Texas Rangers

In a development season for Rangers, how is the development going?

Jose Leclerc has been one of the Rangers' best relievers all season and has been the pitcher who sees the toughest situations.
Jose Leclerc has been one of the Rangers' best relievers all season and has been the pitcher who sees the toughest situations. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

No baseball was to be played Monday at Globe Life Park as the Texas Rangers enjoyed a day off, but baseball business was to be conducted in Arlington.

International free agency opened, and with it, via the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the Rangers added to their organization. Agreements were to be signed with more than a dozen teenagers, led by Venezuelan catcher Jose Rodriguez for a cool $2 million bonus.

Shortstop Luisangel Acuna, younger brother of Atlanta Braves star rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., was to receive a bonus of $425,000 also in Venezuela, and Dominican shortstop Junior Paniagua was looking at a $300,000 payday.

The Rangers weren't expected to announce the deals, which were pending physicals, but they were adding amateur talent to the farm system less than a month after stocking up in the First-Year Player Draft.

The July 2 signing period and the draft are annual bonanzas where the development of potential major leaguers begins. But this season in the big leagues, and likely 2019 and possibly 2020, development is the focus.

That hasn't been the case since 2007 and 2008.

General manager Jon Daniels clearly stated his intentions last month when his contract extension was announced, though it wasn't a secret. For months, dating to the off-season, the Rangers had said they wanted to learn which players will be of service in future seasons, all with the expectation of contending in 2018.

That won't happen, but development must happen. Nine games below .500 (38-47) just past the halfway mark of the season, it's fair to wonder whether it's happening.

It's time to check in on how the players who must grow this season are coming along.

Growing up

Jose Leclerc: There isn't an MLB team that wouldn't take Leclerc in its bullpen right now. He has been the reliever the Rangers throw into the nastiest situations, and he has escaped far more often than he has been swallowed up. It's been a remarkable turnaround season.

Keone Kela: It's not like Kela doesn't have experience. He does, and closer-type stuff. The Rangers, though, needed to see how he would handle the ninth inning, and he has yet to blow a save in 20 chances. Kela has also been accountable with the media, giving a professional air about him.

Jurickson Profar: Another player who isn't a rookie, Profar has been derailed two years by injuries and stuck behind a middle-infield roadblock. If there is a silver lining to Elvis Andrus' injury, it's that Profar played shortstop every day for two months. He became one of the team's top run producers and, oddly, toughest outs despite batting below .250. He can play.

Delino DeShields: Remember the off-season, when the Rangers wanted to sign a "defensive-minded center fielder"? They had one all along in DeShields, who has been one of the top center fielders in the game. His bat lagged after returning from a broken hamate bone in the second game of the season, but that's coming around. He's fine.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa: The Rangers might not know what they will do with this rookie in the future, but they believe he is part of their future after essentially skipping Triple A to come the majors. He was a star fill-in while Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor were injured early on. Kiner-Falefa can play the infield, but he can also catch. That needs to develop, and so does consistency at the plate, but he's been a pleasant surprise.

Ronald Guzman: Defense at first base won't be an issue as long as Guzman is there. The rookie can flash the leather, and it's nearly impossible to get a throw past his long stretch and wing span. Guzman has been a star hitter the past three seasons in the minors and has shown a knack for delivering big hits. He's just seeking more consistency.

Growing pains

Rougned Odor: His task is to make everyone — the Rangers, the league, the fans — forget his miserable 2017. Believe it or not, he's starting to move in that direction. Odor reached five times Sunday, a first for his career. He has hits in 10 of his past 12 games, is batting .287 in his past 32 games and has three homers in the past 10. Odor's average: .241. That's actually good considering where he's been.

Joey Gallo: A quick comparison: Gallo in 2017 through 82 games — .192/.311/.504, 21 homers, 27 non-homer hits, 113 strikeouts, 39 walks. Gallo in 2018 through 82 games — .194/.298/.456, 20 homers, 35 non-homer hits, 118 strikeouts, 39 walks. Some improvement and marginal declines for a player who needs to be a more complete hitter. There are signs that it's in him. He needs to get it out of him.

Ryan Rua: Given the starting job in left field for a second time, Rua lasted until mid-April. He is with the Rangers now and homered twice last week but has mostly shuttled back and forth between Triple A Round Rock. The Rangers needed to know whether Rua was a future starter for them. They might have gotten their answer.

Drew Robinson: Robinson needs regular at-bats to get in a rhythm at the plate, and he's getting those at-bats at Round Rock. The Rangers don't have a spot for him. The outfield looks to be filled for the next few seasons, and Profar and Kiner-Falefa can man third if Beltre doesn't return for 2019. Robinson is stuck.

Yohander Mendez: His season highlight was a lowlight, as he was optioned back to Round Rock after only one MLB start following a violation of team rules last month in Kansas City. He's currently at Low A Down East for a reset designed to get his mechanics and head back on track.

Carlos Tocci: The Rule 5 pick has managed to stay on the active roster all season, minus an extended stay on the disabled list, even though he is batting .069, has made a few questionable decisions on the bases and hasn't shown that his glove is enough to make up for his bat. It's clear he needs time in the minors. It's not clear whether the Rangers can keep him on the 25-man roster all season.

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