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February 3, 2011

Future Shock

Texas Rangers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: One of the best systems in the game has dropped dramatically due to a combination of graduations, trades, and disappointments.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Martin Perez, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Jurickson Profar, SS
3. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Engel Beltre, CF
5. Michael Kirkman, LHP
6. Robbie Erlin, LHP
7. Jake Skole, OF
8. Luis Sardinas, SS
9. Jorge Alfaro, C
10. Mike Olt, 3B
11. Roman Mendez, RHP

Nine More:
12. Robbie Ross, LHP: An undersized southpaw in the mold of Erlin, in that he's also armed with outstanding control.
13. Miguel De Los Santos, LHP: This rocket-armed Dominican shined this winter, but he's 22 and hasn't pitched in a full-season league yet.
14. Kellin Deglan, C: The first-round pick is an athletic catcher with plus defense, although there are questions about the bat.
15. Luke Jackson, RHP: A supplemental first-round pick who is very projectable, and who could move up this list in short order.
16. David Perez, RHP: He put up silly numbers in the Dominican Summer League, and his fastball already up to 94 mph.
17. Miguel Velazquez, OF: He's a solid hitter, but is that good enough to work in a corner?
18. Christian Villanueva, 3B: He's an impressive teenage third baseman, especially defensively.
19. Fabio Castillo, RHP: A relief prospect with mid-90s heat and a good breaking ball.
20. Wilmer Font, RHP: He would rank higher if not for TJS; he had earned some Carlos Zambrano comps for both his stuff (good) and body (bad).

1. Martin Perez, LHP
DOB
: 4/4/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/178
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
2010 Stats: 5.96 ERA (99.2-117-50-101) at Double-A (24 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/curve

Year in Review: Rangers pushed their top prospect all the way up to Double-A as a teenager, but scouts saw through the uneven results and remained high on his future.
The Good: Because he's armed with three plus pitches, Perez has the ability to become an impact starter. His low-90s fastball can touch 95 mph at times, and features plenty of movement. His slow, looping curveball is a plus pitch when he has a feel for hit, and an outstanding changeup is his best secondary offering, one that features plenty of late drop. While he's a bit undersized, it isn't a major concern for scouts due to his picture-perfect delivery and easy arm action.
The Bad: Perez struggled with attaining consistency in 2010, mixing dominating outings with terrible ones throughout the year. His velocity fluctuated wildly, ranging from 87-95 mph, and he was often guilty of aiming his pitches and reducing their effectiveness by doing so, while also losing snap on his breaking ball.
Ephemera: Perez allowed two or fewer earned runs in 14 of 24 outings in 2010, but had a 12.14 ERA in the other 10 games.
Perfect World Projection: He'll become an All-Star-level starter.
Fantasy Impact: Not a first-round pick, but he'll go off the draft board early.
Path to the Big Leagues: After rushing him to Double-A, Perez might begin the year by repeating the level with the hopes that he can find more consistent success. He still could reach the big leagues before his 21st birthday.
ETA: 2012

2. Jurickson Profar, SS
DOB
: 2/20/93
Height/Weight: 5-11/165
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Curacao
2010 Stats: .250/.323/.373 at Short-Season (63 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Defense/power

Year in Review: A 17-year-old shortstop, he more than held his own in a college player-heavy short-season league.
The Good: Profar has a combination of tools and ability rarely found in a player so young. He's a mechanically sound hitter from both sides with a good approach, and he has enough strength and projection to reach double-digit homer totals down the road. He has excellent defensive fundamentals, good range, and a solid arm. His maturity and baseball instincts are well beyond his years, as he not only fit in with the much older Spokane club, he emerged as a team leader.
The Bad: As good as Profar is, he does not have star-level tools as much as he simply lacks any obvious weaknesses. He's an average runner, and needs to stay at that level to remain above-average at shortstop.
Ephemera: Profar hit just .188 (27-for-143) in the first five innings of games for Spokane, but .330 (36-for-109) from the sixth inning on.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average everyday shortstop with some star-level possibility.
Fantasy Impact: Not a stud in any one category, but still a good all-around producer with plenty of value considering his position.
Path to the Big Leagues: Profar will make his highly-anticipated full-season debut as one of the youngest players in the Sally League at Low-A Hickory.
ETA: 2014

3. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
DOB
: 1/17/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2009, St. Paul Saints (Fresno State University)
2010 Stats: 0.82 ERA (11.0-3-1-19) at Double-A (6 G); 5.48 ERA (69.0-82-30-71) at Triple-A (30 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: This pure power arm was on his way to the big leagues before struggling in a conversion from relief work to starting.
The Good: Scheppers has the ability to blow hitters away with his fastball alone, which sits in the mid-to-upper 90s while consistently hitting 99 mph. His power breaking ball is a second devastating pitch when it's on, and he's a long-levered arm he uses to take advantage of the angles he can create.
The Bad: Scheppers was forced to use his changeup as a starter, and it's a below-average pitch. His fastball can get straight, and some bad outings seemed to sap his confidence, leaving him nibbling around the plate when he should be challenging hitters because of his stuff. He has a history of arm troubles and his delivery is far from pretty, leaving many scouts wondering why he didn't stay in the bullpen, where he's nearly big-league ready.
Ephemera: Scheppers struck out 19 of the 38 Texas League batters he faced while allowing just three hits and not walking a batter.
Perfect World Projection: The Rangers are still convinced that Scheppers can be a big-league starter, but few scouts contacted for this piece agreed with that assessment.
Fantasy Impact: He has closer potential in the bullpen, but would feature plenty of strikeouts as a starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Scheppers will return to Triple-A in 2011, with the hopes that a consistent role can bring about better results.
ETA: 2011

4. Engel Beltre, CF
DOB
: 11/1/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .331/.376/.460 at High-A (68 G); .254/.301/.337 at Double-A (47 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Glove/power

Year in Review: The toolsy outfielder solved the California League in his second go-round, but Double-A challenged his overly aggressive approach.
The Good: Beltre has the best tools of any position player in the system. He has explosive bat speed from the left side, and while he's yet to translate it to games, he puts on a show in batting practice and projects for average to plus power down the road. He's a 60 runner on the 20-to-80 scale, and a very good center fielder with a true plus arm.
The Bad: Beltre's approach at the plate has hindered his development throughout his career. He swings at pitches in his eyes, constantly chases breaking balls out of the strike zone, and rarely puts himself in a position to get a pitch to drive. He's an emotional player, often to his own detriment, and needs to calm his occasional outbursts aimed towards both teammates and opponents.
Ephemera: Beltre had multi-hit games in seven of his first 13 Texas League contests, but then just six in his last 34.
Perfect World Projection: A center fielder capable of 20/20 seasons.
Fantasy Impact: It could be greater than his real-life value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Beltre still needs to conquer the Texas League, so he'll return to Double-A in 2011. Even with his level repeats, he remains young for the levels he has been at.
ETA: 2013

5. Michael Kirkman, LHP
DOB
: 9/28/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2005, Columbia HS (FL)
2010 Stats: 3.09 ERA (131.0-115-68-130) at Triple-A (24 G); 1.65 ERA (16.1-9-10-16) at MLB (14 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: The tall left-hander took a big step forward at Triple-A, which was enough to land him in the big-league bullpen for the stretch run.
The Good: Everything about Kirkman's game improved in 2010. He has a true plus heater from the left side, with the pitch sitting at 90-92 mph while touching 94 consistently. A solid-average curveball is his best secondary offering, although his changeup shows some promise. He's a good athlete that fields his position well, and earns strong scores for his makeup.
The Bad: Kirkman has a long, complicated delivery with a lot of moving parts, causing him to get out of whack mechanically and lose the strike zone, while also making him very easy to run against. He tends to work up in the zone, so he gives up a lot of fly balls as a result.
Ephemera: He is the highest drafted player out of Columbia High, and the only selection to reach the big leagues out of the school; its most famous alum is former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall.
Perfect World Projection: A solid third or fourth starter.
Fantasy Impact: Solid is the key word. He's not going to win your team a title, but he'll keep them in the race.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kirkman will compete for a big-league starting job this spring, and his chances improve if Brandon Webb can't recapture his former magic.
ETA: 2011

6. Robbie Erlin, LHP
DOB
: 10/8/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009, Scotts Valley HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 2.12 ERA (114.2-89-17-125) at Low-A (28 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/fastball.

