Hey guys, welcome to another round of the SAL team preview series. I’m excited to get these going again. Today I’ll be talking about the Hickory Crawdads as I continue alphabetically around the league. The Crawdads are the Texas Rangers, single-A, full season affiliate.
Previously I’ve covered the:
Asheville Tourists (Rockies)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/01/previewing-the-2017-asheville-tourists/
Augusta Greenjackets (Giants)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/13/previewing-the-2017-augusta-greenjackets/
Charleston Riverdogs (Yankees)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/31/previewing-the-2017-charleston-riverdogs/
Columbia Fireflies (Mets)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/03/previewing-the-2017-columbia-fireflies/
Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/09/previewing-the-2017-delmarva-shorebirds/
Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/23/previewing-the-2017-greensboro-grasshoppers/
Greenville Drive (Red Sox)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/31/previewing-the-2017-greenville-drive/
Hagerstown Suns (Nationals)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/07/previewing-the-2017-hagerstown-suns/
For those not familiar with the SAL team preview series, I scour the lower levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2017 and whenever possible I try to include scouting report. It’s a lengthy process but I enjoy it and I learn a ton.
At Notes from the Sally it’s all about live look scouting, once I see the Hickory Crawdads in 2017 I’ll post reports on many of the players listed below. Hickory is one of my home teams so I’ll see them a lot, beginning in week 2 of the season when they host Kannapolis for 4 games and West Virginia for 3.
Lets meet the notables:
CF) Leody Taveras– Age 18, listed 6’1″ 170 lbs, bats both and throws right. Taveras was a high profile signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 receiving a $2.1 Mil signing bonus. Taveras skipped the Dominican Summer league (DSL) and headed straight to Arizona League rookie ball (AZL). Which is pretty aggressive and the fact that he earned a mid season promotion to Spokane is very impressive. He’s high on my list of players to see this season.
Rich Wilson of “Prospect 361” counted down his top 10 Rangers prospects in mid January, here’s some of what he wrote about Taveras:
Taveras’ scouting report contains a lot of plus grades. It starts with a great looking swing that is short to the ball with enough bat speed when combined with his physicality to have plus future power. Again, it’s future power as the swing lacks loft and he still has yet to develop man-strength. However in a few years, that will change with a chance to hit for 20 plus home run power.
He’s also a plus runner but still needs work on his base running skills. However with instruction, 20 stolen bases are definitely in the cards. He also has the speed and arm to play any outfield position.
For more on Taveras and the rest of the Rangers top 10 click here: Texas Rangers
SS) Anderson Tejada- Age 18, listed 5’11” 160 lbs, bats left and throws right. Tejeda was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.
John Sickles of “Minor League Ball” released his top 20 Rangers list near the end of December and had this to say about Tejeda:
“Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for just $100,000; looks like a bargain at that price; hit .283/.326/.520 between DSL, AZL, and NWL; combined for 10 homers, 18 walks, 73 strikeouts in 269 at-bats; whiffed 33 times in 94 at-bats in NWL but also hit eight homers in just 23 games; lefty hitter with bat speed, 55 power despite 5-11, 160 build; wiry strong; aggressive hitter and contact will be a concern at higher levels but production was remarkable overall; good throwing arm, average speed; range stretched at shortstop, fielding at second needs work too; not as athletic as Taveras but has more present power. ETA 2021”
For more of the Rangers top 20 prospects click here: http://www.minorleagueball.com/2016/12/23/14064042/texas-rangers-top-20-prospects-for-2017
LHP) Cole Ragans- Age 19, listed 6’4″ 190 lbs, bats and throws left. Ragans was drafted 30th overall in the 2016 draft out of High School in Tallahassee, FL.
mlb,com last updated there Rangers top 30 prospects last Summer after the draft and had this to say about Ragans:
“North Florida Christian High (Tallahassee, Fla.) has produced four quality prospects in the last three Drafts, starting with Diamondbacks third-round outfielder Matt Railey and Cubs fourth-round left-hander Carson Sands in 2014. Right-hander Cole Sands (Carson’s brother) fell to the Astros in the 22nd round in 2015 only because he was intent on attending Florida State, while Ragans became the highest pick of them all — 30th overall as a first-rounder this June. He turned down the Seminoles to sign for $2,003,400.
Ragans works with three pitches, all of which should become at least solid offerings. His 89-91 mph fastball tops out at 93 and plays better than its radar-gun readings because he commands it well and delivers it on a steep downhill plane. His curveball has downer action when he stays on top of it and could become a plus pitch if it adds more power as he gains strength, while he’s improving the quality of and his trust in his changeup.
His athletic frame still has a lot of projection remaining it and garners him comparisons to a young Cole Hamels. Ragans has a sound delivery that he repeats easily. With his stuff, savvy and mound presence, he has what it takes to become a mid-rotation starter.”
