda starting the season with Frisco. I would think Justin Foscue would start the year in high-A, with the hope he would get to Frisco by season’s end, but it isn’t out of the question he would start the year in AA, with, perhaps, Davis Wendzel going to high-A instead.

Jason Bahr finished 2019 at AA, and he could start the year with Round Rock — I have him in AA because of rotation spot considerations and the numbers game with the AAA rotation as much as anything else. Emerson Martinez and Edgar Arredondo Luis Ortiz are guys who are filling out the rotation, and if the Rangers decide they saw enough from, say, Hans Crouse or Cole Winn or A.J. Alexy or Yerry Rodriguez for them to start the year in Frisco, those guys would be bumped.

I’m guessing Bubba Thompson and J.P. Martinez are at the point where the team is going to send them to Frisco, but they could start the year at high-A instead.

Curtis Terry could possibly start the year in AA instead of Hickory. I have no idea where Diosbel Arias goes — he’s one of those guys whose position and affiliate placement likely depends more on where they need someone to fill a spot in the regular lineup than anything else. Miguel Aparicio and Pedro Gonzalez are guys who could end up in Frisco to start the year, but for now I have at high-A.

David Garcia hasn’t played full season ball yet, and its possible he splits time with Randy Florentino in low-A rather than starting the year in high-A.

Marcus Smith and Dustin Harris are in the low-A lineup because that seems to be the age-appropriate placement for them, though they obviously haven’t played in the Rangers system yet, having come over after the 2020 season as the players to be named later in the Mike Minor trade.

The infield at low-A is hard to figure out. The Baseball America write-up on Luisangel Acuna indicated the plan was for him to start the year at low-A, and also said Maximo Acosta was expected to start the year in the AZL, so I have Acuna at shortstop. Maximo could end up in the mix, though, as could Jayce Easley — I have them listed in the DH spot mainly to identify them as players who could start the year in Down East, or join Down East at some point this season. I have Keithron Moss and Derwin Barreto joining Acuna in the “skill” infield spots, but that’s obviously just a guess.

In the outfield, Angel Aponte performed in the AZL in 2019, so I have him at Down East to start the year. I also have Evan Carter starting the year in low-A. Where he goes to start 2021 will probably depend a lot on how he looks in spring training, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he starts in the AZL. That being said, given that he more than held his own in the Instructional League against older pitchers, a full season assignment would seem to make sense.

I want to once again offer my caveat that this is me making guesses. I started putting this together after the Nate Lowe trade because, as much as anything, I wanted to try to get a handle on who all was out there and how many guys there were for how many positions in full season ball.

If you think I overlooked anyone, or think that there are any guys changes I need to make, please say so in the comments.

UPDATE — I’ve added Fernery Ozuna, and have flip-flopped Curtis Terry and Jake Guenther.

UPDATE II — I’ve been informed Edgar Arredondo was released last summer, so I’ve replaced him with Luis Ortiz, who the Rangers signed to a minor league deal (without an invite to major league camp) this winter.