The 2011 and 2012 seasons were big ones for the development of the future Texas Rangers. In 2011, Texas opened up the bank on the international free agent market, spending $8 million on two teenagers named Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman. The following season, they snagged big names like Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, and Nick Williams in the MLB Draft.
While four of those names have become baseball’s top prospects in the game, Guzman has idled away in A-ball, seemingly searching for the skill set and maturity that the Rangers saw in him five years ago.
Eric Jenkins is the starting centerfielder for the Hickory Crawdads. At the age of 19, he is also considered one of the Texas Rangers top prospects.
Jenkins was selected in the second round in last June’s MLB Draft out of West Columbus High School in North Carolina. The Rangers signed him quickly to a $2-million signing bonus, to make sure the elite speedster would stick with them and not go to UNC-Wilmington where he had previously committed.
“I’m blessed to be drafted in the second round,” Jenkins said. “It was a cool experience to be drafted by the Texas Rangers coming out of high school. It was an easy decision to make, because I always wanted to play pro ball, it was my dream.”
That’s all a thing in the past. Jenkins has to put all of the hoopla behind him and focus on one thing.
“Now, it’s baseball time,” Jenkins said. “I don’t want to get big headed. I try to stay humble no matter what the situation is and that’s what I do. I try not to focus on the second round or the money, I just focus on playing baseball.”
His 2015 debut went well for the then-18 year old. He slashed .249/.342/.339 for the Arizona League Rangers, and showed off his biggest asset: top grade, elite speed. He would go 27-for-30 in stolen base attempts, and posted a respectable 57-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It earned him a quick promotion to Hickory to end the season, where he would go an impressive 7-for-18 at the plate in five games.
It all cumulated in an invite to his first spring training.
“My first spring training was pretty good,” Jenkins said. “I took some time to sit down with some big league players like Delino DeShields, James Jones, Ian Desmond, the outfielders. I got time to sit down and talk to them about what to do and what not to do in baseball, and pick their minds about what it’s like in the big leagues. It was a very cool experience. I got a chance to play in a big league ball game.”
This season has been more of a learning curve for Jenkins, as he has seen both ups and downs. The one thing in his favor is that the current Hickory team is much different than the 2015 reigning Sally champs. This team is built on what Jenkins does best: speed.
“It’s very exciting,” Jenkins said of how fast the Crawdads team is. “At the beginning of the season our philosophy was to put a lot of pressure on the defense. Basically, we don’t have a lot of power guys, but we got speed. Our job was to get the runners in scoring position and put a lot of pressure on defense.”
Don’t be fooled. As Jenkins matures, he is becoming a well-rounded player, blessed with the natural athleticism that plays well in every aspect of the game. His defense is coming along, as his speed gives him advanced range, which helps to make up for average arm strength. He is also learning to use the gaps at the plate, as he has six doubles and six triples on the season.
“I don’t want to be known as just a fast, slap hitter,” Jenkins said. “I got pretty good power. Gap to gap power. I try to play with the infield, see where the infield is. If they play me in, I can put it in the hole, if not I could lay a bunt down.”
While speed is still Jenkins biggest asset — he leads the SAL in stolen bases with 35 in 45 attempts, so at nearly 80-percent he is wise in his selections as well — Jenkins is developing his other skills as well. He has added his first four professional home runs of his career, so slowly he is adding some power to his 6-foot-1, 170 pound frame.
“I’m not working on power,” Jenkins said of his newly found home run pop. “I’m just working on putting the ball in play more. Where it falls, it falls.”
Jenkins hit a slump in May, seeing his average drop as low as .196. June has been a different story. He is slowly stringing together hits, looking more like a professional hitter at the plate. Heading into Saturday night’s action, he had been hitting .308 over his previous five games. He now has his average up to .223 on the season, nearly 30 points higher than it was just a month ago.
“Right now, I’m still trying to find my swing,” Jenkins said. “When I was in my slump I was overdoing things, instead of letting them come to me by themselves, I was trying to make it happen instead of letting it happen. Right now, I’m more relaxed. I’m seeing the ball good and feel comfortable.”
Last night was more of the same from Jenkins. He lead off the Crawdads half of the first inning with a single up the middle. The very first pitch to the next batter — Hickory second baseman Frandy De La Rosa — the Kannapolis Intimidators catcher Daniel Rodriguez came out of the shoot throwing to second… but Jenkins didn’t even run. That’s what he does. He’s so fast and so successful on the base paths, he has the defense thinking what his next move is. Of course, several plays later, Jenkins made him pay and did swipe second base. He finished the night 1-for-3, but drew a walk and scored in their three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth.
