There’s been a lot of attention devoted to the wave of Rangers prospects who have arrived in the big leagues this season ahead of schedule and contributed, and deservedly so. Plenty of focus has been trained on the crop of first-rounders, trade acquisitions, and international signings who arrived in the summer of 2007, and those players have undoubtedly earned that.
But if you were to pick the player out of the system who is the most improperly overlooked, at this point I don’t think it’s even a close call.
The Rangers have named their minor league players and pitcher of the month for June. Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz shared the player honor. The pitcher went 2-0, 1.63 in five starts, striking out a batter per inning, walking a third as many, and holding opponents to a .185 batting average.
From time to time, a player of the month award reflects a breakthrough stretch for a prospect, but this pitcher is now 7-0, 2.57 for the year, and has a career mark of 11-5, 2.85 in 30 starts and a couple relief appearances, with 167 strikeouts in 154.2 innings, just 50 walks, and an anemic opponents’ line of .228/.297/.343.
The two key differences between the 2006 25th-rounder’s debut season in 2007 and what he’s doing in 2008? A 6’2″ lefthander, he’s amped his velocity up a couple ticks to the mid-90s, while transforming himself from a flyball pitcher (0.68 G/F) to a groundball pitcher (1.30 G/F).
I’m saying this well before getting overbaked outside today: If one were to rank Rangers minor leaguers on untouchability, 21-year-old Clinton lefthander Derek Holland may have quietly put himself in the top ten — if not the top five.