A Minor Review of 2008: The Rangers

The Graduate: Chris Davis | Born: March 1986 | 1B/3B

Chris Davis‘ big 2007 certainly wasn’t a fluke. He thrived in 2008 at every level he visited and made his MLB debut at the age of 22. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Davis hit .333/.386/.643 with 23 homers and 73 RBI in just 77 games. In the Majors, the slugger hit .285/.331/.549 with 17 homers (with a .265 ISO) in 295 at-bats. The downside to Davis’ game (aside from his defence at third base), and the reason why he won’t keep hitting above .270 constantly, is his poor strikeout and walk rates. Davis walked just 6.5 percent of the time, with a strikeout rate just below 30 percent.

The Riser: Tommy Hunter | Born: July 1986 | Right-Handed Pitcher

Who had the better breakout season, Tommy Hunter or Derek Holland? You could make a compelling case for either pitcher but Hunter had success at a higher level than Holland, so he gets the nod here. Hunter was a 2007 supplemental first round pick out of college and is seen by many as a future closer for a number of reasons, including his mound demeanor. Regardless, he spent 2008 pitching in the starting rotation and played at four levels – including a three-game stop in the Majors where he was roughed up. Hunter has a four-pitch mix, although he relied mainly on his fastball and curveball. During his minor league stint in 2008, Hunter struggled to strike out batters in Double-A and Triple-A after posting a rate of 7.71 in nine A-ball starts. His rate at Double-A was just 4.82 and it was 4.75 at Triple-A.

The Tumbler: Eric Hurley | Born: September 1985 | Right-Handed Pitcher

Eric Hurley was rated by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the Rangers system coming into 2008, but he struggled. His struggles can be partially blamed on the shoulder inflammation that sidelined him in mid-season. In 13 Triple-A starts, the right-hander allowed 86 hits in 74.2 innings and posted rates of 3.50 BB/9, 8.68 K/9 and 1.81 HR/9. In five MLB starts, Hurley allowed 26 hits in 24.2 innings, with rates of 3.28 BB/9, 4.74 K/9 and 1.82 HR/9. He has struggled at Triple-A for two straight seasons and gives up far too many home runs. For a pitcher who averages out at 90 mph with his fastball, he’s going to have to work down in the zone more effectively.

The ’08 Draft Pick: Joe Wieland | Born: January 1990 | Right-Handed Pitcher

Despite having one of the best minor league systems entering into the 2008 season, the Rangers organization increased its embarrassment of riches with a group of 2008 prospects that had very impressive debuts. Joe Wieland, at the age of 18, posted a 1.44 ERA in Rookie Ball, while allowing 32 hits in 43.1 innings. He posted rates of 1.65 BB/9 and 8.45 K/9. Wieland also allowed just two home runs. He has a three-pitch mix with solid command and has the potential to add velocity to his fastball, which currently tops out between 91-92 mph.

The ’09 Sleeper: Taylor Teagarden | Born: December 1983 | Catcher

I have to admit that I am a Taylor Teagarden junkie. I thought he was the best college catcher in the 2005 draft – and that was before I realized he could hit a little bit too. Teagarden was an excellent defensive catcher in college – and still is, although injuries have taken a little bit of shine off those abilities. He suffered through more injuries in 2008 and struggled to hit for average in Triple-A, but thrived upon his promotion to the Majors. In 47 at-bats, Teagarden hit .319/.396/.809 with six home runs. The catcher has always struck out a ton, so his batting average is going to suffer at the Major League level but he should be able to constantly hit in the .240-.260 range with a bunch of homers and above-average defence.

Up Next: The Atlanta Braves

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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