The Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.
The Sopranos, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and The Wire.
Cobb, Ruth, Williams, and Mantle.
Feliz, Perez, Scheppers, and Smoak.
How you rank each list is based more on personal taste than upon clear differences in worth. We expect that you will likely have an opinion that differs from our consensus for the Rangers' Big Four. And five years from now, we might still be arguing about who is the best major league player. But rest assured, if injuries do not derail their careers, Neftali Feliz, Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, and Justin Smoak will be major league ball players.
After graduating Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon, Chris Davis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Taylor Teagarden, and Brandon Boggs to the major leagues in the past two seasons and losing Eric Hurley to injury, the Rangers' minor league system has fewer well-known prospects in the No. 5-10 range than it has in the past few years. But the system remains a powerhouse, with no fewer than 30 players above the rookie league with realistic chances of becoming effective major leaguers. Since deciding to emphasize the acquisition and development of young players in 2007, it can be argued that the Rangers have created the most productive minor league system in baseball.
The strength of the Rangers' system is its pitching. Feliz, Perez, and Scheppers headline a group of five or six pitchers who profile as potential No. 1 or No. 2 starters. At least ten additional pitchers are candidates to develop into major league starters. Unlike the last few years, more than half of the Rangers' top 25 prospects should begin 2010 in AA-ball or higher, and many figure to impact the major league team during the upcoming season.
The system has fewer compelling position players than in years past, though Smoak, Mitch Moreland, Max Ramirez, Tomas Telis, Miguel Velazquez, Engel Beltre, and a few players who failed to make BBTiA's Top 25 Prospects list (like Luis Sardinas, Marcus Lemon, Greg Golson, Tommy Mendonca, Vin DiFazio, Michael Bianucci, David Paisano, "Macumba," and Leury Garcia) figure to keep things interesting.
ABOUT THE RANKINGS
The statistics presented in tabular form are restricted to the minor league performances of the indicated players. In addition to ranking the top 25 prospects in the Rangers system, the BBTiA team placed the prospects in tiers based upon what we predict the players will become during their peak major league seasons, assuming that they avoid significant injuries. Descriptions for each of the prospect tiers are provided below. For players like Engel Beltre and Pedro Strop, who have a broad range of possible career outcomes, we chose the midpoint of our expectations.
TIER 1 PROSPECTS
Elite prospects who are expected to develop into above-average to All-Star-caliber starting pitchers, closers, or position players. Tier 1 prospects combine excellent scouting reports and demonstrated production against talented and often more mature competition.
No. 1: RHP Neftali Feliz | DoB: 05/02/88 | 6′ 3″, 180 lb.
Acquired via: Trade for 1B Mark Teixeira, LHP Ron Mahay (07/31/07)
David: #2 | Trip: #1 | Joey: #1
Stuff: One of the best fastballs in baseball; plus curveball; potentially plus change-up
● As noted here, Feliz made opposing major league hitters swing like pitchers in 2009. Most indications are that Baseball America will rank Feliz among the top 10 prospects in baseball going into the 2010 season. If he transitions to the starting rotation, he won't match the 1.74 ERA, 11.3 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 that he posted as a reliever in his first major league season. Feliz projects as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher with strong ground ball and strikeout rates.
● FanGraphs calculated Feliz's fastball and curveball to be worth 3.13 and 1.85 wins per 100 pitches, respectively. Both are currently plus pitches, with his fastball ranking second in value among all major league pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched in 2009. If he learns to command his change-up (minus-0.18 wins per 100 pitches), it figures to be a plus pitch as well due to its outstanding movement (minus-8.4 inches horizontal, 3.8 inches vertical).
● "The command needs work, and the velocity will come down a bit when he transitions back to the rotation, but Neftali Feliz is going to be a pain in our ass for a long, long time. Did I mention he's 21?" (Jeff Sullivan, Lookout Landing)
● Need a reminder of how awesome Neftali is? Check out Drew Sheppard's masterpiece.
No: 2: LHP Martin Perez | DoB: 04/04/91 | 6′ 0″, 178 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2007)
David: #1 | Trip: #2 | Joey: #2
Stuff: Low-to-mid-90s fastball; curveball and change-up that are developing into plus pitches
● Ground balls. Strikeouts. Outstanding control for an 18-year-old. Plus fastball and two potentially plus secondary pitches. And he's left-handed. Everything about Martin Perez's profile screams top-of-the-rotation pitcher (or TORP, for short).
