Rangers farm report: Bubba Thompson still at Triple A while others get their shot in majors
(Round Rock Express)
ARLINGTON — Everyone who enjoys a good story should take a moment to delight in the promotion of outfielder Elier Hernandez.
Once considered a top-flight prospect from the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old, Hernandez didn’t develop quickly enough for the Royals. He latched on last season with the Rangers, playing briefly at Double A Frisco before a bump to Triple A Round Rock.
Now 27, Hernandez has amassed 3,898 plate appearances in the minor leagues.
“If God gives something to you, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome to get here and be part of the team.”
Hernandez started to get hot in Round Rock beginning May 1 and didn’t cool down. In need of a right-handed bat, the Rangers chose him over Ezequiel Duran, Nick Solak and … Bubba Thompson.
Thompson entered Friday batting .300 with and .816 OPS, 11 homers and 39 RBIs. His 41 stolen bases lead all of Triple A baseball. His defense at all three outfield spots is terrific.
He will also be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason. If the Rangers plan to protect him, they don’t have to wait until the offseason to add him to the 40-man roster.
Manager Chris Woodward said the Rangers went with the hot hand in promoting Hernandez. Thompson has been hot all season.
So, what gives?
“We love Bubba,” general manager Chris Young said. “We think Bubba’s done a tremendous job in his development. As we saw, especially last year with some of our younger players who really struggle making that jump from Triple A to the big leagues, we just think there’s continuing development for him at the Triple A level in terms of the approach and continuing to understand the strike zone.
“This is his first year at Triple A. The time there is going to serve him well.”
Thompson had struck out 81 times entering Friday and walked only 18, but his walk numbers are up noticeably from earlier in the season.
High A Hickory is struggling some of late, going 3-7 in the past 10 games entering Friday. They then proceeded to get beat 1x-x, though Evan Carter, Cody Freeman and Aaron Zavala hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning.
But one of those three victories is one the players will never forget.
Left-hander Larson Kindreich and relievers Leury Tejada, Michael Brewer and Theo McDowell combined on a 10-inning no-hitter Sunday.
Kindreich, the Rangers’ eighth-round pick in 2021, opened the season at Low A Down East and was making his third start at Hickory. He will enter his fourth start Sunday riding a 12 inning scoreless streak.
“He’s been really good,” Hickory manager Carlos Cardoza said. “He can get outs and get swing-and-miss just off the fastball, which is a plus. And that’s a big-time sign. He has the ability to not just control but to command two secondary pitches. So when you can do that, certainly at this level, you’re going to have success.”
Kindreich throws a curveball and changeup. He has an edge on maturity, thanks to going to college, and that helps him avoid getting caught up if a call goes against him or a play isn’t made behind him.
“He goes about it the right way,” Cardoza said. “He controls what he controls, he focuses on the right things when you talk to him, and he seems like he’s thinking the right things.”
Importance of winning
Woodward said before the season, and again several times since Opening Day, that the Rangers are trying to learn how to win. Their 5-19 record in one-run games suggests they’re failing the course.
All four full-season affiliates, though, will open play today with winning records. The rookies in the Arizona Complex League have the best record thanks to an 11-game winning streak. Their Blue team in the Dominican Summer League is 18-10.
The Rangers have long believed that winning in the minor leagues and players learning to win together helps fuel success in the big leagues.
“Winning at any level helps,” Woodward said. “It’s part of our development on the minor-league side. I’ve talked a lot about it, just identifying with our players winning moments. What was their mentality in that specific moment.
“When everything starts with winning in the back of your mind and that’s how your game plan is created, you typically do the right things to win games.”
But there’s a catch.
“If you’re just winning and you don’t realize why you’re winning, it does you no good,” Woodward said.
Comeback trail begins
Dane Acker, the key prospect acquired in the Elvis Andrus trade in February 2021, is back.
The right-hander is scheduled to make his 2022 debut today in an Arizona Complex League after missing undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2021.
The Rangers aren’t yet sure when Acker will head to a full-season club, likely Hickory, though they anticipate that it will be at the end of the month. That’s when Kyle Cody, who made his MLB debut in 2020 and was on the Opening Day roster in 2021, is expected to make his first ACL appearance following shoulder surgery in September.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org