Rangers prospect report from alternate camp

September 28th, 2020

With alternate camps coming to an end, MLB Pipeline is recapping the development highlights for the prospects involved for each organization.

Top position prospect: Josh Jung, 3B (No. 1 on Rangers Top 30)
Jung was one of the most advanced hitters in the 2019 Draft class, a major reason why the Rangers took him with the No. 8 overall pick. Despite the lost 2020 season, he made enough progress at Texas' alternate site across the street from Globe Life Park to remain on course to arrive in the Majors at some point next season.

At the plate, Jung concentrated on pulling the ball for power after struggling to do so in his pro debut, when he slugged .389 and homered just once in 40 games in Class A. Defensively, he worked on improving at third base, while also getting time at shortstop (where he played in the second half of the 2019 season at Texas Tech) as well as at second base and in the outfield.

"Getting the ball in the air to his pull side has been a focus from the day he signed," Rangers assistant GM Mike Daly said. "He has worked hard on that during the offseason and in camp. He can be a multidimensional hitter. He can pull balls, he can hit to the opposite field, he's able to hit velocity, he's able to hit breaking balls.

"From a defensive standpoint, he took some steps with his hands and reading balls. His arm got stronger. He got exposed to different positions, which allowed him to get familiar with shifting, throwing from different angles and turning the double play."

Top pitching prospect: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 4)
The 15th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Winn initially struggled after making his pro debut in May 2019 but finished strong with a 2.81 ERA in his final 12 starts of that season. He impressed the Rangers with his diligence adhering to his throwing program during his downtime between Spring Training and Summer Camp. He continues to get better at locating his four-pitch mix, which is highlighted by a lively 92-97 mph fastball and a downer curveball.

"He hasn't skipped a beat," Daly said. "He has a great combination of stuff and feel. He can throw any pitch in any count and he's very good at reading hitters. That improved as he faced veteran hitters in our camp. He learned to read swings and set guys up.

"It really helped speed up his development by facing Triple-A and Major League hitters in camp. He was able to get them out and punch them out. We challenged him to increase his strike percentage and he did that."

Youngest prospect: Heriberto Hernandez, OF/1B/C (No. 23)
The 20-year-old Hernandez has raked in his first two pro seasons, batting a combined .320/.450/.635. In his 2018 pro debut, he led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in extra-base hits (32), while ranking second in homers (12), slugging (.635) and OPS (1.099). After coming to the United States last year, he topped the Rookie-level Arizona League in hits (66), extra-base hits (32), RBIs (48) and total bases (124) before homering twice in three Short Season Northwest League playoff games.

Hernandez makes a lot of loud contact despite an aggressive approach. There are questions as to where he fits best on the diamond because his below-average speed limits his options. The most intriguing possibility is catcher, where he shows a solid arm but shaky receiving skills, but he spent more time in right field and at first base in 2019.

"We want to let his bat play," Daly said. "We really value him because he has the chance to hit for average and drive the ball out of the park. We feel comfortable with him at first base and in the outfield as well. He has a high motor. We haven't give up on catching by any means."

2020 Draft picks
In the last two Drafts, the Rangers have used their first-round choice on a college infielder with offensive upside and a track record of production in a top conference. This June, they spent the 14th overall selection on Mississippi State second baseman Justin Foscue (No. 8). Alternate camp gave him the opportunity to begin his pro career, albeit in different-than-normal circumstances.

"It took a bit of time to get his feet under him because he hadn't been able to do much since March," Daly said. "I think it was good for him. He was able to address some of the nuances of professional and Major League Baseball. It was kind of like an extended minicamp for him.

"His bat was everything we had heard -- his bat played loud. He spent a lot of time doing defensive work at second base. He was very open to coaching and jumped in right away."

Pleasant developments
Right-hander Kyle Cody (No. 25) used alternate camp to complete his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in July 2018. He returned to the mound in an official game for the first time in 25 months when he struck out all three Mariners he faced in his big league debut in August. Cody's 93-96 mph fastball and 82-85 mph slider returned, allowing him to post a 1.59 ERA that was easily the lowest among Texas' regular starters.

Acquired from the White Sox in a Winter Meetings trade for Nomar Mazara, outfielder Steele Walker (No. 12) stood out with the pure hitting ability that made him a second-round pick in 2018.

Potential five-tool outfielder Bubba Thompson (No. 15) made some progress with his right-handed swing after batting .178/.261/.312 with 72 strikeouts in 57 Class A Advanced games last year. He displayed a shorter, more consistent stroke with a better path to the ball.