S2S 2012 Team Prospect Lists: Texas Rangers

Mar. 2, 2012; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish pitches during an intrasquad game on the practice fields at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have a very deep collection of pitchers, rivaling the pitching depth of any other organization, and Yu Darvish gives them a legitimate top-flight talent as well. He and uber-prospect Jurickson Profar give the system punch at the top. The depth of position players is less impressive than that of the pitchers, and most of it is concentrated in the lower minors with players like Profar, Rougned Odor, Jorge Alfaro, Nomar Mazara, and Ronald Guzman. Still, it’s hardly a bad collection of position players, and even position has at least a solid C+ prospect with upside.

Position Player Upside: B
Position Player Depth: B
Pitching Upside: A
Pitching Depth: A
System Grade: A-

Catcher: Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro draws raves for his work behind the plate and his power potential. He hit .300/.345/.481 in the Northwest League at age 18. However, his approach at the plate is beyond raw, and he still needs to translate his considerable arm strength into good defensive results. In a lot of ways, he’s a further-away, less-polished version of Wilin Rosario. Grade: C+

First base: Ronald Guzman. A $3.5 million international signee, Guzman is an advanced hitter with some pop who could move quickly. He’s limited athletically, and there’s some debate about whether he’ll be a first baseman from day one or start out in left field. Obviously, there’s no pro data on him, so his career could go any number of directions, but he could end up similar to Christian Yelich as a prospect. As a first baseman, his ceiling will depend on how much power he grows into. Grade: C+

Second base: Rougned Odor. Odor managed to hit .262/.323/.353 in the Northwest League at age 17. If you want to dream on those numbers, Profar hit .250/.323/.373 at the same age and level in 2010. Odor doesn’t have Profar’s physical upside, but he’s a fundamentally sound defender at second who should stick in the middle infield, and he possesses a strong feel for contact from the left side. At some point later this decade, he and Profar could be a dominant tandem of middle infielders who hit at the top of the order and play excellent defense. Grade: B

Third base: Mike Olt. Olt stands out among the position players in the system–he’s a polished college product who’s been old for his levels. He’s had career-long problems with strikeouts, but takes a lot of walks, exhibits good power, and plays a good third base. He’s already 23 and isn’t upper-minors-tested, and I’d expect the strikeouts to become more of a negative as he moves up, but Olt could develop into a solid starter at third–imagine Jack Hannahan with a 15% better bat and a 10% worse glove. Grade: B

Shortstop: Jurickson Profar. Profar had an unbelievable age-18 season in Low-A, hitting .286/.390/.493, walking more than he struck out, hitting 57 extra-base hits in just 115 games, and continuing to look like a plus defender at shortstop. It looks like Rafael Furcal is his downside, and that’s scary. He could develop into the best leadoff hitter and shortstop in the game, and will play a key role in Texas’ transition from their current core to their next generation. Grade: A

Outfielder #1: Leonys Martin. A Cuban defector who signed early in 2011, Martin isn’t easy to evaluate from a career path-oriented perspective, since he didn’t get started until he was 23, and then was dropped straight into Double-A. He hit well there, but oddly showed no punch whatsoever in the PCL after a promotion, and there’s some debate about the viability of his rather choppy swing. He should play solid defense in center field and be something more than a zero with the bat, but it’s open for debate as to whether he’s a solid starter in center field or just a very good fourth outfielder long-term. Grade: B

Outfielder #2: Nomar Mazara. Mazara got a much higher bonus than Guzman ($5 million), but he’s usually regarded as the inferior prospect, thanks to his less balanced profile. He’s similar to the Mariners’ Carlos Peguero in many respects–his approach is undisciplined, and he’s a huge guy with little mobility, but when he gets a hold of the ball, it goes a long way. Just how unrefined his approach proves to be will dictate his future success, as he could be anything from Ryan Howard to Cody Johnson. Grade: C+

Outfielder #3: Jake Skole. Largely considered an overdraft as the 15th overall pick in 2010, Skole hit .264/.366/.389 in Low-A at age 19, but needed a .365 BABIP to make it happen thanks to his 27.5% strikeout rate. His speed hasn’t translated into success on the bases, and he saw some time in left field last year in addition to center–if he can’t stick in the middle pasture, he’ll need a lot more power. On the plus side, he does boast some athleticism, gap power, and good discipline at the plate. Going forward, he’ll need to find better balance between passitivity and aggressiveness in his approach. Grade: C+

