Rangers prospects to follow this offseason

October 18th, 2021
Zach Del Bello/Frisco RoughRiders

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' farm system took a significant step forward in 2021, highlighted by some big trade returns in the form of top prospects (all four players from the Joey Gallo deal with the Yankees are Top 30 prospects) and internal development from top to bottom.

The Minor League system is now ranked No. 11 across all 30 teams as the organization continues through its full fledged rebuild. A number of Minor League prospects figure to be contributors when the Rangers return to playoff contention. Here’s a 2021 Minors report to keep you updated on the latest Rangers prospects.

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year

OF Bubba Thompson
Thompson has come a long way since being a perceived first-round bust after the 2017 Draft. The outfielder, who is the club's No. 28 prospect, had a career year in Double-A Frisco with a .275/.325/.483 slash line after posting a combined .143/.250/.238 line in 2017 and 2019. He struggled with injuries through ‘18, and with no Minor League season in ‘20 Thompson missed out on a key developmental year.

But Thompson persevered through all the roadblocks and was even given the True Ranger Award for the 2021 Minor League season.

2B Justin Foscue
Can a top-five prospect really “force” their way into a conversation? Well, Foscue did exactly that in his first professional season. The 2020 first-round pick out of Mississippi State vaulted himself into MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects at No. 83 after a stunning year between High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco. Across the two levels, Foscue slashed .275/.371/.590 with 17 homers in 62 games after missing time with a rib contusion early in the season.

Foscue will most likely start 2022 at Triple-A Round Rock, and he is estimated to make his debut by ‘23. It could come sooner under the right circumstances, but he’ll definitely be a player to watch.

1B/3B Dustin Harris
Harris was one of two prospects the Rangers got in return for Mike Minor in 2020 and he was off the radar for many until his home run total went from one to 20 over two years. Harris is probably the best pure hitter in the Rangers’ system, and he’s shown that this season. In his first full Minor League season, he finished with a slash line of .327/.401/.542 between Low-A Down East and High-A Hickory. He can play all four corner spots and his hitting is much improved since being picked in the 11th round of the 2019 Draft. Harris, Texas’ No. 17 prospect, was also voted the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2022

OF Aaron Zavala
Next year will be the 2021 second-rounder’s first full professional season, but the Oregon product is already primed for a breakout year. There were questions about whether the Rangers would ultimately sign Zavala after the Draft due to undisclosed non-baseball health concerns, but he was signed on the final day before the deadline.

The outfielder was almost immediately assigned to Low-A Down East after spending just seven games in the Arizona Rookie League. He slashed .293/.419/.400 over 22 games between the Wood Ducks and Arizona. The Rangers organization is loaded with outfielders, but Zavala is the club’s No. 19-ranked prospect and could vault through the system next year.

RHP Ricky Vanasco
The Rangers’ No. 12 prospect overall and third ranked pitching prospect, behind just Jack Leiter and Cole Winn, Vanasco was selected in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of a Florida high school, but has been totally unlucky in his five professional seasons so far. He was concussed five innings into his pro debut in ‘17 and missed time with elbow inflammation in ‘18.

He shined in 2019, posting a 1.81 ERA and 75 strikeouts in just 49 2/3 innings between Low-A Spokane and High-A Hickory. He didn’t pitch because of the Minor League shutdown in ‘20 and he ultimately had to have Tommy John last September when he was at the Rangers alternate training site.

But Vanasco is ramping back up during Instructional League and is primed for a breakout. His fastball was touching 99-100 mph before the injury, and if he can get anywhere near that with an arsenal that also includes a solid curveball and changeup, he’ll be in Arlington sooner rather than later.

1 big question for next season

C/1B Sam Huff: catching or not catching? That is the question.

Outside of top prospect Jack Leiter and top position player prospect Josh Jung, Huff may be one of the most anticipated prospects in 2022. The Rangers' No. 5 prospect made his MLB debut during the shortened 2020 season, but spent all of ‘21 injured or in Double-A Frisco. He hasn’t caught a game since then.

Big league catching coach Bobby Wilson has noted that he wants Huff to catch, and that’s where Huff fits best in a big league lineup, but the top 100 prospect needs to get a lot more work in back there before he can contribute to the club at the MLB level. He won't catch in the Arizona Fall League, but is anticipated to get some games in during Instructional League. Huff will almost definitely not make the Opening Day lineup, with Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim holding it down right now, but he’ll likely need to catch for him to make it back to Arlington.

Will three catchers be too much for one MLB roster then becomes the question. Trevino and Huff are both homegrown talents that the Rangers like a lot, and Heim was a central piece of the Elvis Andrus trade with the A’s. Heim and Huff can both play first base and all can DH if it comes to that, but one may become trade bait by next year’s Trade Deadline.