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March 6, 2012

Future Shock

Rangers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Trades and promotions leave the upper levels thin, but few come close to their plethora of high-ceiling teens.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jurickson Profar, SS
2. Martin Perez, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
3. Mike Olt, 3B
4. Neil Ramirez, RHP
5. Jorge Alfaro, C
Three-Star Prospects
6. Leonys Martin, OF
7. Christian Villanueva, 3B
8. Roman Mendez, RHP
9. Ronald Guzman, OF/1B
10. Robbie Ross, LHP
11. Cody Buckel, RHP

Nine More:
12. Nomar Mazara, OF: Dominican signee is a big outfielder with massive raw power, but there is pressure on bat to develop.
13. Tanner Scheppers, RHP: Still has late-inning stuff, but command and control has declined of late.
14. Jordan Akins, OF: Arguably has the best tools in the system, but is a very long way from harnessing them.
15. David Perez, RHP: 19-year-old Dominican has power frame and massive arm, but control fell apart in U.S. debut.
16. Rougned Odor, 2B: Has plus-plus hit tool, but scouts wonder where the secondary numbers will come from; limited to the right side.
17. Matt West, RHP: Was in Top 11 before elbow problems, has the stuff to pitch in the ninth.
18. Kevin Matthews, LHP: First round pick is undersized yet athletic, a combination the Rangers have had plenty of success with.
19. Leury Garcia, SS: Pure shortstop with plenty of speed, but will he ever hit?
20. Will Lamb, LHP: 2011 second-rounder is six-foot-six lefty who could move quickly in a bullpen role.

1. Jurickson Profar, SS
DOB: 2/20/93
Height/Weight: 5-11/165
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Curacao
2011 Stats: .286/.390/.493 at Low-A (115 G)
Tools Profile: He's got all of them.

Year in Review: After building a reputation in last year's instructional league, Profar used a stunning full-season debut to become the best infield prospect in baseball.
The Good: Profar can do a little bit of everything. He's an above-average hitter with bat speed and strong wrists and projects to hit 15-20 home runs annually. His approach and understanding of the strike zone is mature, and he's a tick above-average runner who can steal some bases. Defensively, his range, hands, and arm are all above average. His makeup, instincts and baseball intelligence are off the charts.
The Bad: While Profar has no weaknesses in his game, there are fair questions about which tools are at a star level. Some scouts see him as more of a 15/15 player than a 20/20 one, and he's not an overwhelmingly impressive physical specimen.
Ephemera: Profar was successful on just eight of his first 14 stolen base attempts in 2011, but went 15-for-18 after that. Perfect World Projection: All-Star shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: 20/20 shortstops are about as valuable a player as there can be.
Path to the Big Leagues: There is no need to rush Profar, and he'll be among the youngest players in the league when he begins the year at High-A Myrtle Beach; his timetable matches up well with when Elvis Andrus becomes a free agent.
ETA: 2014.

2. Martin Perez, LHP
DOB: 4/4/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/178
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Venezuela
2011 Stats: 3.16 ERA (88.1-80-36-83) at Double-A (17 G). 6.43 ERA (49-72-20-37) at Triple-A (10 G)
Tools Profile: Outstanding stuff combined with frustrating results.

Year in Review: After turning things around at Double-A, Perez frustrated scouts with his inconsistency following a promotion to the highest level in the minors.
The Good: When he's on, Perez looks like a star. He has a low-90s fastball that can touch 95, and the ball explodes out of his hand with one of the easiest deliveries around. His best secondary pitch is an easy plus changeup; his curveball rates as average to plus.
The Bad: The quality of Perez' stuff varies from start-to-start as well as from inning-to-inning. He can lose velocity, command, and sharpness on his breaking ball for mysterious reasons, and at times his own frustration was clear.
Ephemera: Perez knew how to create trouble for himself at Triple-A in 2011, as batters leading off an inning against him there hit .409/.490/.545.
Perfect World Projection: Perez still has All-Star potential, but the likelihood of him achieving that is not what it once was.
Fantasy Impact: He's risky as a right now pick, but he might be worth it.
Path to the Big Leagues: Perez will return to Triple-A in 2012, and while he might get a September look, he'll have to earn it.
ETA: 2013.
 
