The SANDbox: How Are Prospects The Rangers Traded Away Performing?

Kyle Hendricks
Photo credit Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have traded away a lot of prospects over the last few years. At the time, we worried whether those prospects would lead the Rangers to “rue the day” we traded them away. Do they rue the day? Let’s look at four deals with a significant prospect presence…

In exchange for Ryan Dempster, the Rangers traded Christian Villanueva and…Kyle Hendricks to the Cubs

This is the one that hurts. Hendricks isn’t what you’d characterize as dominant (other than his last start, an 81-pitch complete game), but he’s remained very strong as a starter. No debating it. This is the one the Rangers would like to have back.

In exchange for Matt Garza, the Rangers traded away Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, and Neil Ramirez to the Cubs.

Edwards Jr. was the best of the bunch and would have been a nice bullpen piece, but I’d argue that that’s worth the price of “going for it” even though Garza didn’t work out. Mike Olt retired with a -1.3 WAR, Justin Grimm currently has a -2.2 WAR (though, he did have one really good relief year in 2015), and Neil Ramirez, who has played in the big leagues for six different teams, is rocking a 0.2 WAR. Did the Rangers get the better end of this? No. But this deal didn’t set the Rangers back in any legitimate way. They lost out on a couple of nice relievers, which is well worth the price for trying to improve your rotation.

In exchange for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman, the Rangers traded Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams (and Matt Harrison) to the Phillies.

At the time, everyone was excited about Hamels but worried about the cost. Unfortunately for the Phillies, none of these guys have really reached their potential.  RHP Alec Asher is currently playing Indy ball. Four years later, Jerad Eickhoff might finally be making headway as a starter, but at 28, certainly is far from establishing anything. Jake Thompson is pitching in Korea. Nick Williams comes off the bench for the Phillies and has a career .767 OPS (102 OPS+), which is barely better than league average. Jorge Alfaro is off to a good start with the Marlins in 2019, but has a career .758 OPS (102 OPS+), which is also far away from the star some thought he might become behind the plate. Not really regretting this one…

In exchange for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, the Rangers traded Lewis Brunson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell to the Brewers.

Much like the Hamels deal, this one had major “ouch” potential. While neither Lucroy nor Jeffress fulfilled their potential with the Rangers, neither have the three prospects sent away with the Brewers, or their current organizations as of yet (none remain with the Brewers). Ryan Cordell is 27-years old and a part-time player with the White Sox. Lewis Brinson is very good defensively but was recently optioned to Triple-A because of his .197 BA this year, which is in line with his career .190 BA and .561 OPS. And Luis Ortiz is struggling at Triple-A Norfolk with the Orioles. Brinson is 24 and Ortiz is 23 so they still have time, but as the Rangers sit here today in what we all would term a rebuild, it’s clear that none of these three guys would be giving us hope the future.


Outside of Kyle Hendricks, is there really anyone you are kicking and screaming about giving up? No. And if you do, it is emotional and not backed up by actual production. Maybe some of these young guys like Alfaro or Eickhoff end up figuring it out, but trying to win isn’t cheap and if these guys were the cost of that, you can sign me up ten times out of ten.


Will Shelby Miller remain a starter or move to the bullpen and pitch in a multi-inning role as someone who follows an “Opener” or gets paired in a piggyback situation? Miller is scheduled to start Wednesday but the Rangers appear noncommittal beyond that. I’ll write more on this next week but it definitely makes for an interesting discussion on how to best tap into the talent in Shelby’s body and the Rangers are getting creative in figuring out how to do that.


*There might not be a bigger Rougie fan out there than I am, but other than Sunday, his at-bats don’t look good right now. I really do wonder if he would benefit from swinging a slightly lighter bat. Woody addressed that below in the A/V section. Beyond that, though, is his struggles against the fastball. More on that in the stats section but suffice it to say that he has been downright bad against the heater and teams have no fear firing one after the next to him. In the past, Rougie pulverized the heater as well as anyone. Can he get back to that? That appears to be the big question.

*Mike Minor was very clear with me when we spoke inside the visiting clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium after a Spring Training this past March. While he doesn’t love the term ace, he wants to prove that he is one. In 2009, Minor was selected ninth overall by the Braves. Picks that high are reserved for guys teams believe can become high impact players. Perhaps health got in the way of that progression, or maybe Minor is just a late bloomer. Whatever the case, he’s now strung together a 20-start stretch that suggests he’s among baseball’s best starters. Check out the “Stats of the Week” for more on what he’s done since the 2018 All-Star Break and where that ranks among his peers. Minor’s ability to throw four pitches very effectively has played a key role. His changeup neutralizes righties and his curveball baffles lefties. The slider is good against both and his high-spin fastball allows him to raise eye levels. All four pitches are quality swing-and-miss pitches. Yet, as fancy as all that is, the same thing that has so far kept Yu Darvish from developing consistent dominance is what’s really allowed Mike Minor to flourish: fastball command.

