April’s peek into the minors


Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of each month during the regular season, at least up until September call-ups, I will be doing an article detailing a few ups and downs in the Texas Rangers farm system.

I’ll take a little peek into each level, from AAA Round Rock down to Low-A Hickory.

Yes, the Texas Rangers organization has lost some at-or-near Major League prospects over the past few years in an attempt to acquire talent to help push them into World Series contention.

Some of those deals worked out, some of them didn’t.  That’s why they say there is no sure thing, and that’s why you see some general managers hold on to their top-level prospects for dear life.

But the Texas Rangers have done a very good job of restocking through the draft and signing international free agents, which has allowed them to feel comfortable unloading the likes of Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, C.J. Edwards, Blake Beavan, Justin Smoak and so-on.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at each affiliate’s highs and lows at the end of April.

AAA Round Rock
There really aren’t a whole lot of prospects prepping to get ready for the majors in Round Rock.  As I mentioned earlier, the Rangers traded a lot of those that would be — in recent years — for Major League ready talent.  Nick Tepesch is really the only guy that could be considered a near-ready prospect, and he’s done very well so far in Round Rock.  He was sent down specifically to continue working on his change-up and it appears to have been a smart decision, although we won’t know for sure until he returns to the majors.  But Tepesch is currently 4-1 with an impeccable ERA of 1.82 in five starts so far, striking out 27 while walking six and surrendering just one home run in 34 2/3 innings.  Tepesch was recently named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week for the week ending on Apr. 27, but the longer Tepesch remains in Round Rock the better, because that means the current five at the big league level are healthy and effective.  Veteran starting pitcher Scott Baker has been very good, as has journeyman infielder Adam Rosales.

The one low at Round Rock would have to be Jared Hoying, 25, who is the starting center fielder and is hitting a measly .218.  He has hit six home runs and currently has 14 RBIs, but he has also struck out in around 1/4 of his at-bats, not a good trend for a guy in his fifth year as a professional.

AA Frisco
This was a tough one because of what third baseman Ryan Rua has done so far this year (.351/.438/.662 and six homers), but the player I’m high on in Frisco is Luke Jackson, 22, the former first-round pick of 2011.  Jackson is currently 3-0 in five starts with an ERA of 2.63 and he’s averaging 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings.  Dare I say it, but — health pending — both Jackson and Nick Martinez could be the next wave of starting pitchers to infiltrate the Major Leagues and pitch at a high level.  The hope will be they are both pitching for a long time in Rangers uniforms, but you never know with baseball … you never know.

The low for me, so far this year, is hot prospect Rougned Odor.  Odor has the most at-bats of any RoughRider, 100, and there’s a reason:  He’s simply not getting on base.  He’s drawn only five walks, is hitting .230 and has an OBP of .264.  Not good numbers for a guy that’s not going to hit for much power and is built more in the mold of the old school second basemen.

High-A Myrtle Beach
This name puts a smile on my face and it should yours as well:  Joey Gallo.  The first-round pick out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas is flat out raking for the Pelicans so far.  He’s hitting .317 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs and has drawn 20 walks, and he does something that rarely happens in the Minor Leagues — especially at the lower levels:  He’s been getting intentionally walked.  Minor League Baseball isn’t much on wins, but it exists to develop players.  Opposing clubs want to see their pitching prospects face hitters like Gallo, but that has changed recently.  Keep an eye on this guy.

Cody Buckel is definitely the downer for High-A, but there is hope for a turn-around.  He was screaming toward the higher levels in the minors until something happened to him – the same thing that happened to Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers – he got the yips. Since the beginning of 2013, Buckel has walked 50 hitters in just 18 1/3 innings.  The Rangers are taking it slow with him, and they should.  He’s just 21 years old, so there is time.

Low-A Hickory
Picking highs and lows for Low-A ball is tough, because they are there for multiple reasons.  Most of these guys were just drafted and were playing either high school or college ball just a year or two ago, so not much can be told about their performances until, well, they perform at Low-A.  But I’m going to go with first base prospect Ronald Guzman.  Guzman, 19, currently lacks power – he has no home runs – but that’s not a surprise at such a tender age.  He has, however, found a way to put the ball in play at a successive rate, hitting at a .320 clip.  He needs to work the count better — he only has three walks – and hit for more power, but they all have those problems at the Low-A level.

The low would be David Ledbetter, 22.  I love the last name and love me some Pearl Jam, but Ledbetter has underwhelmed in a big way, as he has surrendered 17 earned runs in just 15 1/3 innings of work.  It’s not necessarily control — per say — that has gotten him so far, but he’s giving up the long ball, and that’s an understatement.  Eight home runs allowed in 15 1/3 innings … yikes.