3. Mike Olt, 3B
DOB: 8/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2010, University of Connecticut
2011 Stats: .214/.267/.429 at Rookie (4 G). .267/.387/.504 at High-A (69 G)
Tools Profile: Power, patience and defense.
 
Year in Review: The supplemental first-round pick was having a breakout season before a home plate collision cost him much of the season. He was healthy at the end of the year and led the Arizona Fall League in both home runs and slugging percentage.
The Good: Olt brings a lot of secondary skills to the plate, as he works the count extremely well, and has plus to plus-plus power to all fields while consistently crushing left-handers. He's an outstanding defensive third baseman with great reactions and a strong arm.
The Bad: Olt's power comes at a price: he takes a healthy cut, can get a bit long with his swing at times, and is prone to strike out, which will always limit his ability to hit for average. He doesn't run well.
Ephemera: During Olt's impressive Arizona Fall League stint, he lit up left-handed pitching to the tune of .478/.616/1.130 by going 11-for-23 with three doubles, four home runs and nine walks.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Plenty of home runs and walks that help a solid but unspectacular batting average.
Path to the Big Leagues: Olt is blocked in Texas by Adrian Beltre, and while there is talk of moving him to first base or the outfield, either move would take away from his defensive value. For now, he'll stay at the hot corner and begin the year at Double-A.
ETA: 2013.
 
4. Neil Ramirez, RHP
DOB: 5/25/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Kempsville HS (VA)
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (4.2-1-1-9) at High-A (1 G). 1.89 ERA (19-13-8-24) at Double-A (6 G). 3.63 ERA (74.1-63-35-86) at Triple-A (18 G)
Tools Profile: Three average or better offerings.
 
Year in Review: Once a disappointment in the system, Ramirez was in the midst of a breakout performance when his second half was hampered by shoulder issues.
The Good: Ramirez has a good frame and clean arm action; he sits in the 92-95 mph range with a fastball that touched 97 in shorter stints. His curveball is a plus pitch that he gets plenty of hitters to chase, and his changeup is at least average.
The Bad: After throwing plenty of strikes in 2010, his control wavered in 2011, though that may have been due to shoulder soreness. Because of his track record and injuries, he still needs to prove he can handle a full workload.
Ephemera: Ramirez was just the third player ever drafted out of Kempsville High in Virginia, and the previous two picks, Bill Paschall (1972) and D.J. Dozier (1983), both reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: No. 3 starter, with a chance of more.
Fantasy Impact: Solid across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ramirez will begin the year at Triple-A, and could reach the big leagues should a need for a starter arrive.
ETA: Late 2012.
 
5. Jorge Alfaro, C
DOB: 6/11/93
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Colombia
2011 Stats: .300/.345/.481 at Short-Season (45 G)
Tools Profile: The kind of power and arm strength rarely found at the position.
 
Year in Review: The high-profile international signing exceeded expectations by performing well in a league loaded with players three or more years older.
The Good: Alfaro has fantastic raw tools. He's a sound hitter with a quick bat and tremendous raw power with the potential to hit 25+ home runs annually as a catcher. His arm is among the strongest in the system and he's athletic with the ability to become a plus defender.
The Bad: As talented as Alfaro is, he still has a lot to work on. He currently swings at everything in his reach (and sometimes out of it) and needs to greatly refine his approach. His receiving skills are rough around the edges and need the kind of improvement that comes through repetition.
Ephemera: After the sixth inning for Spokane in 2011, Alfaro hit .444 (24-for-54) with three doubles and four home runs.
Perfect World Projection: All-Star catcher.
Fantasy Impact: Catchers who can do anything offensively have value, and Alfaro could turn into a top fantasy catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: Alfaro will make his highly-anticipated full-season debut in 2012, but he's a long way from the big leagues.
ETA: 2015.
 
