Texas Rangers

Rangers shut down flame-throwing prospect, but not for a setback. He was throwing 102 mph

Defense key part of Allard’s outing in Rangers’ win

Texas Rangers rookie Kolby Allard allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, and thanked the fielders behind him.
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Texas Rangers rookie Kolby Allard allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, and thanked the fielders behind him.

Nick Solak, Kolby Allard, Brock Burke, Emmanuel Clase, Jose Trevino.

Encouraging, encouraging, encouraging, encouraging, encouraging.

All five have made a case, albeit in a very small sample sizes, that they should be on the Texas Rangers’ roster next season.

Other rookies are moving the needle, too, and will get the chance to make favorable last impressions as they head into the off-season.

The future for the Rangers, though, is still mostly in the minor leagues, where seasons have ended or are on the verge of ending.

Five Rangers affiliates qualified for the postseason, and Low A Hickory is still playing. The Crawdads will play for the South Atlantic League championship and try to become the second affiliate to win a title.

The Arizona rookies won their league.

It was a tumultuous season on the farm, with key injuries to start the year and a staff overhaul at the end. Overall, though, there was more good than bad in the Rangers’ system, and potentially more to come as the fall instructional league begins Tuesday in Arizona.

Here are a few prospects who have did some interesting things this season.

Here’s a new one

Right-hander Alex Speas, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2016, was shut down on his road back from Tommy John surgery, but not because of a medical setback.

He was too healthy and was throwing too hard.

A reliever, Speas was in his 14th month after surgery when he blew up the radar gun during a bullpen session while rehabbing in Arizona.

He threw six fastballs at 102 mph.

His slider came in at 94 mph.

The Rangers had seen enough, and slammed on the brakes.

Speas made two appearances with the rookie team. He walked two and struck out two in only one inning, as his pitch counts were monitored.

He probably won’t make a Clase-type jump in 2020. Speas must still harness all that velocity, as Clase, who started the season at Hickory, has learned to do.

But it appears Speas has the best arm, even if it has been surgically repaired, in the system.

Crouse earns praise

Hans Crouse entered the season as the Rangers’ top prospect, and lord knows the Rangers need to develop their own big-league starting pitchers.

The right-hander has been shut down for the season and is not pitching for Hickory in the postseason. He has a bone spur in his elbow that will be shaved away in an early-October operation.

The Rangers expected that Crouse will be a full-go for spring training.

His numbers this season weren’t necessarily becoming of an elite pitching prospect. Crouse, who turns 21 on Saturday, pitched to a 4.41 ERA and struck out 76 in 87 2/3 innings. He also allowed 12 home runs.

He pitched with the bone spur that limited the effectiveness of his main off-speed pitch, a slider. He gutted out his season rather than shutting things down, and the innings he logged will serve him well as he continues his development.

The front office has taken note.

“I’m proud of what Hans did,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Once he had the confidence from the medical side that this wasn’t something that could get worse, it was more a matter of pitching through discomfort. And it’s big.

“If he hasn’t done that, he would not have had close to a full season, and you look up next year and his innings would have been more limited. The fact that he was able to push through it is a building block for the season and puts him in better position for next year.”

New prospect at first?

Sam Huff, who started the season at Hickory and finished it at High A Down East, is a shoo-in to be the Rangers’ Minor League Player of the Year, and not just because he was MVP of the Futures Game.

He’s a catcher who swatted 28 home runs over the two levels while playing terrific defense behind the plate.

But among those who made a statement for top honors is first baseman Curtis Terry, who played at the same two levels as Huff and looked to be the better hitter of the two at Down East.

Terry, 22, was selected in the 13th round of the 2015 draft and spent three seasons at Class A Short Season Spokane. That doesn’t bode well for most prospects, but Terry made a jump this season.

He batted .293 overall with 25 home runs, but .322 with 10 home runs in 67 games at Down East. At 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, he’s athletic for a bigger player.

“He’s always been able to hit, but I don’t think he’s come into his power like he is now,” said Paul Kruger, the director of minor-league operations. “The biggest thing for us is his ability to play first base now is legitimate. Now, it’s any ball hit to him he’s going to make a play on. That’s been is biggest step forward.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.