Sam Huff: Rangers 2019 Minor League Player Of The Year
If the race for the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year were a presidential election, Sam Huff would be Ronald Reagan and everyone else would be Walter Mondale.
In other words, Huff would win in a landslide. Of the five club executives asked who would get their vote, all five selected Huff.
That's not to say that others in the system didn't have nice seasons. Class A first baseman Curtis Terry, for instance, would have a strong argument in just about any other season. But his teammate at both low Class A Hickory and high Class A Down East has just been better. Considering the position Huff plays, picking him as the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year is a no-brainer.
"He's starting to come into himself with the way his body works," said Paul Kruger, the Rangers' director of minor league operations. "He had a really good offseason. He put on some good weight, which allowed him to go from that lanky, 6-foot-4 catcher to more of an athletic build. That helped with his mechanical build."
The Rangers' seventh-round pick in 2016 out of Arcadia High in Phoenix, Huff spent all season among the minor league leaders in home runs, and the one home run he hit that didn't count toward his total was the one that propelled him to MVP honors in the Futures Game in July.
As the Down East season reached mid-August, Huff was batting .291 and slugging .549 thanks to 52 extra-base hits. Twenty-eight of those extra-base hits were home runs, including 15 in only 108 at-bats at Hickory before an early season promotion to the Carolina League.
The Rangers placed a season-long emphasis on swinging at fastballs in the strike zone and not missing them. Because of his height, Huff is susceptible to high heaters, as were former Rangers prospects Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson.
But Huff does more than just hit. His defense behind the plate has improved, from blocking balls to throwing out runners to handling the grind of the long season.
— Lefthander Joe Palumbo, the Rangers' No. 4 prospect, needed only 81 pitches to toss six no-hit innings for Triple-A Nashville on Aug.15. The start, his third since coming off the injured list with a left ankle injury served as his final tune-up before rejoining the Rangers' rotation on Aug. 20.
— Nashville outfielder Scott Heineman made his major league debut on Aug. 2 as the Rangers made four roster moves following the July 31 trade deadline. Heineman's stay last only six days before he was sent back down to Triple-A, however. The club's reigning Minor League Player of the Year is expected back in the majors once rosters expand for September.