While Double-A can often be a mixed bag of top prospects and organizational filler, the 2015 Texas League—or at least the first half of the season—should offer some compelling talent for fans and talent evaluators to observe. Between elite prospects like Carlos Correa and Julio Urias, and merely excellent prospects like Raul Mondesi, Miguel Almonte, and Nomar Mazara, people with the ability to get out to a Texas League park should do so early and often before the top prospects finish abusing the rest of the league and get promoted.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals)
Those who follow the minor leagues closely will realize that the Royals system, while not at the peak of a few years ago, remains very strong, and they would need to look no further than the Double-A Northwest Arkansas roster to see evidence of that strength. The club’s top three prospects, Raul Mondesi (SS), Miguel Almonte (RHP), and Sean Manaea (LHP), are all projected to see considerable time on the Naturals’ diamond this summer; all three with the potential to take your breath away during any given game. On top of that ridiculous trio, the Royals are likely to send infielder Hunter Dozier and possibly outfielder Jorge Bonifacio to Double-A to continue their development. Rounding things out—for those with a morbid curiosity for big athletes with limited feel for baseball—outfielder Bubba Starling could make an appearance in Double-A, and his time on the field is always worth watching.
Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)
Fans looking for serious talent should look no further than the CC Hooks roster. One of the top prospects in the game, shortstop Carlos Correa, will debut in Double-A in 2015 and his combination of polish and incredible ceiling should provide excitement every game he takes the field. The Astros are also likely to send no. 3 prospect Vincent Velasquez and no. 7 prospect Lance McCullers to Double-A this season, providing two very strong arms that have MLB potential. In addition to those prospects, the Astros could push no. 10 prospect Teoscar Hernandez, On-the-Rise candidate Josh Hader, and Latin American bonus baby Danry Vasquez to Double-A for the most stern tests of their careers. Toward the end of the season, outfielder Brett Phillips (no. 4) could see time in Corpus Christi, and could augment an already loaded roster that should be one of the highlights of the Texas League.
Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers)
For all the great players the Astros are prepared to send to Double-A, their intra-state rivals could put comparable raw talent on the field. Excellent prospects including catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nomar Mazara should both spend some time in Frisco this summer before moving on to Triple-A. Both players offer immense raw potential that must be harnessed and could blow fans away this summer. Outfielder Nick Williams (no. 7 prospect) is another candidate to see ample time in Double-A this year, and his knack for hitting could impress as he continues his development. Topping off the top-talent brigade, outfielder Lewis Brinson could find his way to Frisco during the second half of the season if he can see things begin to click in High-A in the first half.
Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers)
If for no other reason than the chance to see left-hander Julio Urias take his turn in the rotation, fans should make the Tulsa Drillers a high priority this summer. The kid gloves have yet to come off of Urias, but even with heavy restrictions he still offers the ability to blow you away in just one viewing. Right-hander Chris Anderson should also spend some time in Tulsa this summer, and combined with Urias he gives the average fan a 40 percent chance of seeing an intriguing starter any given night out. The highlight here is and always will be Urias, and on the off chance that the Dodgers get even a little aggressive and push him to Triple-A as the 2015 season moves along, fans should make sure they see one of his starts as early as possible.
Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics)
The A’s did a lot to turn over their big-league roster during the offseason, and while their system isn’t overflowing with impact talent the Double-A Midland roster should show enough talent to intrigue fans and scouts all the same. First baseman Matt Olson and infielder Renato Nunez should both put power bats on display on a daily basis, and both would be worth an early trip to the ballpark to catch batting practice. The 2015 season could also see Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman adorn the Midland roster, and the team could be augmented by right-hander Raul Alcantara returning from injury in the second half of the season.
San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres)
The entire Padres organization has seemingly been in a state of flux since A.J. Preller took over as general manager, and while he shipped plenty of prospects out of town via trae, the San Antonio roster could still see appearances from some of the club’s top prospects. Catcher Austin Hedges needs considerable offensive development and it may behoove the club to send him back to Double-A to get his feet under him in the batter’s box. No. 2 prospect Hunter Renfroe should spend the first half of the 2015 campaign in San Antonio feasting on Double-A pitchers before taking his immense raw power to Triple-A. Jose Rondon, acquired for Huston Street last year, should also see time in Double-A this year, though he could move up quickly along with Hedges and Renfroe, leaving the Missions’ roster pretty bare and likely only worth visiting during the first half of the season.
Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)
With a thin farm system that lacks both high-end talent and depth, Double-A fans hoping to see some prospects in Arkansas might be a bit disappointed. The Angels could send new Cuban signee Roberto Baldoquin to the Texas League for a while, offering up at least one prospect worth paying attention to. Right-hander Trevor Gott, acquired with Huston Street last year, should also see time on the Arkansas roster this year, providing some intrigue on the bump. In the second half of the season, no. 2 prospect Sean Newcomb could gain some Double-A experience if he comes out of the gate strong. Newcomb impressed last fall and again this spring, and represents one of the few true hopes in the Los Angeles system.
Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals)
While the Cardinals continue to churn out useful players at the big-league level, this year’s Springfield roster could be a little thin in the first half. Outfielder Charlie Tilson and former high pick Seth Blair are both likely to spend the bulk of the season on the Cardinals’ roster, and at least Tilson should offer some excitement for onlookers. During the season’s second half, right-handers Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver could both make their way to the Springfield mound, offering far more intrigue than anything likely to be present during the first half of 2015.