Rangers prospects ready to shine in AFL
This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry's Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
The Arizona Fall League season is gearing up to start on Monday, and the Surprise Saguaros are loaded with talent from the Rangers organization.
Nine Rangers prospects will head to Arizona, but the group is headlined by three notable ones from Texas’ Top 30 Prospects list: No. 8 Kumar Rocker, No. 7 Luisangel Acuña and No. 11 Aaron Zavala. They’ll be joined by utility man Jayce Easley, catcher Cody Freeman, outfielder Trevor Hauver, left-handed pitcher Jake Latz, right-handed pitcher Nick Starr and left-handed pitcher Grant Wolfram.
“I'm excited about our group and I think [farm director] Josh Bonifay and [assistant GM for player development] Ross Fenstermaker have done a great job selecting our players,” said GM Chris Young. “Some of that is based on need, in terms of these guys needing more ABs or more innings. Then some of it is based on just the ability to get experience. I got to play [in the Arizona Fall League] as a player, it's a great experience. I think it really helps the player in his career. They're going out and playing against the best competition and it's also prolonging their season. Mentally, it's getting them ready for what a big league season is in terms of the grind and the duration.”
Most notably, Rocker will get his first taste of affiliated professional baseball after playing with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League ahead of the MLB Draft earlier this year. The Rangers selected the right-hander with the No. 3 overall pick.
On Saturday in Anaheim, Young gave his thoughts on the Rangers' three highest-ranked prospects heading into the Fall League:
Young on Rocker:
“Kumar pitched for a period of time in independent league this year and then now, coming back, getting drafted, we built him back up. We want to make sure he's healthy, first and foremost, and getting him back in the rhythm of competition and in a professional setting is going to be great for him. I saw him a couple of weeks ago when I was in Arizona. I know how excited he is to get started and start competing. We know it's asking a lot of him, too. I recognize that he has not pitched in affiliated baseball yet. These are going to be the best hitters he’s ever faced in his life and we're throwing him into the fire a little bit, but he's mentally ready for it. He will do just fine and we're excited to watch him.”
Young on Acuña and Zavala:
“We just want them to build on the seasons they had. They both had terrific seasons, going from High-A [Hickory] to Double-A and winning a championship in Frisco, and then now having the opportunity to go play in the fall against the best players and the best prospects in the game. I think for them, it's a great opportunity just to continue to seek really high-level competition, to continue to refine some of the things that they're working on and, again, extend their seasons and the more reps you get, the more prepared you are to become a big leaguer.”