Rookies provide glimpse of an exciting future
ARLINGTON -- Earlier this season, Texas’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate housed a number of Rangers prospects, including three home-grown Draft picks in Josh Jung, Sam Huff and Bubba Thompson, plus Josh Smith, who came over to the organization in the Joey Gallo trade with the Yankees at last year’s Deadline.
On Saturday night against the Blue Jays, the six through nine spots in the Rangers' lineup were all rookies who entered the season ranked in the club’s Top 30 prospect list, per MLB Pipeline -- Jung, Huff, Smith and Thompson.
All four notched at least one hit in the Rangers’ 11-7 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday night at Globe Life Field.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said interim manager Tony Beasley. “To see the kids with the energy and their competitive spirit go out and contribute, they've done a nice job getting us back to the top of the lineup and giving the guys a chance to produce offensively for us. It's been really good to watch how they've competed at the plate and how they haven't been overwhelmed or too amped up to have good at-bats. That's a good sign for us, a sign of good things to come.”
Thompson, batting ninth, led the way and logged a two-hit day with a single and an RBI double, bringing his season average to .290 in 32 games. Huff hit his first home run since June 1 against Tampa Bay.
Jung, the Rangers’ top prospect, added a double in the sixth inning for his third big league hit after making his debut in Friday night’s loss.
Smith’s two-hit day was particularly of note due to his struggles after getting called up earlier this season. The utility man burst onto the scene when he made his debut on May 30, and he hit .258/.439/.290/.729 through his first 12 games of action.
He then struggled to keep up that same level of on-base production, resulting in his demotion on Aug. 21. The coaching staff was hoping he could get back to doing what he did best -- drive the ball to all fields and get on base at a high clip.
“The report from Round Rock was that he had gotten back offensively to doing the things that we saw in Spring Training and the first 10 games or so up here,” Beasley said. “We believe in Josh, and we’ve got to make sure that we get Josh back to being the player that he needs to be. We've seen it. When you see a player with his capabilities, we know it's there. As coaches, we’ve got to find a way that makes sure that we get him to be able to produce and play that type of game that he's capable of.”
Huff said it felt good to put one over the wall, and special to compete alongside the same guys that were with him in Round Rock, or even the lower levels of the Minors in previous seasons.
For them, it means something that the group of them are able to grind through big league games together and keep the line moving through the bottom part of the lineup.
“We're excited,” Huff said. “I think we're down there to get our work in and kind of prepare for this. Whatever it is to help out and whatever spark. I think it’s just learning. We’re here to play ball and try to win. It is definitely cool. I've kind of come up with Josh and Bubba and Smitty, I’ve gotten to know him last year and this year. I'm excited, and it’s cool to see them do their thing. We just play baseball.”
The last few weeks of the season are an important chance for the newcomers to get settled in at the big league level and work their way to furthering their careers.
“We expect everybody to, as I say, pedal downhill,” Beasley said. “To make sure we finish strong, but [it’s important] for those young guys to be able to compete and have good at-bats. … They've been contributing. It's good to have those guys that come up through the organization, to have the younger guys come up and compete. That's what it's all about. So it's a good thing, it's good to see.”