The Texas Rangers' front office spent significant time and resources to add quality depth to their farm system in 2021. Baseball America released their 2022 Top 10 Rangers prospects on Monday, and the list exhibits the work done to revamp the organization.
The top three Rangers prospects comes with little to no surprise, with 2021 first-round pick Jack Leiter topping the list. The Vanderbilt product was one of the most sought-after prospects in the draft, and the Rangers were able to land him with the second overall pick. 2019 first-round pick Josh Jung came in at No. 2 after a standout performance in his first full season as a professional, and is all but guaranteed to make his big league debut in 2022. 2018 first-round pick Cole Winn was named the Rangers' No. 3 prospect after a breakthrough season at Double-A Frisco that earned him a start in the Futures Game at the All-Star break.
The rest of the list, however, displays the countless hours of work done in trades, the draft and player development over the past 16 months:
- No. 4: INF Ezequiel Duran
- No. 5: INF Dustin Harris
- No. 6: INF Justin Foscue
- No. 7: RHP Owen White
- No. 8: OF Evan Carter
- No. 9: INF Josh H. Smith
- No. 10: INF Luisangel Acuña
Ezequiel Duran was one of the four prospects acquired in the Joey Gallo trade this past summer. The 22-year-old is known primarily for his bat, but has the versatility to man second base, third base and shortstop. Duran's best tool is his power, though his hitting is not far behind whatsoever. Duran is just one of multiple prospects brought in with strong hit tools and a higher floor, which represents the shift away from the high-risk prospects the organization used to covet.
At one point, Dustin Harris was the second name in the trade that sent Mike Minor to the Oakland Athletics. Now, after a breakout season, he's a top-five organizational prospect. Harris torched the Class-A levels, slashing .327/.401/.542/.943 with 20 home runs and 85 RBI in 110 total games between Low-A Down East and High-A Hickory. He was later named the Rangers minor league player of the year, and local fans will likely get a chance to watch Harris right away in 2022, who will likely open the season at Double-A Frisco.
Justin Foscue's first full professional season got off to a mediocre start, then a rib injury sidelined the 2020 first-round pick for over a month and a half. As it turned out, the slow start and injury lit a fire under Foscue, who raked for Hickory after returning in July. In 33 games with the Crawdads, Foscue posted a blistering 1.143 OPS with 14 homers and 35 RBI. His numbers took a bit of a dip after being promoted to Frisco (.704 OPS in 26 games), but Foscue ended the year on a high note, posting a .944 OPS in 19 games at the Arizona Fall League.
Speaking of the AFL...
Owen White put up solid numbers for the Down East Wood Ducks, posting a 3.24 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 33 1/3 innings over eight starts. However, his season was cut short after he broke his hand while punching the ground out of frustration. The 2018 second-round pick did the absolute best to make amends by going to the Arizona Fall League, and he made an impact that turned heads throughout the industry. White posted a ridiculous 1.91 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 28 1/3 innings over six starts for the Surprise Saguaros, and was subsequently named the AFL Pitcher of the Year.
Post-Game Notes: Rangers 3, Nationals 2
Here are the post-game notes from the Texas Rangers' 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday in Arlington
Rangers Walk-Off Win Over Nationals
Lead-off, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth claims Texas victory
Pregame Notes: Rangers, Nationals Continue Series
Stats, probable lineups, injury updates and notes for Saturday’s matchup between Texas and the Washington Nationals at Globe Life Field
Though Evan Carter's season was cut short due to a back injury in mid-June, the tools the Rangers saw before they selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft were on full display. In his age 18 season, Carter displayed plate discipline beyond his years and hit the ball hard when he made contact. While he only hit for a .236 average, he racked up 34 walks in 32 games and stole 12 bases, all while possessing the ability to play all three outfield positions. The Rangers took a lot of heat for selecting Carter so high in the draft since he was virtually an unknown. However, every indication thus far shows Carter could be a big leaguer in the coming years.
Josh H. Smith was also acquired in the Gallo trade, and is the closest to his big league debut of the three infielders acquired from New York. Smith dominated High-A while in the Yankees organization, then only played nine games at Hickory before the Rangers promoted him to Frisco. There, Smith posted a .294/.425/.431/.857 slash line in 30 games. He's another prospect with a strong hit tool, though he is a far more polished defender than Duran or many of the other middle infield prospects in the Rangers system.
Speaking of defense...
Luisangel Acuña is the best defender in the Rangers system. He has the athleticism to play anywhere in the infield, and his athleticism and speed can even aid him in any potential transition to the outfield. Acuña, the younger brother of Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., posted a respectable .266/.345/.404/.749 slash line in his North American debut at Low-A Down East, but he remained an impact player in the lineup while racking up 74 RBI and 44 stolen bases in 111 games.
Four of the top 10 Rangers prospects on Baseball America are middle infielders. With the additions of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, the Rangers now have superb depth at the position. This gives the club a number of options, like using the depth as trade capital to acquire impact veterans or transition any of them to another position. As noted previously, Acuña has traits to play the outfield. Dustin Harris and Ezequiel Duran could eventually learn to play a corner outfield spot.
It's always best to build a core down the middle, and the Rangers have done exactly that.
One way to really see how much much deeper the farm system is now is taking notice of a significant absence from this list: Sam Huff. The six-foot-five catcher entered the 2021 season as the Rangers' No. 2 prospect on Baseball America. In less than a calendar year, he has slid out of the top 10.
Injuries obviously play a role in these rankings (which is probably why Ricky Vanasco isn't on this list), and Huff was unable to catch this season due to a knee injury suffered while rehabbing a hamstring injury in spring training. Even so, Huff played 61 games between four levels of the minor leagues while earning at-bats at first base and designated hitter. While his power was on full display, Huff struck out at an alarming rate, which likely plays a role in his stock dropping.
Even so, there is still plenty of reason to be excited about Huff. He'll get to work with new bench coach Donnie Ecker and hitting coach Tim Hyers once the Major League Baseball lockout is over, and it will be interesting to see how his bat progresses under the new hitting program. Huff still has plenty of tools to be deemed as an "exciting" prospect.
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