DALLAS - 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.
Connor Sadzeck is a large man. The Illinois native stands a full 6’7” and weighs in at 240 lbs. This large stature helps Sadzeck propel the ball in excess of 100 mph, a skill that’s useful at any level.
After being drafted in the 45th round in 2010 by the Pirates, Sadzeck chose to forgo professional baseball for one year and attend Howard College in Big Spring, TX. After a year at Howard the Rangers drafted him in the 11th round the next year and he began his professional career.
He played with short season Spokane in 2012 where he got his first taste of affiliated ball, starting 15 games but having relatively lackluster numbers. Sadzeck -- with a slider and changeup to go along with the heater -- had good strikeout numbers but his walks were also pretty high.
He gained his footing a little bit better the next year at low-A Hickory. In his second full season of pro ball, 2013, he started 24 games, going 12-4. Wins and losses aren’t quite as important at the low-A level but during his 132 innings that year he gave up 33 earned runs, good for an ERA of 2.25 which happened to be good enough to lead the league.
The following spring however, Sadzeck wouldn’t even throw an inning. Tommy John surgery on March 26th of 2014 sidelined Sadzeck for the entirety of the season proving that even the minor leaguers weren't immune to the terror that was the 2014 season for the Rangers.
With top prospect status just within his grasp, Sadzeck saw what had been a promising start to his career derailed for over a year. He came back in May of the following season and was throwing harder than ever and in 2015 got his feet wet in 18 games split between High A High Desert and AA Frisco.
Newly added to the 40-man Roster, Sadzeck was poised for a big 2016 and he was sent to Double-A Frisco to attempt to fulfill his potential. Initially, it was thought that Sadzeck would attempt his comeback in the bullpen where guys who throw 100 MPH usually end up. However, the Rangers decided that they wanted to give him every opportunity to establish himself as a starter.
The big righty had a solid 2016 campaign, tossing in 25 games, starting 23 (The other two weren’t technically starts because he relived Yu Darvish on rehab outings but he pitched ten innings in those games) and racking up 140 innings pitched. His strikeout numbers were solid, nearly a batter per inning, and his walks were down to the lowest they’d been since before his surgery.
In a game at Frisco, you’d almost never see Sadzeck flirting with triple digits on the radar gun as a starter. He focused more on his control and mechanics, which proved fruitful, as evidence by his walk numbers. Sadzeck may eventually find a home as a power arm in the bullpen at the major league level, but for now he’s continuing to be groomed as a starter and the viability of that task may come down to whether or not he can turn his changeup into a decent offering.
Likely headed to Triple-A Round Rock this year, Sadzeck should see another bump in his innings count assuming he stays healthy. While the 5th starter job has plenty of hot competition this spring, turnover, in the form of injuries, is bound to happen at some point and with continued success at the minor league level Sadzeck may just hear his number called in a pinch this season.
Sadzeck hopes to finish a business degree after his playing days are over, but he probably won’t have to worry about that any time soon. If you’re big, strong and throw 100 there’s going to be someone who will give you a shot, and it’s only a matter of time until Connor gets his shot in Arlington.
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