For more of the Rangers top 30 prospects click here: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2016?list=tex
RHP) Alex Speas- Age on opening day 19, listed 6’4″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right. Speas was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Powder Springs, GA (Atlanta Metro).
Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball, did a write up on Speas at the dawn of the draft while speculating he might be the Rangers target at 30. In the piece he quotes a lot of draft experts that acknowledge there’s work to be done while at the same time were drooling over the possibilities. Good read, I’m looking forward to seeing him.
Michael Matuella- Age 22, listed 6’6″ 220 lbs, bats and throws right. Matuella was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft out of Duke Univ. Matuella was in the running for the 1st overall pick in 2015 but he had Tommy John surgery two months before the draft and fell to the Rangers in the 3rd round. He got back on the mound in June of 2016 and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs got to see him in extended ST and wrote about him here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/scouting-the-rangers-mike-matuella-against-first-pro-batters/
Unfortunately Matuella was only able to make one official start in 2016 due to ligament strain in his throwing elbow. That sounds scary, even more so for a player attempting to come back from TJ. Baseball America gave a recent update on his status and you can find that here (not behind a pay wall) : http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/spring-training-looming-top-players-mend/#8VDfmLILYkjtZRXD.97
2B, 3B, SS) Kole Enright- Age 19, listed 6’1″ 175 lbs, bats both and throws right. Enright was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Winter Garden, FL (Orlando Metro). I’m not finding a whole lot out there right now on Enright that I didn’t already link to.
Around the diamond
Alex Kowalczyk- Age 23, listed 6’3″ 205 lbs, bats and throws right. Kowalczyk was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 draft out the Univ of Pittsburgh.
C, 1B) Carlos Garay- Age 22, listed 6′ 210 lbs, bats and throws right. Garay was signed out of Venezuela in 2011.
These next two players are interesting but they both seem ticketed toward Spokane. It’s possible we see one or both in the 2nd half, unlikely though as teams don’t typically rush teenage catchers.
C, 1B) Yohel Pozo- Age 19, listed 6′ 175 lbs, bats and throws right. Pozo was signed out of Venezuela in 2013. He made his stateside debut in 2016 and had a 6% BB and 5% K rate and a .105 ISO.
Grant Schiller of “Shut Down Inning” wrote up Pozo late in the AZL season, sounds promising.
Sam Huff- Age 19, listed 6’4″ 215 lbs, bats and throws right. Huff was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Phoenix, AZ.
Rob Ozga of the “Baseball Draft Report” does a terrific job breaking down the draft every year. He went round by round through the the Rangers 2016 draft and had this to say about Huff:
“It would be easy to write off the 6-4, 200 pound Sam Huff (433) as a prime candidate to move out from behind the plate sooner rather than later, but the big guy from Arizona is a far more advanced and natural defender than his size might otherwise suggest. He’s not a total slam dunk to remain a catcher over the long haul — few teenager catchers are, after all — but he’s got a better than 50/50 shot to remain a backstop going forward. If that’s the case, then the upside for a potentially above-average regular is very clearly here. Huff’s calling card is his average to above-average raw power, but he’s also shown impressive plate coverage and disciplined approach as a hitter. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten on Huff this past offseason has been of the “pump the breaks” variety (equal parts concern about his ability to make enough contact and his defense holding up long-term), but my instinctual lean here has me ignoring that and going all-in on Huff as a future big leaguer.”
For more Rangers draft coverage click here: 2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Texas Rangers
Other options at catcher: Clay Middleton and Isaias Quiroz
1B) Curtis Terry- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 255 lbs, bats and throws right. Terry was drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Lawrenceville, GA (Atlanta Metro).
Here’s a fun piece on Curtis “Big Rig” Terry from Tepid Participation of Lone Star Ball
3B, SS, 2B) Kole Enright-
3B, SS) Charles Leblanc- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. Leblanc was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of the Univ of Pittsburgh.
More from he Baseball Draft Reports review of the Rangers 2016 draft:
“I’ve probably said this too often that it doesn’t quite carry quite the same meaning as it would otherwise, but, man, Charles Leblanc (111) to Texas in the fourth round might be my favorite pick in the draft. This is in part because I saw Leblanc this past spring and was incredibly impressed in my short three game view, but I think my love of the big infielder from Pittsburgh goes beyond the small sample size eye test. Leblanc checks every box for me: ultra-productive draft year (.405/.494/.513 with 30 BB/29 K), great size and strength (6-4, 200 pounds), clear carrying tools (power and arm), no obvious weaknesses (solid athlete with decent wheels), young for his class (won’t be 21-years-old until next June)…the list goes on and on. His eventual defensive transition to third base will be one to watch closely as the college shortstop has the ability to man the hot corner but not yet the experience. If that goes off without a hitch, I think Leblanc could be the above-average regular at third that so many (myself included) thought Mike Olt could once be. I’m all-in on Leblanc.
