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Rangers' AFL contingent includes Minors' K-rate king

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rangers found more than their share of intriguing arms deep in the 2015 Draft. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs, a 30th-rounder out of Appalachian State, jumped from low Class A to the big leagues this year and was one of Texas' most effective relievers in the last two months of the season.

Lefty C.D. Pelham, who lasted until the 33rd round because he couldn't throw strikes at Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC, pitched in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July and debuted in Arlington in September. He looks like a future closer with an upper-90s fastball and a low-90s cutter. Right-hander Tyler Phillips, a 16th-rounder as a New Jersey high schooler, had the best 2018 season of any starter in the system, leading the low Class A South Atlantic League in wins (11) while placing third in the Minors in K/BB ratio (7.9) and fourth in walk rate (1.1 per nine innings).

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rangers found more than their share of intriguing arms deep in the 2015 Draft. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs, a 30th-rounder out of Appalachian State, jumped from low Class A to the big leagues this year and was one of Texas' most effective relievers in the last two months of the season.

Lefty C.D. Pelham, who lasted until the 33rd round because he couldn't throw strikes at Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC, pitched in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July and debuted in Arlington in September. He looks like a future closer with an upper-90s fastball and a low-90s cutter. Right-hander Tyler Phillips, a 16th-rounder as a New Jersey high schooler, had the best 2018 season of any starter in the system, leading the low Class A South Atlantic League in wins (11) while placing third in the Minors in K/BB ratio (7.9) and fourth in walk rate (1.1 per nine innings).

Rangers Top 30 prospects

Righty DeMarcus Evans has yet to generate as much prospect hype as that trio, though that may be about to change. A 25th-round pick out of Petal (Miss.) High -- a program that already has produced a pair of big leaguers in Nate Rolison and Evans' cousin, Anthony Alford -- he was spectacular after Texas made him a full-time reliever in 2018.

Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams

Evans led all Minor League relievers (minimum 50 innings) in strikeout rate by averaging 16.6 per nine innings. He whiffed 103 in 56 frames at low Class A Hickory while posting a 1.77 ERA and holding opponents to a feeble .147/.257/.215 line. Now he's in the Arizona Fall League, getting more innings and refining his control as the Rangers try to expedite his development.

Evans had trouble finding the strike zone while serving as a starter for most of his first three pro seasons, walking 83 in 126 1/3 innings. Simplifying things with shorter stints and a condensed repertoire made a huge difference, even if he wasn't initially thrilled about the move to the bullpen.

"I started the last two years and my consistency was kind of off a little bit," Evans said. "When they told me I was relieving, I wasn't happy at first. But then I was like it's an opportunity for me to get better, so I did it and I guess it helped me out a lot."

He got better as the season progressed, allowing just two runs in his final 21 outings with a 68/8 K/BB ratio in 34 innings. He showed the ability to miss bats with two pitches, a mid-90s fastball with explosive life and a 12-to-6 curveball. Along with his stuff, his 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame makes him an imposing figure on the mound.

Rangers hitters in the Fall League

Charles Leblanc, 2B/3B -- A 2016 fourth-rounder from Pittsburgh, Leblanc initially impressed the Rangers with his ability to make contact and his defense, then began hitting for more power this year as he got more aggressive at the plate. He batted .274/.349/.412 with 10 homers in high Class A.

Julio Pablo Martinez, OF -- After falling short in the race to sign Shohei Ohtani last offseason, Texas used its leftover international bonus pool money to land Martinez for $2.8 million in March. The Cuban defector has well above-average speed and the potential for solid tools across the board with the exception of his arm. He hit .266/.378/.457 with nine homers and 13 steals in his 67-game pro debut, mostly at short-season Spokane.

Josh Morgan, C/INF -- Selected as a shortstop in 2014's third round out of a California high school, Morgan is a versatile defender whose best attribute is his ability to make consistent contact at the plate. He batted .227/.301/.309 with three homers in 83 games this year, mostly in Double-A. He played briefly in the AFL last fall, going 12-for-28 (.429) with two homers in eight games.

Rangers pitchers in the Fall League

Joe Barlow, RHP -- A right-hander/catcher at Salt Lake (Utah) CC selected in the 11th round in 2016, Barlow has focused on pitching in pro ball and shows a mid-90s fastball, a curveball with depth and a splitter/changeup. He led low Class A South Atlantic League in opponent average (.118) and ranked third in strikeout rate (13.9 per nine innings) while compiling a 1.68 ERA.

C.D. Pelham, LHP -- Pelham lasted until the 33rd round in 2015 because of his severe control woes at Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC, but he has blossomed into an overpowering reliever with a fastball that reaches 99 mph and a cutter in the low 90s. He posted a 3.66 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 46 2/3 Minor League innings, then made 10 appearances with a 7.04 ERA in Texas.

Tai Tiedemann, RHP -- A former quarterback at famed Long Beach Poly High, Tiedemann signed as a 2016 eighth-rounder out of Long Beach CC. Armed with a low-90s fastball and a cutter slider, he recorded a 4.84 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings at Spokane.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.