With the Rangers' season officially over, now is as good a time as any to start looking ahead to find out who some of their stars of the future could be. With several prospects in Texas' organization turning in strong seasons in 2013, any number of players could be the next superstar for the Rangers.
Here are three players who could become key pieces to Texas' success some time in the near future.
Catcher, Jorge Alfaro: Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Jorge Alfaro is the top prospect in Texas' minor league system and could be a perfect fit for them in a few seasons. The 20-year-old catcher spent the majority of 2013 with the Hickory Crawdads, the lower Single-A team in the Rangers' organization. He was called up just before the minor league season ended, playing three games with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
The starting job as Texas' catcher will eventually become Alfaro's to lose at this point. He finished last season with a .265 average and a .346 on-base percentage, both productive numbers when considering the position he plays. For comparison, when looking at this year's qualified catchers, Alfaro would rank as the fourth highest catcher in on-base percentage for last season.
In addition to his average and on-base percentage, Alfaro also belted 18 homers, had 61 RBI and drew 32 walks. His 122 strikeouts is a bit high, but he has time to cut down on those numbers before reaching the majors.
In the 82 games that Alfaro spent behind the plate, he posted a .982 fielding percentage and threw out 31 percent of base stealers. His success at throwing out runners attempting to steal on him just barely puts him outside of the top 10 among major league catchers this season in that category.
Texas signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year contract last season and could bring him back for 2014. It gives Alfaro another year to develop in the minors and prevents them from having to commit to anybody long term.
Third baseman, Joey Gallo: Single-A Hickory Crawdads
Joey Gallo is another player who won't be in the majors anytime soon, but he is poised to be an eventual starter for Texas. Gallo's 2013 performance was nothing short of dominating in many ways, but the 19-year-old third baseman has room for improvement.
Gallo looks like another prototypical power hitter when it comes down to it. He hit for a mediocre .251 average and struck out 172 times, but mashed 40 homers and drove in 88 runs in the process. In total, Gallo posted 103 hits last season, including 68 that went for extra bases. He even managed to swipe 15 bases while getting caught just once.
One area of Gallo's game that vastly needs improvement is his defense. He posted a low .923 fielding percentage last year, committing 21 errors, his highest yet in his two minor league seasons.
As it stands right now, the Rangers are set at third base, which bodes well for both Gallo and the organization as a whole. Adrian Beltre posted another phenomenal season this year and will be with the Rangers at least through 2015, with an option on his contract for 2016. Should Texas opt to get rid of Beltre after 2015, Gallo would likely fill the void left by him.
Gallo will undoubtedly bring high expectations into the majors whenever he gets called up. A few more years of development in the minors could help him live up to those expectations sooner than later.
Starting Pitcher, Luke Jackson: Double-A Frisco RoughRiders
Twenty-one-year-old Luke Jackson is ranked as the ninth overall prospect in Texas' minor league system, but is the second highest rated starting pitcher on the list. A strong spring training heading into the 2014 season could make Jackson a long shot at making the big league rotation on Opening Day.
The young righty posted an 11-4 record last season with a 2.04 ERA, spending time with the Single-A Pelicans and Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.
While with the Pelicans, he dominated to the tune of a 9-4 record with a 2.41 ERA. Jackson put in 101 innings of work in Single-A, posting 104 strikeouts with 47 walks. As if those numbers weren't impressive enough, Jackson went to Frisco and posted stellar numbers in his short time there.
Upon joining the RoughRiders, Jackson went 2-0 with a phenomenal 0.67 ERA over 27 innings pitched. It's a small sample size at this point, but an impressive one nonetheless. He made just six appearances with the RoughRiders, four of which were starts, but held hitters to a .144 average while striking out 30.
He'll have to turn a lot of heads during the offseason and in spring training, but of the three players mentioned here, Jackson is easily the favorite for reaching the majors first. He'll likely spend time in the minors this season, but only time will tell. Regardless, look for Luke Jackson to be the next big-name starter to get a call up to Texas' rotation some time in the near future.
All stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, MiLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and ESPN.com.
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