The attention of the Texas Rangers’ media last year was directed to a story about a right-handed prep pitcher in California with all the talent in the world but with a hot temper and some concerns about his support network back home.
The dreaded make-up issues were already dogging Hans Crouse.
The Rangers, like other teams, had their area scout do his due diligence and get to know the kid and the family. The baseball stuff was all there.
In the end, the Rangers learned that Crouse’s make-up issues were overblown, that signing him came with the same risk as any other high-school pitcher, and that he was too much of a talent to pass up in the second round (66th overall).
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As of the end of this season, Crouse moved to the top of the Star-Telegram rankings of Rangers prospects.
“Our make-up stuff on him was really positive,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Steve Flores really got to know the family, got to know Hans. I think some of the questions were because he’s so competitive he’s kind of emotional on the mound. He’s been awesome.”
Talking to Crouse is a joy. He’s young and misses home sometimes, but his head is firmly affixed to his shoulders. He has developed his own support network while hundreds or thousands of miles from home, and just like a freshman off to college, Crouse was looking forward to the end of the season.
“Being a young kid and getting this opportunity in baseball is great, but at the same time I’m still a kid,” he said. “I miss my family and friends back home every day. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing them this off-season. At one point, baseball is great, but at the same time, I still miss the people back home.”
That’s kind of refreshing, isn’t it?
Off to instructs
The top five players in the rankings reported Wednesday to the instructional league in Surprise, Ariz., and only one of the top 10 won’t be in the annual postseason camp for minor-leaguers.
Only No. 8 Joe Palumbo, who finished the season at Double A Frisco on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, won’t head west. No. 9 Tyler Phillips, No. 7 Taylor Hearn and No. 6 Jonathan Hernandez will report Tuesday and stay through the end of the week.
They will not throw, however, and they are not on the instructs roster. Neither is No. 10 Cole Ragans, who is six months out from Tommy John surgery and only late in August started a throwing program.
No. 5 Cole Winn figures to be the busiest of the top 10. The right-hander, selected in the first round of the draft in June (15th overall), did not pitch for the rookie-level AZL Rangers this summer but will make five one- or two-inning appearances over the next month.
Julio Pablo Martinez, ranked No. 3, will stay in Surprise after instructs to participate in the Arizona Fall League. That should represent a significant jump in the level of competition for him after spending is first season in the U.S. at Short-Season A Spokane.
Three members of the Top 10 were recognized as Classification All-Stars by Baseball America, with Hernandez taking the biggest honor.
The right-hander was selected as the High A Pitcher of the Year even though he made only 10 starts for High A Down East. He went 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 17 walks and a .182 opponents average before he was promoted to Frisco to finish the season.
Phillips was picked as a Low A All-Star after going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA for Hickory. He walked only 14 in 128 innings while striking out 124.
Crouse finished the season at Hickory after dominating the Northwest League for Spokane. He went 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA, 47 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38 innings for his promotion and was picked as a Short-Season All-Star.
Also recognized as All-Stars, though not in the Star-Telegram’s top 10, were Spokane first baseman Curtis Terry and third baseman Disobel Arias; and catcher Randy Florentino and right-hander Yonny Henriquez in the Dominican Summer League.
All four will be at instructs this month.