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Lesser-known prospects progressing for the Rangers

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Guzman and Kiner-Falefa have been bright spots in 2018 for Texas

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

ICYMI, Texas Rangers rookie first baseman Ronald Guzman became the first ever rook to homer three times against the New York Yankees last Friday night.

Not just that. Guzman did it in front of at least 30 family members who flew up from the Dominican Republic to watch Ronald play for the first time as a major leaguer.

The towering, 6-foot-5 first baseman has been one of the headlines this season for the Rangers, who have struggled to the AL West cellar.

On the plus side, Texas is seventh in baseball with 4.8 runs a game. They also allow the fourth most runs in baseball with 5.3, but we’re not here to talk about the dire pitching situation in Arlington (We can do that another time).

Despite being 15 games under .500, the Rangers have been one of the hotter offensive teams all season. On paper, this is understandable with Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Nomar Mazara and a resurgent Shin-Soo Choo.

On the contrary, it’s been a pair of rookie bats helping the Rangers maintain relative relevance in baseball this season.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Guzman, John’s seventh-rated Rangers prospect entering the season, was called into early duty after a Beltre injury and the Joey Gallo first base experience being put to bed.

The Slender Man Guzman signed in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic just days apart from teammate Mazara. Always one to keep an eye on, many have doubted the lanky lefty due to his lack of power as a first baseman.

The 23-year old has pretty much been the everyday first baseman for the Rangers since his call-up about two weeks into the season. His three home runs last Friday night give him a very strong 13 this season in 284 at-bats.

He’s been streaky, hitting just .246 —although in 2018 that might as well be .276— but has been one of the more reliable Rangers over the course of the season, both at the plate and in the field.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is also 23 years old. The Hawaii native was drafted in 2013’s fourth round as a middle infielder, but the Rangers tried him out in the outfield as a super-utility project in 2015.

In 2016, they ditched the outfield plan and gave him the chance to catch. Just as they have done with Josh Morgan and Jose Trevino, who caught some in college as well and is another promising young player who is currently out with shoulder surgery.

Kiner-Falefa, “Kiner” for short, or “Izzy,” or just “Isiah” or really anything to save your breath, is a contact machine just like Guzman.

He was called up on April 10, two days before Guzman got the nod, and has fulfilled his proposed destiny as a super utility big leaguer.

Not just that, but he’s also surprising with an impressive .268 batting average. He didn’t homer in his first four professional seasons (2013-2016) before knocking out five long balls last season for Double-A Frisco.

MLB: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

He was in Triple-A Round Rock to start this season, for all of five games, and in the bigs this season has four home runs. This season, he’s played third base 41 times, second base 20 times, caught 17 games and started at shortstop twice.

The surprising power and an incredibly disciplined approach at the plate, on top of being a genuinely good human being (I worked with both Guzman and Kiner at Double-A Frisco and have nothing but great things to say about them) has put an unexpected player on the long-term blue print for the Rangers.

While these lesser-known prospects have taken center stage for Texas, bonafide top prospects like Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun have had rather lukewarm 2018’s —Gallo has bounced around the depth chart and continues to hit just .200 and Calhoun toiled at Triple-A for a good while— it’s a big revelation for the Rangers to find two potential everyday contributors from the lower parts of the esteemed prospect rankings.