● After ranking Perez the No. 1 prospect in the South Atlantic League (SAL) in 2009, Baseball America will likely rank the young left-hander among the top 25 prospects in baseball entering 2010.
● Perez had five starts in the Double-A Texas League and, after getting knocked around a bit in his first start, held his own (3.50 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, and .280 BAA) against hitters who were, on average, six years older than he.
● "Fair or not, there seemed to be only one apt comparison for the SAL's youngest pitcher: Johan Santana. Everything from Perez's frame to his delivery mimic Santana. What's more, both are Venezuelan lefthanders who sit at 92-94 mph and touch 96 [mph] with their fastballs. By improving his change-up to a plus pitch, Perez took another step to support the Santana comparisons. He's confident enough to throw the change-up in any count and utilizes great hand speed to create deception. He also throws a sharp, late-breaking curveball at 75-78 mph." (Matt Forman, Baseball America)
No. 3: 1B Justin Smoak | DoB: 12/05/86 | 6′ 4″, 220 lb.
Acquired via: 2008 MLB Draft, 1st Round (11th overall)
David: #3 | Trip: #3 | Joey: #3
Stuff: Switch-hitter with excellent on-base skills and power, good hands and footwork at first base, relatively slow runner
Stuff: Switch-hitter with power from both sides; excellent plate discipline and above-average defense at first base; below-average foot speed
● Baseball America rated Smoak the second-best prospect in the Texas League and the ninth-best prospect in the Pacific Coast League, and will likely rank him among the top 20 prospects in baseball entering 2010.
● Despite struggling after returning from an oblique injury and a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, Smoak still finished 2009 with almost as many walks as strikeouts and an on-base percentage north of .400. His slugging percentage was much better before his injury (.489 vs. .356) and should return in 2010.
● If there is a chink in the armor, it is Smoak's relative ineffectiveness against left-handed pitchers (.211/.302/.328 in 116 at-bats in 2009).
● "A complete hitter who should hit for both average and power, Smoak shows a great deal of confidence at the plate. He's patient and shows a good approach and pitch recognition. Smoak has Gold Glove potential at first base but is a below-average runner who never will be an asset on the bases." (Will Lingo, Baseball America)
No. 4: RHP Tanner Scheppers | DoB: 01/17/87 | 6' 4", 170 lb.
Acquired via: 2009 MLB Draft, 1st Round (44th overall)
David: #4 | Trip: #4 | Joey: #4
Stuff: Mid-to-upper-90s fastball; plus curveball, slider, and change-up
● When he can consistently command his fastball and curveball, Scheppers figures to have two plus pitches at his disposal. Whether he can add a usable change-up will likely determine whether he becomes a starter or a closer in the major leagues.
● Scheppers' fastball doesn't have a lot of movement, especially when he leaves it up in the strike zone. Improved command will allow him to pitch low in the zone and provide a nice downward trajectory due to his high release point.
● Scheppers' one weakness in college was his control, as he walked nearly four hitters per nine innings including 4.3 BB/9 as a junior at Fresno State. He walked four batters in 11 innings during his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League.
● "Tanner Scheppers, a supplemental pick by the Texas Rangers this year who signed for first-round money, was even more impressive than [Andrew] Cashner, sitting at 95-98 [mph] with a vicious curveball with hard, late two-plane break. He appeared to be amped up for the short outing; I doubt he'd sit at that velocity as a starter, but even 92-95 [mph] with that breaking ball would get hitters out multiple times per game. His arm works well, and his potential to be a front-line starter is really just a question of the state of his shoulder." (Keith Law, ESPN.com)
● Video evidence of the awesomeness of Scheppers' fastball (thanks to NothinG for the video-cropping wizardry).
TIER 2 PROSPECTS
Excellent prospects who are expected to develop into average to above-average starting pitchers, closers, or position players or well above-average late-inning relievers. Tier 2 prospects are typically upper-level prospects with elite talent but an apparent flaw, or lower-level prospects with Tier 1 ceilings but insufficient track records to be considered elite.
No. 5: RHP Michael Main | DoB: 12/14/88 | 6′ 1″, 170 lb.
Acquired via: 2007 MLB Draft, 1st Round (24th overall)
David: #7 | Trip: #5 | Joey: #5
Stuff: Low-to-mid-90s fastball; tight curveball; potentially above-average change-up
● Coming into the season, Main's strikeout rate (10.3 K/9), hit rate (7.3 H/9) and ERA (2.91) were among the best in the Rangers' system. Only his 3.4 BB/9 appeared to need improvement. Pitching sick in the High-A California League did no favors to Main's career numbers. Main was excellent when he returned to pitch in two Arizona League and two California League games (7.0 IP, 9 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 0 ER).
