Monday, May 27-Wednesday, May 29
Hickory Crawdads (28-20)
Augusta GreenJackets (27-22)
Where do you even begin with a team like Hickory?
The Hickory Crawdads are on pace to break the South Atlantic League records for home runs and strikeouts in a season, entering the series with Augusta at 71 homers and 516 strikeouts. They have 31 more home runs than the second-highest total in the league, as well as 73 more strikeouts.
There is an incredible amount of power in the Crawdads lineup, featuring 2012 Rangers first-rounder Joey Gallo. He was picked 39th overall out of a Las Vegas high school, displaying a long, powerful swing that generates some of the best raw power in the minor leagues.
Gallo was the first hitter in the minors to reach 10 home runs, and he remains among the leaders with 13. He also has a .224 average and 35.5 percent strikeout rate, showing struggles in picking up secondaries. He has strike zone awareness, walking 13 percent of the time, but he swings at a ton of pitches, and he swings hard.
Behind Gallo is infielder Ryan Rua, who was drafted in the 17th round in 2011 and is popping up on radars in his first full season. Rua played the majority of last season at shortstop and third base, but he was moved to second full time this year. He is tied with Gallo at 13 homers and another low average, but Rua strikes out far less and still walks, resulting in a .371 OBP. Rua isn't big, but he's a powerful hitter, especially for a middle infielder. He isn't found on many prospect lists, but that's sure to change after this season.
Jorge Alfaro is a guy gushing with tools behind the plate. He's among the most athletic receivers in the minors, and he has a huge arm, but he's raw in receiving and blocking. He has close to average speed on the basepaths - rare for a catcher. He has plus raw power that he generates using big bat speed, but he's aggressive and raw in the box, lunging at pitches and not picking up secondaries. The first time you see Alfaro, you understand why he's the highest-ranked prospect on the Hickory team, but you also see why he returned to the Crawdads. He has huge tools that make scouts drool, but he's also very raw as a player.
Lewis Brinson - another 2012 first-rounder out of high school - has drawn body comparisons to Cameron Maybin, but the Rangers hope he develops into a more impactful center fielder. Evaluators believe Brinson will stick in center with five-tool ability, but he has a long way to go. His 39.6 percent strikeout rate is incredibly high, but he pairs it with 10 home runs and six stolen bases from a projectable frame. He has good bat speed, but his swing needs work to limit movement. Brinson is a serious project, but the payoff could be big.
Outfielder Nomar Mazara is another big strikeout bat with big potential. He's a solid 6-foot-4 with easy raw power, and he also showed patience by walking 15 percent of the time in his debut last season. It's down to 9 percent so far this year, and he's hitting only .215 with four home runs, but Mazara has flashed some serious tools since turning pro.
Hickory Crawdads in the top 30 Rangers prospects by Baseball America:
C Jorge Alfaro (9)
3B Joey Gallo (10)
OF Lewis Brinson (12)
RHP C.J. Edwards (14)
OF Nomar Mazara (16)
1B Ronald Guzman (17) (DL)
OF Nick Williams (25)
RHP Keone Kela (26)