A Number of Texas Rangers Prospects Are Impressing at Arizona Instructional League
After a year completely void of minor league baseball, Texas Rangers prospects are getting their first taste of game action at the fall instructional league in Arizona. With 40-man players left off instructional league rosters due to restrictions implemented by the Players Association, this is giving prospects a much-needed opportunity to get some game action.
The Rangers have their consensus No. 1 prospect Josh Jung in the group along with a number of prospects up and down the organization. Jung spent some valuable time at the Rangers' alternate training site during the season. After nearly two weeks of downtime to decompress, Jung has been able to apply what he learned in Arlington in the fall games.
“He's been swinging the bat while playing well," said Rangers GM Jon Daniels in a Zoom call with local writers. "He’s been kind of a little bit of a leader out there among the group. He’s played great. He's stood out with his energy."
Daniels said the Rangers still clearly view Jung as a third baseman, but have made it a point to get Jung some time at second base as well.
"With some of the shifts and things that you do in the game, I think it just kind of helps him see the the field from different perspectives," Daniels said. "I think he likes it. He's a baseball rat. He's played really well."
The Rangers have an older group and a younger group that are playing in different games, matching up with the other clubs have that as well. Daniels said Rangers hitters are a bit ahead of the pitching right now, where they've taken a bit of a slower approach.
"We've had a couple guys go three innings, but we're not going to really push the pitchers a whole lot," Daniels explained. "[We’re] not looking obviously to get guys hurt with a little bit of a limited ramp up for some of the guys that weren't in camp beforehand."
One pitcher that is no longer in camp is Hans Crouse, one of the organization's top pitching prospects. Crouse left camp due to personal issues, but Daniels noted that the reason for his absence is "on the good side." Prior to the instructional league, Crouse worked out in Arizona with other top pitching prospects Cole Winn and Ricky Vanasco.
As Daniels detailed players that were standing out thus far in Arizona, it was nearly impossible for there to be no mention of Luisangel Acuña, the younger brother of Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr.
Luisangel is hitting well in the instructional league with a .429/.478/.476 slash line in 13 games. That slugging percentage is quite low given the .429 average, but Luisangel's older brother believes his power is nothing to worry about.
“At the age of 17 he is hitting home runs the way I’m hitting them now,” Acuña Jr. told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That’s the best comparison I can make. He is playing the game at his age the way I am playing now.”
In asking Daniels about Luisangel Acuña, the comparisons to Ronald were nearly unavoidable.
“He plays the game similar to his brother, with this style of play, how much he loves to play the game and is aggressive out there on the diamond," Daniels explained. "He's gotten stronger. He's not as tall as his brother, but he gives you a good at-bat. He doesn't get cheated up there. He’s a natural shortstop. We've moved around the infield a little bit and he's got good hands, good arm. You can tell that he just loves to play the game.
"We put a real emphasis on this group on really competing and winning (this fall). There's plenty of development going on, but they haven’t played a season. And he's one of the guys that stood out to me and just the energy with which he plays the game. I think the managers of the clubs, Josh Johnson and Carlos Cardoza, have done an outstanding job and pushing to play a really high energy style, and that really fits the way Acuña plays the game.”
Daniels mentioned several other hitters that have stood out, including Miguel Aparicio, Derwin Barreto, 2020 first-round pick Justin Foscue, and 2020 second-round pick Evan Carter.
"Evan Carter made a really good first impression," Daniels said. "With Carter, we didn't have a chance to see him play against the ton of higher level competition so that everything kind of checked out with him as we're going through the process. The one thing we didn't see was him facing better stuff, better velocity, more refined pitchers. He’s from a little bit of a smaller area from a competition standpoint. And so he's handled himself really well. He really controls the strike zone. That's been a huge bright spot for us."
Other impressive hitters Daniels mentioned are Bayron Lora, Curtis Terry, and Chris Seise, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
"Obviously, him being healthy is huge for us and for him," Daniels said. "Physically, he stands out on the diamond. It's a big league body right now. And he's swung the bat very well. So all those things are encouraging.”