● "Main already has two plus pitches, with a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph, and an easy plus curveball that is often unhittable. He's one of the most athletic pitchers in the game." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
● "He's a real athletic kid, and played center field in high school," said farm director Scott Servais. "His fastball's got life, late life in the zone. There are times this spring it's been up to 95 [mph]," Servais said. "(The over-the-head) helps him get going in his delivery, as a timing mechanism." Main appeared very comfortable with it, working quick innings, burying his fastball down in the zone. It'll be key, especially as he begins to work in a change-up. "It's been OK. It's going to be a work in progress for him all year," Servais said." (Kary Booher, Baseball America)
No. 6: RHP Danny Gutierrez | DoB: 03/08/87 | 6′ 1″, 180 lb.
Acquired via: Trade for C Manuel Pina, OF Tim Smith (09/03/09)
David: #6 | Trip: #8 | Joey: #7
Stuff: Low-to-mid-90s fastball; plus curveball; developing change-up
● Armed with a plus curveball and a fastball that touched 97 mph in the Arizona Fall League, Gutierrez could become an elite reliever. If he can develop what appears to be a promising change-up, then his major league future might be as a No. 2 or No. 3 starting pitcher.
● Off-the-field issues and a history of arm injuries keep Gutierrez from being ranked as a Tier 1 prospect.
● "Acquired from Kansas City late in the year, Gutierrez has the stuff to be a sure-fire top pitching prospect, but also a disturbing history of injuries and off-field issues. So why would a team be interested in him? Well, because he can get it up to 94 mph, he can sink it, he can cut it, and he'll flash you a quality breaking ball pretty regularly." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
● Video evidence of the awesomeness of Gutierrez's curveball (thanks to NothinG for the video cropping wizardry)
No. 7: RHP Wilmer Font | DoB: 05/24/90 | 6′ 4″, 235 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2006)
David: #9 | Trip: #7 | Joey: #6
Stuff: Mid-90's fastball, developing curveball and change-up
● After barely taking the mound in 2008, Font's most important 2009 statistic was this -- 108 innings pitched.
● Font has the raw stuff to become an elite pitching prospect. Pitching as an 18-/19-year old with fewer than 50 innings of professional experience, Font held the relatively experienced hitters in the South Atlantic League to a .231 batting average. Jason Cole and others reported that the fire-balling right-hander was making progress with his secondary pitches. Improved command of his three pitches will likely allow Font to improve his walk and ground ball rates and take his place among the more intriguing pitching prospects in baseball.
● Trip's review of Font's pitching mechanics can be viewed here.
● ESPN.com's Keith Law, in response to a chat room question regarding Font's upside and potential to make a Feliz-esque impact: "Yes -- the stuff is almost as good as Feliz's, perhaps equal to it, and the delivery's a little better suited to starting. But missing a whole year with arm and weight issues really hurts your prospect status until you show they're behind you."
TIER 3 PROSPECTS
Very good prospects who are expected to develop into average starting pitchers or position players or above-average relievers. Tier 3 prospects are typically upper-level prospects with demonstrated minor league production but limited tools, lower-level prospects with great tools but limited minor league production, or productive lower-level prospects with tools that are expected to improve as they grow older.
No. 8: OF Mitch Moreland | DoB: 09/06/85 | 6' 2", 230 lb.
Acquired via: 2007 MLB Draft, 17th Round (530th overall)
David: #10 | Trip: #6 | Joey: #8
Stuff: Left-handed hitter with power to all fields and excellent bat control; advanced plate approach with an ability to fight off tough pitches; relatively slow runner
● Moreland can hit a baseball. A long way. To all fields. He can also take a walk. And he doesn't give away at-bats (13 percent strikeout rate). All things considered, Moreland might be the Rangers' best minor league hitter after ranking among the top five hitters in the Midwest League (2008), California League (2009), and Texas League (2009). Trip's and David's takes on Moreland can be found here and here.
● Moreland lacks the foot speed to be an average defensive outfielder. He will need to increase his power output to be considered a full-time designated hitter or first baseman, though his preference to shorten up and go the other way when he is behind in the count will likely make it difficult for him to ever hit more than 25 home runs in the majors. His future will likely be as a part-time player who will get 400 major league at-bats while filling in at designated hitter, first base, and right field.
