The Rangers won a pair of pennants and made five playoff appearances this decade with a high-risk, high-reward approach to player development. They repeatedly invested in prospects with lofty ceilings, knowing that some would fall by the wayside but that they would benefit from those who reached their potential (Joey Gallo, for example) or could be used as trade fodder.
Texas has regressed at the big league level, failing to reach .500 since 2016 while posting its worst three-year record since 2001-03. Its farm system took a step back as well, with injuries and development setbacks leaving it unable to plug the holes that sprouted in Arlington, though it rebounded to rank No. 14 in MLB Pipeline's July assessment of organizational Minor League talent.
The system is still full of prospects who come with huge ceilings as well as uncertainty, such as catcher Sam Huff, right-hander Hans Crouse and quarterback-turned-outfielder Bubba Thompson. Yet it was interesting to note what appeared to be a change in philosophy at the top of the 2019 Draft.
In the first nine Drafts of the decade, the Rangers had 12 first-round picks and used 10 of them on high schoolers as they continued to gamble on upside. This June, they spent their top two choices on a pair of college third basemen who were notable for their hitting ability and their high floors, Josh Jung and Davis Wendzel, and their third on a college arm in Ryan Garcia who stood out more for his polish than his stuff. Texas hasn't suddenly become conservative but may be adopting a more balanced approach.
TOP FIVE PROSPECTS
- Josh Jung, 3B (No. 55 on Top 100)
- Sam Huff, C (No. 73)
- Hans Crouse, RHP (No. 78)
- Cole Winn, RHP
- Leody Taveras, OF
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Sam Huff, C (No. 2): He hit a dramatic home run on national TV to win MVP honors at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures game and tied for second among all Minor League catchers with 28 homers, while batting .278/.335/.509 between two Class A levels and throwing out 48 percent of basestealers.
Joe Palumbo, LHP (No. 6): In his first full season back following 2017 Tommy John surgery, he employed a sneaky low-90s fastball and the best curveball in the system to log a 3.01 ERA, .196 opponent average and 108 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings in the upper Minors. He also made his big league debut in June. More »
Sam Huff, C (No. 2): Huff had displayed impressive power and arm strength since signing as a seventh-round pick in 2016, and this year he did a better job of making quality contact and continued to improve his receiving.
Cole Ragans, LHP: The Rangers hoped they had found the next Cole Hamels when they took Ragans with the 30th overall pick in 2016, but he blew out his elbow during Spring Training in 2018 and had not one but two Tommy John surgeries in the next 14 months.
Draft: Josh Jung, 3B, 1st round (No. 1); Davis Wendzel, 3B, supplemental 1st round (No. 9); Ryan Garcia, RHP, 2nd round (No. 22); Justin Slaten, RHP, 3rd round; Cody Freeman, 2B/SS, 4th round; Cody Bradford, LHP, 6th round; Gavin Collyer, RHP, 12th round. Complete Draft list »
International: Bayron Lora, OF (No. 14); Maximo Acosta, SS (No. 15); Zion Bannister, OF.
Trade: Nick Solak, 2B/OF/3B (No. 13); Ian Gibaut, RHP.
The Rangers not only got two of the best pure hitters in the college ranks in the 2019 Draft in Jung and Wendzel, but they're also excited about an international crop headlined by Lora (who had the best raw power in his class) and Acosta (who fueled Gleyber Torres comparisons).
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Joe Palumbo, LHP (No. 6): Though he got knocked around as a starter in his first taste of the big leagues, he's equipped to hold down a spot in Texas' rotation next year.
Hit: Josh Jung
Power: Sam Huff
Run: Angel Aponte
Arm: Sam Huff
Field: Leody Taveras
Best athlete: Bubba Thompson
Fastball: Emmanuel Clase
Curveball: Joe Palumbo
Slider: Jonathan Hernandez
Changeup: Tyler Phillips
Control: Tyler Phillips
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
Of the seven drafted pitchers on our Rangers Top 30, four were selected in the first two rounds and three after the 15th: Palumbo (30th), Tyler Philips (16th) and Ricky Vanasco (25th).
TOP 30 BY POSITION
Texas is loaded at its hot corner with Jung, Wendzel and Sherten Apostel ranking among their top 10 prospects and Jonathan Ornelas figuring to wind up at third base in the long run.