Rangers Manager Chris Woodward Impressed with Jung, Huff, Other Top Prospects in Camp
ARLINGTON, Texas — When Major League Baseball clubs began putting their 60-man rosters together for this intriguing 60-game season, the inclusion of top prospects was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
The only question was how many would be chosen.
Some of the chosen prospects could have possibly seen the major leagues at some point in a 2020 season not impacted by COVID-19. Others were still considerably further away from the big leagues. Even Spencer Torkelson, Detroit's first overall pick in this year's draft, was added to their 60-man roster.
The cancelation of the minor league seasons is the catalyst behind adding players that may or may not be ready for big league action. With no minor league baseball, hundreds of prospects throughout the sport will suffer some sort of setback in their development.
However, clubs did not take these decisions lightly. There is real risk that injuries and COVID-19 cases could force clubs to call up some of these younger prospects to the major league roster, whether they are ready or not. However, inclusion in the 60-man pool, even if all that time is spent on the taxi squad, is better than no development at all.
Take Texas Rangers top prospect Josh Jung. He was not in big league camp this spring. Under normal circumstances, Jung would have likely spent a good portion of 2020 at Double-A Frisco while the organization watched closely to see if he would be a legitimate candidate for a role on the major league club in 2021.
Obviously, the Rangers didn't want their top prospect to go an entire season without some kind of development. They actually added 11 of Baseball America's Top-30 Rangers prospects to the 60-man roster:
- 3B Josh Jung (No. 1)
- C Sam Huff (No. 2)
- CF Leody Taveras (No. 3)
- OF Nick Solak (No. 4)
- LHP Joe Palumbo (No. 7)
- 3B/1B Sherten Apostel (No. 11)
- RHP Demarcus Evans (No. 16)
- RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17)
- SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 18)
- LHP Taylor Hearn (No. 28)
- RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 30)
Workouts have been going on for nearly a week and a half now. Top prospects that are not deemed "major league ready" like Jung, Sam Huff, Leody Taveras, and Sherten Apostel have participated to a significant extent at the early portion of camp, giving their future major league manager a chance to take inventory of the organization's future.
With prospects like Nick Solak and Joe Palumbo already having major league service time under their belts, I asked Chris Woodward to give a report of sorts on how his younger prospects are performing at Summer Camp:
“Josh has been impressive. I saw him last year take (batting practice) at an instruction league at the ballpark. I talked to our minor league guys and Cody Atkinson, and our minor league hitting coaches. He’s gotten a lot better. When we first drafted him, we knew he could hit and had good bat-to-ball. He had good power to right-center, but couldn’t really pull the ball like he wanted to. The work he’s committed to over last year and this offseason, and now in this off time, I’ve seen a different guy. He’s obviously very smart. He understands the game. When you put him between the lines, he’s a gamer. He loves to have an at-bat. He loves to play defense. He’s a winning player. Now, he’s understanding a little bit more of the technical aspects to make him a more consistent and better player. I’ve been really impressed. This guy works hard. I almost have to tell him to stop working so hard because he’ll literally run himself into the ground if you let him. The kid has been really impressive.”
“With Huffer—similar. The make-up on both of those guys are off the chart. Huffer’s worked really hard on his—he's had to catch some tough guys. With Jonathan [Hernandez] throwing 98 mile-per-hour turbo sinkers, that was a tough matchup as far as framing goes. But he did a good job. I know he missed a couple, but he’s been working really hard with Hector [Ortiz] and Bobby Wilson on his framing, his throwing, game-calling. We’ve got a lot of cool things we’re going to have him do over on the other side as far as game-planning and understanding our system so when he gets here, he’s not going to be surprised by anything. Hopefully, he can take the reins and go with it.”
“Last year, as an organization, we really challenged him. He always had a lot of speed, but he didn’t steal as many bases as we thought he could with his elite speed. I know Corey Ragsdale was on the minor league side last year, so they just basically pulled him aside—I had the conversation with him at spring training last year to say, ‘Hey man, we need you to elevate your game on the bases. It’s going to be demanded at the big league level, so when you get here, you’re going to be expected to fit right in.’ The kid is talented. I saw it the first go around of spring training. With the bat, the technical aspect of his swing, he’s worked on really hard. He’s a different guy than I saw even last year. In so many ways, these younger guys are making huge strides. And to see the way they compete on the field, you can tell Taveras loves to compete. That’s the one thing I love about him. He loves to be in the batter’s box. It doesn’t matter who’s pitching. That’s going to separate us from a younger standpoint because a lot of these guys are hungry to get here.”
“He impressed me at Spring Training. I had quite a few conversations with him. He stood by me in some Spring Training games. I got to know him a little bit better. He’s a smart kid. He’s very, very bright. He’s understanding of a lot of things we’re teaching here. He’s really, really good in his cage work. Off the field, he’s in a good spot. Honestly, I’ve been overall impressed with the kid himself. His talent, obviously you see how much raw power he has with his ability to hit the ball to the middle of the field. I think his plate discipline is something that I have really been impressed with—him and [Leody] Taveras both. They don’t swing at balls. It’s huge thing for us moving forward to know our prospects aren’t free-swingers, that they can control the strike zone. That’s something we preach a lot at the big league level. I’m excited about his development for sure.”