Previewing the 2016 Hickory Crawdads

Yeyson Yrizarri taking his hacks, courtesy of pix.scottlucas.com

Up next as I continue with the preview series is a look at the 2016 Hickory Crawdads.

The Hickory Crawdads are a Texas Rangers franchise and they always seem flush with raw, high ceiling youngsters and this year is no exception.  In preparation for this article I scoured the Spokane Indians and AZL Rangers rosters.  I then spoke with the owner of Rangers 411 Ray Mileur about the Rangers tendencies in regards to promoting kids in the low minors.

 In response to my 1st question. Is it common for high school draftees and international signees to skip Spokane and head straight to Hickory?  Ray answered “The Rangers have been very active drafting high school players, about a third of their first 10 round draft picks over the last three drafts have been high school players, and those not named David Clyde, will almost always start the year with the Arizona Rangers, including the Rangers blue chip prospects, will play for both Arizona and Spokane before moving up.”
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My 2nd and final question was; do college draftees ever skip Hickory and head from Spokane to the High Desert? Ray said “It’s not normal but there are some pitchers who make the jump to the California League from Spokane without stopping at Hickory.  For example Chi Chi Gonzales did it and this season the Mavericks are carrying two 22-year-old pitchers who made the jump, RHP Richelson Pena and LHP Joeanthony Riveria. Pena was signed as an international free agent in 2011. He has more experience than most, despite not playing at Hickory, that allowed him to make the jump.  And Riveria, who was taken near the end of the 2015 Draft, was so dominating with the AZL Rangers, going 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 games, including 4-for-4 in save opportunities, so that the Rangers bumped him to High Desert.
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You can find Ray on Twitter @RayMileur, and as mentioned above he owns Rangers 411,  www.TexasRangers411.com.  You can visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TexasRangers411com. Ray is very knowledgeable on all things Rangers, he was very generous with his time and an excellent resource that I would reach out to again.
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The official rosters won’t be available until early April so this me speculating.
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Notes from the Sally is a scouting site, I’ll be getting about 10 looks at the Crawdads  this season and you can expect write ups on most of these players.

 

Notables

 

CF) Eric Jenkins

Courtesy of Minor League Ball

Eric Jenkins Age 19, listed 6’1″ 170 lbs, bats left and throws right Drafted by the Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Cerro Gordo, NC.  He comes heralded as an athletic center fielder with excellent speed and glove.  At the plate he has excellent bat speed but there are questions about how much power he will generate.  I’m looking forward to seeing him.

 

RHP) Michael Matuella

courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Michael Matuella Age 21, listed 6’6″ 220 lbs, bats and throws right.  Drafted by the Rangers in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft from Duke University.  Matuella had Tommy John surgery in April of 2015.  I listed him here because I think there’s an excellent chance he sees time in Hickory in 2016.  Here’s what Rangers 411 has to say about him.  “The oft-injured pitcher, according to multiple industry insiders could have been one of the first five players to go in the 2015 Draft, if he hadn’t had Tommy John surgery in April. He only made 24 starts for Duke in three seasons, so when he returns to the mound he’ll have a fresh arm. He has a plus-fastball, curve and slider, which is his best secondary pitch, with an average change up, with plus control of all his pitches.”

2B) Andy Ibanez

courtesy of yanksgoyard.com

Andy Ibanez Age 22, listed 5’10” 170, bats and throws right. Ibanez is from Cuba and he signed with the Rangers last July for $1.6 Mil and that was considered a steal at the time.  According to Ben Badler at Baseball America he’s not super toolsy but he has a history of hitting and has won a gold glove at 2nd base. Here’s the rest of the Baseball America article http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/rangers-get-bargain-andy-ibanez/  It’s possible he skips Hickory but he didn’t get into any games last year after signing so he’ll have some rust to shake off.

RHP) Pedro Payano

courtesy of hickorycrawdads.com

Pedro Payano Age 21, listed 6’2″ 170 lbs bats and throws right. Payano signed in 2011 for $650,000 but it took him over 3 seasons to come state side.  He landed this Summer with an impressive arsenal that was too good for rookie ball and he had a very impressive showing in Hickory as well.  According to John Sickles, Payano features a 91-93 MPH fastball, a table falling curve, and a solid change.  It’s unclear whether he’ll be back in Hickory to start the year but he only threw 32 innings at this level in 2015 so I think there’s a chance he does.

SS)  Yeyson Yrizarri

courtesy of billmitchell.photoshelter.com

Yeyson Yrizarri  Age 19, listed 6′ 175 lbs, bats and throws right. Yrizarri signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 for $1.35 Mil. I’m looking forward to seeing him.  He’s raw offensively but the potential is there for him to hit for average and power. Defensively he has a rocket for an arm.

 

 

Around the diamond

Catcher

No real obvious choice at catcher, looks like there will be some combination of Carlos Garay, Sherman Lacrus, Tyler Sanchez.  And returnee Charles Moorman could also see time.

 

Middle Infield

At shortstop in addition to Yeyson Yrizarri there’s some chance we may see a return from Michael De Leon.  Brallen Perez, Leon Bird and Elio Castillo could also see time at short and most of these guys also play 2nd base too.

At 2nd base I think we’ll either get a return from Dylan Moore or Cuban Import Andy Ibanez.

 

Corner Infield

TiQuan Forbes was the Rangers 2nd rd pick in the 2014 draft he’s raw but he’s got tools to dream on.

The candidates for 1st base are Oliver Caraballo (he always plays catcher and left field), Connor McKay (he also plays both corner outfield spots) and Dean Long (he also plays 3rd base).  The wild card here is 13th rd pick Curtis Terry who’s likely headed for Spokane but could see time in Hickory before the end of the year.

 

Outfield

The Rangers are pretty talented in the outfield in the low minors.  In addition to Jenkins, there’s Ledarious Clark who also plays center but I suspect he’ll slide to a corner.  Chad Smith the Rangers 5th rd pick in 2015.  He’s a well rounded player but not super toolsy  and Nick Kaye the Rangers 15th round selection.  He’s raw but shows potential with the bat.  Both of these guys are likely headed for Spokane but could see hickory in July or August.  Darius Day, Todd McDonald, Jamie Potts and London Lindsey look to round out the outfield.

 

Starting Pitcher

In addition to Matuella and Payano I can’t rule out a Dillon Tate return. I didn’t include him in the notables because I think he’s probably headed for the High Desert but I wouldn’t be shocked if he got a couple of starts in Hickory first.  Others who could start games for Hickory: Peter Fairbanks, Emerson Martinez, Cody Palmquist, Luke Lanphere, Nick Green, Jonathan Hernandez, Sal Mendez and John Werner.

 

The Crawdads were a fun team to explore and in true Rangers fashion there are a ton of raw, highly talented youngsters that will be patrolling L.P. Frans stadium this Summer.  I can’t wait to see them

I’ll be back soon with a look at the 2016 Kannapolis Intimidators. Cheers.

 

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