In a bit of news that came out earlier this week, relief pitcher Marc Church has been promoted from high-A Hickory to AA Frisco. The 21 year old righthander will likely make his AA debut at some point in the next day or two.
Church burst on the scene with an impressive 2021 campaign for the Down East Wood Ducks. Church joined the team in mid-May and put up very impressive numbers, striking out 49 of 114 batters he faced in 27.1 innings over 19 games while walking just eight hitters. Church’s 2021 ERA of 4.28 is a bit misleading — he had a 2.30 ERA and a .178/.232/.337 opposing slash line allowed before his final appearance of the year, when he allowed six runs while not retiring a batter. After that outing in mid-August, he was shut down for the year.
Promoted to Hickory to start 2022, Church has continued to miss bats at an excellent rate, fanning 57 of 135 batters faced this year while walking seven hitters in 34 innings. Church has been a bit homer-prone — he has allowed seven home runs on the year — but the 2.91 ERA is pretty nice nonetheless.
Church was an 18th round pick of the Rangers in the 2019 draft out of North Atlanta High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Church didn’t pitch until his senior year of high school, but showed enough that the Rangers signed him for a $300,000 bonus — well above the $125,000 maximum that you can pay a post-10th round pick without dipping into your bonus pool.
2019 was the year the Rangers anticipated inking prep pitcher Brandon Sproat, their 7th round pick, to a well-above-slot deal. When Sproat opted to go to college instead, the Rangers had extra bonus pool money to spend, and ended up giving big bonuses to several prep pitchers selected in the later rounds, with Church, Michael Brewer, Nick Lockhart and Gavin Collyer all getting bonuses in the mid-six-figures. I don’t know who in that group would have signed anyway, and who was able to be signed due to the extra bonus pool money that was earmarked for Sproat being available, so I don’t know if Church would have been a Ranger if Sproat had signed. Maybe, maybe not.
Church throws in the mid- to upper-90s and has an impressive slider to go with it. He’s someone to keep an eye out for if you’re at a Frisco game, and someone who has a good chance of pitching major league innings in the not too distant future.