Being nearly 40 games under .500 by the end of August isn’t how the Rangers envisioned their season unfolding. But with five weeks left in the regular season, Texas has plenty to look forward to beyond 2021.
Texas soared to No. 11 in MLB Pipeline's farm system rankings as recent first-round Draft selections and trade acquisitions bolstered the organization’s Minor League talent pool. The club was ranked 21st in the 2021 preseason rankings and was No. 24 on last year’s midseason list.
It’s no surprise that Texas' farm system was able to make such a significant jump as it's tied for the third-most players in the Top 100 overall prospects list with five players.
Right-hander Jack Leiter, the second overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft, is the No. 12 prospect in baseball. Though Leiter hasn’t suited up for any of Texas’ affiliates just yet, his natural talent and confidence on the mound help project him as a future ace of the Rangers’ rotation.
Middle infielders Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith have been in the system for less than a month, but have made strong impressions with their new organization. Duran and Smith were two of the four prospects the Rangers received from the July 29 deal with the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Joey Gallo and left-hander Joely Rodríguez.
Duran is slashing .226/.295/.417 in 20 games with High-A Hickory, while Smith was promoted to Double-A Frisco after he batted .295 with one homer and seven RBIs in nine games for Hickory.
COVID IL update
Right-hander Dane Dunning was added to the COVID-19 injured list on Wednesday, the day after he underwent health and safety protocols.
Dunning is the fifth Rangers player to land on the COVID IL this week after Drew Anderson, Mike Foltynewicz and Brock Holt tested positive for the virus. Catcher Jonah Heim was placed on the IL on Tuesday, while right-hander Spencer Howard remained under health and safety protocols.
Jake Latz was promoted from Triple-A Round Rock to take Dunning’s spot in the rotation and made his Major League debut against Cleveland on Wednesday. Latz was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 Draft. He has spent most of this season with Frisco, where he has a 4.69 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) to go with 84 strikeouts and 28 walks.
"He's never pitched in the Major Leagues. The one thing I told him, 'Just go out and give his best stuff. Throw the ball over the plate, challenge these guys,’” manager Chris Woodward said. “He's got good enough stuff to pitch here. It's just a matter of executing and throwing the ball over home plate.”