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Meet Your Sleeper, Jerad Eickhoff

The Rangers whiffed terribly in the first several rounds in the loaded 2011 draft. Either of their first and supplemental rounds picks, Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone, hasn’t made it out of high-A ball after 3 and a half seasons. However, they hit the jackpot in later rounds in MLB talents Ryan Rua, Nick Martinez, Phil Klein, and now-dealt Kyle Hendricks and C.J. Edwards.

15th rounder Jerad Eickhoff will probably join these names. Despite having a pretty catchy first name, the 23-year-old is a no name to everyone other than scouts or those who follow the Rangers very closely. He didn’t make our consensus top 200 starting pitcher rankings, nor does he appear on either of Baseball America’s or Baseball Prospectus’ organizational top 10 prospect rankings. MLB.com has him in the last spot of their Rangers top 20 rankings. FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel ranked Eickhoff 17th and gave him 45 FV last summer. Minor League Ball’s John Sickels doesn’t have him in his top 20, but graded him C in his organizational list.

The Olney Central College, IL product has struck out 349, issued 134 free passes, posted a 4.23 in 445.0 innings between 5 stops in his career. Eickhoff spent 2014 entirely at AA, where he struggled as a late-season call-up the year before, punched out 22.6% of the batters he faced while walking 8.2%. His 4.08 ERA was above league average, but his FIP was 25 points better. He also produced an opposing line of .226/.297/.382, better than the league’s total, .251/.332/.373.  Although as you can assume from his opposing ISO, he yielded long balls at a higher (worse) rate (0.99 HR/9) than league average (0.7). He didn’t post an impressive BB% last year, though, he did have a track record of keeping walk rates down in both of his previous full-season stops. I have to note that Eickhoff notched the second best K%-BB% at 14.5 among qualified Texas League hurlers while facing batsmen who are older than him at 55% of the time.

chart (3)

The chart above (courtesy of MLBfarm.com) shows Eickhoff’s minor league batted ball data over the past 2 seasons. As you can see, he induces more grounders than fly balls, which usually works in favor of a pitcher.

I’m not going to waste 200 more words scouting minor league stats. Now, let’s talk about the stuff he possesses.  The 6’4″, 240 right-hander throws a heater that sits low-mid 90s, touches 97, according to McDaniel. He also mixes a power curve that flashes above average to plus potential. Despite his struggle with  location from time to time in 2014, his command could also live up to plus.

Evaluators see Eickhoff as a future 4-5 starter if his command lives up to its potential and he develops an effective third pitch. Or at least he could stick in the back end of the bullpen as a 7-8th inning guy. In my personal opinion, he can be more than that. I think he has a chance to be a 3 if everything clicks, nevertheless, I’m probably higher on him than anyone else in the world.

Another reason for dynasty owners to keep an eye on Eickhoff is that due to his Rule 5 eligibility this past winter, the Rangers have added him to the 40-man roster. If recently sprained Yu Darvish’s UCL [inserts a sad face emoji here] means the trigger to another Rangers injury domino, Eickhoff might probably see a major league time in 2015.

One might say his HR-proneness would not play well in Globe Life Park. But its HR park factor has dropped down since renovations during the 2012-2013 offseason, hence it’s less concerning.

With his name not being on either of Yahoo or ESPN’s lists, dynasty owners can acquire Eickhoff without sacrificing real value. This spring might be the last time to do so before more people become aware of his existence.

And better yet, he’s a dang great dude meeting in person.

Update:

Tepid Participation, who covers the Ranger’s farm system closely and can be found in Frisco’s seats behind the plate during the season, gives Eickhoff a Trevor Rosenthal comp.

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Kazuto Yamazaki

Kazuto Yamazaki

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