I didn’t get to see too much in the field, as right fielder Sherman Larcus stole the show with two amazing diving catches, but I did see something I liked. On Jenkins first opportunity, he missed his cutoff man and threw it long. He responded two batters later, and hit his cut off man, who as able to nail Intimidators Micker Adolfo at second base as he tried to stretch out a single.
The full article can be read at Minor League Ball by clicking on the link below.
This past Saturday night, I was on hand in Hickory to take on my first Crawdads game of the season. The Crawdads are the reigning 2015 South Atlantic League Champions and their current roster is filled with quite a few of the Texas Rangers Top 25 prospects. None are hotter than second baseman Andy Ibanez.
What a week, folks! For one, I entered this Twitterverse, so be sure to follow my daily rants at @UofDWayne (shameless plug). Of course, it is all climaxing with the Brady/ Manning Bowl, but there have been quite a few days leading up. The coaching carousel in the NFL is a spinnin’ round and round so fast, it’s hard to keep up. Wisenhunt chose the Titans, which made Frank Reich an Offensive Coordinator in San Diego. The Vikings got Mike Zimmer at the helm, and he brought good Ol’ Norval on as his OC. Jim Caldwell is getting a second chance in the Motor City, and there’s a new Gruden in the head coaching ranks over in the Capital. Throw in the big NCAA coaching changes with Strong, Pruitt, Grantham, and James Franklin, and it’s hard to believe the Cleveland Browns still don’t have a Head Coach. Well, Dawg Pound, I have good news for you, because I know someone who has absolutely nothing to do for the next year or so.
Oh, A-Rod. There was so much I wanted to write about this week, but you just keep giving us bloggers and the National media so much to get angry about. It is in my most humble opinion (and on my blog, that’s really all that matters) that Alex Rodriguez has become MLB’s All Time Biggest Jerk. He really is in a class of his own now. Pete Rose, over rated as a jerk. Sure, he gambled his way out of the Hall of Fame (which is another rant all in itself) but, man, that guy left it all on the field: He is the all time hits leader, a key cog in The Big Red Machine, and unquestionably the most deserving player of the name Charlie Hustle. Roger Clemens, total jerk. But he was always driven by that competitive spirit. First, he wanted to prove the Red Sox wrong when they said he was done. Then, after those two years with the Blue Jays when he was better than he had ever been, he wanted that ring. And then he got it and wanted another… And another… And another. He was just a big child, very Favre-esque, who simply never ever wanted to hang up the cleats. Barry Bonds, Jerkasaurus Rex. But his punishment was watching his Giants go from irrelevant to two time champs in what seemed like just moments after his retirement.
But, A-Rod, oh A-Rod, from day one, you have pretty much had it all, and it has never been enough. Trophies, championship rings, models and pop stars, strippers and hookers, and that money, all that stinking money… And it was still never enough. So without further ado, here are:
THE TOP 10 REASONS A-ROD IS THE BIGGEST JERK IN MLB HISTORY!
10. The bottom rung on the climb to jerkdom is personal.
I’m a Yankee fan living in the South who has a girlfriend that is a huge Boston Red Sox fan and I have to go to work every day with Teddy Ballgame, who is a huge Tigers fan. I take enough crap on a daily basis sans A-Rod, I don’t need his continuing stupidity to add fuel to the fire.
9. Game 6, 2004 ALCS vs. the Red Sox and May 30th, 2007 vs. the Blue Jays.
In his first playoffs against the Red Sox for my beloved Yankees, he crushed a weak grounder, and instead of hustling it out, he slaps Bronson Arroyo’s hand to pry the ball lose and becomes the poster child for Yankee hatred by the growing Red Sox Nation. Three years later, in 2007, A-Rod was enjoying his sickest start to a season: he had a 23 game hitting streak, 14 homers and over 30 RBIs in April alone. But then in May, right when us Yankee fans really bought into the new A-Rod, he yells “Ha, I got it,” on a routine fly ball to the third basemen of the Blue Jays causing him to drop it. Nothing like the highest paid player in history using a little third grade antics.
8. In 2001, A Rod becomes Pay Rod and A Wad to Mariners fans when he bolts town to become the richest player in history with the Texas Rangers. That very same 2001 season, the Rodriguez-less Mariners set the all time mark for wins in a season, and the Rangers begin their two year reign of being dead last in the AL West.
7. Playoff chump. Did you know from 2004 up to the 2009 championship run with the Yankees, A-Rod went 0-29 with runners in scoring position and left 38 playoff runs stranded on base? That’s a Jerk with a capital J.
