Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
TRACK RECORD: Pitching for USA Baseball’s 18U national team as a high school senior in 2016, Crouse fired seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in Team USA’s gold-medal game victory against Cuba in the COPABE Pan American Championship in Mexico. It was the beginning of a dominant senior campaign for Crouse, whom the Rangers drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft and signed for $1.45 million. Soon after signing, Crouse quickly looked more like a first-round pick when he reported to the Rookie-level Arizona League and picked apart hitters. The Rangers handle their high school pitching prospects with extreme caution, so Crouse opened 2018 with short-season Spokane. A cut on his thumb sidetracked his first outing, but Crouse quickly showed why he has the most upside of any pitcher in the organization, highlighted by a July 13 outing with 12 strikeouts and only one hit allowed in seven scoreless innings, followed two starts later with a 12-strikeout gem in seven innings. By August the Rangers promoted him to low Class A Hickory.
SCOUTING REPORT: Crouse is a power pitcher who can overwhelm hitters with an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s. It ranges mostly from 92-97 mph and has reached 99. His fastball combines excellent velocity with a high-end spin rate, giving him the ability to throw frequent strikes and dominate all quadrants of the strike zone. He generates empty swings when he elevates. Crouse’s slider also flashes plus, coming out of his hand on the same plane as his fastball before breaking late to dive underneath barrels. He has flashed a good changeup at times, but right now it’s still a tick below-average pitch that he hasn’t thrown or needed to throw much, so using and improving that offering will be a focal point for his development. Crouse has traditional stuff for an elite pitching prospect, but his delivery is atypical. He’ll mix in the occasional shimmy and wiggle, a la Johnny Cueto, leading to a high-effort, herky-jerky motion that finishes with a head whack. That gives some scouts concerns about Crouse’s future command and whether his fiery, high-energy style might fit better in relief, though others think he should be fine as long as he can maintain his body control despite the effort.
THE FUTURE: Crouse is likely to return to Hickory to open 2019. He has several levels to climb, but he has the raw stuff to develop into a frontline starter.
TRACK RECORD: Martinez excelled in Cuba’s junior national leagues as a teenager, then progressed to Cuba’s top league. After leaving Cuba, he signed with the Rangers in March 2018 for $2.8 million. The Rangers brought him along slowly to get him acclimated to a new country, so he spent most of 2018 at short-season Spokane.
SCOUTING REPORT: Martinez didn’t play any competitive baseball for a while, so early in the season he was just getting his timing back. When he’s at his best, he blends power and speed at a premium position. He has a smaller build, but his strong wrists help generate plenty of bat speed and a tick above-average raw power. He handles pitches down in the zone well, though with his bat path there is some swing-and-miss, especially in the upper half. Martinez is a plus runner with an average arm in center field. His outfield play improved as the season went on, and he projects to stick at the position as at least an average defender.
THE FUTURE: Now that he’s had an acclimation period, Martinez could take off in 2019. He might start 2019 at one of the Rangers’ Class A levels, though the club also has to figure out where to assign fellow center fielders Leody Taveras and Bubba Thompson.
TRACK RECORD: Taveras ranked as one of the premium prospects in a stacked 2015 international class, signing that year for $2.1 million. The Rangers have pushed Taveras aggressively, so while he didn’t do much damage at the plate in 2018, at 19 he was also one of the youngest players in high Class A.
SCOUTING REPORT: A cousin of former major leaguer Willy Taveras, Leody is another speedy center fielder who shines in the field. Taveras reads the ball well off the bat with a quick first step to get to his plus speed. He backs it up with a plus arm and projects as a plus defender, with some scouts saying he’s plus-plus. While Taveras’ defense still drew praise, there was growing skepticism among scouts about his future hitting ability. He is a patient hitter with good bat-to-ball skills, but the contact he made often lacked any impact. Some of that comes down to pitch selection and learning to hunt his pitch. Getting stronger will be crucial for Taveras, both to drive the ball and to maintain better swing position from both sides of the plate.
THE FUTURE: A repeat of 2018 would drop Taveras’ stock considerably, so 2019 will be key for him. He is a good candidate to return to the Carolina League.
TRACK RECORD: Winn transferred from Colorado to Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High as a high school senior to play in one of the country’s top high school baseball conferences. He dominated to earn the BA High School Player of the Year honors. The Rangers drafted him No. 10 overall in 2018 and signed him for $3.15 million. The Rangers shut down their top prep pitching picks after signing, so Winn threw only briefly during instructional league.
SCOUTING REPORT: Winn has a promising combination of stuff and polish for a high school draft pick. He has an easy, compact and repeatable delivery, which helps him locate his 92-96 mph fastball well to both sides of the plate. Winn’s out pitch is his mid-70s curveball, and while he had trouble landing it for strikes at instructs, it’s a plus pitch with sharp 12-to-6 break that can change eye levels and miss bats. He introduced a slider with average potential to his repertoire. While his changeup hasn’t been a focal point, it shows good sink when he does throw it.
THE FUTURE: Winn could follow Hans Crouse’s path and start in extended spring training in 2019 before reporting to short-season Spokane in June. He could develop into a mid-rotation or better starter.
TRACK RECORD: Signed for $100,000 in 2014, Tejeda has flashed big tools with spurts of performance to match. In 2018, he took a big leap forward at high Class A Down East.