*Well, another year and another issue in the closer’s role for the Rangers. Unlike past years in which the departing closer never really saw the light of day in that role again, I believe Jose Leclerc is the closer—and a successful one, at that—for the team this year. With that said, there’s no debating that he’s really struggled. In the “Stats of the Week” section below, I share some numbers that help illustrate his struggles. Relievers, as we discuss often, are volatile. There is less consistency and reliability with their year-to-year performance than any other position group. The guys who do maintain a consistent degree of dominance are rare. Take a five-year stretch from 2014-2018. Only FIVE relievers in MLB posted an ERA of 3.25-or-better in all five years. Only 17 posted an ERA of 3.25-or-better in four of those five years. For that reason, a lot of GMs are reluctant to spend big on relievers. The reality is, there are only a couple handfuls of relievers worth those deals but, if you can get your hands on one of those guys, it’s super valuable.

*Speaking of Leclerc…one change pitching coach Julio Rangel has made is getting Leclerc to throw 5-10 pitches off of a mound every other day. Last year, all of Leclerc’s pregame throwing was on flat ground—not unusual—and it worked. He did the same earlier this year but with his mechanics out of sync, Rangel has gotten him on the mound to try and straighten everything out.

*Check out Joey Gallo’s laser to nail Freddy Galvis at the plate on Friday night. 

These runners! Got 'em!

— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) May 4, 2019

*One notable difference for Joey Gallo this year is his change in swing rate, both on pitches in and outside the strike zone. Last year he swung at 48.3% of pitches. This year, he’s swinging just 40.1% of the time…that’s a big difference and among the biggest deltas in MLB this year. Additionally, it seems like Gallo, who is swinging at just 69.2% of strikes compared to 74.4% of strikes last year, is adhering to Luis Ortiz’s plea that an 0-1 count is better than an 0-for-1, the idea that it is better to take a strike than swing at a strike that you aren’t likely to hit well. For Gallo, he’s struggled with elevated fastballs. He’s swinging at just 54.9% of fastballs in the top 3rd of the zone this year. Last year he swung at 78.5% of those pitches.

Jordan Daniels (@livestrong08): What is the word on Matt Bush?

Matt Bush was non-tendered by the Rangers this off-season but came back on a minor league deal. He’s currently rehabbing after elbow surgery and will hopefully be fully recovered within the next couple of months. At that point, he’ll simply be a minor league pitcher trying to earn his way back to the big leagues.

Adrian Minjarez Jr. (@adrianknows_): If the Rangers are in 3rd place come trade deadline, do you think we trade Joey Gallo?

No, but that’s a fascinating question. To get, you have to give. There’s no one with more value on the team right now than Joey Gallo. And Joey’s trade value may never be higher. Whether or not Joey’s 2019 success is sustainable, not just over this year but the next several years, is a fair question to ask. Another fair question to ask is whether a guy like Joey—a potential mega force in the lineup with MVP potential—is as valuable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, or, at least, the chance of getting a prospect with that upside. Ultimately, I’m not trading Joey. I love the player and I love the potential. The growth he’s demonstrated this year is a very encouraging sign for the future. He’s a star.

Owen Wright (@owenwright01): What’s the random regular season game that has gotten lost over that stands out in your mind as a memorably great game?
This is a great question. I immediately thought about the critical four-game series between the Rangers and Astros in September 2015. The Rangers entered the series 1.5 games back of the Astros. Texas hadn’t yet grabbed hold of first place in the division and this was their best chance. They won the first two games of the series and took a 0.5 game lead. But the next game slated Dallas Keuchel, who would win the Cy Young that year, against Martin Perez, who wouldn’t win the Cy anything that year. I was nervous. There was just a sense that a Rangers win could mean more than just adding a game to their division lead. They might be able to get the young Astros on the ropes. Lo and behold, the Rangers absolutely crotch-kicked Keuchel and the Astros with a six-run first en route to a 14-3 win. The Rangers grabbed hold of a 1.5 game lead and never led by less than full game the rest of the way, ultimately winning the AL West after being back as many as 9 games in late July.
I harken back to a moment from 13 years ago, but one once again made relevant this past week. The Rangers giveaway Saturday night was the Gary Matthews Jr. “The Catch” bobblehead commemorating GMJ’s home run thievery of Mike Lamb in 2006.

I happened to be at that game and maintain that it is the best defensive play I’ve ever seen in person. With that said, it was only the second-best catch of that game.

