Rangers’ Wyatt Langford turning heads at MLB spring coaching

SURPRISE, Arizona — Through the first week of spring coaching, Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux returned to the group’s clubhouse after watching a dwell batting follow session and declared: “I simply noticed the very best participant on the sector.” The room of coaches and various personnel perked up. The Rangers got here into camp off a World Sequence title however with questionable beginning pitching depth, and so they have been hopeful Maddux, a coach for 20 seasons, had unearthed his newest gem on the mound.

Wyatt Langford,” Maddux mentioned.

Langford just isn’t a pitcher. He’s a 6-foot-1, 225-pound power-hitting outfielder, and for a pitching coach — notably one in all Maddux’s stature — to gravitate so shortly to Langford offered the most recent proof that the defending champions’ offense could possibly be even higher this yr.

Maddux’s reply shocked nobody internally. After sliding to Texas on the No. 4 choose in a loaded 2023 draft, Langford, now 22, spent two months destroying 4 minor league ranges, hitting .360/.480/.677 with 10 house runs in 200 plate appearances. He arrived this spring “in actual competitors to make the membership,” in line with Texas normal supervisor Chris Younger, and solely the Rangers’ outfield excellence stands between Langford and an every-day large league function.

“I do know if I do what I can do,” Langford mentioned, “they will give me the chance to showcase that.”

Langford’s right-handed swing has impressed the Rangers so totally that he was below substantial consideration to make his main league debut throughout the playoffs final yr. Towards the top of the common season, with proper fielder Adolis Garcia injured, the Rangers mentioned selling Langford to fill out an already-dangerous lineup. They weren’t afraid of his age or inexperience. As ably as rookie Evan Carter was already garnering headlines along with his spectacular play, including Langford to Carter and heart fielder Leody Taveras would’ve offered a wanted offensive increase.

Garcia returned, after all, occurring a legendary scorching streak that netted him American League Championship Sequence MVP honors. However Langford remained across the group throughout the postseason, becoming a member of the Rangers’ so-called “stay-ready squad” in case of accidents. Rapidly, he distinguished himself.

The group would collect at Globe Life Area within the morning and take dwell at-bats. Amongst these on the mound have been Jack Leiter, Owen White and Cole Winn, the very best pitching prospects within the Rangers’ group. Danny Duffy, a World Sequence champion for the 2015 Kansas Metropolis Royals with Younger as his teammate, was there and already had a deep respect for Langford after taking part in with him in Double-A throughout Duffy’s try at a return to the large leagues.

“I acquired him out as soon as, and it was the primary pitch I ever threw him,” Duffy mentioned. “It was a changeup. I did not need to problem him proper there. Ball was flying. I hadn’t given up a homer all yr, and he wasn’t about to be my first, however he simply missed one. Hit it like 400 toes within the air to the center of heart subject. If he would’ve clipped it, it might’ve gone to the Embassy Suites.”

Future Corridor of Famer Max Scherzer, then attempting to return from an harm, did not know who Langford was earlier than he confronted him throughout a dwell batting follow in October. Scherzer discovered shortly when Langford hammered a double off the wall. Because the month went on and the Rangers cruised to the AL pennant, Langford continued to flabbergast onlookers, constantly barreling balls at 110 mph-plus, territory sometimes reserved for elite main league hitters. Whereas the stay-ready crew was despatched house after Sport 1 of the World Sequence, Garcia’s indirect harm suffered in Sport 3 reignited the chatter amongst Rangers personnel to summon Langford.

“He was proper there within the dialog,” Texas bench coach Donnie Ecker mentioned. “And if he did play, he was going proper within the 3-hole.”

“I do not know if he would’ve hit third, to be sincere,” Rangers supervisor Bruce Bochy mentioned, “however watching him within the dwell BPs was spectacular. The numbers, what he was doing, was unbelievable. You’ll be able to’t ignore that. And then you definitely get to know the person and he is acquired no concern. And also you noticed what Carter did. And so, we had that to go on too that, hey, these guys are totally different, these younger youngsters. And so, we did not assume he’d be afraid. That is why it was legit, why he was with us.

“Trying again, I imply, it really would’ve been fairly cool to see.”

Finally, Texas selected to present veteran Travis Jankowski the left-field slot and elevate utility man Ezequiel Duran to the energetic roster. Each had been there all yr. They have been succesful, game-tested. With a 2-1 lead within the Sequence and home-field benefit, the Rangers did not really feel the necessity to push the envelope. The prospect of Langford within the lineup, although, remained of their ideas. Through the celebration after the Rangers’ championship-clinching Sport 5, one coach, already wanting ahead to 2024, mentioned: “And we will have Langford subsequent yr, too.”

“It wasn’t simply the efficiency or the ends in the minor leagues,” Younger mentioned. “It was the method metrics, which we worth, that steered he might come up and have success. His exit velos have been extraordinarily excessive. His chase fee was extraordinarily low. He was strolling. He was displaying elite self-discipline. It is all the pieces we noticed after we drafted him — and he’d additionally carried out on the most important stage in faculty baseball.

“If you take that under consideration, the second wasn’t going to be too large for him.”

Langford had laid waste to varsity baseball over the earlier two years, going from a backup catcher who acquired 4 at-bats as a freshman at Florida to arguably the best hitter within the nation. As a sophomore, Langford hit an SEC-leading 26 house runs with a 1.166 OPS. His follow-up was even higher: Whereas his house run complete dropped to 21, Langford hit 19 extra doubles as a junior and walked 20 extra instances whereas sustaining his strikeout fee. His season ended only one win in need of a School World Sequence title.

As a lot as he would’ve loved being the primary place participant to take part within the School World Sequence and the World Sequence in the identical season, Langford noticed 2023 as a grand success — one he spent the offseason attempting to copy as he educated with hopes of convincing the Rangers he could be prepared this spring. As a result of Langford understands that dominating in faculty and the minors ensures nothing on the main league stage, he has used the early goings of spring coaching to choose the brains of veterans Marcus Semien, Nathaniel Lowe and Josh Jung — Langford’s spring roommate — to higher perceive the basics of taking part in his first 162-game season.

“The most important aim is simply to be taught as a lot as I can, make sure that to simply be myself and go on the market and play and have enjoyable,” Langford mentioned. “If it occurs, then superior. If not, then I will go to wherever they ship me to and do the very best I can.

“I do know if I do what I can do, they will give me the chance to showcase that.”

When he will get that probability would possibly rely on the Rangers’ wants. With Jung and shortstop Corey Seager sidelined, they might use their twenty sixth roster spot for a utility man to open the season. What’s clear is that the Rangers will not preserve Langford down simply to maintain him down — not with MLB’s guidelines that award a full yr of service time to prime rookies and incentivize groups to advertise them by giving draft picks.

Particularly if Rangers coaches proceed to see him as the very best participant on the sector.

“He’ll inform us when he is prepared,” Younger mentioned, “and if that is now, it is now.”

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