Starting Pitcher #1: Yu Darvish. Like Martin, Darvish is obviously on an atypical path, coming from Japan straight to the major leagues this year. He’s coming off five straight years of sub-2.00 ERA pitching, and 2011 was his best season there, and you probably don’t need me to tell you that he has an impressive, and impressively wide, repertoire. Obviously, he’s a good bet to succeed from Day 1, and while there are some question as to whether he’s an ace, a #2, or a #3 long term (largely because people define those terms differently), he should be very valuable to the Rangers both on and off the field. Grade: A

Starting Pitcher #2: Martin Perez. I went into a lot of detail about Perez’s age and level here. Based on historical comparables for his youth, high level, and middling performance, it seems that he’s a good bet to follow the Edwin Jackson career path of struggling for a few years before finally starting to play up to his potential in his mid-20s. He’s a very talented lefthander, but he hasn’t put up good numbers in two years. Expect growing pains–and he could follow Edinson Volquez‘s path as a trade chip eventually–but Perez could eventually become a first-division #2 starter. Grade: A-

Starting Pitcher #3: Cody Buckel. Yeah, I ranked this guy 19th on the top 100 prospects this year. No, that was probably not the best decision. But don’t be surprised if Buckel is the next Brandon Beachy, another pitcher who put up ridiculous numbers in the minors who was pegged as just a #4/5 guy but clearly proved the doubters wrong. Buckel’s stuff isn’t legitimately plus, but nobody would describe it as worse than solid-average, and his consistent, clean mechanics should allow him to be durable despite a small frame. We’ll see how he adapts to the upper minors, but he could be a quick mover, as low-minors hitters obviously have no answer for his polished four-pitch mix. Grade: A-

Starting Pitcher #4: Neil Ramirez. Here’s another odd developmental path, as Ramirez went from Low-A in 2010 to Triple-A in 2011 with just one start in High-A in between. Shockingly, he hung in there and struck out over a batter per inning in the PCL despite being pushed so hard. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher, and his control isn’t particularly sharp, but he has two very good pitches in his fastball and curveball and should rack up strikeouts in the big leagues. He could make some improvements in 2012, with the shock of the three-level jump worn off. Grade: B+

Starting Pitcher #5: Miguel De Los Santos. De Los Santos is sort of the ultimate Three True Outcomes pitcher, with a career 4.9 BB/9 and 14.3 K/9 and extreme flyball rates. He obviously needs to refine his command and get the ball down more, but he has good stuff, highlighted by a plus changeup, and could be a truly frightening pitcher if he can find the zone more. It’s tough to know exactly what he’ll end up doing–might be a good topic for comparable-based research like I did with Perez, actually. Grade: B+

Relief Pitcher #1: Tanner Scheppers. Scheppers continues to get a lot of hype, but he’s a 25-year-old reliever who has never dominated in the minors. With nearly 100 innings in Triple-A under his belt, he’s basically ready for the majors, and he does boast a very good fastball-slider combination, but he may not be consistent enough to pitch at the back of a bullpen. Grade: C+

Relief Pitcher #2: Matt West. News broke yesterday that West has a sprained UCL in his arm and may require Tommy John surgery, a major blow to the converted third baseman who’s 23 and has yet to pitch in full-season ball as it is. He dominated the NWL last year, though, with a 35/1 K/BB, and has an electric arm that could make him a quick riser–if healthy. Grade: C+

Best of the Rest

#1.) Barret Loux, RHP. Loux was the #6 overall pick in 2010, and dominated High-A in 2011, but obviously, there was a lot of drama in between that, as his drafting team refused to sign him after Loux didn’t pass a physical, and he ended up as a free agent who signed with Texas. Given his medical troubles, it’s concerning that he was shut down toward the end of the year with shoulder fatigue. If healthy, he’s an older, more polished version of Buckel, with a diverse and effective arsenal that should allow him to be a decent #3/excellent #4 starter. Grade: B+

#2.) Luke Jackson, RHP. Jackson struck out 78 batters in 75 innings as a teenager in full-season ball, which has to be considered a success. He’s bigger than Buckel, flashes more velocity, and may have higher upside, but he’s far less polished, as his 48 walks and 5.64 ERA indicate. Given the pitching depth in the system, he may end up in relief, but in many other systems, he would be one of the top arms. Grade: B