My dad was offered tickets to that game—a day game—early that morning. I don’t exactly remember what I had on my schedule that day as a very busy 16-year old, but whatever it was I remember that we were able to clear it so I could go to the game. We got offered good seats. They were behind home plate, maybe 20 rows up?

My family is South African and my dad grew up playing cricket where you don’t use gloves. For a while when I was younger he’d play catch with me without using a glove. It would tick me off because at eight years old I thought I threw gas. Why isn’t it hurting him!? I throw too hard for him to not use a glove!
A little bit before GMJ’s incredible play, a foul ball was hit back our way. I don’t remember who hit it—for the sake of the story we’ll just say it was my favorite player, Michael Young—but I remember that my dad reached over and caught it with his bare hands. He didn’t rob anyone of home run, nor did he make the catch while holding a soda or a baby or whatever. But he caught the ball and gave it to me. It was the first ball I ever got at a game like that. After he caught it, I told him it was the best play of the day and I maintained that to be the case after GMJ’s catch. I still have the ball to this day (pictured). My dad and I shared lots of memories with baseball in the middle, mainly him driving me to and from my own games, but some memories of going to games. The ball represents all of those memories.

So, Gary Matthew Jr. made the best catch I’ve ever seen, but my dad made the play of the game.


*Eric Nadel shared a great story about Vladimir Guerrero and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from the 2010 Rangers season


“I told him that one day we’ll be celebrating with champagne because of a game you closed out.” -Rangers manager Chris Woodward on what he told Jose Leclerc when they discussed moving him into a different role so he can straighten out his struggles.


*Check out Mike Minor’s numbers since the 2018 All-Star Break (17 starts), including his AL rank

2.71 ERA (3rd)

.193 BA (3rd)

.602 OPS (3rd)

0.94 WHIP (2nd)

106.1 IP

101 K

28 BB

14.9 P/IP (T-2nd)

*The Rangers are getting a lot of production from players 30-and-older. Here are their ranks across MLB

BA: 5th (.284)

OBP: .358 (4th)

SLG: .483 (4th)

RBI: 2nd (91)

…but they’re also getting a lot production from guys 25-and-younger with their 21 HR ranking first and their 68 RBI ranking 2nd across the league.

*In 2018, Jose Leclerc generated a whiff rate of 40.9%. So far this year it is way, way lower at just 22.9%. Specifically, his lethal “slambio” isn’t lethal just yet in 2019. Opponents whiffed 56.1% of the time last year compared to just 27.0% of the time this year. Leclerc’s last outing, a 1-2-3 inning with an 8-5 lead in the 7th inning vs. Toronto on Saturday, was a good step forward. As he continues to get opportunities, I’m going to focus on his ability to generate swings-and-misses.

*Rougie is just 8-for-47 (.170) vs. the fastball this season.

*Joey Gallo has 99 HR in 375 games.

Per Elias Sports Bureau, Joey has a great chance to make history. Below are the fastest players in MLB history to 100 HR.

325 games--Ryan Howard

376 games--Ralph Kiner

393 games--Mark McGwire (AL Record)

If Gallo homers on Tuesday, he’ll tie Ralph Kiner for second fastest ever and as long as he hits another before his 393rd game he’ll set the AL record.


*Congrats to C.C. Sabathia, who became the 17th pitcher in MLB history to reach 3,000 strikeouts when he struck out John Ryan Murphy of the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in the desert. As much as strikeouts are going up in baseball, I wonder at what rate that list will grow because longevity is still such an important part of that mark. And a part of longevity is often a transformation somewhere along the lines. Credit to Sabathia. He came up as a hard-throwing lefty with a fastball averaging around 94 mph from 2004-2011, but has since seen his average fastball velocity hover just above or below 90 mph and has added a cutter. Changing your style on the mound isn’t easy. Many pitchers are simply unable to do so. When Sabathia lost his power fastball, he lost his dominance. After a quality All-Star campaign in 2012—his first with a slower fastball—he took a few years to figure out how to adapt. And then, ultimately, he did adapt. In a pitcher-friendly home park, Sabathia has posted a 3.71 ERA since 2016 with a 33-25 record.

*Speaking of the Yankees, they’ll be without James Paxton for the next three weeks and Luis Severino until after the All-Star Break. Their IL roster is good enough to win a division. It’s unreal. Yet, they’re 19-14 and 2 games back of the Rays. Tampa is for real. That’ll be a dogfight and the loss of Paxton doesn’t make anything easier for the Yankees but count me impressed that they’ve had the success they’ve had. How are they hanging around? Offensively, Luke Voit deserves a ton of credit. He’s reaching at a .377 clip with a SLG% of .504 and has been a big reason why the Yankees' lineup remains among the best in baseball despite already having lost Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and LeMahieu to injury at some point this season. RHP Domingo German also deserves credit. How 5-1 record and 2.56 ERA has helped carry a rotation that’s pretty beat up, including the absence of their ace, the aforementioned Severino.

