He may not be in the same group as the Mullers or the Elders of the world, but make no mistake, Alan Rangel is an trendy pitcher in the Atlanta Braves farm system. And finally, now entering his eighth season in the Braves organization, it appears that many are beginning to catch on.
Rangel, who’s slated to make his 2022 debut for Double-A Mississippi on Tuesday night, was a Braves international signee out of Mexico way back in July of 2014, at the age of just 16. At the time, obviously not much was officially known about Rangel. And as is usually the case with a teenage player, there were still a ton of questions. The following year’s MLB Draft didn’t help shine any light on Rangel’s potential stock either, for in 2015 all the attention was focused on the incredible haul the Braves managed to bring in, drafting guys like Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and AJ Minter, as well as third baseman Austin Riley. For a young international kid having just started his pro career in a system chalked-full with amazing young talent, now it’s easy to see why many in Braves Country probably never even heard the name Alan Rangel.
But Rangel simply did his thing. After battling through some adversity during his first pro season in instructs in 2015, the then 18-year-old righty was given more of a consistent starter’s role in rookie ball in 2016. And in a dozen games that year (featuring nine starts) the kid posted a strong 3.28 ERA to go with 9.1 strikeouts per nine and just 1.9 walks. The above average performance earned Rangel an opportunity to play full-season minor league baseball in 2017, and by skipping the former Rookie-Advanced Appalachian League (where the now dissolved Danville Braves once played), the 6-2, 170-pounder was given a Single-A Rome assignment to begin the year. The jump from instructs to A-ball was obviously an adjustment, as Rangel watched his K rate fall from an an average of 8.6 K/9 in 2015 and ’16 combined to a middling 6.1 K/9 with Rome in ’17. But at an age nearly three years younger than the average player competing at the Single-A level that year, Rangel was up for the challenge and wound up finishing the campaign with a respectable 4.71 ERA in 15 games (13 starts / 2 relief appearances).
Over the next two seasons Rangel became a main-stay in the Rome starting rotation, going on to make 46 starts combined for the then-Single-A affiliate in 2018 and 2019. His run prevention wasn’t necessarily ideal, but the kid’s ability to strikeout opposing batters improved, and by the time the ’19 season ended, the then 21-year-old had increased his K rate from 16% to nearly 21% during his tenure with Rome. Given the evident strides he’d made with his pitch mix, Rangel was finally ready for another promotion.
Following the unfortunate 2020 season (in which Rangel was forced to pitch in the Mexican Winter League due to a canceled minor league season), the Braves made good on moving Rangel up. He remained in Rome, but this time at the High-A level (thanks to the minor league realignment in the fall of ’20). The increase in competition didn’t appear to faze Rangel, because by August of last year he was promoted once again, thanks to a dominant 12.1 strikeouts per nine and 3.57 ERA in 14 starts with the R-Braves. Down the stretch in Mississippi in 2021, Rangel’s improvements finally started garnering some attention, and in his final two outings at the Double-A level, the 24-year-old struck out 16 batters in 12 combined innings, which, along with the 4.50 ERA in seven starts there overall, he accrued some much-needed momentum heading into last offseason.
Given he was such a young signee, currently still 24, the future is incredibly bright for Rangel. Not only have folks that follow the minors like me noticed, but so too has the Braves, as last November Atlanta placed Rangel on the 40-man big league roster, preventing the talented pitcher from entering minor league free agency or being selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
In terms of a scouting report for Rangel, the obvious rise in strikeouts is what stands out the most. Rangel has also developed quite a repertoire over the years, touching 96 MPH with his four-seam fastball, which compliments well with his low-80s changeup and 12-6 curveball. From my time watching a few of Rangel’s outings in 2021, the kid definitely has a nice “rise” effect to his heater, and as you can see in the clip above (from last season), Rangel’s mid-70s breaking ball seems to fall right out of the sky. Those two offerings alone make him a dangerous pitcher in general, though that aforementioned off-speed pitch should allow him to remain as a starter.
I tabbed Rangel as a “prospect” for the first time in my 2022 Braves Offseason Top 35 prospect list, ranking him 33rd, just behind guys like Greyson Jenista and Kadon Morton. I haven’t seen Rangel considered as such a player on any other lists, save for Baseball America, who has the righty pretty high at no. 23 on its Braves list. A strong 2022 should move him even closer to that top 20 area, and if he’s able to exceed expectations even further (like perhaps reaching Triple-A Gwinnett in the second-half), well then we could really start talking about a possible mid-rotation arm in the majors. I look at the Braves prospect arms in what’s essentially tiers: with Tier 1 obviously being guys like Kyle Muller, Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder and Freddy Tarnok – you know, the arms that are basically right on the cusp. Tier 2 including reliever Inidigo Diaz, Jared Shuster, Victor Vodnik and Darius Vines – guys who’re still perhaps a year or so away. Then lastly, a Tier 3 that’s made up of a combination of unproven guys, recently-drafted arms, or those that are perhaps destined for the bullpen (you could throw in arms like William Woods, Jasseel De La Cruz, Daysbel Hernandez, Tanner Gordon, Andrew Hoffmann). At this point, with a strong showing in Mississippi in 2022, I feel like Rangel could very well fit into the back-end of that second tier, especially given how much experience he’s been able to accrue in the minors so far. Although you know what they say: you never know when it comes to prospect pitchers. Regardless, I guess we’ll find out real soon.
Rangel and the M-Braves will start Week 2 of its 2022 regular season tonight, with Game 1 of a six-game series against an undefeated Biloxi team (the Brewers Double-A affiliate). First pitch is slated for 6:35 PM (CT).
Be sure to check out Braves Farm every morning for a recap of the the Braves minor league games!