Tomorrow Never Knows: The Present Value of Prospects and Why the Rangers Can Afford to Trade From Depth
Part 1: The Farm System as it stands now
While certainly a top 10 system in all of baseball, the Rangers can no longer brag that their collection of talent resides in the rarified air of the top tier. Thanks in part to the graduations of Neftali Feliz and Mitch Moreland, the trading of Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, Michael Main, and Omar Poveda, the rapid decline of former prospects Kasey Kiker and Danny Gutierrez, and the developmental hurdles encountered by top prospects Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers, the overall ranking of the Texas farm has taken a hit, and the makeup of the system has shifted (somewhat) from high-impact talent to depth. That’s not to say that the minor league system is void of high-impact talent; rather, the farm’s value is more directly tied to depth than in previous years.
Let’s take a closer look at what the Rangers currently have on the farm and assign a basic trade value to each prospect (trade value based on a big ticket return like Greinke, Johnson, etc). I’ll group the players into tiers based on their present value, and give you some brief scouting breakdowns like potential impact, attributes, and red flags. After we’ve established value for the farm, I’ll make a case for why trading prospects for proven major league talent makes sense for the Rangers at the present, and how that could affect the shape of the system in the future.
LHP Martin Perez
Potential impact: Quality #2 starter on a first-division team.
Present value: Top 25 prospect in baseball; primary piece in a trade.
Attributes: Short athletic pitcher with compact delivery, above-average command projection, and three pitches with plus potential. At present, his fastball can sit 92-96 with good lefty movement; his curveball flashes plus at times, and projects to be a 60 grade pitch at maturity; his changeup plays well off his fastball with great shape and tumble, and projects to be above-average with a chance to be well-above-average at peak.
Potential red flags: Lacks physical projection; struggled with command and consistency in 2010; saw fastball velocity ebb and flow during season; the unknowns associated with present age.
RHP Tanner Scheppers
Potential impact: Frontline closer
Present value: Top 50 prospect in baseball; primary piece in trade (although would be secondary if grouped with Perez).
Attributes: Prototypical size and plus athleticism for pitcher. Arsenal features a plus-plus fastball that can touch 99 and rarely dips below 94 mph, even as a starter; plus curveball that I have seen graded as high as 70 on the scouting scale; late-inning demeanor and competitive nature.
Potential red flags: Shoulder injury in 2008; age (will be 24 in 2011); underdeveloped changeup that will limit potential as a starter; spotty command.
OF Engel Beltre
Potential impact: First-division starter in centerfield
Present value: Top 100 prospect in baseball; secondary piece in a trade
Attributes: Projects to have above-average defensive tools at position, with plus range, solid glove and a strong arm; plus speed; plus projections on the hit tool, with excellent contact ability; swing mechanics and hit tool look conducive for some power potential; above-average overall athleticism; faux hawk and dynamic attire.
Potential red flags: Still transitioning from athlete with raw tools to baseball player with on-the-field skills; lacks mature approach at the plate and is overly aggressive; needs refinement with routes in centerfield; needs overall maturity; has yet to produce at Double-A level.
SS Jurickson Profar
Potential Impact: First-division starter in the middle of the infield.
Present value: Top 100 prospect in baseball; secondary piece in trade.
Attributes: Plus-plus makeup; above-average defensive projections, with plus arm, excellent glove, and sound fundamentals; hit tool projects to be above-average from both sides of the plate; solid-average power potential; overall polish and maturity to game.
Potential red flags: Age and experience level; has solid-average to plus projections across the board, but lacks elite upside; some scouts question his bat, suggesting he will struggle against full-season pitching; doesn’t have much physical projection; lacks high-end speed.
LHP Robbie Erlin
Impact potential: Solid-average #3 starter
Present value: Fringe Top 100 Prospect in baseball; tertiary piece in trade
Attributes: Short athletic pitcher with smooth mechanics. Arsenal includes three pitches that grade out solid-average or above; fastball thrown for strikes in the 89-92 range with arm-side movement; curveball is swing-and-miss pitch with excellent depth and vertical movement; changeup has plus potential with deception and fade; maturity and approach beyond his years; plus command/control; extremely positive statistical results in full-season ball.
Potential red flags: Lacks plus fastball velocity; lacks physical projection; has yet to face advanced hitters; overall maturity of arsenal doesn’t leave much to dream on or project.
LHP Michael Kirkman
Potential impact: #4 starter; second-tier setup man
Present value: Top 10 in Rangers system; tertiary piece in trade
Attributes: Plus fastball velocity, sitting in the low 90s but can touch 95 in short bursts; plus potential slider that plays well off fastball and has good tilt; once-promising curveball flashes potential and could become second above-average secondary pitch; excellent size and sound mechanics; major league experience and success.
Potential red flags: Spotty command at present and lacks above-average projection; changeup is underdeveloped with average future grades; lacks true wipeout pitch; lacks high-impact upside.
