5 Texas Rangers Minor Leaguers Who Will See Time in 2014
There are five minor leaguers in the Texas Rangers organization who are bound to see time at some point during the 2014 season.
Injuries happen and rosters expand every September. The Rangers have lucked out with the performances of Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson, but the club will need to work its own system at some point.
There are a few guys who have already gotten the call over the past two weeks. Luis Sardinas got in during the blowout loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 20, and Nick Martinez made his major league debut on April 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
There are five more players who will get a call this season to join their parent club. Some should be next-in-line guys who will play for an injured player, while others will get some experience in September.
Neftali Feliz, RHP
Neftali Feliz is probably the most obvious candidate for a call-up to the big league club.
As you well know, Feliz was optioned to Triple-A after losing the team’s closer job to Joakim Soria. Feliz was not effective during spring training and struggled with velocity and command. His pitches were constantly left up and over the plate, and opponents had a .310 batting average in 10 innings against him.
Feliz was not selected to replace Tanner Scheppers on April 18 when he was put on the 15-day disabled list. In talking with Dallas News’ Evan Grant, manager Ron Washington had this to say about Feliz:
It’s not really about his velocity. There are still some things he’s working on. Things like recovery. We just have to make sure we get consistency in how he recovers.
The 25-year-old has been pitching well in Round Rock. He currently holds a 1.59 ERA in 5.2 innings, striking out six while yielding just two hits.
But judging by Washington's comments, he may be another month away from returning to Arlington.
Nick Tepesch, RHP
Nick Tepesch struggled in spring training after being a front-runner for a rotation spot this season.
The former Missouri Tiger made his MLB debut in 2013 with the Rangers. After a strong first outing, Tepesch finished his first big league season with a 4-6 record and 4.84 ERA. He followed that up by giving up 10 runs on 19 hits over 10 innings in spring training.
He has seemed to calm down since then with the exception of one start with Triple-A Round Rock. On April 15, Tepesch gave up six earned runs on nine hits over 6.2 innings. Although he got roughed up, he did not allow a walk and struck out seven hitters.
Other than that, the 25-year-old has been stellar for the Express. In the other 19 innings on the mound, he has given up just one run and 12 hits. His 2.45 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are both ranked No. 10 in the Pacific Coast League, and he also leads the league in innings pitched (25.2).
Tepesch would be next up to bring that curveball in the video above back to Arlington. He should see at least a few starts sometime this season, depending on how healthy Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison are.
Kensuke Tanaka, OF
Although Jim Adduci and Michael Choice currently back up the outfield, Kensuke Tanaka would be the next option.
The 32-year-old has only been playing on U.S. soil since 2013 and holds a small sample size. He has just 48 big league at-bats under his belt, pounding out 11 hits and four stolen bases in 19 games with the San Francisco Giants last season.
Tanaka has been a force so far for the Express this season and is the hottest hitter on the team. In 15 games, the Japan native has a slash line of .349/.491/.558 and has 12 walks against nine strikeouts. He has two homers, three doubles and has scored 13 times.
This isn’t anything new for Tanaka. He hit .329 and had an OBP of .400 in 107 games with San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate last season. However, he has already doubled his home run total this season in 92 fewer games.
Plus, he has good range in the outfield as the video shows.
Tanaka has great plate discipline against lefties and righties and just gets on base. He could find his way to the roster if the Rangers decide to change plans with Michael Choice but will at least be in Arlington come September.
Brett Nicholas, C
Brett Nicholas is another player for Round Rock who is off to a hot start this year.
The 25-year-old is hitting .302 with three homers and 11 RBI in 15 games and is showing improved plate discipline. He is currently tied with Iowa’s Luis Flores for most walks (eight) among catchers in the PCL.
Nicholas has hit at least .285 in his first two full seasons in the Rangers organization. In 2013 with Double-A Frisco, he led the Rough Riders in homers (21), RBI (91) and runs (71).
J.P. Arencibia is just 2-for-30 this season and has seemingly become Robinson Chirinos’ backup behind the plate. With Geovany Soto possibly unavailable to return until mid-June, the Rangers shouldn’t wait for Arencibia to come around at the plate.
Nicholas would be capable of filling the void until Soto’s return and would provide an extra left-handed bat. If it doesn’t happen soon, it will in September.
Wilmer Font, RHP
Wilmer Font was signed by the Rangers back in 2006 but has yet to be a year-long contributor for the club.
Font has been suspected of being a bullpen arm for Texas over the past few years. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, and he has been working his way back since. He has made five big league appearances since his surgery.
The 23-year-old is currently pitching for Double-A Frisco and holds a 2.57 ERA over seven innings. He is struggling with command early this season, walking six batters in limited time.
Font will at least be added in September when the rosters expand. However, he should have a shot in the bullpen this summer depending on the production of some of the club's late-inning pitchers.
You can follow Trey on Twitter @treydwarren.