Odubel Herrera (2B/UT, Frisco RoughRiders)
If you’re looking for the possible next second baseman in the Rangers’ seemingly unending pipeline, look no further than Rougned Odor’s Frisco replacement, Odubel Herrera. Herrera is making his second stop in Frisco of his career, after starting 2013 there and returning to Myrtle Beach when Odor was promoted last season. In nine games so far with the RoughRiders, Herrera is hitting .306/.342/.417, but short sample sizes are not to be trusted, and Herrera hit .297/.412/.342 through 29 games with the Pelicans.
Herrera came into the system a shortstop, but started gaining experience at second shortly after signing. As of now, he’s a second baseman, but has seen reps in the outfield for the first time in his professional career this season, playing some left and very little center with the Pelicans before his promotion. In his time in Frisco, Herrera’s played second solely, and projects as a competent defender.
One thing about Herrera to know is that he will hit. Though he didn’t fare particularly well in last year’s stint with Frisco, and he’ll never have the over-the-fence pop that Odor will, Herrera has the ability to hit for average and send doubles from gap to gap. An intriguing aspect of Herrera’s 2014 performance is the fact that he walked more than he struck out in Myrtle Beach, taking first 23 times, compared to 21 Ks. His hitting, and his versatility, could propel Herrera to a major league utility role, the kind of role that isn’t glamorous, but is needed.
With the Rangers’ middle infield set, but as beset by injuries as the rest of the team, Herrera could either stay in Frisco as a possible emergency call-up (though the veterans in Round Rock would seem to be first in line) or could be included in a midseason trade.
Keone Kela (RHP, Frisco RoughRiders)
If you once dreamed dreams of Wilmer Font throwing 97 by hitters in the major leagues, it may be time to turn your thoughts to the new resident Frisco closer-in-waiting, Keone Kela. Kela, a 2012 draftee out of Everett Community College in Washington state, averaged 98 MPH on his fastball in the Arizona Fall League, and though he hasn’t yet hit that top level of velocity this season, the possibility exists.
Kela has a delivery and attitude that lends itself to closing, and though there were rumors about him potentially starting in 2013, he’s remained solely in relief throughout his professional career. He began 2014 with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, where he threw 10.1 innings, compiling a 2.61 ERA with 13 strikeouts, before being promoted to Frisco to take the vacated bullpen spot of Matt West. So far in Double-A, Kela has allowed only three runs on seven hits in 8.0 innings, but has struggled with his command, walking 10 batters. Though he hit 98 in Myrtle Beach, Kela’s fastball is sitting 94-97 mph in Frisco so far. He also has a breaking ball on which he changes speed, throwing it anywhere from 78 to 83 mph.
Though Kela is not likely an option for the Rangers’ bullpen in 2014, if he finishes the season strong and has an impressive spring, he could potentially see major league time in 2015.
Tomas Telis (C, Frisco RoughRiders)
A slightly under-the-radar catcher, Tomas Telis is quietly tearing up the Texas League while showing improved defense.
Telis has nearly always demonstrated the ability to connect bat and ball, putting up averages near or above .300 in four of his six complete professional seasons, and hitting .342/.377/.477 through 30 games with Frisco this season. This is the second season with the ‘Riders for the 23-year-old, as the combination of his defense and a .264/.290/.353 line ensured a not-unusual repetition of Double-A ball.
Defensively, Telis has made noticeable improvements this season, throwing out 30 percent of attempted base stealers and only committing two passed balls in his 22 games behind the plate. He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the system, but his footwork and awareness has allowed him to compensate for other defensive weaknesses.
Though he has played one game at third base this season, it’s not likely to be somewhere that he’s a viable option. In order for Telis to have a chance at making the major leagues, he’ll need to show that his offensive output can outshine any defensive issues, and that he can still maintain this level of hitting against more advanced pitching.