Ranking the Texas Rangers' Top 10 Prospects After the 2013 Minor League Season
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The Texas Rangers had several minor league players post strong seasons for them this past year. At least one player from every level made some kind of contribution to their team this season that should catch the attention of the big league club heading into next year.
With so many good performances, here is a list of the top 10 performances from Texas' minor leaguers in the 2013 season.
All stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, MiLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, DallasNews.com, LifestyleFrisco.com and BaseballAmerica.com
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No. 10: 2B Ryan Rua, Single-a Hickory/Double-A Frisco
2013 Stats: .247/.347/.872, 26 2B, 3 3B, 32 HR, 91 RBI, 115 K, 14 SB
Second baseman Ryan Rua didn't hit for much of an average this past season, but his 32 homers was the second-highest total among all Texas minor leaguers. In addition to his home run power, Rua also drove in 91 runs, tied for the most in Texas' minor league organizations.
Rua did most of his damage with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads, combining with third baseman Joey Gallo to form one of the most powerful lineups in Single-A ball this season.
One thing about his game that Rua could improve on is his strikeouts. He struck out a total of 115 times in 127 games which would put him at around 147 strikeouts in a 162-game season in the majors.
In addition to his strikeout ratio, Rua could also improve on his defense. He posted a .968 fielding percentage this season at second base with the Crawdads, committing 14 errors in 88 games. Rua also spent some time at third base this year, where his fielding percentage didn't get any better.
As a third baseman, Rua committed 10 errors in 76 games, finishing with a dismal .868 fielding percentage at the hot corner.
He has a lot of potential as a hitter but will have to improve on his defense to become a more reliable option in the future. Look to see how Rua does in the Arizona Fall League to get a better idea of the progress he makes heading into spring training.
No. 9: SP Connor Sadzeck, Single-A Hickory
2013 Stats: 24 GS, 12-4, 2.25 ERA, 78 SO, 55 BB, .216 BAA
Connor Sadzeck is a good example of a pitcher who pitches to contact, and he does it very effectively. He averaged just 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings last year but still managed to hold opposing hitters to a .216 average.
Everything about Sadzeck's game was very good in 2013. His 12-4 record is another solid stat for a guy who pitches to contact. He averaged 3.5 walks per nine innings this year, totaling 55 walks over 132 innings pitched.
Even more impressive is his ability to prevent the long ball. Over his 24 starts, Sadzeck surrendered just four homers all season and has given up just six total homers in 39 career starts.
His phenomenal 2013 season should be more than enough to get him promoted to Double-A next year, perhaps even Triple-A if he makes a good impression in spring training.
No. 8: SP Nick Martinez, Single-A Myrtle Beach/Double-A Frisco
2013 Stats: 25 GS, 12-7, 2.50 ERA, 128 SO, 45 BB, .212 BAA
Nick Martinez spent most of his time with the advanced Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans before getting called up to Double-A Frisco late in the season. Martinez's promotion was well-deserved after his stellar performances with the Pelicans for most of the season.
During his time in Myrtle Beach, Martinez went 10-7 with a 2.87 ERA, striking out 105 batters over 119.1 innings pitched. Following his promotion to Double-A Frisco, Martinez only improved on his numbers with Myrtle Beach.
His time with Frisco has been brief, but Martinez continues to show dominating stuff. While in Single-A, opposing hitters hit .236 off the righty, but with the Frisco RoughRiders, opposing hitters struggled to the tune of a .117 batting average.
Martinez also lowered his ERA at the next level, posting a 1.13 ERA with the RoughRiders over five appearances, four of which were starts.
One of Martinez's most impressive appearances of the season actually came out of the bullpen. Martinez appeared out of the bullpen in relief of Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch who was making a rehab start with the RoughRiders on August 27.
Martinez allowed just one walk in his relief appearance and went on to pitch seven innings of no-hit baseball. He didn't surrender a run and struck out six batters in the process, earning a win over the Corpus Christi Hooks.
Look for Martinez to continue his climb through the Rangers' minor league system. A strong spring training could be enough for the 22-year-old pitcher to earn a place on the Triple-A roster at the start of the 2014 season.
