Today, I take a look at the position players on the roster that will open the 2016 season with the Hickory Crawdads. There are currently 28 players on the roster with Hickory likely to start the season with 13 or 14 pitchers, leaving a bench of just two or three players. So a couple of the players listed below will be deactivated.
Unlike the roster of pitchers that I discussed in the previous post, the list of position players are much more in tune with what we are used to seeing on a Crawdads roster over the past seven seasons: A young group of infielders with the occasional stud phenom in the outfield. Sprinkle in a makeshift first baseman and add a couple of college-aged outfielders and you have the prototypical Hickory roster.
Shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri is the latest in the long line of young Texas Rangers shortstops to receive an aggressive assignment to Hickory at a young age. The 19-year-old Venezuelan native comes advertised with a cannon of an arm, but at 175 lbs on a 6-foot frame, and a developing strike zone, he’ll be a work in progress at the plate. As is always the case, can he slow the game down enough to showcase his skills in the South Atlantic League.
Given his pedigree from his playing days in Cuba, where he won a Golden Glove award at second and played with Team Cuba in the World Baseball Classic as an 18-year-old , I didn’t expect to see Andy Ibanez here with Hickory on a roster that also includes Dylan Moore and Frandy De La Rosa. However, with this being his U.S. pro debut and the uncertainty of the playing situation at High Desert, as well as the adjustment of playing outside the Rangers complex for the first time, it could be that the Rangers wanted a bit more of a stable situation to live a day-to-day existence. At 23, Ibanez will have the opportunity to dominate the South Atlantic League once he settles in. I’m guessing the hope will be that he makes a jump to AA as the season progresses.
The Rangers are usually aggressive with assigning their young high-draft picks, but with Josh Morgan at third last year, Ti’Quan Forbes (2nd round 2014) spent last year with Spokane. At 6-3, 188 pounds as a 19-year-old, there is still room to fill out and develop some power. He’s yet to homer as a pro and has just 17 extra-base hits in 107 pro games. Drafted as a shortstop, he has 31 errors in 91 games at third. The ability to slow the game down and to manipulate his 6-foot-3 body will determine whether or not he stays at third, or perhaps moves to the outfield to take advantage of his arm strength.
Eric Jenkins, the Rangers second-round pick in 2015, opened eyes in Hickory with his speed after a late-season promotion. He showed quick hands at the plate to go with the speed, and gap-to-gap power, despite a smaller frame. At times, the game at low-A seemed a bit fast for him, but Jenkins appeared to be a quick learner.
I was more than a little surprised to see Dylan Moore back to Hickory, after a stellar cameo the final week of the regular season and in the playoffs. However with Travis Demeritte and Michael De Leon moving up to High Desert, and Moore not ready for AA, he is here at Hickory. I’m wondering if Moore gets look-sees all around the infield, including at first-baseman, where there is not really a true first baseman on the roster (both catchers Chuck Moorman and Tyler Sanchez have played first in the past). Moore certainly showed he could handle the bat at this level during the brief time he was here.
Eduard Pinto has two batting titles to his credit, so he has the ability to slap the ball around the field. However, with two DL stints last year and a .249/.337/.306 slash in the second half, this season could be more about gaining stamina, as he seemed to wear down. Pinto showed marked progress in seeing the ball at the plate and taking pitches. The hit tool is there, but can his 5-11, 150-pound frame stay on the field for an extended period.
Chuck Moorman and Ricky Valencia both come back as catchers, though I’m guessing that Valencia will resume his role as a pseudo-third catcher while spending time on the inactive or disabled list. Both bring a defense-first mentality to the plate.
Frandy De La Rosa, who came to the Rangers in an off-season trade with the Cubs, should also see some time at second, after playing 61 games there with short-season Eugene last season… Tyler Sanchez will likely split the catching duties and first base with Moorman…. LeDarious Clark burst onto the pro scene with an 18-game hitting streak at Spokane and is likely the best power threat (27 XBH in 257 ABs). He along with Pinto and Darius Day will likely man corner outfield positions around Jenkins, with the odd man out DH-ing.
CHUCK MOORMAN (B-T: R-R, 5-11, 216)
2015 Pro Season: 32 games at Hickory, Frisco and Round Rock, 7 R, 13 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 30 K, .143/.210/.209.
About Moorman: A native of Lakeside, Calif., Moorman, 22, was the Rangers 17th round pick in 2012 out of El Capitan (Calif.) High. Played mostly as a backup with Hickory in the second half of last season, Moorman made spot appearances at AAA Round Rock (1-for-2 in two games) and AA Frisco (0-3 in 1 game).
TYLER SANCHEZ (B-T: R-R, 6-3, 236)
2015 Pro Season: 43 games at Spokane, 24 R, 32 H, 15 2B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 17 BB, 44 K, .215/.318/.436.
About Sanchez: A native of Point St. Lucie, Fla., Sanchez, 22, was the 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of St. John’s (N.Y.) Univ. Played one season at Hillsborough (Fla.) CC.
RICKY VALENCIA (B-T: R-R, 6-0, 185)
2015 Pro Season: 15 games AZL Rangers, Hickory, High Desert (Calif.), Frisco, 3 R, 6 H, 1 2B, 3 RBI, .146 AVG.
About Valencia: The native of Valencia, Venezuela, Valencia, 23, was signed by the Rangers as an international free agent in 2011. Went 4-for-13 in four games for Hickory in 2015.
