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Emmanuel Clase Proving To Be A Savy Pickup

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Texas Rangers

An innocent-looking trade in May 2018 has suddenly turned into a potential steal for the Rangers.

The organization sent catcher Brett Nicholas, after designating him for assignment, to the Padres in exchange for righthander Emmanuel Clase. At the time, Clase appeared to be a late-blooming Dominican prospect yet to pitch in full-season ball who topped out at 95 mph. Now, Clase is hitting triple digits and has already blazed his way to Double-A Frisco.

The Texas League has proven to be a challenge for the suddenly quick-rising Clase, who has allowed 10 runs on 16 hits in his first 10.2 innings with Frisco. Five of those 10 runs came in one outing, however, and Clase is routinely hitting 100 mph with his fastball while positioning himself to potentially make his major league debut this season.

The 21-year-old Clase will be Rule-5 eligible this offseason, along with fellow hard-throwing relievers Demarcus Evans and Joe Barlow. The rebuilding Rangers could add Clase to the 40-man roster during the season, though they would prefer to let his pitching and performance dictate a promotion.

"It's still a little early now. I'm not going to rule it out," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We've got a few more steps to get to before we consider that."

Daniels said that Clase is similar to another hard-throwing reliever in the franchise's past, Neftali Feliz, in that they both generate elite velocity with very little effort. Clase also has good command of his slider, which was Feliz's primary offspeed pitch.

The Rangers have been aggressive with deserving relievers in past seasons, vaulting them through the system quickly. Just last season, lefty C.D. Pelham opened at high Class A Down East, moved to Double A and then made his major league debut in September.

As the Rangers continue to rebuild their big league club, which has dealt with early season bullpen woes, Clase, Evans and Barlow might force the Rangers' hand. At the very least, it appears they won't finish the season at their current levels.

"I think things line up pretty well for them to be getting some additional challenges this summer," Daniels said. "They're starting to creep their way onto the radar."

RANGERS ROUNDUP

— Two additional prospects who the Rangers are likely to protect from the Rule 5 draft this offseason are outfielder Leody Taveras and righthander Tyler Phillips. Both started the season strong, and Phillips has already been promoted to Double-A Frisco.

After struggling with high Class A Down East in 2018, the 20-year-old Taveras is hitting .320/.372/.442 with 12 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases through 46 games with the Wood Ducks in 2019. He's continued to play tremendous defense at all three outfield spots, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him promoted to Double-A in short order.

Phillips, meanwhile, has some of the best control in the minors. The 6-foot-5 righthander made his Frisco debut on May 14 after posting a 1.19 ERA in 37.2 innings in the Carolina League. A 16th-round pick in 2015, Phillips has walked just six hitters while striking out 36 this season.

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