Minor Leaguer of the Year: Texas Rangers’ Sam Huff is Powering His Way to the MLB

Sam Huff gets the job done at the plate.

But more than that, he’s a force behind it as well.

The Texas Rangers No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, hit a combined 28 homers at two levels in the Minors last season, which stood for second among Minor League catchers.

“Huff may have more raw power than any catching prospect and as much as any player in the Minors,” MLB wrote in Huff’s scouting report.

What sets him apart from other prospects is the fact that he is a catcher.

Guys like J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal still get the job done, but it is the case now in the league that a good amount of catchers lack overall efficiency and power with the bat. Huff has a chance to change that.

He also excels at his defensive position, where he threw out 48% of attempted base stealers in the 2019 season, which stood for a better percentage than any catcher in the Major League.

There’s something else that makes him stand out. He’s six-foot-five, just like another catcher who excelled in the Major Leagues. Joe Mauer.

“I remember the first day I met Sam and watched him hit,” Huff’s high school head coach Troy Gerlach said. “I told my assistant coach, ‘If this kid grows into his feet, he will be an absolute monster and play this game for a long time.'”

And with the pace he has been on in the Minor League, Huff has a shot at doing just that.

His father Steve, a former player who was once drafted by the Giants, told him he’d be a baseball player when he questioned what sport his favorite was.

And years later, it’s not even up for debate.

“Baseball means everything to me, I cherish every moment,” Huff said. “Every time I step onto the field, I can’t help but feel thankful for the opportunity I get to live every day.”

As he grew up, Huff took on the role of a catcher.

Initially, the choice wasn’t based off his desire to be a catcher, it was based off of how the padded-up position stands out on the field.

“Ironically, what made me choose being a catcher was the gear,” Huff said. “I was obsessed with how different the catcher stood out and how they always had so much gear compared to everyone else on the field.”

But over time, he found the position perfect for himself and fully embraced the role.

While most would designate a giant power hitter to first or third base, Huff is set to create a new norm in a age deprived of slugging catchers.

“Being a catcher is super special to me. It means a lot to still be in the position to catch at my size and abilities,” Huff said. “I really try to never take it for granted, because you never know, your position can be switched in a second.”

Huff established his role as a catcher when he played four years for Arcadia High School.

He would stay late and spend time after practices to hit and do extra catching drills. 

“My four years were amazing with Coach Gerlach,” Huff said. “I think that my career in baseball really took off there.”

“He was fun to watch on a daily basis,” Gerlach said. “Batting practice was always a treat to watch how far he would hit the baseball.”

And he hit the ball far, as he set the school record for home runs his senior year with 14 and led the state of Arizona in that category.

Then, he passed up a commitment to DI Grand Canyon University, and signed for $225,000 after being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

“The day Sam was drafted was one of my proudest days as a coach,” Gerlach said. “I knew how much work and time he had put in on the field and in the weight room, and for him to live a lifelong dream was very surreal.”

On draft night, Gerlach went to Huff’s home with his three-year-old son, and instead of making the night about himself, Huff did something most in his shoes wouldn’t have.

“Sam was so excited to play ball with my son,” Gerlach said. “I was thinking, ‘This kid just got drafted and all he wants to do was play with my son.’  He was ready for that day and was ready for what was to come.”

From there, he played two seasons with the Arizona League Rangers and was called up to Class A Hickory. Then, this past season he made his way to Class A Advanced Down East where he played for the Wood Ducks.

“When I left to go to Hickory, North Carolina to play in my first season of Low A, I’ll never forget it,” Huff said. “It all became real then, embracing the grind and really seeing what the Minor Leagues were like. It was surreal to see my dream become a reality in that moment.”

During the 2019 season, Huff was selected to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which makes him a highly regarded prospect.

Huff stepped up to bat in the seventh and final inning of play with a runner aboard, one out, and with his team down 2-0 and parked a moonshot into the bleachers.

This earned him the Larry Doby Most Valuable Player honor, as the homer eventually sent the game to an extra inning, where it ended in a 2-2 tie.

“It was every kid’s dream. It was an honor to be among the best players in baseball,” Huff said. “I was super stoked to be there, and even more in shock when I was named the MVP. I can’t really describe the emotions, but mostly I was in awe.”

Once the 2019 season ended, Huff was named the Rangers’ Minor Leaguer of the Year. But the 22-year-old is not content with just that.

“It only made me hungrier. It made me realize how much harder I wanted to work so I could be Player of the Year in the pros someday,” Huff said. “It was great, but it made me realize I wanted more.”

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