FRANDY DE LA ROSA (B-T: S-R, 6-0, 170)
2015 Pro Season: 62 games at Eugene (Ore.), 32 R, 70 H, 20 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 11 SB, .15 BB, 64 K, .273/.315/ .367.
About De La Rosa: A native of San Isidro, D. R., De La Rosa, 20, came to the Rangers via a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Nov. 20, 2005 in exchange for major league reliever Spencer Patton. Played second base for the Cubs short-season team at Eugene (Ore.) in 2015. Led Northwest League in errors and double plays, was named a post-season league all-star.
TI’QUAN FORBES (B-T: R-R, 6-3, 188)
2015 Pro Season: 59 games at Spokane, 25 R, 57 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB, 14 BB, 54 K, .263/.315/ .323.
About Forbes: A native of Columbia, Miss., Forbes, 19, was the Rangers second round pick in 2014 out of Columbia High. Played third base for Spokane in 2015. Named by MLB.com as the Rangers 30th best prospect. As a pitcher and shortstop, led Columbia to Mississippi Class 4A state title. Had originally committed to Ole Miss before signing with Texas.
ANDY IBANEZ (B-T: R-R, 5-10, 170)
2015 Pro Season: Did not play.
About Ibanez: A native of Havana, Cuba, Ibanez, 23, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2015. Was the youngest member of Cuba’s World Baseball Classic team in 2013. Played with Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2011 as an 18 year old. Will make his U.S. pro league debut with Hickory as a second baseman. Currently, Baseball America has Ibanez ranked as the Rangers eighth-best prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 16.
DYLAN MOORE (B-T: R-R, 6-0, 197)
2015 Pro Season: 65 games at Spokane and Hickory, 39 R, 65 H, 21 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 15 SB, 32 BB, 65 K, .271/.376/.454
About Moore: A native of Yorba Linda, Calif., Moore, 23, was the Rangers seventh round pick in 2015 out of Central Florida. Named to the Northwest League All-Star Team while at Spokane. Hit .583 in four regular-season games after a late-season promotion to Hickory, then went 6-for-22 in six postseason games with two doubles and three RBI. Was second-team American Athletic Conference as a junior at Central Florida. As a sophomore, led Cypress College to the California Community College state title.
YEYSON YRIZARRI: (B-T: R-R, 6-0, 193)
2015 Pro Season: 71 games at Spokane and Round Rock, 29 R, 74 H, 11 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 8 SB, 7 BB, 51 K, .266/.291/.342.
About Yrizarri: A native of Puerto de Ordaz, Venezuela, Yrizarri, 19, was signed by the Rangers as a free agent in 2013. Named to the Northwest League All-Star team while at Spokane in 2015. Hit in seven of nine games while filling in as the shortstop at AAA Round Rock. MLB.com has him as the Rangers 12th best prospect, while Baseball America lists him at No. 27. He is the nephew of former major league shortstop Deivi Cruz.
JOSE ALMONTE (B-T: R-R, 6-3, 205)
2015 Pro Season: 48 games at DSL Rangers and AZL Rangers, 20 R, 29 H, 7 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, 14 BB, 45, K, .165/.254/ .216.
About Almonte: A native of Santo Domingo, D.R., Almonte, 19, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013. Played in the Perfect Game World Showcase and named to the Dominican Prospect League All-Star Game in 2013.
LEDARIOUS CLARK (B-T: R-R, 5-10, 188)
2015 Pro Season: 65 games at Spokane, 46 R, 71 H, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 29 SB, 26 BB, 73 K, .276/.354/ .471.
About Clark: A native of Meridian, Miss., Clark, 22, was the Rangers 12th round pick in 2015 out of West Florida. Named to the Northwest League All-Star Team and played in the NWL-Pioneer League All-Star Game, where he went 2-for-5 and finished second in the home run derby. Had an 18-game hit streak while at Spokane. Played football and baseball at SE Lauderdale High, winning a state title in baseball as a senior.
DARIUS DAY (B-T: L-L, 5-11, 172)
2015 Pro Season: 54 games at Spokane, 26 R, 49 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 13 SB, 23 BB, 68 K, .261/.349/.330.
About Day: A native of Chicago, Ill., Day, 21, was the 23rd round choice of the Rangers in 2014 out of Simeon Carver Academy (Ill.). Had committed to Arizona before signing with Texas.
ERIC JENKINS (B-T: L-R, 6-1, 170)
2015 Pro Season: 56 games at AZL Rangers and Hickory, 38 R, 51 H, 5 2B, 6 3B, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 28 SB, 24 BB, 61 K, .262/ .348/.349.
About Jenkins: A native of Jacksonville, N.C., Jenkins, 19, was the Rangers second round pick in 2015 out of West Columbus High. The speedster stole 28 bases in 56 games as a pro. Came to Hickory at the end of the 2015 regular season and went 7-for-18 in five games. Named Perfect Game, Second Team All-America as a high school senior, during which he led his school to the East 1A Regional final. Currently named by Baseball America as the Rangers sixth-best prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7.
EDUARD PINTO (B-T: L-L, 5-11, 150)
2015 Pro Season: 98 games at Hickory, 39 R, 91 H, 12 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 2 SB, 34 BB, 21 K/ .261/.329/.341.
About Pinto: A native of Valencia, Venezuela, Pinto, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2011. Starting at Hickory for a third straight season. Pinto had disabled-list stints in May (wrist tendonitis) and July (left femur strain). Won the Northwest League batting title (.335) in 2014 and the Dominican Summer League batting title (.396) in 2012.