● Assuming they all begin 2010 in AAA-ball, Moreland, Smoak, and Max Ramirez should provide the RedHawks with a formidable 3-4-5 and the Rangers with a collection of call-ups who can provide a jolt of offense if needed.
● "A big time sleeper in the Rangers system, Moreland just keeps on hitting. He gradually reduced his numbers of doubters throughout the season, and he continues to do so in Arizona." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
● A short video clip of Moreland going the other way at Double-A Frisco can be found here. This is fairly typical of a Moreland at bat.
No. 9: LHP Robbie Ross | DoB: 06/24/89 | 6' 0", 170 lb.
Acquired via: 2008 MLB Draft, 2nd Round (57th overall)
David: #5 | Trip: #13 | Joey: #9
Stuff: Low-90s fastball; above-average slider; developing change-up
● Armed with what his catcher called an electric fastball, Ross had a spectacular first half in short-season Spokane (2.25 ERA, 12.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 5.2 GB/FB). In the second half, Ross lost some zip on his fastball and his numbers fell into the "very good" range (3.00 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 2.8 GB/FB). Assuming he can improve his stamina, Ross has the strikeout/ground ball/control profile of a TORP. If his fastball settles in as a low-90s offering with sink, then he figures to have a future as a mid-rotation lefty.
● As you can see here, Ross is extremely aggressive on the mound and seemingly every pitch that he throws crosses the plate at an angle in the lower half of the strike zone.
● Baseball America ranked Ross as the top pitching prospect and seventh-best prospect in the Northwest League in 2009.
● "Despite being a 5-foot-11 southpaw, Ross is actually a power arm with plus control, as he has been clocked up to 94 mph so far this summer while showing potential with his slider and change-up." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
● "Nearly every manager agreed that Ross was the best pitcher they faced this year. Ross touched 93-94 mph early in the summer before beginning to tire, and he sat at 90-92 [mph] for much of the year. He keeps his fastball down and it has good run. He hides the ball well and is especially tough on lefthanders. Ross still is working to refine his secondary offerings. He has a feel for a slider with sharp break and also mixes in a changeup, though he can get underneath his pitches at times. At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he doesn't have an ideal pitcher's frame and will need to get stronger so he can work deeper into games, especially over the grind of a full season." (Conor Glassey, Baseball America)
No. 10: RHP Omar Poveda | DoB: 09/28/87 | 6′ 4″, 200 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2004)
David: #13 | Trip: #9 | Joey: #10
Stuff: 90-94 mph four-seam fastball; two-seam fastball, curveball, plus change-up
● Prior to 2009, Poveda was a fly ball/strikeout pitcher with career marks of 0.85 GB/FB and 8.9 K/9. In 2009, Poveda morphed into a ground ball/pitch-to-contact pitcher (1.20 GB/FB and 5.0 K/9). With three average pitches and a plus change-up, Poveda appears near-ready for a shot at major league hitters. If his change-up proves to be a legitimate out pitch, he could develop into a solid No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher for the Rangers.
● Trip provides a really nice review of Poveda's (and Kasey Kiker's) pitching repertoires here.
● The Rangers figure to use the second of Poveda's three minor league options in 2010 and provide him with a big league audition in September, if not before.
● Poveda's pitching motion is not the prettiest you'll see, but it does produce a nice downhill plane when he keeps the ball low in the strike zone.
No. 11: C/DH Max Ramirez | DoB: 10/11/84 | 5′ 11″, 175 lb.
Acquired via: Trade for OF Kenny Lofton (07/27/07)
David: #8 | Trip: #17 | Joey: #11
Stuff: High on-base percentage with power; defensively limited
● Hitters don't just stop hitting, do they? After putting up one of the most impressive seasons ever by a Rangers minor league hitter (.347/.439/.628 in 2008), Ramirez was terrible in 2009. A wrist injury was apparently to blame. Ramirez's high ranking is based on the belief that he will return to his career averages in 2010 and regain his status as one of the Rangers; top position prospects.
● Ramirez's arm will likely always render him a below-average defensive catcher, but he looked more comfortable blocking balls in the dirt in 2009 than he did in 2008. It is a little thing, but being able to catch 2-4 games per week without being a liability significantly increases Ramirez's value.
● "Ramirez works counts and drives the ball to all fields. He should produce for average and power, and his bat could carry him at a less challenging defensive position. It may have to, because questions linger about whether Ramirez can stick at catcher." (Kary Booher, Baseball America)
No. 12: RHP Guillermo Moscoso | DoB: 11/14/83 | 6′ 1″, 165 lb.
