The victims of an injury plague that almost feels a bit ridiculous, the Rangers have had to call on the minor league system far more in 2014 than most anyone expected at the beginning of the season. Leonys Martin, who was scratched from the lineup Tuesday, is the latest victim with a neck issue that will sideline him on a (hopefully) day-to-day basis. While this latest injury hasn’t necessitated a call-up, the way things are going, it might be time to take a look at the next batch of fresh-faced farmsters who could don a big-league uniform before the year is done.
On The 40-Man Roster: Not really anyone other than Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. Hopefully, Fielder’s neck situation will clear up, he’ll return to something resembling the incredible power hitter he once was known as, and Mitch Moreland will be a valuable contributor on the off-days Fielder takes.
Off the 40-Man Roster: Also the closest catcher to the Rangers, other than the optioned J.P. Arencibia, Brett Nicholas has logged 14 games at first this season, and would offer versatility if brought up. Other first basemen in the system include Frisco’s Trever Adams (.264/.323/.424), and the definitely not ready Ronald Guzman.
On The 40-Man Roster: This is currently the place where the Rangers are best set up, with the capable pair of Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas taking turns manning the keystone until one of the injured regulars returns. At this point, it’s a coin-flip on the return times of Donnie Murphy and Jurickson Profar, though Murphy is eligible to come off the disabled list this Thursday and is currently rehabbing with AAA Round Rock. Daniel Robertson can also play some second, though he has spent most of his career in the outfield.
Off the 40-Man Roster: If the worst happens, and the Rangers lose Odor/Sardinas, the club could look to Round Rock’s veteran infielders Josh Wilson (again), Adam Rosales, or Kensuke Tanaka. Below them is Odubel Herrera, currently in Frisco filling in for the major-league fill-in Odor. Herrera is hitting .345/.387/.483 through seven games with the ‘Riders, but hit .297/.412/.342 in his 27 games with Myrtle Beach, where he played a mixture of second and the outfield.
On The 40-Man Roster: Texas’ replacement shortstop is already in the bigs, playing mostly second base, as Elvis Andrus has been one of the few healthy players the Rangers have had. Luis Sardinas has garnered praise for his slick glove and range at short, and has hit .308/.357/.308 in his six games with the Rangers. More applicable numbers are his Frisco averages, where in 21 games Sardinas went .253/.278/.333 with three walks, five doubles, and 12 strikeouts.
Off The 40-Man Roster: The recently DFA’d Josh Wilson played some shortstop with the Rangers, and so have Adam Rosales (.291/.383/.450) and Brent Lillibridge (.240/.288/.388). Beyond them? 13-year minor league veteran Guilder Rodriguez, who has split his season between Frisco and Round Rock, and 23-year-old Edwin Garcia, who would be far from the slick defender Rangers fans are used to seeing at short.
On The 40-Man Roster: Kevin Kouzmanoff could be back in June. Other than that, there’s a lot of general fervent wishing for Adrian Beltre to stay healthy.
Off The 40-Man Roster: Let’s get the familiar name out of the way first: Adam Rosales has spent a great deal of time here this season. Round Rock’s other third baseman, Alex Buchholz, was promoted there at the end of last season, and has hit .247/.347/.365 in 2014, but currently resides on the minor league 7-day DL. Ryan Rua looks much more like a third base prospect now, but not like someone ready to take over a major league third base position, even for a few days. Joey Gallo is not ready. He is hitting bombs, he’s probably ready for AA, but he’s not even close to sniffing a cup of coffee in 2014.
On The 40-Man Roster: When Jim Adduci and Engel Beltre get back, there will be outfield depth on the 40 again. Until then, not so much.
Off The 40-Man Roster: From AAA, there’s major league experience in Bryan Petersen and Brad Snyder. Petersen played parts of three seasons with the Marlins as an outfielder from 2010 to 2012, and Snyder earned his time with the Cubs in 2010 and 2011. Both have played all three outfield positions in their careers, but Petersen has spent most of this season in left, with Snyder in right. Moving slightly down in age, there’s Ryan Strausborger (.306/.362/.376 in AAA) and Jake Smolinski (.310/.403/.516 in AA). Both Strausborger and Smolinski have played second base in the past, giving them an additional facet to their game, and Smolinski has a small amount of minor league experience at third, as well.
On The 40-Man Roster: J.P. Arencibia. Oh, you mean other than him? Geovany Soto could be back in late June.
Off The 40-Man Roster: Catcher is traditionally one of the most difficult places to develop a prospect, and a system is lucky if they have two viable catching prospects at the same time. The Rangers have one potential all-star at the position, Jorge Alfaro, but he’s at least a year away from even sniffing the majors. Express member Brett Nicholas has time at both catcher and first base, and currently sports a .254/.347/.365 line in 35 games. 23-year-old Tomas Telis is currently far outdoing his stats from his previous stint in Frisco, putting up a .343/.374/.486 line in 28 games, and has shown some improved defense as well.
On The 40-Man Roster: Currently, the non-25-man, non-hurt pitchers are Ben Rowen, Matt West, Lisalverto Bonilla, Cory Burns, Neftali Feliz, Wilmer Font, Roman Mendez, and Miles Mikolas. Of those, Mendez is currently the ERA champion, allowing a 2.65 ERA through 17.0 innings with Round Rock this season, though he recently gave up four runs over 2.1 innings. Miles Mikolas has already been up and down once this season, though he didn’t make an appearance. Feliz has far-and-away the best major league pedigree, but hasn’t been the same since his Tommy John surgery. He has a 5.19 ERA in a small sample size of 8.2 innings with the Express thus far in 2014.
Off The 40-Man Roster: Starting pitching wise, there’s not much. The Round Rock rotation is made up of Ryan Feierabend, Scott Richmond, Michael Kirkman, and whoever’s not starting in the majors that week. From Frisco, any of Luke Jackson, Jerad Eickhoff, or with a late season surge, Alec Asher, could see major league time this year. Jackson and Eickhoff could be very effective out of the pen, but would most likely be better served by starter’s innings with the ‘Riders. If Jimmy Reyes proves he can get lefties out the way he’s historically been able to, he could be a reinforcement, and Chad Bell is rehabbing down with Hickory as a starter, though it could be a while before he’s an effective major league option.
This season has taxed the available options for major league players that the Rangers had open to them, and it’s not even two months old. With Soto, Profar, and Kouzmanoff hopefully returning in June, and Holland not far behind, the situation could improve, but baseball is nothing if not unpredictable.