The Texas Rangers have moved a few players around over the past couple of days. Here is a quick overview of who has moved on and who has arrived.
The big name to leave Hickory was the Rangers top hitting prospect, Julio Pablo Martinez. Given that he is 23 and already has significant baseball experience under his belt from his days in Cuba, I did not think there was any serious thought Martinez would be here for an extended period. The two previous Cubans – Andy Ibanez and Yanio Perez – to play here under the Rangers affiliation were both promoted prior to the all-star break and I figured Martinez would go even sooner.
So, when the announcement was made that Martinez was bumped up just 13 games into the season, it was curious. Down East (high-A) was already stocked in the outfield, so either a promotion was happening there, or something else. Unfortunately, that “something else” was a broken hamate bone injury suffered by Bubba Thompson, who will miss at least four weeks.
In ten games with Hickory, Martinez posted a .250/.295/.420 line with a double, triple, homer and four steals. Sadly, we got to see him for just four home games. He hit the ball hard a couple of times but also struggled with breaking pitches, which contributed to his five strikeouts.
The other player to go up to Down East was left-handed starter Jake Latz. Slotted in the second spot behind Hans Crouse, Latz (5th round 2018/ Kent State) showed he was a advanced for this level at age 23.
In two starts, Latz gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out 14. In the one start we saw, he had the ability to use the changeup well to compliment his 91-92 mph fastball and an occasional curve. For Hickory, he would’ve been valuable as an innings-eater starter, when his pitch limit increased. He’ll be interesting to follow as time goes on.
With the Rangers being less aggressive with pitching assignments over the last couple of years, I was a little surprised to see the promotion of Ronny Henriquez to the Crawdads. Still just 18, the Rangers skipped him two levels in order for him to make his stateside debut with Hickory.
In 11 starts last year in the Dominican Summer League, Henriquez struck out 79 and walked just 8 over 58 innings. Given his age and build (5-10, 155), I suspect he’ll be brought along slowly. He pitched on Thursday at Columbia (S.C.) and made just 44 pitches before getting pulled. Henriquez is billed to possess a fastball in the mid-90s and a biting curve. On the 20-to-80 scouting scale MLB.com has his fastball at 60 and the curve at 55.
Outfielder Chad Smith returns to Hickory after a brief stint at the start of 2018. The fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of South Gwinnett (GA) High has been plagued with shoulders injuries the past two seasons. Began the year with the Crawdads a year ago and went 4-for-42 before leaving the team on May 1 with a shoulder strain.