Year in Review: This undersized southpaw showed tremendous polish in his full-season debut.
The Good: Despite spending 2010 as a teenager, Erlin was nevertheless the owner of the best command and control in the system, not only treating walks as if they're a criminal offense, but also using both sides of the plate effectively. His average-velocity fastball plays up due to his precision, and he keeps hitters off balance with a solid-to-average curveball/changeup combination. He's an emotionless cyborg on the mound who never gets rattled, working at a consistent pace with a calm demeanor.
The Bad: Erlin will never fill out a scouting report. He's a bit undersized, doesn't throw especially hard, and neither of his secondary offerings rate as true plus pitches. His margin for error will reduce as he moves up the ladder, and any loss in his uncanny command could drop his projection to back-of-the-rotation status.
Ephemera: In back-to-back starts on May 28 and June 2, Erlin walked two batters. They were the only two outings all season in which he surrendered multiple free passes.
Perfect World Projection: A third starter in a big-league rotation on a stuff level, but he has enough polish and moxie to exceed that expectation.
Fantasy Impact: He won't provide a ton of strikeouts, but the minuscule walk rate will lead to an excellent WHIP.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Rangers' new High-A affiliate at Myrtle Beach is a pitching paradise, so expect more impressive numbers from Erlin, who could find himself on the fast track.
ETA: 2013

7. Jake Skole, OF
DOB: 1/17/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Blessed Trinity HS (GA)
2010 Stats: .286/.394/.357 at Rookie (8 G); .254/.327/.348 at Short-Season (57 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Run/hit

Year in Review: An ankle injury had few teams getting multiple looks at him as an amateur this spring, so he was something of a surprising first-round pick for the cost-conscious Rangers.
The Good: Skole is an athletic specimen who would be a defensive back at Georgia Tech had he not committed to baseball. While not especially big, he has the strength to put a charge into a ball, and projects for close to average power in the big leagues. He's also an above-average runner who can steal bases, and his arm is another average-to-plus tool.
The Bad: Baseball was always Skole's second sport, so he's still raw. His jumps and routes in the outfield are a specific area of concern, leaving some to think he'd already be better off in one of the corners. He's still adjusting to professional-level pitching, and had significant troubles hitting against lefties during his pro debut.
Ephemera: Players selected with the 15th overall draft have appeared in a total of 20 All-Star games, with five position players appearing in more than 1000 big-league contests.
Perfect World Projection: A solid everyday big-league outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Not special, but the double-digit power and stolen bases he'll provide has real value.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Rangers are excited about what a healthy, baseball-committed Skole can do; he'll make his full-season debut at Low-A Hickory.
ETA: 2014

8. Luis Sardinas, SS
DOB
: 5/16/93
Height/Weight: 6-1/150
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Venezuela
2010 Stats: .311/.363/.350 at Rookie (26 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Run/power

Year in Review: A seven-figure bonus put this Venezuelan in the system, but he showed his worth with an impressive state-side debut.
The Good: Sardinas is loaded with tools. For starters, he's a switch-hitter with a smooth, line-drive stroke, which he uses to lace balls to all fields. He's also a 65-70 runner on the scouting scale who should steal plenty of bases. He has equally outstanding range and actions defensively, featuring a very good arm.
The Bad: Sardinas is rail-thin, and lacks a projectable frame, so power will never be a part of his game. He projects well defensively, but can still get quite sloppy with his glove work, following up a spectacular play by booting the most routine of ground balls. He'll need to develop a more patient approach to avoid hitting at the bottom of a lineup.
Ephemera: Maybe Sardinas likes short bus rides, as he hit just .162 in home games in 2010, but went 26-for-66 (.394) on the road.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average everyday shortstop with great glove and decent bat.
Fantasy Impact: He'll steal some bases, but that's about it. His potential value is much greater in the real world.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sardinas solved some of the logjam at shortstop in the worst way by injuring his shoulder in the instructional league and needing surgery. If he plays in 2011, it will be at Spokane.
ETA: 2015