6. Although I did rather enjoy it, he did royally screw the Red Sox in 2003. The Rangers, who must have been tired of being worthless with the “best” player in baseball eating up their salary and not being able to get anything resembling a quality pitching staff, had a deal in place with the Sox to send them A-Rod. It required a voluntary salary cut… Yea, right! Well, I’m sure once A- Fraud cried about that, the union stepped in and rejected the deal and the Red Sox joined Mariner and Ranger fans in their loathing of Rodriguez.
5. To juice, or not to juice, that is the question.
In 2007, Rodriguez denied taking steroids in an interview with Katie Couric, a news host and reporter that only a few million people watch on a daily basis. Not even two years later, in February of 2009, he admits to taking steroids with the Rangers due to the heavy pressure of living up to his contract, but stopped using by the time he got to the Yankees in 2004.
In 2011, it was proven that A-Roid had contact with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty to bringing unapproved performance enhancing drugs into the country from Canada. And then there is Anthony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis and all around scumbag. I mean, look at the guy:
The 60 Minutes interview was mind blowing, but in all fairness, keep in mind, this guy reached a deal with Major League Baseball to sing, so it is quite a song he has sung. But what can’t be denied is that in 2012, there are 553 text messages and 53 phone calls on record from A-Rod to Bosch. Rodriguez mysteriously had that Blackberry almost instantly deactivated so nothing can be proven. That seems like a lot of phone calls and texts about vitamins and natural supplements, which is what A-Rod’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, contends.
Now, and this is only my opinion (and as I mentioned earlier, this is my blog, so it’s all that matters) A-Rod knows what he is doing. Yes, he has passed 11 drug tests, but he is in the Mitchell Report, he has ties to Galea and Bosch, and he gets so defensive about it. He hops from dealer to dealer finding “supplements” and regimens that he knows can beat the tests and he will never get caught. But, I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to say A-Roid couldn’t be a more accurate nickname.
4. The numbers he has tarnished. As of right now, A-Rod isn’t going to get into the Hall of Fame. This dislike of him isn’t a new thing, as fans, reporters, and baseball higher ups have never really seemed to like Rodriguez. This makes all those numbers and records he has achieved even more tainted. He is the first player to hit 150 home runs with three different teams, but we know for a fact by his own admission that he was juiced up for his Ranger years. He was the youngest to 500 home runs and surpassed the Babe as the fastest to 600. BABE RUTH! He passed another of baseball’s greats, Jimmie Foxx, to become the only player to go 10 straight seasons with at least 35 homers, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBI. He has more 100 RBI seasons than anyone (14). And lastly, in a league rich in Hispanic heritage, he is the all time leader in home runs for all Hispanic countries represented in the MLB (of course, he passed Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez on his way to the top, so I don’t know how honorable that achievement is).
3. The money. In 2001, he signed a record 10 year, $252 million dollar contract. Six years later he signs a new 10 year deal for $275 million. Seriously? I don’t think there is a person alive who deserves to make almost $28 million a year, let alone a lying, cheating, little cry baby.
2. He’s always the victim. He didn’t take steroids to get better, but because of all the pressure the media and fans put on him. Last year, he claims he was ready to play, but Cashman and the Yankees plotted against his return to avoid paying him. Now, he holds a press conference in Mexico City, saying 2014 will be a year of reflection so he can come back stronger. Oh please, A-Fraud, no one believes you anymore.
1. HE IS SUING MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AND THE PLAYERS UNION!!! He is fighting the beast that made him who he is. And I will admit, Bud Selig went about this all wrong, but that is not why he is suing. He is attacking Michael Weiner, posthumously, who can not defend himself from beyond, but defended A-Rod while he was here! His team of lawyers is attacking players, such as David Ortiz, who reached out, took A-Rod out to dinner and tried to console him. Tacopina said he would not name the other players accused of using PEDs, “but some of them are god-like in Boston right now.” He doesn’t want to serve a punishment that is just a little bit longer than all of the other players who served their suspension for Biogenesis without a fight or appeal. And it’s not because he wants to win, it’s not because he let Yankee fans down. It’s because he wants his money and records.
It’s time for Alex Rodriguez to go away. Maybe place him in exile, like Napoleon was on Elba. I’m telling you, when it’s his time to be in the Hall of Fame, and voters shun him, Tacopina will be suing them, too. I need to cool off. Special thanks to my new editor, The Varrass, and don’t forget to follow my daily ranting on Twitter at @UofDWayne
Till next time, folks. Hopefully Davone Bess doesn’t see anymore officers until then.