Rangers bolstered with promising young arms beyond Leiter

Winn, Roby, White, Ragans on the rise in Minor Leagues

February 26th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' Minor League minicamp this week has been highlighted by the first chance for many to see top prospect in Texas gear for the first time since he was drafted at No. 2 overall last summer.

But while Leiter is no doubt a big focus for many, the Rangers also display a deep and talented class of pitching prospects alongside him.

Here’s an look at four non-Leiter pitching prospects that could contribute in Arlington in the coming years, with notes from Rangers assistant general manager for player development Ross Fenstermaker.

RHP Cole Winn (Rangers No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline)

2021 stats: 86 IP, 2.41 ERA, 107 K, 31 BB

Winn was the Rangers’ top-rated pitching prospect before the club drafted Leiter and currently sits at No. 60 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects at the end of the 2021 season. Winn dominated at both Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, holding opponents to a .146/.239/.259 slash line.

Fenstermaker called Winn Texas’ “most complete” pitching prospect and credits his aggressiveness on the mound at all times. Winn is expected to make his MLB debut at some point this season, and he projects as a top-of-the-rotation guy in the future.

“What makes him so special is that he can do four things at an above average or plus level, and he can really just pitch,” Fenstermaker said. “What makes Cole so unique and special is that he has the feel to [throw a] strike with anything at any time. So he can throw pitches in counts that hitters at any level -- Major Leagues included -- don't see. And he's really aware of who he is as a pitcher, what his strengths are and how to really leverage those strengths."

2021 stats: 22 IP, 2.45 ERA, 35 K, 7 BB

Roby, a 2020 third-rounder, kicked off his first professional season with six starts at Low-A Down East, but was shut down in June with an elbow strain in his throwing arm. He avoided Tommy John surgery with a lot of rest, but missed out on the remainder of the Minor League season. He returned to action with the Rangers’ fall instructional league.

He spent most of the offseason regaining his velocity, which was sitting in the low 90s back in November. When fully healthy, his fastball sits around 95-96 mph, pairing well with his breaking ball. Fenstermaker compares Roby to Winn, calling them both “thoughtful” in how they navigate their abilities on the mound.

“TK is very mature beyond his years with really good stuff,” Fenstermaker said. “He has three Major League-caliber pitches already at 20 years old. He knows how to use his stuff. He's just really smart and intellectual, when you talk to him about his craft. I think he could be an above-average Major League starter. The potential to be a No. 2 or No. 3 is not out of the question.”

2021 stats: 35 1/3 IP, 3.06 ERA, 56 K, 12 BB

Like Roby, White’s professional career has been limited by injuries and the 2020 Minor League shutdown. He had his first taste of professional action this season with Low-A Down East, and showed flashes of why the Rangers selected him in the second round of the 2018 Draft before breaking his hand in the middle of his first start after punching the ground in frustration, missing another three months.

“My emotions just got the best of me,” White said. “I did what I did, and I had to pay the consequences. I'm maturing and being able to sit in rehab for those three months and mature and to really think about how I'm not just hurting myself when I do that kind of stuff, it's the whole team and organization.”

He returned to the mound in August, getting seven starts for the Wood Ducks, including three double-digit strikeout games. He did so well in his return that the Rangers opted to send him to the Arizona Fall League, where he was named the Pitcher of the Year with a 1.91 ERA across 28 1/3 innings.

“Owen’s a bit more advanced [than Roby],” Fenstermaker said. “Especially going into the Fall League and doing what he did, even though he’s had limited innings. His mindset is very competitive and he’s very poised, which is surprising for somebody who hasn’t pitched a whole lot. I think his true ceiling is probably No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues, [but] I wouldn't even want to limit him to that.”

2021 stats: 80 2/3 IP, 4.35 ERA, 87 K, 34 BB

Sticking with the theme, Ragans is another Rangers pitching prospect who has missed time with injuries. The 2016 first-rounder underwent two Tommy John surgeries between 2018-20 that left him falling behind in the development of an already deep farm system.

In 2021, Ragans returned to form, posting a stellar campaign that earned him a selection to the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field. At the All-Star break, Ragans h​ad a 3.22 ERA across 36 1/3 innings, but finished with a cumulative ERA just over four.

Fenstermaker thinks the increase in workload, along with a late promotion to Double-A Frisco, caused him to fade a bit in the backend of the season. Regardless, it was a success for the former first-rounder to get a full season healthy. RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews said that Ragans has what it takes to be “one of the great ones.”

“He’s got the starter's mindset,” Fenstermaker said. “It's just a matter of health and sustainability for him and it was a huge step in his career to be able to get through the year healthy last year.”