Where do Rangers pitching prospects stand?
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have been relentless in their pursuit of young starting pitching and may not be done if they get the right trade offer for starter Mike Minor, reliever Jose Leclerc or one of their extra offensive players. This has been the Rangers' No. 1 priority going back to last summer.
Here is a look at where the organization stands right now with some of its prized young starting pitchers. This is hardly an exhaustive list. The possibility always exists that somebody else could emerge from the pack in 2019. There is also another talented group being looked at as relievers. These are the most prominent of the starters.
• Rangers Top 30 prospects
Advanced Minor Leaguers
LHP Yohander Mendez
Minors last year: 2-10, 4.71 ERA over 23 starts at three levels; Majors: 2-2, 5.53 ERA, five starts, three relief appearances
RHP Ariel Jurado
Double-A Frisco: 5-3, 3.28 ERA, 16 starts; Majors: 5-5, 5.93 ERA, eight starts, four relief appearances
RHP Jonathan Hernandez
Class A Advanced Down East: 4-2, 2.20 ERA, 10 starts; Double-A: 4-4, 4.92 ERA, 12 starts
Outlook: Mendez and Jurado both pitched for the Rangers last season but weren't quite ready for the big leagues. Mendez has a terrific changeup but is still working on fastball command and the feel for his other pitches. Jurado has a terrific sinker, but his other pitches need work. Hernandez has the best three-pitch mix of the three, including a 94 mph fastball, but he still is trying to refine all three.
The Rangers' offseason goal should be to acquire enough pitching depth to allow these three to at least begin the season in the Minors and finish off their development properly.
2018 Trade acquisitions
LHP Taylor Hearn
Acquired from Pirates in Keone Kela trade on July 31, 2018
Double-A Altoona/Frisco: 4-8, 3.49 ERA, 24 starts
LHP Brock Burke
Acquired from Rays in Jurickson Profar trade on Dec. 21, 2018
Class A advanced Charlotte: 3-5, 3.84 ERA, 13 starts, three relief appearances. Double-A Montgomery: 6-1, 1.95 ERA, nine starts
RHP Jason Bahr
Acquired from Giants along with Austin Jackson/Cory Gearrin on July 8, 2018
Class A Augusta, Class A Advanced San Jose/Down East: 10-8, 3.52 ERA, 24 starts
LHP Tyler Thomas
Acquired from Cubs in Jesse Chavez trade on July 19, 2018
Class A South Bend/Hickory and Class A Advanced Down East: 3-9, 3.00 ERA, 20 starts, two relief appearances
Outlook: Minor League players may have tremendous talent but shouldn't be considered serious prospects until they have proven it at the Double-A level. Hearn and Burke have had success at that level, so the Rangers have a right to be excited. The organization needs to resist the temptation of rushing them too quickly to the big leagues. The next goal for Bahr and Thomas should be to prove themselves at Frisco.
Note: The Rangers acquired right-handers Abdiel Mendoza and Teodoro Ortega from the Athletics for Gearrin on Aug. 31. Both have been pitching at the lowest levels of the Minor Leagues at this point.
Tommy John clinic
LHP Joe Palumbo
Date of surgery: April 26, 2017
Three levels: 2-4, 2.78 ERA, 11 starts
LHP Cole Ragans
Date of surgery: March 28, 2018
Did not pitch at all last season
RHP Kyle Cody
Date of surgery: July 18, 2018
Arizona Rookie League: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, two starts
Outlook: If these three had stayed healthy, the whole outlook for the Rangers' organization would be completely different right now. Palumbo had a 1.93 ERA in two starts at Frisco and could be ready to seriously make up for lost time. The 24-year-old southpaw is the No. 1 pitcher to watch in the Rangers' system this season. Ragans, a first-round pick in 2016, is on a throwing program with a best case of getting back to full strength by May/June. Cody, the Rangers' '17 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, will miss most if not all of '19.
RHP Ronald Herrera
Did not pitch in 2018 because of shoulder injury
LHP Brett Martin
Double-A: 2-10, 7.28 ERA, 15 starts, 14 relief appearances
LHP Wes Benjamin
Double-A: 5-6, 3.62 ERA, 15 starts
RHP Michael Matuella
Class A Advanced: 3-5, 8.24 ERA, eight starts, 12 relief appearances
All four have been highly regarded by the Rangers at some point, but their progress has been stunted by injuries or other issues and they have been passed up by others. Still, the Rangers have not forgotten about them, and Martin is still on the 40-man roster. Who knows? Two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber had a 5.56 ERA at Triple-A in his fifth year in the Minor Leagues.
RHP Tyler Phillips
Hickory/Down East: 12-5, 2.64 ERA, 23 starts
RHP A.J. Alexy
Hickory: 6-8, 3.58 ERA, 20 starts, two relief appearances
RHP Hans Crouse
Class A Spokane/Hickory: 5-3, 2.47 ERA, 13 starts
Phillips came on strong en route to being named the Rangers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018, and Alexy was acquired from the Dodgers in theYu Darvish trade. But Crouse, a second-round pick in '17, is the one everybody is eager to see with the best talent/arm in the system. If he has a big year in Class A this season, it will set off a serious feeding frenzy from people eager to see a red carpet laid down to the front door of the new ballpark.
2018 Top Draft picks
RHP Cole Winn
Drafted: First round, 15th overall, Orange Lutheran High School (Calif.)
RHP Owen White
Drafted: Second round, China Grove-Carson High School (N.C.)
RHP Mason Englert
Drafted: Fourth round, Forney High School (Texas)
Outlook: All three did not make their professional debuts this past season. Instead the Rangers kept them under wraps in Arizona, letting them work on strength, conditioning, mechanics, the mental aspects of the game and other critical areas. These guys and others are just getting started and have a long climb. The pitchers ahead of them are reminders of the potential pitfalls that always loom, but these three have the talent to be special with a little patience.