Brock Burke: Trade Centerpiece
Over the past six seasons, the Rangers had numerous chances to trade Jurickson Profar but were always waiting for the right haul.
A three-team deal finally materialized just before Christmas, and Profar will be the starting second baseman for the Oakland A’s in 2019 while the Rangers wait to see if any of the four prospects they received from the A’s and Rays can fill a role in the big leagues.
Most of the attention will be on lefthander Brock Burke.
Burke, who came from the Rays along with lefty Kyle Bird and righty Yoel Espinal and infielder Eli White from the A’s, went 6-1, 1.95 in nine starts at Double-A Montgomery and struck out 158 batters in 137.1 innings overall in 2018.
"I think there was a big traffic jam in the Rays' system at the Triple-A and big league level, and I think it was good for me to get out,” Burke said. "I think it’ll be good for a lot of reasons. I think the opportunity with this team is very good. They have a lot of good players, and it’ll be good to be around the young players I’ve met.”
Burke’s velocity trended upward last season and was the byproduct of a long process.
He consumed as much info as the Rays would give him after being their third-round pick in 2014 from Evergreen (Colo.) HS, where he excelled without much guidance aside from his school's coaching staff.
It’s been a gradual progression, Burke said, but he was finally able to stop worrying about his mechanics and instead focus more on competing every time he took the mound.
"I was out of Colorado, not a big baseball state,” Burke said. "It got drafted and it was, ‘Scratch everything. Here’s what you’re going to do.’ They do that with all their lefties, put them on the same path, slow early in our careers. You’re growing, you’re changing, and it finally just clicked a little bit.”
He said that he wants to have better control of his curveball but otherwise felt confident with where his fastballs, slider and changeup are entering spring training.
— Burke, Byrd, White and Espinal were among seven trade acquisitions who participated in the annual winter mini-camp. Third baseman Patrick Wisdom, lefthander Taylor Hearn and righthander Wei-Chieh Huang also participated and will be at big league spring training.
— Former National League Cy Young winner Eric Gagne will spend this season as the bullpen coach at Triple-A Nashville. Gagne, who pitched for the Rangers in 2007, spent last season coaching pitchers in the Arizona League.