Ranking the 5 Most Underrated Prospects on the Texas Rangers
With so much talk surrounding the latest free-agent signings and trade acquisitions, talk about minor league players seems to get pushed under the rug a bit.
This article will highlight five prospects in Texas' minor league system who are underrated heading into the 2014 season.
All stats and info courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com and MiLB.com.
5. Relief Pitcher, Alex Claudio
2013 Stats: 4-6, 1.83 ERA, 91 SO, 18 BB
Lefty Alex Claudio split time last season between the Single-A Hickory Crawdads and Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. Used primarily as a reliever throughout his four seasons in the minors, Claudio has posted a 13-7 career record, with a career ERA of 2.26.
In 2013, Claudio's numbers didn't take much of a hit by the time the year was over. His 4-6 record certainly isn't something to reflect positively on; however, his 1.83 ERA and 91 strikeouts over 78.2 innings pitched is a step in the right direction.
Whatever the reason, Claudio's success throughout his career thus far hasn't been enough to earn him top-20 recognition, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been a top player in the Rangers' organization.
4. Second Baseman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa
2013 Stats: .322/.388/.744, 36 R, 5 2B, 11 RBI, 12 SB
Kiner-Falefa hit .322 last season with the AZL Rangers, and while he didn't display much power at the plate, his ability to get on base and produce was certainly noticeable. In 41 games, he scored a total of 36 runs while stealing 12 bases in 15 attempts.
Splitting time between shortstop and second base, Kiner-Falefa posted a .954 fielding percentage while committing 10 errors in 217 chances, numbers he will have to improve on next season.
He's only 18 years old and has plenty of time to grow into a top prospect, so keep an eye on his development in 2014 as he begins his first full season in the minors.
3. Second Baseman, Ryan Rua
2013 Stats: .247/.347/.872, 89 R, 26 2B, 32 HR, 91 RBI, 14 SB
Looking strictly at his power numbers, second baseman Ryan Rua was nothing short of dominant at the plate last season. His 32 homers and 26 doubles were all career highs for him, but he struck out far too much to post a decent average.
Rua struck out a total of 115 times in 127 games last season but was able to maintain a high on-base percentage with his 56 walks.
Given his ability to get on base via the walk, Rua is certainly a player who is on the rise in the Rangers' farm system. It's hard to say just how good he could be should he manage to be more patient at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts.
He's a .273 career hitter in his first three seasons in the minors, indicating the patience is there and he is capable of posting better numbers in 2014.
2. Starting Pitcher, Connor Sadzeck
2013 Stats: 12-4, 2.25 ERA, 78 SO, 51 BB
Sadzeck is the only player on this list who is considered as a top-20 prospect heading into the season, as he is currently ranked 19th on the list. That being said, the reason he makes this list is because of some of the other players who were ranked ahead of him, particularly Cody Buckel.
Buckel currently sits as the ninth-best prospect in the Rangers' organization despite the fact that he posted a 0-6 record last year with a 21.09 ERA. It may have just been a bad season for Buckel last year, who could never find a way to get back to form, but it's still a bit astounding that he can still be ranked 10 spots ahead of Sadzeck.
Sadzeck will likely see a promotion to the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans when the 2014 season begins, and deservedly so.
1. First Baseman, Brett Nicholas
2013 Stats: .289/.357/.831, 71 R, 25 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, 91 RBI
Brett Nicholas spent all of the 2013 season with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and was easily the best offensive player they had. Nicholas led the RoughRiders in batting average (.289), homers (21) and RBI (91) last season, showing consistent play throughout the year.
In addition to his success with the RoughRiders, Nicholas also turned in an impressive performance at the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game. Nicholas led the the AFL West Fall Stars to a 9-2 victory after a 3-for-4 performance in which he belted two homers and walked away as the most valuable player of the game.
Nearly all of Nicholas' numbers last season were career highs, as the 25-year-old first baseman finally had the breakout season he was looking for. Look to see if Nicholas manages to work his way up to the majors some time in 2014.
Follow Zachary on Twitter at @ZacharyKrueger
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