*Jurickson Profar wasn’t very good defensively last year for the Rangers. He led Major League Baseball with 25 errors, most of which were of the throwing variety. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s only gotten worse. He’s back in the Athletics lineup but it’ll be tough for him to advance his career if he doesn’t improve defensively.

*In a shocking development, Ichiro Suzuki is remaining in baseball. The Mariners announced earlier this week that Ichiro, who legitimately seems to love baseball more than any person or activity, will help instruct the Mariners at the big league and Triple-A level in hitting, base running, and outfield defense. He will not, however, instruct anyone on having a good work-life balance.

*Wonder what the Indians could have gotten for Corey Kluber this off-season. It’s always tough for an organization that has been as close as the Indians have to winning it all to make the decision to rebuild or reset before their run definitively runs its course. The Indians elected to go for it once more and they very well could win the division, but it just doesn’t seem like they have the horses this year and the horses they do have don’t seem to be as strong as in year’s past.

*A few weeks ago I wrote about how home run are being hit at a record pace. That record pace has only gone up since then. The most home runs hit during the PED era was in 2000 when the league hit 5,693 long balls at a rate of a HR/29.39 AB. So far in 2019 there is a HR/26.08 AB, which might not seem like a big jump, but is on track to result in over 1000 more home runs this year than in 2000. Wow. Many people theorize that the ball is different and leading to more carry. According to Jayson Stark (The Athletic), the rate of fly balls hasn’t changed much, but the rate at which those fly balls turn in to home runs has. In 2014, just 9.5% of fly balls left the yard. So far in 2019, 14.4% of fly balls have left the yard. That’s a big jump. The reality is that a few factors probably have led to more home runs, but maybe it’s time we quietly change the balls back to what they used to be…

*Don’t look now but Yoan Moncada might have figured it out. Entering this year, Moncada had a career slash of .234/.319/.399 (.719) with 303 strikeouts in 796 AB. This year he’s slashing .287/.348/.496 with 35 K in 129 AB. What really stands out most to me is that he’s not striking out looking nearly as much. Last year he nearly lapped the field in that department. Moncada went down looking 85 times last year. Chris Davis was second…with 56. So far this year he’s struck out looking just 6 times.

*Matt Davidson was added this off-season as a potential two-way player. Maybe he becomes that, but the Rangers appear more intrigued with his offensive abilities and have him in Triple-A working on a retooled swing. At the MLB level, he hit 26 HR in 2017 and 20 HR in 2018, but combined for a .726 OPS and the Rangers believe there’s more of a complete hitter there. Davidson started the year 4-for-28 but is hitting around .250 with 11 HR over his 78 AB since then. I’m not sure his 2019 role. He’s a 1B/3B and the Rangers have those spots filled, but perhaps the 28-year old is a potential option at 3B in 2020 with Asdrubal Cabrera on just a 1-year deal?

*The Rangers are making sure some of their young pitchers get the experience in the minor leagues pitching behind an “Opener” in case they are asked to do so at the big league level. I think it is more relevant for guys closer to the big leagues as a sign that, if they came up this year, they might be eased into the bigs with the assist of an opener. One of the organization’s top pitching prospects, Joe Palumbo, pitched behind an opener on Friday and was very strong. He allowed 1 R on 1 H over 4.2 IP with 10 K and 2 BB. In 27.0 Double-A innings, Palumbo has a 3.33 ERA with 35 K and 15 BB. The walks are high and need to improve, but he’s maintaining run prevention because opponents are batting just .198 against him.

*Owen White, the Rangers' No. 2 draft pick in 2018, had Tommy John surgery last year.  Of the top 3 pitchers Texas took in last year’s draft, two of them—White and Mason Englert—have already had the procedure. So far their first-round pick, Cole Winn, is healthy.


*Rangers manager Chris Woodward joins the G-Bag Nation every Wednesday at 12:20 pm. This past week he addressed a number of questions from the fellas, including his thoughts on Jose Leclerc’s pitch usage:

…and whether or not he thinks Rougie is swinging too heavy of a bat:

*Chase D’Arnaud is currently an infielder at Triple-A Nashville with big league experience. He’s super talented beyond baseball, having performed at Bonnaroo with his own band, among other things. He’s also started a YouTube series that takes you through the life of a “Journeyman” professional ballplayer. It’s really great. Here’s episode 8.