SS Luis Sardinas
Potential impact: First-division starter at shortstop
Present value: Top 10 in Rangers system; tertiary player in trade.
Attributes: Plus defensive projections, with strong arm, slick glove, and excellent range; solid-average projection on hit tool, with contact ability and potential to develop gap-to-gap power; Plus speed, with first-step quickness that should allow for stolen bases; plus makeup with strong work ethic and desire to improve.
Potential red flags: Body at present is awkward, and physical projection (as far as strength goes) is limited; doesn’t have much power projection; swing more conducive for contact and slap approach; because of body, speed on the field is inconsistent; some durability concerns; development will take time.
RHP Wilmer Font*
Impact potential: Frontline set-up man; second-tier closer
Present value: On 40-man roster; limited because of TJ; tertiary piece in trade.
Attributes: Electric fastball that will sit 92-96 in the rotation and touch 99 in short relief busts; changeup has plus potential and started to develop in 2010, showing good fading action and deception out of hand; tall with long arms, that give him ability to create angle to arsenal; youth.
Potential red flags: Underwent Tommy John surgery last month; underdeveloped curveball that looks more like a slurve because of insufficient arm-speed; lacks above-average command projection; struggles with pacing and pitch sequencing; inconsistent mechanics.
*Font, despite being on the shelf thanks to TJ surgery, and not falling in my overall top 10 (should I decide to rank the prospects in that manner), slots into the third tier in terms of value, which might seem confusing. The reasons: Font’s relatively young age coupled with the fact that before his injury, his fastball was a legit 70 grade pitch that showed 80 grade potential in short bursts out the pen. His command was spotty and his secondary pitches inconsistent, but he can throw serious flamethrower smoke, and that will always have value.
LHP Miguel de los Santos
Impact potential: Late-innings reliever on second division team
Present value: Top 10 in the Rangers system; on 40-man roster; tertiary player in trade
Attributes: Plus fastball velocity that can touch higher in bursts; plus changeup that offers deception and tumbling action; curveball that has above-average potential with big break; can miss bats with all three pitches; mature approach to the mound.
Potential red flags: Only 38 innings in full-season ball; lacks above-average control, and often displays below-average command; curveball is inconsistent and lost development due to underutilization in ’10; physically mature without much additional projection.
RHP Fabio Castillo
Impact potential: Late-innings reliever on second-division team
Present value: On 40-man roster; could end up in top 10 in Rangers system; tertiary piece in trade.
Attributes: Fastball that sits in the 93-97 range, with late life and weight; hard slider thrown in the mid-upper 80s with tilt that misses bats and plays well off fastball. Hard to make solid-contact against; late-inning demeanor.
Potential red flags: Lacks deep arsenal; doesn’t have plus command; struggles with overall control; limited professional success; has yet to show ability to get Double-A hitters out; mechanics that not only affect command potential, but could lead to arm injury.
3B Mike Olt
Impact potential: First-division starter at third base
Present value: Top ten in Rangers system; 2010 Draftee (ineligible for direct inclusion in trade)
Attributes: Above-average defensive projections at third, with strong arm and above-average glove; bat has potential, with above-average bat speed and a sound approach; plus raw strength and power potential; good makeup and work ethic.
Potential red flags: Despite sound approach and bat speed, his hit tool lacks impact projection, and some scouts question his contact ability going forward; lacks speed; 22 years-old and yet to play full-season ball, so questions about competition level exist.
RHP Joseph Wieland
Impact potential: Solid-average #3/4 starter
Present value: Top 10 in Rangers system (underrated prospect); quaternary player in trade.
Attributes: Projects as innings-eating workhouse, thanks to sound mechanics and durable frame. Fastball sits in the low 90s, but can touch 94 with some movement; plus potential curveball with depth and sharp vertical break; excellent present control with above-average command potential; advanced pitchability, with feel for sequence and situation.
Potential red flags: Lacks elite stuff; changeup will flash average at times, but remains inconsistent; lacks wow factor, and some scouts already placed him in command/control box; gives up too many hits.
RHP Matt Thompson
Impact potential: Solid-average #3/4 starter
Present value: Top 15 in Rangers system (underrated prospect); quaternary player in trade.
Attributes: Prototypical size and strength for a starter; fastball thrown in the 90-92 range, but can touch higher in short-bursts; curveball is plus pitch, with depth and sharp break; mechanics are clean and repeatable which allows for plus control/command projection; intelligent pitcher with feel for craft.
Potential red flags: Lacks elite fastball velocity and the pitch is straight; changeup has some potential because of repeatable delivery, but is currently fringe-average; gives up way too many hits.
*In Part 2, I’ll break down the remaining players in Tier #4, list some of the players that make up Tier #5 (too many to breakdown), and explain why I think trading prospects for proven major league talent makes sense given the current state of the farm, and how this could all affect the state of the farm in the future.