Acquired via: Trade for C Gerald Laird (December 2008)
David: #12 | Trip: #12 | Joey: #12
Stuff: Deceptive 90-92 mph fastball, curveball, change-up
● Moscoso was solid in 14 innings as a major league pitcher in 2009 with a 3.21 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and .275 BAA. His fastball velocity was slightly below average (90.7 mph), but it played up due to decent movement. Moscoso used his curveball (29 percent) and change-up (10 percent) liberally. He's not going to be overpowering, but he figures to be an effective major league pitcher despite giving up too many fly balls.
● Moscoso's consistent old-for-league performances make it difficult to draw conclusions about his spectacular minor league numbers. Though he has been healthy for the past two seasons, Moscoso's past injury history and unspectacular stuff suggest that he is likely better suited for the bullpen.
● "He won't impress anyone on pure stuff, but the command of his 90-92 mph fastball is outstanding, and nothing comes out his hand straight. Many scouts like him better as a potential reliever, but with a 1.04 ERA in five games for the RedHawks, there's no reason to move him there yet." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
No. 13: C Tomas Telis | DoB: 06/18/91 | 5′ 8″, 175 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2007)
David: #11 | Trip: #15 | Joey: #13
Stuff: Switch-hitter with excellent bat control, a line drive stroke, and developing power; former shortstop is athletic but still raw as a catcher
● Telis doesn't have trouble getting the bat on the ball (14 percent strikeout rate) and he showed good power as an 18-year-old with 12 doubles, five triples and four home runs in 203 plate appearances between rookie-league Arizona and short-season Spokane. His walk rate in 2009 was atrocious (1.8 percent), which is surprising given that he was lauded for an advanced plate approach as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, where he had a very impressive 9.6 percent walk rate. Improved plate discipline and defense separate Telis from Top 100 prospect status.
● Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in the Arizona Rookie League following the 2009 season: "Telis, who hit .322 in his first season in the United States, makes consistent contact and gets good carry on the ball. He won't be a big power hitter, but he could hit 15-20 homers per years once he learns that a few more strikeouts will be acceptable as long as he drives the ball. He's still very raw as a catcher and needs to dedicate himself to improving his defense. Despite average arm strength and a quick release, he threw out just 19 percent of AZL basestealers." (Bill Mitchell, Baseball America)
No. 14: OF Miguel Velazquez | DoB: 05/15/88 | 6' 2", 205 lb.
Acquired via: 2006 MLB Draft, 19th Round (568th overall)
David: #19 | Trip: #11 | Joey: #14
Stuff: Five-tool talent with outstanding bat speed and a strong arm
● After missing two seasons dealing with a legal problem, Velazquez returned this season with an advanced approach at the plate and outstanding power. He is not quite as fast as Engel Beltre or Greg Golson, but his arm is in the same class, and he has better power. A walk rate of nearly 10 percent against a strikeout rate of approximately 20 percent makes Velazquez the player among those three who is most likely to realize his potential.
● Ranked by Baseball America as the 10th-best prospect in the Northwest League following the 2009 season: "Velzaquez showed five-tool potential. Pitchers pounded him with breaking balls, but he has a good approach and his above-average bat speed produces hard line drives and power to all fields. He has good speed, though he needs to work on his jumps on the bases and in right field, and a strong, accurate arm.
"He had some issues, but we knew that when we signed the player," Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. "He got some issues cleaned up off the field and we're glad to have him back. He's a very talented kid and there have been no issues this year. He's made quite a bit of progress maturity-wise and has a bright future ahead of him." (Conor Glassey, Baseball America)
No. 15: RHP Pedro Strop | DoB: 06/13/85 | 6' 0", 160 lb.
Acquired via: Minor league free agency (October/November 2007)
David: #16 | Trip: #14 | Joey: #15
Stuff: Low-to-mid-90s fastball and split finger fastball that rate as plus when thrown low in the strike zone; average slider
● In his first seven major league innings, Strop struck out nine, walked four and gave up six earned runs. Pitch f/x clocked his fastball at 95 mph, his slider at 83.4 mph and his split finger at 86.3 mph. The sample size was very small, but according to FanGraphs, Strop's fastball (1.05 wins per 100 pitches) and splitter (2.51 wins per 100 pitches) rated as plus, while his slider was a below -average pitch (minus-2.18 wins per 100 pitches).
