Minor League Insider: Rangers prospects have had their ups, downs

Posted Saturday, Sep. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Every season produces ups and downs throughout the minor league system.

Some players exceed expectations, while others don’t.

The Texas Rangers’ minor-league affiliates have all wrapped up their seasons after High A Myrtle Beach fell out of the Carolina League playoffs Thursday. What’s the overall assessment?

“We’re pleased with the system, we feel a lot of guys made strides,” said Jake Krug, the Rangers’ director of minor league operations.

Here’s a look at three players who made strides, three who surprised and three who regressed.

Strides

RHP Luke Jackson: He’s always had potential, but went into this season with a 5.01 ERA over his first two years in pro ball. But Jackson turned the corner, going 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA at High A Myrtle Beach and earning a promotion to Double A.

He then had a 0.67 ERA in six games, including four starts, with the Rough Riders.

“I got my changeup figured out this year, and it’s really helped,” Jackson said.

He still has room to grow, of course. Jackson struggled with a high-pitch inning in most of his Double A starts, which kept him from going deeper into games, and he’ll need to focus on limiting his walks.

2B Rougned Odor: He reached the Double A level at age 19, which is always promising. More promising was the impact he made offensively, batting .305 with a .365 on-base percentage between Myrtle Beach and Frisco.

Odor also displayed instincts on the base paths with 32 steals, and finished his season with four consecutive multi-hit games.

C Jorge Alfaro: He’s not close to the big leagues, but there’s a real possibility that Alfaro is the new No. 1 prospect in the organization.

Catchers are hard to find and develop, and Alfaro continues to make strides in being their future catcher.

He hit for power this year, too, connecting on 18 home runs with 61 RBIs. Most importantly, he continued to develop behind the plate.

Surprised

LHP Alex Claudio: A 27th-round pick in 2010, Claudio hadn’t pitched above rookie-league ball until this season. But the 21-year-old left-hander skipped High A by going from Low A Hickory to Double A Frisco midway through the season.

With the Rough Riders, Claudio posted a 2.84 ERA over 21 relief appearances, striking out 29 in 312/3 innings. He has certainly placed himself on the radar.

RHP Nick Martinez: Another pitcher who had an impressive season. He started at Myrtle Beach, going 10-7 with a 2.87 ERA, before joining the Frisco rotation. He had a 1.12 ERA with the Rough Riders, going at least six innings in all five of his outings.

“He’s always been on the radar, but what he looked like in Frisco, I think he definitely took another jump on it,” Krug said.

RHP Ben Rowen: You don’t see many submarine pitchers in the big leagues, but Rowen will likely get his chance at some point. He put up good numbers since joining the Rangers, but this season he combined for a sub-1.00 ERA between Frisco and Round Rock.

His 0.69 ERA this season in the upper levels goes to show that his throwing motion is not just smoke and mirrors that can only get inexperienced batters out.

“He’s a different look-type guy, and you never know who’s going to make it,” Krug said.

Regressed

RHP Cody Buckel: He might be the most baffling of all. He had pitched consistently well in his first three seasons, went to big-league camp last spring and his season never really got going.

A case of the yips has doomed the once-promising right-hander, who will continue to work through it in instructional league. His season has been a blow to the farm-system depth, but if anyone can get him back on track, it’s Keith Comstock, the Rangers’ rehab pitching coordinator in Arizona.

OF Jake Skole: The Rangers’ first-round pick in 2010 has not developed as hoped. The 21-year-old has shown defensive skills and base-running ability, but the offense has yet to develop.

Skole batted only .211 this season at Myrtle Beach, although he’ll have stretches where it seems to be coming together.

INF Hanser Alberto: The organization hoped that the 20-year-old was ready for the Double A level to start the season, but he struggled at Frisco batting .213 over 100 games.

That got him demoted to High A Myrtle Beach.

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

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