6. Leonys Martin, OF
DOB: 3/6/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2011, Cuba
2011 Stats: .267/.313/.533 at Rookie (4 G). .348/.435/.571 at Double-A (29 G). .263/.316/.314 at Triple-A (40 G). .375/.375/.500 at MLB (8 G)
Tools Profile: Plenty of plus tools, but few that qualify as star-level.
 
Year in Review: Signed in May to a big league deal worth nearly $16 million, Martin hit the ground running at Double-A and ended the year in the big leagues.
The Good: Martin has impressive tools and skills. He understands the strike zone well and makes consistent hard contact with a quick, line-drive stroke from the left side. He's fast, but not a burner, and could steal 30+ bases annually. He has good instincts in center field and an outstanding arm.
The Bad: Martin's approach and swing are both focused on contact, and while he can sting balls into the gap, he doesn't have much over-the-wall power. He struggled in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching and began to press, losing his plate discipline in the process.
Ephemera: When batting with runners in scoring position and two outs in 2011, Martin was a remarkable 19-for-35 (.543)
Perfect World Projection: Good everyday center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: Double-digit power and steals to go with a good batting average.
Path to the Big Leagues: Martin will likely begin the year at Triple-A, but could be starting in the big leagues by the All-Star break.
ETA: 2012
 
7. Christian Villanueva, 3B
DOB: 6/19/91
Height/Weight: 5-11/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Mexico
2011 Stats: .278/.338/.465 at Low-A (126 G)
Tools Profile: Plenty of them in a non-traditional physical package.
 
Year in Review: After impressing last year in the complex leagues, Villanueva was a Sally League All-Star in his full-season debut.
The Good: Villanueva has outstanding bat speed and impressive power for his size, projecting to hit for average with 15-20 home runs annually. He's an impressive athlete with average to slightly-above-average speed; he has improved his defense at third base, and has good hands with a strong arm.
The Bad: Other than the bat, Villanueva is not exceptionally toolsy. His approach could use improvement. He's filling out and getting stocky, and will likely lose some of his speed down the road.
Ephemera: Villanueva was used in six different spots of the Hickory batting order in 2011, but had the most success in the six-hole, hitting .357/.410/.629 in 20 games.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: A good batting average with some power and more speed than your average third baseman.
Path to the Big Leagues: Villanueva is buried in Texas at the hot corner, and the Rangers have experimented with him at other positions. He'll begin the 2012 season at High-A Myrtle Beach.
ETA: 2015
 
8. Roman Mendez, RHP
DOB: 7/25/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 3.31 ERA (117-117-45-130) at Low-A (26 G
Tools Profile: Pure power arm.
 
Year in Review: A raw power arm acquired from Boston in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal, Mendez struck out 10 batters per nine in an impressive full-season showing at Low-A.
The Good: Mendez can bring the heat. His fastball sits at 93-96 mph and he has touched as high as 99 mph at times. He has a long, projectable frame and a good delivery. He'll flash a plus slider, and has shown some improvements with his changeup.
The Bad: Mendez remains inconsistent, especially in terms of his command and secondary offerings. His slider can get sweepy at times, and his changeup still lags behind his power pitches. Many scouts feel the lack of depth in his arsenal points to a future role in the bullpen.
Ephemera: Moved to the bullpen to limit his innings at the end of the year, Mendez made six appearances in relief, allowing just two runs over 11 innings while striking out 17.
Perfect World Projection: Middle-rotation starter or, more likely, late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: Role to be determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: Mendez will likely stay a starter for now, and begin the 2012 season at High-A.
ETA: 2014.
 
9. Ronald Guzman, OF/1B
DOB: 10/20/94
Height/Weight: 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2011, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: DNP
Tools Profile: A potentially special bat. 
 
Year in Review: Among the best players on the international market, Guzman was the talk of the instructional leagues.
The Good: Guzman has the potential to be a special hitter. His swing is smooth and tremendously coordinated for a player of his size and inexperience, and his raw power is immense, as the ball just makes a different sound off his bat. He earns raves for his make-up and work ethic.
The Bad: Most of Guzman's value comes from his bat. He's a below-average runner with few defensive skills, and will likely be limited to first base. His swing can get long at times, and could require some patience in his development.
Ephemera: Guzman was born on the same day that Burt Lancaster died, but physics has yet to prove the Dominican is the reincarnated version of the Acadamy Award winning actor.
Perfect World Projection: Guzman is a massive raw talent . . . 
Fantasy Impact: . . . with an emphasis on raw. 
Path to the Big Leagues: Guzman will not make his pro debut until the short-season leagues begin in June.
ETA: 2016.
 
