The story remains the same for the Texas Rangers organization for as long as I can remember. For whatever likely confluence of reasons, the Rangers have been largely inept at developing homegrown pitching. We could probably cherry pick a couple of nice homegrown pitchers over the years, like maybe a Derek Holland or C.J. Wilson off the top of my head. Edinson Volquez was used to get Josh Hamilton about a decade ago. After that, I’m drawing blanks. And I’m trying to recall from my 22 years of baseball fandom. Meanwhile, Texas has equally as long done a fantastic job in procuring and developing high end offensive talent.
Unfortunately, things don’t seem to change, do they. Just look at the MLB roster.
First the pitching. Cole Hamels is in the twilight of his career at 34 years old and with diminished velocity compared to his Phillies heyday. After the unquestioned ace of the staff is more aging soft-tossers who the Rangers hope can work to piece together a competitive rotation. Doug Fister, 34, and Bartolo Colon, 44, figure to be in the rotation year long, as do Matt Moore and Mike Minor, two former top prospects nearing age 30, who have struggled with consistency and arm troubles throughout their career. And when injury and poor performance inevitably hit this year? There is scarily little MLB-ready depth down on the farm in the pitching arena.
Meanwhile, while Texas will have a very difficult time competing with such a thin pitching staff this year, the lineup still has numerous bright spots. Incredibly, Adrian Beltre turns 39 in a few days, and continues to hit at an elite level. The future hall-of-famer has dealt with numerous hamstring injuries in the last couple of seasons and at this point, you have to just enjoy and marvel at what he’s doing for as long as he can do it. But counting on him as a future asset is out of consideration. Elvis Andrus has enjoyed a mid-career renaissance, and is somehow not yet 30 years old. Throw in budding three-true-outcomes slugger Joey Gallo, the ready-to-break out Nomar Mazara, and still toolsy, but holes-in-his-game Rougned Odor, all 24 years old or younger and under long-term control, and you still have a nice core of everyday players. I’ll throw DH/LF Willie Calhoun into that core as well, as the potential 60 hit/60 power bat is ready to make himself a household name this year. While speedsters Delino Deshields Jr. and Carlos Tocci, will provide solid outfield depth this year, and Jurickson Profar will strive to reclaim his status as a good baseball players before his star fades into oblivion, Robinson Chirinos provides a solid option at catcher. What Texas shows in talent and depth on offense at the major league level, they also boast intriguing amounts of thos same traits down on the farm.
Minor League Talent
While most of the high-end talent in the Texas system are still teenagers, they continue to amass an impressive and continuous stream of it, sourced both through the domestic amateur draft and through international free agent signings. Case in point, the Rangers boast a couple of very toolsy Latin American prospects, Juan Pablo Martinez out of Cuba in 2018, and Leodys Taveras out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. While Martinez has not played stateside yet, he boasts plus speed and potential to stay in center field, and a polished hit tool. Taveras, meanwhile, held his own at only 18 years old in the South Atlantic League, showing off plus speed, growing power, good approach for his age, and a likely future in centerfield. Through the draft, the Rangers have been stockpiling premium athletes as well, nabbing Bubba Thompson, 19, out of the prep ranks with their 1st round pick in the 2017 draft. Thompson boasts plus speed and athleticism, and potential to hit for power, will need time to develop as he was a multi-sport athlete in high school. Another name being given helium is outfielder Pedro Gonzalez, 20, whom the Rangers received back last summer from the Rockies for Jonathan Lucroy. Like Gonzalez, 2017 1st round pick shortstop Chris Seise, boasts impressive raw power but needs to refine his approach in order to for enough of the raw pop to play. Another interesting up the middle bat that shows good skills on both sides of the ball is 2017 3rd rounder Matt Whatley, who the Rangers drafted out of Oral Roberts University. Whatley showed better than anticipated power in his first taste of pro ball last summer, and impressed with his defensive work behind the dish as well. Ronald Guzman, signed out of the DR in 2011, is nearly ready to move Joey Gallo off of first base, though as the polar opposite in skills. Guzman will hit for average and take his free passes, but may not profile for prototypical firstbase power. But the hit tool might be strong enough to justify his spot in the order everyday. While the hitting pipeline remains strong, there are some arms of note down on the farm as well.
Hans Crouse, 19, is an interesting 2017 2nd round pick out high school. Boasting an upper 90’s heater, plus slider, and dominant pro debut last summer, Crouse certainly put himself on the map. But scouts have him pegged him for the bullpen due to an unorthodox delivery and durability concerns. Cole Ragans, meanwhile was on the fast track to start at the MLB level with a plus changeup, potentially double plus command, and solid minor league performance. But Ragans sustained a UCL tear in his left elbow (he is indeed a southpaw) this spring and will not be seen again until 2019. Ditto for rising 6’7 2016 6th round pick Kyle Cody, who also profiled as a solid mid-rotation starter. Yohander Mendez has lost some prospect luster, but may still be able to pitch at the back end of an MLB rotation.
So as much as there is to like on the offensive side of the ball, due to the state of the pitching system-wide, the Texas Rangers come in at #21 in our ranking of the 30 MLB organizations.