What’s next for Rangers’ top prospects?
While Rangers No. 1 prospect Josh Jung and the mystery surrounding his inevitable callup have been surrounding Texas’ farm system in recent weeks, a number of other Minor Leaguers have been putting on a show this season.
The Rangers currently have the sixth-ranked farm system, according to MLB Pipeline, due to the depth acquired via Draft picks and trades over the past few seasons. In his first year in the position, Rangers assistant general manager for player development Ross Fenstermaker has overseen a year of immense development for the system as Texas looks to guide itself out of the rebuild in the coming seasons.
Here’s a Q&A with Fenstermaker after he fielded questions from the Dallas-Fort Worth media contingent (questions and answers have been edited for clarity).
MLB.com: What do you make of what Evan Carter (Rangers’ No. 3 prospect) has been able to do as a 19-year-old in High-A? If he was healthy [he's currently dealing with a bone bruise], would he be in Double-A Frisco right now?
Fenstermaker: He's incredibly impressive. He's gone out, he's basically performed 30 to 40 percent above league average offensively and he's played a good center field and runs the bases extremely well. That's value in all aspects of his game as a 19-year-old in a pretty competitive league.
He's on the cusp of being a Double-A player at age 20. There’s a good track record for players that make it to Double-A at age 20, especially domestically. It's hard to speculate, but he's pretty close. He will have to establish that he's healthy and continue performing in order to justify that.
Somebody who is at Double-A currently: What do you make of Aaron Zavala (No. 11) since he’s been promoted earlier this summer?
I would love for him to carry a 1.100 OPS for the rest of the season. It's pretty impressive. In some ways, I think how Aaron evolves as a player will benefit as he goes up the system, given that he has such a great eye for the strike zone that’s so controlling. Umpires typically get better the closer you get to the big leagues -- I think he's gonna benefit from the automatic ball-strike system when he gets there.
But what's probably been most impressive for a player, given how hot the summer has been in North Carolina and Frisco, is that he sustained some of his performance metrics. We’ve just been really impressed with how consistent he is day in and day out. I think that's a credit to him, and his work ethic and his flair and how he prepares every single day.
What is Luisangel Acuña’s (No. 7) best defensive position?
Shortstop, at present. I think one of the things that he's really gifted at is playing other positions. So second base, I think he's very good as well. We have not asked him to do this, but I'm very comfortable saying that I think he could go out and learn center field pretty quickly as well. He's a very athletic guy, not just because his brother [Ronald Acuña Jr.] plays center field.
I think he's very athletic playing in the middle of the diamond, he's just got natural instincts and feeling and the first acceleration to get off the ball. So that's one of the things that's very appealing about him. We've tried to create a lot of positional versatility with our players. And I think he's one that just naturally has it, versus trying to create it.
Each affiliate has a winning record; it’s been a good year for the farm system. What’s the importance of that?
On the winning-record side, it's actually something that we don't intend to accomplish. We want our players to win. We want them thinking about winning, but we do not manipulate rosters or lineups in order to win. We're one of the youngest teams per level at every level, and to have a winning record, I think, is like an additional sign of progress on the farm.
The way that we quantify and measure, holistically, some of our performance on the farm is through certain KPIs [key performance indicators]. ... The hitting side is slightly on the edge of the pitching side. Unfortunately, some of the players that you mentioned maybe haven't had the seasons that we think they're capable of, but we've seen a lot of second-half progress with these guys and expect a strong finish.