In my opinion, the Rangers system is made up of several tiers. The first tier houses prospects like Justin Smoak and Martin Perez, guys that usually find their way onto most Top 100 lists. The second tier is usually for guys who don't quite have first tier ceilings, but still possess immense skill sets and are often mentioned as having major league futures.
The third tier is a long queue of interchangeable prospects that could swap spots depending on a hot streak, promotion, or just gut feeling. These players could evolve into a higher echelon of prospect or they could eventually fade into the attritional fog. Fourth tier players usually have major question marks surrounding their prospect status, either as a result of a limited professional record, age (young/old), and/or skill set translations.
1. 1B Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak is clearly one of the best position prospects in all of baseball. His combination of patience and power potential could make him a devastating hitter in the middle of a major league line-up. His defense has been a bit of a disappointment so far, but given his work ethic, he should eventually be an above-average defensive first-baseman at the highest level.
2. RHP Neftali Feliz
Feliz still has one of the best fastballs in professional baseball. His comps, while still not where they need to be to find continued success at the major league level, have shown signs of improvement. Now pitching out of the pen, Feliz should see Arlington before August, with hopes that his improved fastball command makes the trip with him.
3. LHP Martin Perez
Perez has surpassed all the expectations I had for his '09 season. His stuff continues to improve and his maturity on and off the field only further highlight how remarkable this 18-year-old Venezuelan really is. Perez is the Elvis Andrus of the mound and will probably see major league action before his 21st birthday.
4. RHP Tanner Scheppers*
The 6'4'' righty with a major league fastball was a steal for the Rangers with the 44th pick in the 2009 draft. Scheppers comes with a hefty price tag and some medical concerns, but if healthy, he has the potential to develop into a very good major league pitcher.
5. LHP Matthew Purke*
Projectable southpaw with top of the rotation stuff, 18-year-old Matthew Purke was the 14th overall selection in the 2009 draft. From a three-quarter release he fires low-to-mid-90s heat that has the potential to develop into a plus-plus pitch. His breaking ball isn't consistent, but certainly a pitch that has flashed plus potential, and I've heard encouraging reports about his change-up.
6. RHP Wilmer Font
Font's fastball, while not nearly as effortless as Feliz's, might be every bit as good. His comps are slowly working their way into shape, although he still has a considerable amount of progress to make. His command isn't there yet, but considering Font lost most of the 2008 season to injuries and issues, his development is on course. Font is setting himself up to explode as a prospect in 2010, where he will most likely begin the season in the High A rotation, pitching as a 19-year-old
7. RHP Michael Main
I know, I know. How can I possibly rank Main this high after the season he has had? Well, that's easy for me to answer: Stuff. It's true that Main has suffered through another season full of setbacks, but that doesn't alter his potential, in my opinion. When healthy, Main possesses a lighting quick arm that generates low-mid 90s heat, that can be very difficult for right-handed batters to handle. His curveball, a pitch that has flashed plus potential and will eventually grade out that high, has stumbled this season, along with everything else in Main's arsenal. Assuming Main comes back healthy, his rise up the system is not going to be a stop-a-year, slow-burn situation. If he does indeed come back at 100 percent, Main has the stuff to move quickly.
8. RHP Blake Beavan
I wasn't sure where/how to rank Beavan. There are days that I think he will be an innings eating horse that provides value at the back of a major league rotation, and then there are days when I think his arsenal isn't going to be enough to have sustained success at that level. As it stands now, Beavan's stuff isn't good enough. I think his fastball can play in the low-90s -- assuming it actually can sit there -- thanks in part to his exceptional command of the pitch. His change-up has potential (I actually like this pitch quite a bit), but his slider is not a major league-quality pitch. He is still very young and he still has time to improve, but with 200-plus minor league innings already under his belt, I would have hoped to see his once electric stuff start to make a spark.
9. OF Julio Borbon
Borbon is going to be a fantastic defensive outfielder at the major league level. Unfortunately, Borbon is probably not going to be a fantastic hitter at the major league level. He is going to make good contact, which should eventually allow him to hit in the .285-.300 range, and his 70--grade speed will make him a force on the bases, but don't expect much power production from Borbon. Assuming he can reach base at a 35 percent clip (which I think might be a stretch), Borbon could be a long-term starter for the Texas Rangers. If his bat doesn't offer much at the next level, his defense and speed will still make him a valuable player to have on the 25-man roster.
