The Texas Rangers have made a large investment into the Auckland Tuatara's upcoming Australian Baseball League season, sending five prospects Down Under to join the Auckland franchise.
Infielders Josh Morgan and Yonny Hernandez, and pitchers Hever Bueno, Lucas Jacobsen and Emerson Martinez will all suit up for the Tuatara's sophomore year, bringing plenty of attention to the team from MLB front offices.
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Speaking to the Herald, Rangers director of minor league operations Paul Kruger said with Steve Mintz at the helm of the Tuatara, a minor league manager for the Rangers, the organisation would get a good look at the prospects. They will also send scouts down to Auckland to not only keep track of their own players, but also identify local talent.
"We'll definitely be taking a look at everybody – whether that from the Tuatara or anybody else in the ABL or, frankly, any workouts in New Zealand as a whole," Kruger said.
"Mintzy last year mentioned a couple of guys he was interested in. The international amateur world is a little different than our domestic draft; if you're 16 you can sign as long as you're registered with Major League Baseball and there are some other rules in regards to that, but I think we're always trying to find the best players in the world. We pride ourselves on going anywhere and finding anybody at any time if we feel like they can truly help us win a championship.
"With Mintzy there we've got an eye on the ground every single day they play which is always a positive."
Jacobsen and Martinez were made available to the Tuatara in a bid to get them more reps after their respective seasons were hampered by injuries. Jacobson will pitch out of the bullpen, while Martinez will be available to work as a starter or a reliever. Bueno will also be available as a utility arm.
Morgan, a third-round draft pick in 2014, is expected to play third base for the Tuatara to continue his transition back into the infield after spending time as a catcher, while Hernandez will likely be the Auckland team's every day shortstop.
The Herald understands the Rangers will pay for the players to join the Tuatara, and contribute to the team's salary cap in a substantial way.
In discussing what goes into selecting players to make available for off season work in leagues across the world such as the ABL, Kruger said it was all about answering important questions.
"One: it's do they have innings to play with? Two: in our position players' case, there are certain things they need to work on.
"For Josh Morgan, who we transitioned from an infielder to a catcher, is now going to return to the infield and it really is a big opportunity for him to get more at bats and prove his stature in our organisation and solidify himself as a key cog in the Texas Rangers' plans for the future."
The players will join the Tuatara ahead of their opening series of the season, which gets underway at their new home base of Albany's QBE Stadium on November 21.
Current Auckland Tuatara Roster
Te Wera Bishop* (local)
Infielders: Josh Morgan, Yonny Hernandez (Texas Rangers), Jared Walker (LA Dodgers), Jeremy Vasquez (New York Mets), Luke Hansen* (local)
Outfielders: Ryan Costello (Minnesota Twins), Max Brown* (local)
Pitchers: Josh Collmenter* (ex-MLB), Kyle Glogoski* (local/Philadelphia Phillies), Jimmy Boyce* (local), Yujo Kitagata (LA Dodgers), Mitch Hughson* (local), Jared Koenig (independent), Brandon Marklund* (Kansas City Royals), Hever Bueno, Lucas Jacobsen, Emerson Martinez (Texas Rangers).
* - Returning players