(For the record, a quick check of published draft reviews so far for the terms “favorite pick” and “best pick” only turned up two names so far. Those are far from the most conclusive search terms I could use, but my hyperbole still wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. Jake Elliott and Jon Duplantier were the recipients of that praise, FWIW. I didn’t come right out and say it, but Alex Speas in the second round is another one of my favorite picks. Nice work by Texas here.)”
For much more Rangers draft coverage click here: 2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Texas Rangers
1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF) Luis Terrero- Age 21, listed 6′ 215 lbs, bats and throws right. Terrero was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. Terrero played 5 position in 2016.
Other options at the infield corners: Todd McDonald (1B), Stephen Lohr (3B, 1B), Xavier Turner (3B, 1B), Willy Diaz (3B, 1B), Kelvin Fajardo (3B, 2B)
2B- Blane Prescott- Age 21, listed 5’10” 175 lbs, bats and throws right. Prescott was drafted in the 28th round of the 2015 draft out of Midland College.
SS) Anderson Tejeda-
Other options in the middle infield: Brallan Perez (2B, 3B, SS), Elio Castillo (2B, 3B, SS), Luis Silva (2B, 1B, 3B), Jonah McReynolds (SS, 2B, 3B)
RF, LF) Chad Smith- Age 19, listed 6’2″ 200 lbs, bats and throws left. Smith was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Snellville, GA (Atlanta Metro).
CF) Leody Taveras
CF) Eric Jenkins- Age 20, listed 6’1″ 170 lbs, bats left and throws right. Jenkins was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Cerro Gordo, NC. I think there’s a chance he repeats. There’s a lot to like with Jenkins, the double plus speed, the glove in center. Has to tighten up the bat to ball and the pitch recognition but he’s young.
LF, CF, RF) Josh Merrigan- Age 23, listed 6’2″ 172 lbs, bats left and throws right. Merrigan was drafted in the 10th round of the 2016 draft out of Georgia Gwinnett College.
The outfield is kind of thin, if Jenkins comes back he’ll be seeing some time in the corners which I guess seems unlikely. But that might mean LeDarious Clark comes back. Or they may decide Taveras, Smith, Merrigan with (Day and Lacrus is enough). We’ll find out soon enough.
Other options in the outfield
Sherman Lacrus (RF) and Darius Day (LF, CF, RF) could be back, Travis Bolin (LF, RF), Preston Scott (LF, RF), London Lindley (LF, RF, CF), Austin O’Banion (RF, LF), Marcus Mack (LF, RF)
LHP) Cole Ragans
RHP) Alex Speas
RHP) Michael Matuella
RHP) Tyler Phillips- Age 19, listed 6’5″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right. Phillips was drafted in the 15th round out of high school in
mlb.com wrote about Phillips last Summer when they released there Rangers top 30 prospects list:
“Heading into his 2015 senior season at Bishop Eustace Prep (Pennsauken Township, N.J.), scouts viewed Phillips as a classic projection arm who would be best off with some development time in college. Once his fastball velocity surged from the upper 80s to the low 90s, however, the Rangers paid him $160,000 in the 16th round to buy him away from his commitment to State JC of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.
Phillips has an athletic 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and a loose, quick arm that works extremely well. He currently operates at 91-94 mph with downhill plane plus tail and sink on his fastball, and he should continue to add velocity as he gets stronger. Both his slider and changeup are works in progress with the potential to become average or better offerings as he gains experience.
Phillips’ athleticism and easy delivery should enable him to throw plenty of strikes. While he’s a project who will need time to develop, his ceiling is higher than most of the starters in the Texas system.”
For the rest of the Rangers top 30 prospects click here: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2016?list=tex
RHP) Kyle Cody- Age 22, listed 6’7″ 245 lbs, bats and throws right. Cody was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 draft out of the Univ of Kentucky (Lexington).
John Sickles did a piece on Cody leading into the draft and he sounds intriguing as well. http://www.minorleagueball.com/2016/6/8/11862416/2016-mlb-draft-kyle-cody-rhp-university-of-kentucky
That’s a hell of a top 5 if we get them all, obviously Matuella is the biggest question mark.
Other Starting Pitching options
Luke Lanphere could be back, and Sal Mendez and Demarcus Evans could see time as well.
I enjoyed deep diving into the Rangers system, there’s more talent here than I imagined there would be.
Obviously led by the pitching, the Hickory staff has a chance to be among the best and deepest in the 2017 Sally.
There will be some intriguing hitters as well led by the talented CF Leody Taveras. But also infielders Anderson Tejeda, Cole Enright and Charles Leblanc all sound interesting as well as masher Curtis Terry. We’ll see who else breaks out.
I hope you got as much out of this as I did, I’ll be back soon with a Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) team preview. Cheers!