● Strop seems to be better when he is asked to pitch a single inning. When he is on, he keeps the ball low in the zone and forces ground balls with his sinking fastball and strikeouts with his splitter and slider. He has the stuff to be an All-Star-caliber closer. His health and how his command develops will determine if he reaches that ceiling.
No. 16: LHP Kasey Kiker | DoB: 11/19/87 | 5′ 10″, 170 lb.
Acquired via: 2006 MLB Draft, 1st Round (12th overall)
David: #14 | Trip: #19 | Joey: #17
Stuff: 87-94 mph fastball; average curveball; above-average change-up
● Baseball America ranked Kiker as the No. 11 prospect in the Texas League after he led the league's starting pitchers with an 8.5 K/9 strikeout rate and placed second in BAA (.219). By most accounts, his change-up has developed into an above-average to plus pitch.
● As evidenced by his strikeout, hit and home run rates, hitters have a hard time making solid contact against Kiker. Unfortunately, continuing control problems and fly ball tendencies likely mean that his major league future is in the bullpen. With his combination of stuff and moxie, it is possible that Kiker could one day take over for C.J. Wilson as the Rangers' late-inning lefty.
● "At his best, Kiker works with a sharp 90-93 mph fastball, though he pitched more at 88-90 [mph] later in the year. Kiker's changeup is a legitimate plus pitch, and he flashes an average curveball. Managers also liked his willingness to work inside. Skeptics see Kiker as an undersized lefty who will end up in the bullpen. He has issues with his angle to the plate, so he sometimes leaves the ball up in the zone. He's developing better touch and feel, however, and is such a strong competitor that he should continue to improve." (Will Lingo, Baseball America)
No. 17: SS Jurickson Profar | DoB: Unknown (16 y.o.) | 5' 11", 165 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2009)
David: #25 | Trip: #10 | Joey: #16
Stuff: Athletic, switch-hitting shortstop with a low-90s fastball and above-average slider; Jamey Newberg reported from the Fall Instructional League that Profar has outstanding speed.
● Baseball America rated the switch-hitting shortstop from Curacao as the 15th-best prospect in Latin America this year. The Rangers liked him enough to dole out the largest signing bonus the team has ever paid to an undrafted, international free agent ($1.55 million).
● Profar appears to have the athleticism and arm to play shortstop in the major leagues. He apparently displayed power during batting practice in Arlington, reportedly hitting balls over the outfield fence as both a right-handed and left-handed hitter.
● "As a position player, Profar has very intriguing tools. I was told by a scout that his glove, while obviously still raw (after all, he is only 16 years old), has a chance to develop into an above-average major league tool to match his already established plus arm. His bat, which was originally a question mark for some teams, has started to turn heads and has been deemed much better than advertised." (Jason Parks, Baseball Time in Arlington)
No. 18: RHP Blake Beavan | DoB: 01/17/89 | 6′ 7″, 250 lb.
Acquired via: 2007 MLB Draft, 1st Round (17th overall)
David: #15 | Trip: #20 | Joey: #18
Stuff: Outstanding control of 87-90 mph two-seamer; 89-92 mph four-seamer; potentially above-average change-up
● Outstanding control and a roughly 50 percent ground ball rate have allowed Beavan to be a productive starter despite a pedestrian strikeout rate and opponents' batting averages of .264 at High-A Bakersfield and .309 at Double-A Frisco.
● In Bakersfield Beavan's strikeout rate was a respectable 6.3 K/9. After his promotion to Frisco, his strikeout rate plummeted to 3.4 K/9.
● Beavan's statistical profile mirrors that of Tommy Hunter. Outstanding command should allow him to develop an array of pitches that can keep major league hitters off-balance, though his major league ceiling is likely a No. 3 starting pitcher.
● "He's only 20 years old and he's in the Texas League, he throws a lot of strikes, he's not afraid to challenge hitters, and he has enough stuff to make it work," said the scout, while adding that Beavan has become a much more complete pitcher this year, and one more comfortable with his secondary offerings. "When I saw him last year at [Single-A] Clinton, he threw maybe one changeup for me, and this year a threw a bunch and has a real feel for it; the Rangers have done a nice job backing him off the power game and turning him into a guy with a good mix of pitches."
So while he's morphed into something unexpected, the scout was still bullish on Beavan's future, stating, "It's not a top of the rotation special prospect package, but it's a nice big guy with strikes and three pitches who should eat up a lot of innings." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
No. 19: RHP Joseph Wieland | DoB: 01/21/90 | 6' 3", 175 lb.
