ARLINGTON -- Four top Draft picks from 2018 -- including three who are recovering from Tommy John surgery -- are all showing significant progress in the Rangers' instructional league.
Right-handers Cole Winn, Owen White, Mason Englert and Sean Chandler have a chance to be a part of Texas' young pitching foundation going forward if they can stay on track.
Winn has stayed healthy since being the No. 15 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, and the Rangers included him at their alternate training site this past season in Arlington. He did not pitch for Texas, but over nine innings in the instructional league, he has allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts.
White was taken in the second round in 2018, while Englert was a fourth-round selection. Both were drafted out of high school, then missed all of '19 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and did not pitch this past season because there was no Minor League season. Chandler was a sixth-round pick in 2018 out of junior college, and he pitched in 11 games in '19 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Englert has pitched nine innings in the instructional league, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out nine. White is up to eight innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and four walks with nine strikeouts. Chandler has impressed with 17 strikeouts in eight innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks.
“They have been some of our highlights of the camp, for sure, seeing them back on the mound healthy,” instructional league pitching coach Jordan Tiegs said. “They look like they haven’t missed a beat. They have competed really well and had zero issues throwing strikes. They are in a tremendous spot going into next year."
Winn, the Rangers' No. 4 prospect, is the only one among that group on the club's Top 30 Prospects list per MLB Pipeline. That could change if White, Englert and Chandler pitch in real games next summer.
Instructional league notes
• Through 31 games, the Rangers are 23-5-3 in the instructional league while being led by managers Josh Johnson (Class A Advanced Down East) and Carlos Cardoza (Class A Hickory).
“Winning not just around the scoreboard, but winning in everything we did,” Cardoza said. “Starting with stretch, individual work, team work, winning our preparation, processes, that was an emphasis throughout camp. This all starts with the big league staff and aligning our team philosophy. Our record is reflective of the brand of baseball these guys can play as a group."
• Left-hander Brock Burke, who had left shoulder surgery during Spring Training, has been throwing on the side in the instructional league and should be ready to go for Spring Training in 2021.
• Right-hander Hans Crouse, the Rangers' No. 6 prospect, missed the instructional league while dealing with personal issues at his home in Southern California, but he has maintained his throwing program during his absence.
“He is in a good spot,” farm director Paul Kruger said. “We maintained communication with him, and he is pushing forward on his offseason plan with every intention of competing for a high-level spot in 2021.”
• Left-hander Cole Ragans and right-hander Ryan Garcia are also trying to return from Tommy John surgery and are participating in throwing programs in Arizona. Ragans has had two Tommy John surgeries since being Texas' first-round Draft pick in 2016. Garcia, its second-round pick in '19, had Tommy John this past Spring Training.
• Chris Seise is hitting .386/.417/.649 with four home runs in the instructional league. Seise was the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, and he had both his '18 and ’19 seasons cut short by shoulder surgeries, one on each side. He did not play this past summer. Seise is Texas' No. 28 prospect, but he had been in the top 10 before his shoulder issues.
“He has had an outstanding camp,” Johnson said. “All the time he has missed, he has done a tremendous job in instructional league making up those innings. The guy’s got talent. We just let him go and see what happens. He is doing everything he can to maximize his instructional league.”
• Outfielder Steele Walker (strained oblique muscle) and third baseman Davis Wendzel (right calf) were sidelined by injuries, but they are back playing games again. Outfielder Bayron Lora (wrist injury) has also been limited.
• One player to watch is 18-year-old shortstop Luisangel Acuña, who is hitting .344/.389/.438. He is the brother of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.
• First baseman Jose Rodriguez, a 19-year-old from Venezuela, has made a big impression, hitting .400/.478/.700 with four home runs.
“He’s really coming into his body, putting on 15-20 pounds of good weight,” Kruger said.
• Josh Jung, the Rangers' first-round Draft pick in 2019, is hitting .350/.451/.583 and getting most of his work at third base.