It’s all about next year at this point

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, August 9th, 2019

Image result for emmanuel clase                                                                                                                                                 BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

The trade deadline came and went last week. The Rangers finished
with four July trades, sending out just one veteran, and they received
no player that immediately joined the active roster. The Rangers
haven’t come out and admitted that playoff hopes are gone, but they
didn’t mortgage the future to bring in immediate pennant chase help.
The questions then are “What now? What’s the plan for the final two
months of the season?”

The first indicator came shortly after the night game that took
place after the afternoon trade deadline. Veterans Asdrubal Cabrera
and Tim Federowicz were placed on waivers.  Both cleared.  Cabrera
took free agency and signed with the Washington Nationals. Federowicz
accepted assignment to the Rangers’ AAA farm club in Nashville.
In their place, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino were called
up. Kiner-Falefa had been half the catching tandem before sustaining
an injury.  The plan for him is to primarily play third base, giving
the Rangers a two month look to see if they want to make him the
everyday third baseman next season. Manager Chris Woodward said that
he would catch occasionally as well.

Trevino is thought to be Major League ready defensively, but his
offense is questionable. He becomes the second part of the catching
tandem giving the Rangers a good look to see if either assumption is
true and if he figures into the team’s 2020 catching plans.

Willie Calhoun was the odd man out in a mid-July roster shuffle.
He was sent to Nashville, but now he’s back.  With the emphasis on
next year, he’s suddenly the most entrenched outfielder in the lineup
now. He looks to be a good hitter but the Rangers want to find out
for sure, so he’ll receive playing time over Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo
Choo.

Reliever Emmanuel Clase joined the team last weekend and has made
two impressive outings. No hits or runs in 2-2/3rds innings with one
walk and one strikeout.  He has an electric arm that regularly hits
100 on the radar gun. In the inning he pitched last Wednesday against
Cleveland, he wowed the crowd throwing a cut fastball that registered
100.  No one is sure they’ve seen a non-fastball register triple
digits on the radar gun.

Clase is 21 and was acquired from San Diego for catcher Brett
Nicholas last season.  It’s amazing that the Rangers could receive
such a good pitching prospect for a player that was obtained just to
add catching depth for San Diego.  Clase was not considered a great
prospect at the time, but has blossomed in the Rangers’ system.  Both
his velocity and control have improved dramatically since he joined
Texas.  He has progressed through the Rangers’ system rapidly this
year starting with advanced A, Down East. The buzz around Clase is
very similar to the buzz around Neftali Feliz when he first joined the
Rangers.  Clase has the opportunity to establish himself as a solid
back of the bullpen piece.

Kolby Allard was the starting pitcher the Rangers received from
the Braves for Chris Martin. He made one start at Nashville and then
was summoned to start Friday night’s game in Milwaukee.  He too will
be pitching to prove that he, at a minimum, deserves serious
consideration for next year’s starting rotation.

Baseball is different in August than it is in September. By
September, the contending teams have boiled down to a precious few.
The rosters expand. When teams with losing records face off, it’s
almost a spring training type game.

August is different. More teams are in contention.  Even the
Rangers could put together a winning streak and get back in the Wild
Card race.

This season has become a season of development for Texas. These
August games give the team the opportunity to better evaluate what
they have in the farm system, and it’s a better evaluation than what
they’ll see in September. Thus, there will be more roster moves to get
Ranger prospects playing time in Major League games that matter to
better assess them for next year.

Outfielder Scott Heineman joined the team last week.  He was sent
back to Nashville to enlarge the pitching staff for this weekend’s
series in Milwaukee, but he’ll be back.  He was absolutely blistering
AAA pitching when he was called up with a batting average that was
almost .400.

Second baseman Nick Solak, who was obtained from Tampa Bay for
Pete Fairbanks, could well be in Arlington before Labor Day.  Since
the trade, he’s already hit six home runs in 76 at-bats at Nashville.
There are even more pitchers that will get a look. Brock Burke, a
left-hander received in the Jurickson Profar trade last winter, will
likely be one of those. Joe Palumbo has made three appearances for
Texas this season (he would have been back already except for a leg
injury) and will be back in time to put in his bid to be part of next
year’s starting rotation.

The Rangers finally have players (particularly pitchers) at the
top two levels of the farm system that are legitimate considerations
for next season.

The team will look a lot different next year. Certainly, there
will be veteran additions to the roster like Hunter Pence, Logan
Forsythe and Asdrubal Cabrera were this year.  However, the roster
will soon be much more home grown as they climb their way back into a
team with a contending window of five or six years.

As for this year’s team, the passing of the trade deadline appears
to be a welcome relief.  The team seems pleased that there wasn’t much
change.  With the tension of getting traded gone, they look more
relaxed on the field and promptly went on a five game winning streak.

That ended this past Wednesday when they lost a double header in
Cleveland scoring just one run.  The Indians have jelled in recent
weeks to be one of the best teams in baseball.  The Rangers did well
to win a game after being held to two runs scored in the series.
For the rest of the season, the Rangers will be giving fans the
opportunity to see what the Rangers will look like in coming seasons.

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