Acquired via: 2008 MLB Draft, 4th Round (123rd overall)
David: #21 | Trip: #18 | Joey: #19
Stuff: Low-90s sinking fastball; potentially plus curveball; developing change-up
● Features three above-average pitches and exhibits unusually good control for a 19-year-old.
● Reports from Hickory indicate that Wieland's fastball velocity crept into the mid-9s in 2009. His ERA and WHIP were extremely high due to a .367 BABIP that was well above the .315 BABIP that the other pitchers in the South Atlantic League posted.
● 3.0 and 1.5 are the targets for K:BB and GB:FB ratios for young starting pitchers. Through two seasons, Wieland's ratios are 3.5 and 1.32. Increasing his strikeout rate would solidify Wieland's standing among the top prospects in the Rangers' system.
● Trip liked what he saw from Wieland during 2009 spring training in Arizona.
No. 20: OF Engel Beltre | DoB: 11/01/89 | 6′ 1″, 169 lb.
Acquired via: Trade for RHP Eric Gagne (07/31/07)
David: #20 | Trip: #27 | Joey: #20
Stuff: Legitimate five-tool player; poor plate discipline
● Beltre's 4.3 percent walk rate in 2009 was an improvement over 2008 when he walked in only 2.5 percent of his plate appearances. A similarly significant improvement in 2010 would help relieve concerns about Beltre's plate approach.
● Although it is fair to argue that Beltre's performance as a 19-year-old in a league where the average player was 23 years old makes it difficult to actually gauge his true skill level, it is difficult not to be concerned about an isolated power that was less than 100 points -- especially for someone who is considered to be a special prospect due to his combination of speed and power.
● Beltre's batting average and slugging percentage were suppressed by a .282 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that was approximately 40 points below the league average. Had he matched the .334 BABIP he compiled in 2008, then his slash line would have been slightly less alarming at approximately .255/.305/.350.
● "I had BP's Kevin Goldstein talk me off the ledge on Beltre while I was putting this list together and he assured me that he continues to hear from opposing scouts -- as recently as this week -- that they are blown away by Beltre's ability and one even came away impressed with Beltre's intensity and desire." (Mike Hindman, D Magazine)
● Video evidence than Beltre can actually work a walk can be found here.
No. 21: LHP Edwin Escobar | DoB: 04/22/92 | 6' 1", 185 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2008)
David: #17 | Trip: #30 | Joey: #22
Stuff: Upper-80s fastball that touched 94 mph in spring training; potentially plus curveball; developing change-up
● Very good combination of strikeouts, ground balls and control. Escobar's numbers as a 17-year-old (the above statistics, plus a fielding-independent ERA of 3.33) were on par with what Wilmer Font (4.53 ERA, 12 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 1.0 GB/FB and 4.99 FIP in Arizona) and Martin Perez (3.65 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.31 GB/FB and 4.26 FIP in Spokane) did as 17-year-olds.
● Escobar struggled in August (5.71 ERA, 7.3 K/9, .316 BAA), but was very good prior to that pitching against hitters who were three years older (average age of 20.7 years).
● "The 17-year-old [he won't turn 18 until late April 2010] showed the ability to touch 94 mph on occasion with the rookie club, although he mostly sat between 87-90 mph. As Escobar develops and matures, his low-90s velocity should become more consistent. He also should develop at least three average pitches, as his 75-78 mph change-up is advanced and has good armside action. Escobar generally goes to his mid-70s curveball for strikeouts. Like most young pitchers, his secondary stuff is far from consistent, but when the curveball is on, it has a hard, tight spin and produces some ugly swings from hitters." (Jason Cole, Scout.com)
No. 22: RHP Braden Tullis | DoB: 01/23/90 | 6' 2", 200 lb.
Acquired via: 2009 MLB Draft, 8th Round (244th overall)
David: #24 | Trip: #28 | Joey: #21
Stuff: 88-92 mph sinker; potentially plus change-up; curveball
● Tullis' ground ball, strikeout, and walk rates almost matched Robbie Ross. And Tullis is six months younger than his short-season Spokane teammate. Tullis' prospect status is lower because he has less juice in his fastball.
● Prior to 2009, Tullis was a high school first baseman and linebacker. He began pitching as a college freshman and then was drafted and signed by the Rangers. Given his lack of pitching experience, it seems likely that he could show significant improvement in the next year or two.
