Wednesday Newsletter time: A nice homecoming Tuesday as this Texas Rangers prospect pitches well for instructs team
Josh Stephan went to South Grand Prairie High School and had many friends and family watching him at Dallas Baptist.
South Grand Prairie High School is only 15 minutes from Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, and a mere nine minutes from Horner Ballpark at Dallas Baptist, where a group of Rangers prospects were playing Tuesday night.
Chief among them, at least for the local crowd, was Josh Stephan. The right-hander went undrafted in the five-round 2020 MLB Draft out of South Grand Prairie, but signed with the Rangers for $20,000 to get his career rolling.
And he has been on a roll this year.
Stephan started for the Rangers’ instructional league team against Dallas Baptist and allowed only one run in two innings. His fastball reached 95 mph, and the Patriots had trouble with his slider.
Even though there was no 2020 season, Stephan has no regrets about foregoing a scholarship offer to Stephen F. Austin. If he was going to try to be a professional ballplayer, why wait?
“It was the whole combination of things, where school was getting paid for, I'd get that small bonus and then I would get amazing care here,” Stephan said last week in Arizona. “So ... there wasn't much of a decision, honestly.”
Stephan had a nice group of family and friends in the crowd, including players from the South Grand Prairie baseball team. He went from a relative unknown in the spring to making his MLB debut in the Arizona Complex League and finishing the season at Low A Down East.
He allowed 11 runs in his final two starts to spoil an otherwise solid first season. He finished with a 5.18 ERA, but that drops to 3.27 when the final two outings aren’t included.
One thing Stephan showed throughout the season was an uptick in fastball velocity from high school. The throwing program he was on during the COVID-19 shutdown helped, and so did working out at TMI Sports Medicine in Arlington.
Fellow Rangers prospect Mason Englert (2018 draft, fourth round) from Forney is among several pro players who spend time in the offseason at TMI. In addition to getting some tips on what pro ball is like, Stephan said his fastball jumped from 90-92 mph to 94-95 mph.
“It was really cool seeing all that hard work pay off,” said Stephan, who turns 20 on Monday.
Stephen showcased it Tuesday in front of friends, family and ex-teammates.
Just about everyone in the Rangers’ front office was at Dallas Baptist, with president of baseball operations Jon Daniels the most notable exception.
General manager Chris Young was there, along with assistant GMs Josh Boyd and Ross Fenstermaker, amateur scouting director Kip Fagg, director of baseball operations Paul Kruger and leadership/development director Ben Baroody.
Also there? Three ex-Rangers players turned assistants to the GM — Michael Young, Darren Oliver and Colby Lewis.
Notice that Lewis is wearing a Do It For Durrett Foundation hat.
The instructs squad will work out Wednesday at Globe Life Field before playing Thursday at Baylor and Friday at TCU. They opened their four-game Texas tour Monday at Texas Tech, where they walked 16 batters over 12 innings in 14-11 loss.
The buses from Lubbock didn’t arrive in Arlington until 2:30 a.m., so Wednesday will be a welcomed rest day indeed.
YouTube channel updated
John Moore, aka the Recliner Nerd, was at Dallas Baptist to watch the Patriots and the Rangers’ instructs team, and he vowed that he would take more videos to put on the Texas Rangers Baseball Podcast YouTube channel.
He came through. And I filmed a few, too.
Two new videos were posted: One with clips of Aaron Zavala, Ian Moeller, Efrenyer Narvaez and Cam Cauley batting, and one of left-hander Larson Kindreich working and a nifty double play turned behind him.
The channel also has the video element of a few podcasts, with many more to come. While players are going to be hard to find for videos the rest of the offseason, the podcast will keep cranking.
So, once you’re at the channel, click on the subscribe button (it’s free!) to ensure that the latest videos pop up whenever you hop on to YouTube. And, if you haven’t already, head to the top of this page to become a paid subscriber ($5.99/month or $60/year) to the Newsletter.
Here’s hoping you can get over the hump on Hump Day. Enjoy. See you Thursday.