No. 7: 3B Joey Gallo, Single-A Hickory
2013 Stats: .251/.338/.961, 23 2B, 5 3B, 40 HR, 88 RBI, 172 SO, 15 SB
No player in the Rangers' farm system hit more homers than third baseman Joey Gallo did this season. Gallo hit 38 bombs for the Single-A Hickory Crawdads, leading not just the Crawdads in homers but every player in the South Atlantic League.
Gallo is no stranger to the long ball, having hit 62 career home runs throughout various levels in the minors, and at 19 years old he already looks like a player who will make an impact in the majors one day. Unfortunately for Gallo, his stellar season was marred with a problem faced by many power hitters, the strikeout.
The stud third baseman struck out 165 times in 106 games this season, putting him on pace for 252 strikeouts in a 162-game season, 29 strikeouts higher than the single-season, major league record of 223. To put it lightly, Gallo must cut down on his strikeouts if he hopes to have a long career in the majors.
Like other players on this list, Gallo is also a guy who must improve his fielding if he hopes to have a shot as an everyday big leaguer. He played 105 games at third base this season, posting a fielding percentage of .923, recording 21 errors in 274 chances.
His power numbers are an indication that he has all the potential to become a household name in the majors one day. That being said, the Rangers' fifth-ranked prospect still has a lot of work to do before being promoted to the majors.
No. 6: OF Joey Butler, Triple-A Round Rock
Outfielder Joey Butler received a call to the Rangers this September when the rosters could be expanded to 40 men.
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2013 Minor League Stats: .291/.395/.831, 26 2B, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 119 SO, 69 BB
Outfielder Joey Butler may be one of the most major league ready hitters the Rangers have in their farm system right now. That point was proven when the Rangers elected to promote Butler to the major league club when the September rosters expanded to 40 men.
Butler hit .291 this season over 119 games with the Round Rock Express, and displayed everything needed to be successful at the major league level. His .395 on-base percentage is right on par with some of the top on-base percentages in the majors, and his .972 fielding percentage is good enough to make it at the next level.
He doesn't hit for much power, and he has never been one to drive in many runs, but that shouldn't diminish his value at the next level.
He's always had a knack for getting on base, and for a guy who has spent the last three seasons at Triple-A while posting an even .300 average, it's surprising he made his major league debut just last August.
If the Rangers make the playoffs, Butler likely won't be on the major league roster. At some point in the near future he should get a shot somewhere in the majors, whether it be with Texas or another team.
No. 5: SP Luke Jackson, Single-A Myrtle Beach/Double-A Frisco
Starting pitcher Luke Jackson bounced back from a tough 2012 season with a fantastic year in 2013.
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2013 Stats: 23 GS, 11-4, 2.04 ERA, 134 SO, 59 BB, .202 BAA
After a tough 2012 season in which Luke Jackson went 10-7 with a 4.65 ERA, Jackson bounced back to post his best minor league season to date in 2013.
Ranked as the ninth-best prospect in Texas' minor league system, Jackson did everything to prove that he has all the ability to turn into a solid major leaguer one day.
The 21-year-old prospect posted an 11-4 record this season with a 2.04 ERA and was another prospect who was promoted to Double-A Frisco in mid-August.
Jackson's call to Double-A Frisco came as no surprise, after the young righty went 9-4 with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He posted a 2.41 ERA with 104 strikeouts over the span while holding opposing hitters to a .216 average. As is the case with other prospects, Jackson improved on his Single-A numbers once he got promoted to Double-A.
He made only six appearances with the Frisco RoughRiders this season, four of which were starts, but a higher level of difficulty proved to be no match for him. During his time with the RoughRiders, Jackson went 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA, holding hitters to a .144 average while striking out 30 in 27 innings.
Heading into this season, Jackson had a career ERA of 5.02 to go with a 15-13 record, numbers that are far too high for a player of his caliber. Texas will likely give Jackson at least another full year in the minors before calling him up.
If this year's turnaround is any indication of what he could do in the majors, the Rangers could have a good pitcher on their hands for years to come.
No. 4: 2B Rougned Odor, Single-A Myrtle Beach/Double-A Frisco
Second baseman Rougned Odor has all the makings of a true catalyst at the next level.