10. RHP Joseph Wieland
Follow me: Wieland's raw stuff isn't great, but it's good, but it could eventually end up better than just good, but still probably not great, but thanks to his pitchability, it might appear great, when it's only really good. Got it? Good.
11. RHP Wilfredo Boscan: Incredible fastball command and change-up are strong suits. He just needs time to develop as a pitcher.
12. OF Engel Beltre: Gifted outfielder will need more time to refine his tools. He will play the entire 2010 season at age 20. His future is still very bright.
13. RHP Tommy Hunter: Big framed pitcher with excellent curveball and ability to throw strikes. Might end up in the back of a rotation with new cutter and more effective change-up.
14. RHP Omar Poveda: Tall righty with improving curveball and Bugs Bunny change-up. Will need to continue to refine his command to find success at the major league level.
15. LHP Kasey Kiker: Diminutive southpaw with good comps, but a shrinking fastball. Seems destined for the pen.
16. C Max Ramirez: Injuries have sapped Max in '09. If healthy, he should once again become a name to throw into the 25-man mix.
17. LHP Robbie Ross: Filthy stuff from the 5' 11'' fireballer; velo reports have him sitting in the low-90s with the ability to go get more when necessary and a nasty slider.
18. RHP Guillermo Moscoso: The slender fastball wizard with low-90s velocity and video game movement to go along with impressive command. His comps have improved, but his fastball alone will make him a very good bullpen arm.
19. RHP Carlos Pimentel: Underrated pitcher with solid, yet unspectacular stuff across the board. He doesn't turn 20 until December and still has physical projection.
20. OF/1B Mitch Moreland: Light-tower power, but limited on defense and questions about how his swing will translate against major league quality pitching.
21. RHP Neil Ramirez: The oft-injured righty still has great raw stuff, but lacks the consistency and polish to put it all together. Ramirez is in danger of getting swallowed up by the depth of the system.
22. RHP Pedro Strop: Electric stuff but has mechanical issues that would make B.J. Ryan uncomfortable (okay, they aren't that bad). Strop has the stuff to be an elite bullpen arm if he can put it all together and remain clean in the process.
23. RHP Warner Madrigal: Madrigal still has an excellent fastball/slider combo and will continue to improve as he gains more experience. Don't forget, he is still relatively new to pitching. His raw stuff allowed him to advanced faster than people expected and it most certainly affected his development as a pitcher.
24. OF Tim Smith: Interesting player. I think Smith is a bit of a tweener; his glove isn't good enough for center field and his bat isn't good enough for a corner. Some will argue that his bat will eventually play at a major league corner, and I think that is entirely possible if he continues to improve at this rate. That said, I just don't see Smith being an everyday player at the major league level. His hit tool is very good and he has some power potential, but the full package just isn't there.
25. LHP Michael Kirkman: Limited ceiling, but has the stuff to start.
26. OF Mike Bianucci: I need to see him at higher levels before I jump on the bandwagon. Solid athlete with power, but I'm not sure if the tools will be strong enough to play as he climbs.
27. RHP Braden Tullis: Sleeper prospect from '09 draft. Pay attention to this kid!
28. RHP Matt Thompson: Young arm with huge curveball and improving heater.
29. LHP Edwin Escobar: Projectable lefty with a 12.75 K/9 in his first 12 AZL innings. This kid has serious potential. Did I mention he was 17?
30. C Manny Pina: Good defensive catcher whose bat isn't as good as people think.
31. OF Greg Golson: Best athlete in the system; Golson has the tools to be a superstar, but the chances of that happening are very slim. Would make an excellent 5th outfielder for most teams in baseball.
32. RHP Fabio Castillo: Power righty whose stuff is finally starting to blossom out of the pen.
33. C Tomas Telis: Switch hitting catcher with contact ability and pop in his bat.
34. RHP Richard Alvarez: 16-year-old Venezuelan with developing stuff and excellent make-up.; currently pitching in the AZL.
35. OF Miguel Velazquez: Toolsy outfielder playing developmental catch-up.
[Baseball Time in Arlington's in-depth composite Top 25 mid-season prospect rankings will drop next Monday morning. Stay tuned.]