Express To Join Rangers' System Next Year

A look at their crop of minor-leaguers

Jordan Lyles (pictured) is the Astros' lone top prospect still in Round Rock
Jordan Lyles (pictured) is the Astros' lone top prospect still in Round Rock

The Round Rock Express team you'll see next year will not even remotely resemble the team you see in their final regular season series this weekend at Dell Diamond. In Minor League Baseball, it’s known that no player’s position is solidified; but no team’s affiliation is either.

In 2011, the Round Rock Express will be the new AAA affiliate for the Texas Rangers instead of the Houston Astros, the Express’ major league affiliate since the Round Rock franchise began play in 2000.

The Express is owned by Nolan Ryan and Ryan-Sanders Baseball, who is part of the group that recently bought the Rangers, who currently have the Oklahoma City RedHawks as their AAA affiliate. And as fate would have it, both Texas’ and Houston’s contracts with their respective AAA teams expire at the end of the 2010 regular season.

What does that mean for Round Rock fans? It means next season is going to be a whole lot more exciting than originally thought. All of those players from Oklahoma City – the team that is currently leading their division, 18 games in front of the last-place Express – are coming to play in Round Rock.

The main reason the Rangers were able steal Cliff Lee away from the Yankees this year was because Texas had a plethora of talent in the minor league system that the Seattle Mariners could choose from.

And they’ve still got a lot more studly prospects in their ranks.

For years Texas has struggled with developing pitching, but with Nolan Ryan at the helm as Rangers president that has all changed. Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, and Wilmer Font will all be names you’ll be hearing about next year in the AAA system, and for good reason. Perez, for example, will be a unanimous Top 10 prospect going into next year, so let’s hope Texas gives him more than a few reps at Round Rock before they call up the flamethrower.

We won’t be missing much with leaving behind the Astros’ farm system, unfortunately for Houston fans.

Not only has the current group of Express players been a little disappointing this year, but all of their hyped players have been promoted to the Astros. Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson, Jason Castro: they’re all big leaguers now. Only pitcher Jordan Lyles remains, but with the way he’s pitching he might be in the Astros’ starting rotation at the beginning of next year.

It’s hard to get attached to players in minor league systems. They come and go like the wind. As soon as a player excels, he gets promoted and we don’t hear from him again until he’s slumping or rehabbing. The player wants to head back to the majors as soon as possible, so there’s no reason why we should feel attached to him on a personal level. Just show us a good time for a few hours.

Fans of minor league teams just want to see a good game and quality talent on the field. And with the Express' recent change in affiliation, we should be seeing plenty of both in 2011.

Vs. Albuquerque: Fri.-Sat., Sept. 3-4, 7:05pm; Sun., Sept. 5, 6:05pm; Mon., Sept. 6, 12:05pm. Dell Diamond, 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock. $6-30.

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