Since it’s the time of year where these lists start again to mean something, I figure to delve out my top-20 list of Rangers’ prospects. Still about $20 million under the purported $130 million budget the Rangers will operate with in 2013 from the Major League roster, Texas is also blessed with one of the richest, most prolific farm systems in all of baseball.
At the moment, it’s especially rich with high-upside bats at the lower levels, and relatively weak in terms of future top-of-the-rotation starting pitching. Since Clayton recently gave a rundown of the top-20 pitching prospects in the system, I will leave those names out in the context of this article.
My formula for coming to these conclusions isn’t based on statistical data the various individuals have generated in their Minor League careers; it’s more focused on age, ceiling, and the scouting reports I’ve read up to this point.
Again, the Rangers probably possess between 5-10 different players who could be the #1 prospect in a lot of systems, so most of the upper-half of this list consists of athletes who figure to perform in the Major Leagues one day, and perform at a high level. With the amount of washouts and injuries that naturally accrue over time, it’s inevitable that not all will come into fruition. But this is where we are right now.
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers - Profar has clearly established himself as a consensus top-3 prospect in all of Major League baseball. Playing a premium defensive position in the middle of the diamond, scouting reports say he has above-average, but not elite, range at shortstop, and that he possesses a top-tier arm (which touched 95 mph from the mound as a 16 year-old). He’s got top-shelf instincts and intangibles, plus speed, and stands to be one of the two or three best-hitting shortstops in all of baseball once he gets a few years of development under his belt. He could stand to put on 15 or 20 pounds.
2. Mike Olt, 3B/1B/OF, Texas Rangers - Olt largely flew under the radar his first couple seasons with the club, but was known to have plus power and plate discipline, and above-average tools manning the hot corner. It wasn’t until last offseason when he was the Arizona Fall League MVP, that he really put himself on the map. After a prodigious offensive campaign at AA Frisco last season, in which he put up a ridiculous .288/.398/.579 (168 wRC+) triple slash line, he was promoted to the Major Leagues. It remains to be seen if he can cut down on his sometimes problematic strikeout totals, but if he does, he projects to be a fringe-All Star, with the potential to be a force in the middle of the lineup.
3. Lewis Brinson, OF, Arizona Rookie League - Brinson was the first selection of what’s being deemed the “Fab Five” 2012 draft class. Playing as an 18 year-old, he had scouts raving about his projectable 5-tool frame, which could translate into a bonafide superstar at the Major League level. Because of how aggressive the Rangers’ front office is at getting their prospects adequate experience, he’ll likely be challenged at full-season low-A Hickory in 2013.
4. Joey Gallo, 3B, Short-Season Spokane - Like Lewis Brinson, Gallo is the 2nd member of the “Fab Five,” selected 39th overall in the 2012 draft. Many say his ceiling is actually higher than their first overall pick, but his expected signing demands scared many teams away. He has legitimate 80-grade raw power, but like Mike Olt, his success in ascending through the Rangers’ farm system is predicated on how well he turns his suspect contact skills into 40 home run potential. If you’re looking for a comparison, he’s a lot like Chris Davis, only he has an uncanny ability to draw bases via the walk. Players of his ilk are deemed “3 True Outcome” players; they either homer, walk, or strikeout. In 2012 in rookie ball, Gallo posted a .293/.435/.733 triple slash, with 37 walks (19.2%) and 52 strikeouts (26.9%) in just 193 plate appearances. Oh yeah, he also mashed a league-record 18 home runs in that interval.
5. Jairo Beras, OF, N/A - Beras is certainly the most controversial of anyone on this list, as he was involved in a signing bonus scandal last offseason that had many rivaling franchises crying foul on the Rangers. In the end, he was allowed to sign with Texas, save a stipulation that he was banned from playing for one year. He will not be eligible to suit up in the Minor Leagues until July, but if his potential is realized, he will one day be right up there with the Mike Trout‘s and Bryce Harper‘s and Jurickson Profar’s as the #1 prospect in all of baseball. Say what you will about comparing 17 year-old’s to Major Leaguers, but scouts say he is Josh Hamilton 2.0. Once we have more information on him between the lines, we’ll better know what kind of career trajectory he will take. But I will not be surprised if he’s up at #2, or #1 — in regards to the Rangers — heading into 2014.