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2013 Stats: .305/.365/.839, 41 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 91 SO, 32 SB
Rougned Odor has some high-quality speed to complement a bat that has some nice pop in it. Currently ranked as the third-best prospect in Texas' minor league system, his performance this year was good enough to earn the fourth best of all the Rangers' this year.
Odor dominated the Carolina League while with Single-A Myrtle Beach, hitting .305 with 33 doubles in 100 games. It's very likely that he would have led the Carolina League in doubles this season if he hadn't been promoted to Double-A Frisco in August.
Odor's biggest problem as it stands right now is his glove. The young second baseman has struggled mightily on defense, and this year was no exception. In a year in which he played the most games he ever has in a season (130), Odor made a total of 25 errors at second base, eight more than Chase Utley, who currently leads all second basemen in errors in the majors.
He makes a case to be promoted with his ability to score runs, and drive runs in, but his errors are far too high to be acceptable at the next level. He'll have to drastically improve on his defense before receiving a call to the majors.
Another year or two in the minors should be enough time for him to work on his mechanics in the field.
No. 3: LF Nick Williams, Single-A Hickory
2013 Stats: .297/.337/.879, 19 2B, 12 3B, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 110 SO, 8 SB
Williams didn't steal many bases, swiping only eight bags in 13 tries, but for a guy who hit for extra bases almost 50 percent of the time, the opportunities weren't really there. Williams also didn't walk much this season, drawing a free pass only 15 times this year.
He played 81 games in the outfield for the Hickory Crawdads this season, recording just six outfield assists to go with six errors, good for a .942 fielding percentage.
At 19 years old, Williams closely compares to Orioles star outfielder Adam Jones. Like Williams, Jones also doesn't walk much and hits for around a .300 average every season while still driving the ball hard.
Williams could easily be a rising star within the next few years, and this season certainly boosted his stock within the organization.
No. 2: RP Wilmer Font, Double-A Frisco/Triple-A Round Rock
Wilmer Font was hands down the best reliever in the Rangers' minor league system this season.
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2013 Minor League Stats: 42 G, 2-2, 1.04 ERA, 14 SV, 71 SO, 34 BB, .127 BAA
The Rangers had plenty of good relievers in the minor league system this season, but none of them stood out quite like Wilmer Font. The 23-year-old righty was absolutely phenomenal out of the bullpen this season and has received a few calls to the majors due to his success.
Font has appeared in 42 minor league games this season and has proceeded to baffle hitters just about every time he toes the rubber.
Pitching to the tune of a 1.04 ERA during his time in the minors, Font has recorded 14 saves while holding hitters to a .127 average. He's no stranger to the strikeout either, striking out 71 batters in just 52 innings of work, good for an average of 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Font has the potential to dominate at the next level once he receives a permanent spot in Texas' bullpen, but for now we'll just be in awe of his fantastic minor league numbers. Expect him to find a permanent spot in the majors very soon.
No. 1: 1B Brett Nicholas, Double-A Frisco
2013 Stats: .289/.357/.831, 25 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, 91 RBI, 123 SO
First baseman Brett Nicholas has been one of my favorite players to follow in Texas' minor league system this season and did more than enough to earn the top spot on this list.
Despite not even being listed on the Rangers' top 20 prospects list, Nicholas made a case to be considered one of the best prospects Texas has right now.
Nicholas posted career highs in every major offensive category this season and led his team in all those categories. Of every player on the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders with a minimum of 300 at-bats, Nicholas led the team in average (.289), homers (21) and RBI (91). On top of those numbers, Nicholas also led the team with 71 runs scored and 46 walks.
In addition to his drastic improvement on offense, Nicholas also improved his stats in the field. In 106 games at first base in 2012, Nicholas committed 11 errors in 1,003 chances. This season, in 117 games, he posted just seven errors in 1,077 chances, good for a .994 fielding percentage, slightly higher than his lifetime fielding percentage of .992.
I incorrectly predicted that Nicholas would likely get a call to the majors in September as a part of the 40-man roster, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a shot in the majors next season. He may even have an outside shot to make the Opening Day roster if he can impress the coaches enough in spring training.