#3.) Christian Villanueva, 3B. Villanueva lacks the physical build of Olt, but he’s a pretty dynamic third base prospect in his own right, hitting .278/.338/.465 in Low-A despite not turning 20 until midseason. He also went 32-for-38 on the bases and, like Olt, is already a major-league caliber defensive third baseman. Also like Olt, he’s not an incredibly high-upside player, but it’s not hard to see him as a very solid starter at third base in the Casey Blake mold. Grade: B

#4.) Roman Mendez, RHP. The headliner prospect acquired for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mendez was little more than a live arm entering 2011, but he made progress with his offspeed stuff and delivery and had an excellent year in Low-A. Like many young Latin American flamethrowers, he still has a long way to go with his consistency and command, but he’s shown progress already, and that’s very encouraging. He has Edwin Jackson-esque potential as a starter, and could also become an intriguing late-game relief option. Grade: B

#5.) Robert Ross, LHP. Ross is a solid groundball pitcher who commands his three-pitch mix well, though none of his offerings are overwhelming. He did a great job adapting to Double-A following a midseason promotion, and though he’s small, he’s been very durable in his minor league career. He looks like a very good fourth starter and could beat most of the other pitchers to the big leagues. Grade: B-

#6.) Kevin Matthews, LHP. In a lot of ways, Matthews is a younger version of Ross, as a small three-pitch lefthander with similar draft status (Ross was a 2nd round pick in 2008; Matthews was considered a bit of an overdraft at 33rd overall in 2011). He struggled some with his command in his pro debut, but racked up the strikeouts, and the Rangers have had success developing this sort of pitcher (Ross, Robbie Erlin). Matthews has solid-average velocity from the left side and has a well-developed curveball to complement it. Grade: B-

#7.) Will Lamb, LHP. Lamb was picked a round after Matthews, but had a similar pro debut, with lots of walks and strikeouts at a higher level (as a college pitcher, he’s older, so he got a tougher assignment). Unlike Matthews, Lamb is a towering lefthander who throws in the 90-95 range and has plenty of room to fill out his frame and get stronger. He’ll need to better coordinate his delivery, like most tall young pitchers, but there’s significant upside here. He’s also somewhat young for a college draftee, so he doesn’t need to be on as accelerated of a timetable as most. An interesting sleeper. Grade: B-

#8.) David Perez, RHP. Another very projectable tall young pitcher, Perez is a bit of a polarizing figure in the Texas system. There’s no doubt that he already has a good fastball and his curveball is already solid, and that he projects to fill out and gain even more velocity. He already struck out 43 batters in 30 innings in short-season ball last year as an 18-year-old, so the stuff clearly plays. What’s less clear is whether he’ll throw enough strikes to succeed as a starting pitcher, as he walked nearly a batter per inning last year, but had walked just eight in 70 innings in Dominican summer ball in 2010. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Perez in Dellin Betances‘ position in four years, with the upside to dominate as a starter but the inconsistency to threaten to push him to relief. Grade: C+

#9.) Justin Grimm, RHP. A 5th-round selection in 2010, Grimm had a solid year in A-ball, though he’s now already 23 and will need to move quickly through the system, especially given how many pitchers there are here. He’s a solid sinker-curve pitcher who profiles as a fourth starter and could also be a high-leverage relief option with the good two-pitch mix. Grade: C+

#10.) Wilmer Font. Font missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery. Before getting hurt, he was known as an intriguing power arm who nearly touched triple digits even as a starter, giving him very interesting upside. He also has an average changeup and developing breaking ball, and he’s not completely awful in the command department. If he’s healthy, he’s an intriguing sleeper–he reminds me of a slightly-worse Maikel Cleto, and longtime readers probably know that I’m as high on Cleto as anyone is. Font is definitely a player to watch in 2012 as he comes back, and if his velocity is back in order, he at least has late-game relief possibilities. Grade: C+

The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.

For more on the Rangers, check out Nolan Writin’.

Follow S2S on Twitter @Seedlings2Stars and yours truly @stoltz_baseball. Also, like our Facebook page!

Topics: Barret Loux, Christian Villanueva, Cody Buckel, David Perez, Jake Skole, Jorge Alfaro, Jurickson Profar, Justin Grimm, Kevin Matthews, Leonys Martin, Luke Jackson, Martin Perez, Matt West, Miguel De Los Santos, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, Nomar Mazara, Robert Ross, Roman Mendez, Ronald Guzman, Rougned Odor, Tanner Scheppers, Texas Rangers, Will Lamb, Wilmer Font, Yu Darvish

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