Rangers' talented Draft picks on display at instructs

September 20th, 2018

The Rangers were excited to nab three high-ceiling high school right-handers in the first four rounds of the 2018 Draft. They've handled Cole Winn, Owen White and Mason Englert with care, having them focus on conditioning and learning during the summer.

Though none of them will officially make their pro debut until next summer, they will take the mound and face hitters from other organizations for the first time next week as part of Texas' instructional league program in Surprise, Ariz.

Instructional league rosters

"As soon as we drafted them, we went over their specific plan," Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler said. "We got them into the weight room, had them learn our throwing program, had them learn our shoulder program. We left them 8-10 innings to play with in instructs, having them throw heavier bullpens toward the end of the season with the idea of getting them into games down here.

"We're all excited to see them, but no one is more excited than those pitchers. They are champing at the bit."

One of the most consistent and polished pitchers in the 2018 prep class, Winn, ranked No. 4 on the Rangers' Top 30 Prospects list, lasted longer than expected, signing for $3.15 million after falling to the 15th overall pick. He has front-line starter potential with a 92-97 mph fastball with armside run, a 12-to-6 curveball, a tantalizing slider and a fading changeup.

Extremely athletic and projectable, White, the Rangers' No. 13 prospect, signed for an over-slot $1.5 million in the second round. A 6-foot-2, 172-pound former quarterback, he can touch 95 mph with his fastball, flash a plus slider, generate a high-spin curveball and show aptitude for a fading changeup.

Englert, No. 21 on the Rangers' Top 30, also landed an above-slot bonus, signing for $1.1 million in the fourth round after breaking a Texas high school record held by the legendary David Clyde with 55 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings during the spring. His best offering is a low-90s sinker, followed by a late-breaking slider and a developing curveball and changeup.

• Rangers instructional league roster and schedule

The pitcher with the best pure stuff in camp is right-hander Hans Crouse, a 2017 second-rounder and the Rangers' No. 5 prospect who posted a 2.47 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings between Class A Short-Season Spokane and low Class A Hickory. There's effort and a lot going on in his delivery, but he makes it work and regularly delivers mid-90s fastballs and wipeout sliders. He's focusing on improving his changeup while in Surprise.

"When the season started, he got a blister, and then he had rain shorten some of his starts at Hickory, so we wanted to get him more innings," Tingler said. "It took a while to get him to start throwing his changeup because he was getting guys out with two pitches. His changeup is about 8 mph slower than his fastball and plays extremely well.

"Our guys have done a good job not messing with his delivery. There's a uniqueness to it, but Hans has the ability to sync his hand with his delivery and throw quality strikes. He has impressed us from day one."

Developing pitching will be crucial for the Rangers as they try to rebuild from a last-place finish in the American League West. They rank 29th among the 30 teams in starter ERA (5.45) and 28th in overall ERA (4.97).

The Rangers will bring 94 players to their training base in Surprise for instructional league, dividing them into two groups. The first group reported Sept. 12 and will play games through Oct. 1 before departing on Oct. 3. The second group arrived Wednesday and will participate in games from Oct. 3 through Oct. 11 before leaving the next day.

Besides the young pitchers, the first contingent also includes an outfield group that features the organization's top three position prospects in the Minor Leagues in Leody Taveras, Julio Pablo Martinez and Bubba Thompson as well as toolsy Pedro Gonzalez and instinctive contact hitter Miguel Aparicio.

"They're working on things individually and collectively," Tingler said. "For instance, Leody's bat-to-ball skills are very good, but he needs to tighten his swing up and drive the ball more, while Pedro struggles with making contact at times right on right. We're also challenging all of them to learn the strike zone and develop barrel accuracy."