The Texas Rangers have built their farm system through investments in the International market and high upside draft picks. Texas prefers athletic players with loud tools as an organizational philosophy. Through the years, the Rangers have had a reputation for finding and developing sluggers, especially from Latin America, while struggling to develop starting pitching.
Though the system has been plundered recently through trades to help the big league club, the Rangers still have several enticing prospects we will be featuring through the coming days.
This will be the only time you’ll ever hear Ariel Jurado and Jeremy Lin intertwined in the same piece.
No, I didn’t just pull both names out of thin air.
Lin, the current Brooklyn Nets guard, made news worldwide five years ago when he was playing for the New York Knicks. A benchwarmer, Lin exploded for two games and suddenly the world became infected with the “Linsanity” virus. For about two weeks in spring 2012, all the headlines were dominated by a Harvard ex who had never shown any potential before.
Now Lin has settled into his rightful place as a role player on a mediocre team, but Linsanity showed us something. That no matter how good or bad you are, timing in sports is super important.
When Linsanity struck, nothing else was going on. The NFL season was gone, Spring Training was in its infancy, and the sports world had a void needing to be filled by anything. The gap in the sports calendar aided Lin as much as anything, because if we’ve got the NFL to salivate over there’s no reason to pay any attention to a mediocre player on a bad team.
But because we needed something to talk about, because the 24/7 news cycle must be fed at all cost, Lin got an extended moment in the sun.
Jurado is not Jeremy Lin.
But timing is benefiting Jurado like it did Lin a half decade ago.
Going into last year, Jurado was more of a “name to watch” guy. Someone who more dedicated evaluators knew the name of, but if you quizzed the average fan who knows top prospects he wasn’t a name rattled off.
Then Dillon Tate, Lewis Brinson, and Luis Ortiz were all traded.
Suddenly Jurado, who was having his best year in organized ball yet, was buoyed from “player to keep an eye on” to “top 3 prospect in the organization.” Not necessarily because Jurado made a leap in his performance, but because we needed someone to fill in that gap. The prospect chatter must be maintained, and by virtue of need Jurado gets a boost.
Don’t get me wrong. Jurado is a fine prospect who has a lot to offer, with plenty of potential who needs more time to simmer. But his boost in the rankings isn’t necessarily because he got any better. It’s because he was there when others weren’t.
All of this isn’t a demerit against Jurado, but a cautionary tale to remind everyone that not all prospects are created equal. That sometimes jumps are arbitrary, more because of a system deficiency than actual progress by the player.
While Jurado is worthy of his standing after a successful 2016, there’s no question that events outside his control have contributed to his rise. While he’ll likely go on to major league success, we can’t write it in ink just because of his spot on the roster.
After all, there’s a chance he might become Jeremy Lin.
Notes to know:
Vital stats: 6’1”, 180 lbs., entering his age 22 year.
Best pitch: As with most successful pitchers, it’s his fastball. He throws a sinker, which can range from 89 to 95 MPH with good sinking action. What’s also important about that pitch is Jurado can command it. He doesn’t struggle to locate it, so when he throws it most hitters are having to deal with a bowling ball facing a felony speeding ticket. It’s shown early in his career, as his WHIP throughout the minors and his home run totals are low with only 14 homers allowed in 309 innings in his career.
What he’s good at: Commanding his pitches. As we alluded to above, Jurado’s got the best command in the system. He issued only 34 walks last season across High Desert and Frisco, and for his career has only allowed 57. Every scout who has seen him says his pitch command leaps off the page during his starts.
What needs work: The pitches themselves. While his fastball is helping Jurado cruise through the minors to date, there’s still work to do for the young Panamanian righty. His curveball shows off at times, but it’s not quite consistent. Same with his changeup, which is further along than the curve but still needs some fine tuning. As he gets going this year, those will be his biggest tasks along with adding more innings and getting more experience.
2017 outlook: After the Lucroy and Beltran trades, Jurado found himself finishing the season at Frisco in 2016. As we roll into 2017, Jurado will likely find himself back with the Roughriders to start the season. Despite the High A club moving away from a pitching horror story, there seems little benefit to moving Jurado back down a level when he showed the ability to battle at Double A.
It’ll also allow Texas to keep a close eye on him, even if the likelihood of a major league debut for Jurado is minor this year. A full year at Frisco seems likely, though if he performs a bump up to Round Rock around June/July wouldn’t be shocking.
If we see Jurado in major league colors, something has probably gone wrong with the big league club. A perfect path has Jurado staying in the minors, refining the things that he needs to polish for all of 2017.
Overall outlook: Jurado is a pitcher with a high floor, but a limited ceiling. If his development path continues without a hitch, a third starter is safe to project. He’s got the pitches, they just need to simmer and improve.
He’s already got the command and the mentality, and it’s now on him to pull it all together.
It’s hard to envision what more he’d have to do to move up to the realm of #2 starter, save for learning another highly effective pitch or every pitch he currently throws becomes top shelf. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Jurado sees the majors in 2018, but this year is a bit ambitious.
When he gets there, he’ll become a rotation stalwart who can eat innings and generate ground balls. This isn’t a direct analogue, but Jurado has the look of a right handed Martin Perez. Someone who will primarily generate ground balls with a good sinker, and if he can improve on his secondary pitches will be a MLB regular for years to come.
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Want more prospect talk? Follow Samuel on Twitter @thesamuelhale.