● Like Ross, Tullis is very aggressive on the mound and pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a sinking fastball and change-up.
● Ranked by BA as the 20th-best prospect in the Northwest League following the 2009 season: "Tullis pitches down in the zone with a heavy two-seam fastball that ranges from 88-91 mph. He also mixes in a sharp slider and a changeup that has a chance to be a plus pitch. Despite his inexperience on the mound, he has clean mechanics and advanced feel for pitching. "The thing I like most about him is you can't tell what just happened on the mound," [Spokane manager Tim] Hulett said. "His composure and presence on the mound are really good. You can't tell if he just gave up a three-run home run or struck out two in a row." (Conor Glassey, Baseball America)
● "Tullis is a 19-year-old righty with a powerful frame whose best pitch is an 88-92 mph sinker that generates strikeouts and ground balls, as well as a nice change-up and developing breaking ball." (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
No. 23: LHP Michael Kirkman | DoB: 09/18/86 | 6' 4", 195 lb.
Acquired via: 2005 MLB Draft, 5th Round (159th overall)
David: -- | Trip: #16 | Joey: #23
Stuff: Low-90s fastball, effective slider, slightly below-average curveball and change-up
● After struggling with injuries and control problems for much of his early career, Kirkman broke out at the start of the season at High-A Bakersfield with a 2.06 ERA, 10.1 K/9, and 3.4 BB/9 in 48 innings spanning eight games. His fastball became a consistent low-90s pitch that regularly registered 94 mph. His fastball remained potent upon his promotion to Double-A Frisco, but his numbers were not nearly as impressive (4.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 4.0 BB/9 in 96 innings) as he struggled with his three secondary pitches.
● Kirkman was recently added to the Rangers' 40-man roster, indicating that the team expects the hard-throwing left-hander to continue to develop. Continued development of his slider should help him against left-handers, who hit better against him than right-handers in 2009 (.280 BAA for LH vs .235 BAA for RH). Kirkman could see time in the Rangers' bullpen in 2010.
No. 24: RHP Kennil Gomez | DoB: 04/08/88 | 6' 3", 170 lb.
Acquired via: International free agency (2005)
David: #18 | Trip: -- | Joey: #28
Stuff: Lively low-90s fastball; potentially plus curveball; inconsistent change-up
● Gomez's fastball doesn't have plus velocity, but the tailing action on the pitch is outstanding. If he can keep the pitch low and on the corners, it figures to be at least an above-average pitch.
● Gomez's breaking ball rates as a swing-and-miss pitch, but his change-up remains a work in progress. An improved change-up would help Gomez against left-handed hitters, who combined to hit .304 with 19 doubles and four home runs against him in 2009.
● Gomez suffered from a BABIP of .344 which contributed to an ERA, WHIP, and BAA that were all well above his career averages.
● Gomez's numbers at High-A Bakersfield are reminiscent of those of Kasey Kiker and Omar Poveda. Gomez should similarly benefit from being promoted to Double- Frisco and could develop a bit of hype with his strong strikeout/ground ball rates.
No. 25: RHP Warner Madrigal | DoB: 03/21/84 | 6' 0", 200 lb.
Acquired via: Minor league free agency (11/18/07)
David: #22 | Trip: -- | Joey: #24
Stuff: Low to mid-90s fastball; hard slider
● After a terrible debut against the Yankees when he gave up five earned runs and recorded only a single out, Madrigal was very good out of the Rangers' bullpen in 2008 (3.39 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 5.5 K/9). He was uniformly excellent at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009 (see table above) with an incredible 4.4 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. But Madrigal was awful in the major leagues in 2009 (9.95 ERA, 4.8 BB/9, 5.0 K/9 in 12.2 innings). A key difference between the three performances? A .288 BABIP in the majors in 2008, .287 BABIP in the minors in 2009 and .348 BABIP in the majors in 2009. The disparity between "Good Madrigal" and "Bad Madrigal" likely derives from small sample sizes and the nature of pitching out of the bullpen. Madrigal is due for a strong bounceback in 2010.
● Pitch f/x data suggest that Madrigal lost approximately two mph on both his fastball and slider between 2008 and 2009 and that he added a change-up. FanGraphs grades Madrigal's slider as a plus pitch (3.49 wins and 1.31 wins per 100 pitches in 2008 and 2009, respectively). His fastball rates as slightly below average.
[Just Missed: RHP Richard Alvarez, RHP Wilfredo Boscan, RHP Jake Brigham, IF Marcus Lemon.]