We continue our countdown of the Top 20 prospects in the Texas Rangers organization. Once again we remind everyone of the criteria.
No prospect can have made their major league debut yet. That leaves off some of MLB’s top prospects like Joe Palumbo, Brock Burke or Kolby Allard. This week we look at numbers 5 thru 1.
5) Sherton Apostel, 3B
Apostel is a true testament to the job that Jon Daniels and his staff are doing. Taylor Hearn was the headliner of the trade to the Pirates in 2018 for Keone Kela.
In fact, Sherton Apostel was a player to be named later. This term is thrown around a lot. It usually means that a deal is in place with the last player of the deal being a choice between a few names. The deal comes together quickly and a team might want to scout a little more before deciding which player to take. The Rangers did that and came out wanting the tall third baseman who hadn’t played above rookie ball. Apostel will turn 21 in March.
In his first action stateside he has struggled a bit at the beginning of the season. But when temperatures heat up so does he. His patience at the plate is what is most impressive. He has a career .368 OBP in his pro career. He has had two short seasons of over .400 OBP. In fact, in 2017 he had .422 OBP with a combined .420 OBP between two teams in 2018. He has also shown some pop. In 283 minor league games, he has hit 37 HRs. He hit 19 last year between Hickory and Down East.
In 2020 Apostel might be destined for Frisco. But he is younger than Josh Jung who hasn’t played above Hickory. Sherton could end up starting back at Down East.
4) Leody Taveras, CF
No player has resurrected his trajectory more than Taveras. He was the Rangers’ top prospect in 2017 and 2018. He slipped in 2019 after a poor showing in Hickory and then Down East for the second straight year. He has consistently been one of the youngest players at all levels he has played in. In 2019 he started back at Down East and was promoted to Frisco halfway through the season. He still hasn’t shown much power with only 19 minor league HR’s. However, he is stellar defensively and carried a slash line of .279/.344/.376 between A and AA in 2019.
Most assume that Taveras will start in Frisco this spring. There is some talk of him making his major league debut should he continue to progress offensively. He is considered the best true center fielder in the organization defensively.
3) Hans Crouse, RHP
The top prospect in 2019 Crouse had a slight setback last year pitching with a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Crouse has been a strikeout guy since signing with the Rangers as a 2017 second-round pick. He also has flair on the mound with a hip shimmy occasionally to throw off hitters’ timing.
Even with his elbow issue he still managed to 6-1 in 19 starts for the Hickory Crawdads. However, he only struck out 75 hitters in 87 innings. This was the most innings he has pitched since turning pro. But the numbers were not his normal dominance. He had the bone spurs removed this offseason and he expected to ready when spring training opens up in February. He will only be 21 this season. If healthy he will most likely look to increase his innings and get back to his swing and miss stuff. If he succeeds, the 4.71 ERA of 2019 should decrease back to his normal 2.47 in 2018 or better.
Crouse will likely start 2020 as the opening day starter for Down East. There is a legit chance that he could see Frisco by the end of the season should he regain his mojo.
2) Josh Jung, 3B
The 2019 first-round pick has lived up to the hype so far. Jung played 44 games in 2019 after a long season at Texas Tech where they went far into the playoffs. He was the Co Big 12 Player Of The Year with Davis Wendzel after hitting .343 for Tech. In the 44 pro games after signing, he hit .316. Jung didn’t show a lot of power, but that is expected to come as he progresses in using a wood bat full time. His plate discipline has never been questioned. He knows how to handle the bat and has worked on taking the ball the opposite way. His first pro pitch was a HR he took to left. However, he only hit one more the rest of the season. There is no dispute among anyone in the Rangers organization that Jung will not fail as a baseball player from lack of work ethic.
Jung should start the year in Down East with a trip to Frisco by seasons end. There is a slight chance he starts at Frisco if his spring is impressive. He is a year older than Apostel.
1) Sam Huff, C
Congratulations to Dallas Sports Nation Top Prospect for 2020 Sam Huff.
There are no arguments about what Rangers prospect has increased his stock the most in a year. Huff wasn’t on any Top 20 or 30 prospect list starting the 2018 season. He wasn’t in the Top 10 of any list starting in 2019.
In fact, he wasn’t in the DSN Top 20 last year. Huff played more games than he has in his pro career at 127 games last year. He also did this at the most demanding position on the field, catcher. He is not built like a normal catcher standing 6’4 and weighing 230 lbs. But do not be fooled. He is planning on staying behind the plate as long as the Rangers will let him. He threw out an amazing 48% of would-be base stealers in 2019. That indicates he can play the position. Playing catcher that well along with hitting 28 HR’s and batting .278 for the year, are why he has skyrocketed through the ranks. Plus he hit the game-winning HR is the All-Star Futures game was voted MVP. Almost all offseason trade proposals have started with Huff’s name on the other team’s wish list.
With the Rangers thin at the catching position, Huff is the first one to get this much hype since Ivan Rodriguez.
Remember that Pudge was known for his defense. His offense was the icing on top of the cake. Rodriguez threw out 46% of baserunners in his 21-year career. He was a first-ballot Hall Of Famer. If Huff can continue to throw out baserunner and hit for power and average, his career in the big leagues will be sooner rather than later.
Most agree that unless he struggles in spring training, Frisco is where he is likely headed for the opening of the 2020 season. Yes! If he continues to do what he did last year, he could possibly be in Arlington by the end of the year. But most likely he will not get called up until 2021.
There you have it! The Dallas Sports Nation Top 20 Prospect countdown second edition.
Featured Image: Jason Miller/Getty Images (Sam Huff)