10. Robbie Ross, LHP
DOB: 6/24/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, Lexington Christian HS (KY)
2011 Stats: 2.26 ERA (123.1-102-28-98) at High-A (21 G). 2.61 ERA (38-33-5-36) at Double-A (6 G)
Tools Profile: Small and low on stuff, but he's athletic and has outstanding command.
 
Year in Review: 2008 draftee built on a strong full-season debut by overmatching Carolina League hitters and saving some of his best performances for a six-game stint at Double-A at the end of the season.
The Good: Ross succeeds by hitting his spots. His fastball features just average velocity, but it plays up due to location and some natural deception in his delivery that makes the ball tough to pick up. He's become more consistent with his average slider, and his changeup shows plenty of depth.
The Bad: Ross is on the small side and doesn't have any projection, so his margin for error will always be limited. He can lose confidence in his secondary stuff and will need to mix his pitches more effectively at the upper levels.
Ephemera: While no 57th overall pick has won more than 80 games in the big leagues, Jon Lester is already at 76 and is the best player ever taken with that selection. 
Perfect World Projection: No. 4 starter.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing special, but he should be solid.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ross will begin the 2012 season back at Double-A; he's polished enough to have an outside shot at a big league look.
ETA: 2013.
 
11. Cody Buckel, RHP
DOB: 6/18/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010, Royal HS (CA)
2011 Stats: 2.61 ERA (96.2-83-27-120) at Low-A (23 G)
Tools Profile: Average-to-plus stuff, and even better control.
 
Year in Review: Second-round pick missed plenty of bats in his full-season debut.
The Good: While he's not the biggest pitcher in the world, Buckel is extremely athletic. His delivery is a bit complicated, but he repeats it well and pounds the strike zone with an average velocity fastball that features a bit of natural sink. He has a highly advanced changeup for his age and experience level, and also has a solid breaking ball.
The Bad: Buckel doesn't light up a radar gun and doesn't have much projection in him. Scouts would be more optimistic on his future if he could get more spin on his breaking ball, which can get loopy at times.
Ephemera: Opposing batters facing Buckel with runners in scoring position in 2011 went 17-for-100 (.170) with 39 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: No. 3 starter.
Fantasy Impact: No category weaknesses, and a low walk rate to keep the WHIP down.
Path to the Big Leagues: Buckel will move up to High-A in 2012.
ETA: 2014.
 
The Sleeper: 20-year-old Venezuelan Tomas Telis is a short and stocky catcher with hitting ability, a bit of power and improving defense.
 
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Yu Darvish, RHP
2. Neftali Feliz, RHP
3. Jurickson Profar, SS
4. Elvis Andrus, SS
5. Derek Holland, LHP
6. Martin Perez, LHP
7. Mike Olt, 3B
8. Neil Ramirez, RHP
9. Jorge Alfaro, C
10. Leonys Martin, OF
 
Yes, Darvish is that young, as he doesn't turn 26 until August. He's just entering his prime and his contract should prove to be more valuable than the one C.J. Wilson signed with the Angels. Feliz was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball as a starter, and he'll return to that role in 2012; while some bumps in the road this year are to be expected, he should turn into a dominant force. Andrus is both overrated and underrated at the same time. He's still not worth much at the plate, but his defense and speed allow him to impact the game in many ways. Derek Holland became a media darling during the post-season, but he's still inconsistent despite very impressive stuff.
 
Summary: This is not the outstanding Rangers system we've seen of late, but it's for all of the right reasons: many of their prospects, through either their own performances or through trades, have played significant roles in back-to-back American League championships. Still, great riches at the lower levels should return the system to former glory, and keep the big league club strong for years to come.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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