A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Astros, Mariners, Rangers

Welcome to the annual series: ‘A Minor (League) Review of 20__.” This series is a great way to receive a quick recap of the 2014 minor league season for your favorite club(s), while also receiving a brief look toward the 2015 season and beyond. It can also be a handy feature for fantasy baseball players in keeper and Dynasty leagues.

Previous Pieces:
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Yankees and Orioles
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Indians and Tigers
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: White Sox, Royals, Twins
A Minor (League) Review of 2014: Angels and A’s

A Minor Review of 2014: Astros

The Graduate: George Springer, OF: A 24-year-old rookie, Springer produced massive power for the Astros but it’s came at the expense of contact — as witnessed by his 33% strikeout rate. The powerful outfielder still has a ways to go with the rest of his game to become a more well-rounded player.

The Riser: The Astros have a solid quantity of talented, hard-throwing pitchers in their system and this right-hander is starting to gain traction. Feliz sits comfortably in the mid-90s, shows three solid offerings and has solid control. Once his command improves, he could move even more quickly through Houston’s system.

The Tumbler: Delino DeShields Jr., OF: The speedy outfielder’s season got off to a bad start when he was hit in the face by a fastball. He returned not long after but his hitting never got on track. He gets on base a lot via the free pass — which is good since his best assets are his legs — but he doesn’t make enough contact and that drags down his overall effectiveness. Add in the fact that he’s struggled to settle in defensively and you have a player who still needs quite a bit of work.

The ’14 Draft Pick: A.J. Reed, 1B: The Astros may not have signed their first round pick but they added some pop in the second round with the addition of Reed. The hulking first baseman saw 33 of his 72 hits go for extra bases and also took his fair share of walks. Look for the left-handed hitter to open the 2015 season in High-A ball as he jumps on the fast track.

The Lottery Ticket: Joan Mauricio, SS: Signed for $600,000 as a big-ticket international signee in 2013, Mauricio spent most of ’14 in the Dominican Summer League where he posted an .820 OPS and displayed good patience with 26 walks in 43 games. The 17-year-old infielder was then rewarded with a late trip to Florida where he played another 22 games but was clearly overmatched.

A Minor Review of 2014: Rangers

The Graduate: Rougned Odor, 2B: The Rangers were absolutely demolished by injuries in 2014 and the club lost exciting young middle infielder Jurickson Profar for much of the year. The injury necessitated an unexpected promotion for Odor, who spent the year in the Majors at the age of 20. He wash’t quite ready for the assignment but his natural athleticism allowed him to hold his own — leading to much hope for the future.

The Riser: Nomar Mazara, OF: The lower levels of the Rangers system are littered with high-risk, high-reward players — many of whom come with massive strikeout numbers. Mazara is no stranger to the K, but he’s not afraid to work the count and take a walk. Just 19, he flashes above-average power and slugged 22 home runs in 130 games in 2014. He spent much of the season repeating Low-A ball but then skipped over High-A ball to end the year with 24 contests in Double-A.

The Tumbler: Jairo Beras, OF: The Rangers have spent some big bucks on outfielders on the international market in recent years — including both Mazara and Beras. The former took off in ’14 but the latter fizzled while struggling to make contact. He struck out 133 times in 110 games. He doesn’t turn 20 until December so time is on his side.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Luis Ortiz, RHP: This first round draft pick had few issues moving from prep ball to pro ball in 2014. He pitched just 20.1 innings after signing but struck out 20 batters, showed good control and his ERA ended below 2.00. Both his fastball and slider project to be above-average offerings but he needs to work down in the zone more consistently as he moves up through the minors.

The Lottery Ticket: Marcos Diplan, RHP: The Rangers were patient with Diplan in 2014 after signing him for big bucks in 2013 after he was rated (arguably) the best available arm on the international market. The right-hander spent all of this season in the Dominican Summer League where he pitched well. He’ll move over to North America for 2015 and the biggest concern is his lack of size (6-0, 160 pounds).

A Minor Review of 2014: Mariners

The Graduate: James Paxton, LHP: Injuries kept Paxton from realizing his full potential in 2014 but he helped his club compete for a playoff spot late into the season. In the final two months, over 11 starts, the lefty allowed more than three runs in a game just once. If he can stay healthy, the Canadian-born hurler should be a key member of the Mariners’ starting rotation in 2015.

The Riser: Gabe Guerrero, OF: It may not be long before this Guerrero is known for his own exploits rather than being known as Vladimir Guerrero’s nephew. The outfield prospect is developing into a multi-tooled player with a chance to both hit for power and provide 20+ stolen bases in a season. His offense received an added boost from the California League in 2014 so Guerrero will face a stiff test at Double-A in 2015.

The Tumbler: Danny Hultzen, LHP: A forgotten man, Hultzen entered 2014 as the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game. Shoulder surgery, and the question future that comes with it, has put a cloud over the lefty’s ultimate value. For now, we wait and see how he looks (and feels) in the spring of 2015.

The ’14 Draft Pick: Alex Jackson, OF: Arguably the top prep bat in the 2014 draft, the Mariners were so impressed with Jackson’s hit tool that they immediately tossed away his catching gear and placed him in the outfield. He has a lot of work to do to get comfortable in the outfield but the young hitter could be one of the first 2014 prep draftees to reach the Majors and he has an immense ceiling.

The Lottery Ticket: Luiz Gohara, LHP: Just 18, this Brazilian southpaw already has two professional seasons under his belt. His 2014 season was ruined by injuries and inconsistencies. When he’s going right, though, Gohara shows an above-average fastball and the ability to both miss bats and induce ground balls at a high rate.

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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It is hard to leave out Roenis Elias in the Mariners analysis. Made the Rotation out of Spring training never having pitched above AA before. Had a solid rookie campaign including a scintillating 3 hit shutout against the Tigers in July.