6. Jorge Alfaro, C, Hickory - Alfaro’s skill palate has not fully come into focus yet, but why should it? 2013 will be his age-20 season, where he’ll likely start the year either in Hickory (again) or Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. Though he’s a catcher, he possess all the tools to make him the #1 catching prospect in all of baseball, combining a slugging-oriented bat with elite arm strength and plus running skills. Has there ever been such thing as a 5-tool catcher? They don’t exactly grow on trees and frankly, they don’t really grow anywhere, and never have. There’s a cloud of doubt surfacing around his future, as he does — like every other prospect — carry the discerning possibility of flaming out. But if it all comes together, he could be an impact force in the middle of the lineup, and carry the torch for Rangers’ catching for a decade-plus, assuming he reaches the Major Leagues at some point over the next few years.
7. Ronald Guzman, 1B/OF, Arizona Rookie League - Like many others on this list, outside of raving reviews from scouts, we don’t have that clear a picture on Guzman. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus, so that shows the Rangers’ belief in him, but he does project as a future middle-of-the-order power hitter. There isn’t much of a book on his defensive skill set as of now, but for what we DO know, he’s a potential masher who figures to do a ton of damage in the middle of the lineup.
8. Nomar Mazara, OF, Arizona Rookie League - After seeing a scouting video, I realized Mazara is incredibly frail right now. Between Beras, Guzman and Mazara, the Rangers have given themselves a strong assortment of power bats; we just don’t know how they’re all going to materialize. Mazara probably has the best hit tool of the three, but has much less power. Again, we won’t know just how good he is until he puts on some weight and fills out a bit. But this is a legitimate stick who figures to have plus-wheels, likely profiling at a corner outfield spot.
9. Luis Sardinas, SS, Hickory - Catch me if you’ve heard this one before: A skinny, frail, foreign teenage shortstop making a quick rise through the Rangers farm system. Elvis Andrus? Jurickson Profar, maybe? Luis Sardinas is next in line. Last year he posted a triple slash of .291/.346/.356, though in Winter Ball he produced a .318/.375/.455. Right now he’s mainly a single’s and double’s hitter, but his frame dictates that he could turn that into some decent power as his body fills out. He’s known as a plus defender with plus speed — so he’ll find his way in the Majors one day just at that — but if his bat continues to improve, he could easily turn himself into a top-40 prospect. Because of the abundance of shortstops already in the system, there’s a good chance he winds up on another team. But he is certainly upping his value.
10. Rougned Odor, 2B, Hickory - Odor, like Ian Kinsler, is an offensive-minded 2nd basemen. His bat will make it to the Major Leagues at some point. He’s still extremely young, born in 1994, and needs to work on his defense and plate discipline as he moves up through the system. But right now, he’s easily one of my favorite prospects we’ve got, mainly because I love his name and that he’s a 2nd basemen. Subjective reasoning, for the win!
11. Leonys Martin – OF
12. Jordan Akins – OF
13. Nick Williams – OF
14. Zackary Cone – OF
15. Kevin Deglan – C
16. Jake Skole – OF
17. Hanser Alberto – IF
18. Nick Martinez – OF
19. Drew Robinson – OF
20. Patrick Cantwell – C
So, as you can see, the Rangers are stocked with outfield potential, a little light on corner infield (outside Olt/Gallo), and taking focus on some level of catching. If everything worked out perfectly (which it won’t), and if every prospect met their potential (which they won’t), the 2016 lineup would look something like this:
1. Profar – SS
2. Kinsler – DH
3. Beras – LF
4. Gallo – 1B
5. Olt – 3B
6. Brinson – CF
7. Alfaro – C
8. Guzman – RF
9. Odor – 2B
Ridiculous, I know. Many of those players will either be traded, fall off the prospect map, or injuries will derail their careers. That, and the Rangers will have a ton of money to spend, so they won’t have to use a lineup featuring 6 guys making the league minimum.
Regardless, there’s a terribly bright future for the Rangers, and it only helps to have this many guys on the way.