Minor League Insider: Rangers say Futures Game a ‘great experience’ for all

Posted Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: Going into Saturday, Mike Olt had a five-game hitting streak. He is batting .263 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs since returning from vision issues that cost him more than a month. … Right-handed reliever Wilmer Font was promoted to the Express on Saturday after posting a 1.41 ERA over 26 appearances at Frisco. Double A Frisco: Right-hander Neil Ramirez had thrown two straight games with six scoreless innings and went into his start Saturday with a 9-2 record and 2.89 ERA. … Right-handed reliever Lisalverto Bonilla was demoted to Frisco after going 5-5 with a 7.95 ERA over 26 games and two starts at Round Rock. High A Myrtle Beach: Shortstop Luis Sardinas was batting .302 over his last 10 games going into Saturday. … Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff went 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA over five starts in June, holding opponents to a .214 average. Local note: Noah Syndergaard, a right-hander in the New York Mets system from Mansfield Legacy, was selected to the Futures Game. He was recently promoted to Double A by the Mets and has combined to go 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA over 13 starts at High A St. Lucie and Double A Binghamton.

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The Futures Game didn’t have much traction when it started back in 1999, but it has grown steadily every year.

The interest has risen similar to that of the recruiting craze for college football. The farm systems in baseball give fan bases hope for the future, and fans have latched onto following their team’s next star through their minor-league days.

The Futures Game showcases the top talent in the minors, and it enjoyed its best attended game last year in Kansas City with more than 40,000 fans.

They saw players such as Jurickson Profar and Manny Machado, who were on their big-league teams by the end of the season.

Profar and Mike Olt, along with Double A manager Steve Buechele, were the Texas Rangers representatives last year. This year, the Rangers will once again be well represented.

A pair of high-end prospects at Low A Hickory were selected this year, third baseman Joey Gallo for the U.S. Team and catcher Jorge Alfaro for the World Team. And Triple A Round Rock pitching coach Brad Holman also has been invited to serve on the U.S. Team’s coaching staff.

Alfaro broke his left hand Friday, though, and will be out several weeks, likely missing the Futures Game. But High A Myrtle Beach second baseman Rougned Odor could join them as the final member of the World Team, as he’s one of five candidates for the last spot.

It marks the third straight year that the Rangers have had at least two players selected to the Futures Game. Profar and Olt were at last year’s, and Profar and Martin Perez were there in 2011.

“It’s something we’re very proud of to have all of them there,” said Jake Krug, the Rangers’ director of minor league operations. “We like the event and it’s a great experience for our players and coaches.”

Gallo, 19, and Alfaro, who turned 20 earlier this month, are two of the promising prospects in the system and are considered among the top 10 in the organization. Both could be in the organization’s top-five prospects by next season, although they have room to grow.

Gallo, a supplemental round pick in last year’s draft, is known for his power as a corner infielder. Going into Saturday, he had 23 home runs over 76 games with the Crawdads. That’s the second-most in the minor leagues, trailing only teammate Ryan Rua (24).

The power numbers are intriguing and eye-opening, of course, but Gallo still has a ways to go. He is batting only .233 and has 124 strikeouts. High strikeout numbers are something every power hitter is going to fight and something that Gallo is working on daily.

“When he’s been hot, it’s been really good,” Krug said. “When he’s been cold, it’s been bad. We’re trying to even out the highs and lows.”

Alfaro, meanwhile, also has big-time potential like Gallo. His latest injury comes at a bad time as he has shown strides at the plate, batting .292 in June after posting a .236 average in May.

But his biggest room for improvement is defensively. The Rangers are hoping Alfaro catches 100 games this season, which is now in jeopardy with the injury.

“The learning process for a 20-year-old is to just how to stay focused for a whole game,” Hickory manager Corey Ragsdale said. “It’s not something he doesn’t want to do, it’s just more learning how to stay alert and stay ready the whole game. He’s got great feet, a great arm, good hands … when he’s in a good ready position every pitch, he’s very good.”

Gallo and Alfaro certainly deserved their Futures Game nod, and so does Holman. He has risen up the ranks in the Texas organization in his five years, starting as the Hickory pitching coach then moving to Myrtle Beach and getting up to Round Rock this season.

Holman was surprised by the recognition but has talked with Buechele about the process.

“He said really positive things about it, so I can’t wait,” Holman said. “It’s definitely an All-Star cast as far as the top prospects in the game. I really never thought of myself as doing the type of job worthy as an All-Star, so I’m just flattered by the opportunity.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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