Over the past handful of years, the Texas Rangers farm system hasn’t been anything to write home about. However, entering the 2018 campaign, there is a lot of excitement circulating around Rangers prospects. This is thanks in large part to a new vision from the front office and some solid first year player drafts in 2016 and 2017. Everyone is aware of the outfielders that sit atop most Rangers prospect lists, Leody Taveras and Willie Calhoun, and for good reason. Both young players have the potential to be MLB regulars, perhaps even more. But if you look a little deeper than that, there are a whole bunch of arms in the system to be excited about. In fact, half of the top 10 in my Rangers Top 50, and 31 of the 53 names mentioned in that post, are pitchers.
What was very recently an area of emerging depth and excitement in the organization is slowly turning into a cause for concern. “Elbow strain,” “UCL Damage,” and “Tommy John Surgery” are headlines baseball fans are seeing more and more these days, especially among minor leaguers. Well, as it turns out, the Rangers are not immune to the elbow inflammation sweeping the nation.
While there are several pitchers battling or recovering from injury coming out of Spring, the noteworthy aspect of the Rangers medical report is the caliber of names you will see on it.
Cole Ragans entered 2018 as the number three prospect on our Rangers top 50 and the top pitching prospect in the system. The Rangers took the 6’4 lefty in the first round of the June 2016 draft. After just 7 innings in Rookie ball during the 2016 campaign, the Rangers sent the Florida native to Short Season for 2017. Ragans absolutely dominated while he was there, showcasing not only his well-developed three pitches, but his mature and consistent presence on the mound.
While there was no plan to move quickly with Ragans, any milestones for his development will have to be postponed even more. After being diagnosed with a torn UCL on March 18th, Ragans was forced to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. For you dynasty owners, you all know that TJ, while it was a virtual career death sentence in the past, doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it used to. Still, rehab is a pain staking process and there is no guarantee that a pitcher will come back the same. The promising thing for Ragans is the combination of good stuff and a good head on his shoulders. If you have him on your roster, no need to panic, just know what was already a slow developmental plan is going to be even slower. If you don’t own him and your rosters are deep enough, he is still worth stashing.
The same day Ragans was diagnosed, the Rangers announced that 2017 Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year Award recipient, Kyle Cody (#5 overall in our Rangers top 50) , was being shut down due to elbow inflammation. The University of Kentucky product will not pitch any meaningful innings anytime in the near future and while he has yet to go under the knife, surgery has not been ruled out. The 6’7 righty put himself on the map after an impressive 2017 and, in my opinion, he had a very different path to the show than Ragans. Cody was almost a lock to start the season at Double-A and I felt comfortable slapping a 2019 ETA on him. Now, we will need to see how he recovers from the inflammation and see if surgery comes into play.
The Rangers lost two of their three top arms on the same day in Spring. Sure, neither one has pitched above High-A, but the expectations are lofty, especially for an organization that is starting to look more towards home grown talent as opposed to free agent acquisitions. If Rangers fans are looking for a silver-lining, Joe Palumbo (#12 overall in our Rangers top 50) should make his way back to a minor league mound sometime around June after undergoing TJ surgery of his own last April.
If you’re a dynasty owner, the injuries certainly make you rethink things. It is disappointing that three of the best pitchers in the system are on the shelf, but on the same account, if your rosters are deep enough, they are all three worth stashing away. If you’re a Rangers fan, the news is discouraging, especially for those of you that enjoy watching the minor league clubs. But hey, you still get to see Hans Crouse this year.
Article featured image of Cole Ragans – courtesy of mlb.com