Today, we’ll preview the Texas League North division which is going to have some very good pitchers, including one of the minors’ best.
Parent Club: Los Angeles Angels
While the Angels don’t have a particularly strong minor league system (comparatively), Arkansas is the team to watch in that system.
Mark Sappington is the youngest pitcher slated for the starting rotation in 2014. The righty, who throws up to 97 mph, has an excellent slider as well. He’s still trying to figure out his control after walked 20 in 25 2/3 innings in a late season promotion to Double-A last year.
The Travelers’ bullpen is headlined by prospect R.J. Alvarez. The hard-throwing, right-handed reliever throws in the high-90s and is on the fast track for the majors after being drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft. He’s pretty much tamed the California League already (a nightmare for many pitchers) and is poised to do the same in the Double-A Texas League.
Another reliever, Mike Morin, is another 2012 draftee and he already has some experience in the Texas League, holding batters to a .230 average and posting a 1.00 WHIP with just five walks and 33 strikeouts in 31 innings last year. He doesn’t have Alvarez’s stuff but has been extremely effective in his minor league career thus far.
The Angels’ #1 prospect, Kaleb Cowart is beginning 2014 with Arkansas. The third baseman is only 21 and is actually repeating the Double-A level after an unimpressive 2013. He’s going to be excellent defensively and is looking to right the ship and rebound in 2014.
Second baseman Alex Yarbrough had a very strong season with an .800 OPS in High-A Inland Empire last year. He’s plays average defense so he’s going to have to impress with the bat to keep moving up. With decent speed and some power, Yarbrough could have a very strong year and we’ll see how much of his .313 average and 53 extra-base hits were due to the California League effect.
Outfielder Zach Borenstein moves up with Yarbrough from Inland Empire. Borenstein had a monster season last year, hitting for a .1034 OPS and launching 28 home runs into the thin, California air. Look for Borenstein to light up Texas (and Arkansas) in 2014.
Shortstop Eric Stamets is the third member of a highly talented trio moving up from High-A. More of a defensively-oriented player, Stamets doesn’t strike out a lot and made solid contact last year. The big question is whether his bat is going to play in Double-A against better pitching.