It isn’t not some random coincidence that Sam Huff‘s locker is next to veteran Jeff Mathis’ in spring training.
Huff, the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect who has yet to play above high Class A, is in his first big league camp. Mathis, meanwhile, is entering his 16th major league season.
School is in session.
But it’s not just Mathis who has shared his experiences with the 22-year-old. So have catchers Robinson Chirinos and Jose Trevino, and catching-minded big league coaches Don Wakamatsu and Hector Ortiz.
Bobby Wilson, a former big league catcher who will be Huff’s manager at Double-A Frisco, is another frequent guest at Huff’s locker.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Huff might not be on a fast track to the majors, but the Rangers accelerated his growth and invited him to his first spring training following a season in which he won the 2019 Futures Game MVP and hit .278/.335/.509 with 28 home runs between two levels.
“He can do what not a lot of catchers can—hit and do a lot of things on the offensive side,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said, “but (it’s) also the way he receives, the way he throws and his ability to call a game. He’s ahead in that regard.”
Huff, a 2016 seventh-round pick, is an Arizona native drafted out of Arcadia High in Phoenix. He started his spring close to home, arriving at Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz., in late January.
His goal for the spring has been to learn from every catcher who stops to talk to him and get to know the veteran pitchers on the staff. He wants to learn more about the pitcher-catcher relationship as well as start building relationships with players who could be his future big league teammates in the coming seasons.
“I’ve talked to everybody about certain things I can do and how I can improve my game,” Huff said. “You just try to talk to everybody. There’s a lot of history in this clubhouse.”
— General manager Jon Daniels said that righthander Jonathan Hernandez and lefthander Taylor Hearn are more likely to impact the Rangers in 2020 as relievers than as starters. Both can reach the upper 90s with their fastballs over multiple innings.
— The No. 1 spring focus for Nick Solak, primarily a second baseman, is to learn center field. The Rangers did not add a center fielder during the offseason, and Solak’s ability to learn the position would provide them with the flexibility to keep Danny Santana in a super utility role.