SCOUTING REPORT: Tejeda once faced questions on whether he would stick at shortstop, but the Rangers emphasized developing his first-step quickness and footwork, both of which made major progress in 2018. He showed better reactions off the bat and cut down on his throwing errors with a better understanding of how to use his feet, which kept his throws more online. That helped him take advantage of his 70-grade arm. Tejeda’s offensive profile is one the Rangers have experience with: big power and a lot of strikeouts as he works to develop a better plan. He has plus raw power to go deep to all fields, giving him 25-plus home run potential. Tejeda’s bat control, strike-zone discipline and understanding of how opposing pitchers are trying to attack him will all have to improve.
THE FUTURE: Some scouts now prefer Tejeda to Leody Taveras because he has more power. Tejeda will start 2019 in Double-A and could develop into a power-hitting regular at shortstop.
TRACK RECORD: Hernandez opened 2018 by picking apart high Class A Carolina League hitters, prompting the Rangers to promote June. He had a difficult time adjust- him to Double-A in ing, posting a 7.14 ERA in his first eight starts. Hernandez settled in with a 1.14 ERA over his final four starts.
SCOUTING REPORT: Hernandez pitches off a lively fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and tops out at 99. The pitch has good armside run and plays up because of its high spin rate and his ability to get extension out front. Hernandez’s improved slider was a separator for him to start the season. It flashed as a plus pitch with good tilt and helped him get a lot of swinging strikes down and away. At times his changeup flashes average with good fade, though that’s still an inconsistent pitch. He flips over an occasional show-me curveball. Hernandez ran into trouble when his fastball command (especially to his glove side), leading to too many walks and hitters sitting in advantageous counts.
THE FUTURE: Hernandez has a history of taking time to adjust to a new level, so tightening his fastball command will be key for him against better hitters. If he does, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.
TRACK RECORD: The Nationals drafted Hearn in 2015, then traded him and Felipe Rivero to Pittsburgh one year later for Mark Melancon. Hearn spent two years with the Pirates, who traded him to the Rangers in July 2018 in the Keone Kela deal.
SCOUTING REPORT: Hearn pitches off a fastball that can overpower hitters. It sits in the mid-90s and reaches 98 mph. His premium velocity from the left side is particularly uncomfortable for opponents because of his angle and long arms that create good extension out front, with the ability to get swings and misses up in the zone. After the 2017 season, Hearn went to the Arizona Fall League, where he changed the grip on his slider. It’s still inconsistent, but it now flashes above-average. He has a solid changeup, too, that at times is an average offering. Hearn can pile up strikeouts—he had 9.8 per nine innings in 2018—but improving his command and pitch sequencing are focal points for his development.
THE FUTURE: If Hearn can tighten his fastball command and refine his pitchability, he has the makings of a mid-rotation starter. If not, he has the stuff to pitch high-leverage relief innings. He’s ticketed for the Triple-A Nashville rotation to open 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Palumbo didn't do much to distinguish himself as a 30th-round pick in his first three seasons with the Rangers, but he had a breakout season in 2016 to emerge as a legitimate prospect. After three starts in 2017, however, Palumbo went down for the year with Tommy John surgery. He returned in June 2018 and by the end of the season looked like same pitcher he was before TJ.
SCOUTING REPORT: As the season progressed, so did Palumbo’s fastball. It started at 90-92 mph early in the season and ramped up to touch 95 with more frequency later in the year. Palumbo throws frequent strikes with his fastball and it gets on hitters faster than they antic- ipate with his short arm stroke and cross-body delivery adding deception. His curveball was erratic in early outings coming back from surgery, but by the end of the year it was a more reliable, swing-and-miss offering that graded as plus. Palumbo has shown good feel for a changeup that has the potential to be an average pitch.
THE FUTURE: Likely ticketed for Double-A to open 2019, Palumbo could make his major league debut by the end of the season. If he proves to be durable, he has a chance to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.
TRACK RECORD: Thompson was an all-state quarterback who had offers to play Division I football, but he opted to sign with the Rangers for $2.1 million as the No. 26 overall pick in 2017. Thompson was old for his high school class - he turned 19 right before the draft - and has shown promising physical upside and considerable risks as a pro.
SCOUTING REPORT: Thompson fits a familiar profile for Rangers draft picks as an explosive athlete with loud tools and raw baseball skills. His best tool is his plus-plus speed, which makes him a threat to steal 30 bases and is an asset for him in center field. His defense is unrefined—his first-step reads and routes will need to get better—but his closing speed helps him make up ground. His arm is average. At the plate, Thompson has quick hand speed and a tick above-average raw power that could be a plus tool as he gets stronger. Thompson’s swing and plate discipline leave him with holes, with chase tendencies that led to a 29 percent strikeout rate.
THE FUTURE: Thompson has a ceiling to rival any player in the organization—if he can improve his approach to make more contact. Scouts highest on Thompson believe he has the athleticism to help make those adjustments and turn into an above-average regular.
TRACK RECORD: The Rangers drafted prep arms with three of their top four picks in the 2018 draft and signed them for seven-figure bonuses, including Englert, who got $1 million as a fourth-rounder. They shut all three of them down from official games after signing, but at instructional league, Englert made a loud impression.
SCOUTING REPORT: Going into the draft, Englert had several positive indicators between his tall, projectable frame, easy mechanics, athleticism and arm speed suggesting more in the tank. At instructs, that projection started to manifest. He went from throwing mostly upper 80s in the summer of 2017 to low 90s in the spring of 2018 and then topped out at 96 mph with good extension after signing. Englert reached that velocity without much effort in his delivery, which is calm and repeatable, helping him locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. He has shown feel to spin both his slider and curveball, both flashing above-average potential. Englert sells his changeup with good arm action, though he didn’t throw it often.
THE FUTURE: Englert has the components of a starting pitcher, and he could join fellow 2018 draft pick Cole Winn next season in the short-season Spokane rotation.
- Ben Badler
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up