9. Jorge Alfaro, C
DOB
: 6/11/93
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Colombia
2010 Stats: .221/.278/.291 in Dominican Summer League (48 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/run

Year in Review: The Dominican catcher signed to $1.3 million bonus, but while he struggled statistically, he nevertheless impressed people with his tools.
The Good: Alfaro is a big, athletic catcher with the potential to be well above-average, both offensively and defensively. He has tremendous raw power, with strength, leverage, and outstanding weight transfer in his swing. He's a solid defensive catcher with the ability to shut down an opponent's running game with arm strength that already rates amongst the best in the minors.
The Bad: Alfaro is quite raw, especially offensively. He has poor pitch recognition skills and swings from his heels at nearly every opportunity. He's an excellent athlete for his position, but is still a below-average runner. He's still learning the nuances of catching, and his arm will become more of a weapon with improved accuracy.
Ephemera: Alfaro drew just three unintentional walks over 172 at-bats last summer, but was hit by three times as many pitches.
Perfect World Projection: An all-star catcher with power and excellent defense, but he's still eons away from getting there.
Fantasy Impact: They could be massive, but it's not time to start drafting him yet.
Path to the Big Leagues: Alfaro will spend his first year stateside in Arizona, beginning in extended spring training and then playing in the complex league. He might be the Rangers' catcher of the future, but that future is a long way off.
ETA: 2015

10. Mike Olt, 3B
DOB
: 8/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2010, University of Connecticut
2010 Stats: .293/.390/.464 at Short-Season (69 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Glove/run

Year in Review: Among the top players in the northeast, this slugging third baseman put up good numbers in his pro debut.
The Good: On a scouting level, Olt has a classic third-base profile: he's big, strong, and athletic. He has plenty of raw power and projects to hit 20-plus home runs annually while also drawing a good number of walks thanks to a patient approach. He was considered one of the top defensive third basemen in the 2010 draft, with outstanding instincts, soft hands, and a strong arm.
The Bad: There are questions about just how much Olt will hit. His swing is long and has more uppercut than loft in it, and he struck out once for every 3.4 at-bats in his pro debut. He's slow, but not a base-clogger.
Ephemera: Olt is the highest drafted positon player ever out of UConn, but he'll likely hold that title for just one year, as outfielder George Springer is a sure-fire first-rounder in June and possible single-digit selection.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid everyday third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Again, solid, where he'll show some power, but won't be nothing special in any one category.
Path to the Big Leagues: With a good spring, Olt could begin his first full season at full-season High-A Myrtle Beach.
ETA: 2013

11. Roman Mendez, RHP
DOB
: 7/25/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 4.36 ERA (33.0-31-19-35) at Short-Season with Boston (8 G); 11.40 ERA (15.0-29-10-18) at Low-A with Boston (6 G); 2.31 ERA (11.2-19-3-13) at Short-Season with Texas (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/change

Year in Review: The Rangers added to their wealth in young power arms by acquiring Mendez from Boston in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal.
The Good: Mendez has one of the best arms in the system, throwing heat that sits at 94-97 mph and touched 99 at times last year. He'll flash a plus power slider at times, and has some sense of a changeup. He has an ideal frame for a young pitcher, and an extremely loose arm.
The Bad: Mendez is still more of a thrower than a pitcher. There's considerable effort in his delivery, which gives him some control issues. He'll overthrow his slider, getting it up into the 87-90 mph range, which causes the pitch to flatten out and get sweepy. His change is below average.
Ephemera: In one of the more extreme platoon splits you might have seen last season, left-handers hit .424 against Mendez in 2010, while righties hit .239.
Perfect World Projection: Mendez needs plenty of refinement, but he has the raw stuff to be an impact-level pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: His role is still to be determined, but he could potentially close as a reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Mendez will begin the year in the Low-A Hickory rotation.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: Despite a 4.66 ERA and 11.6 hits allowed per nine innings at Low-A in 2010, some scouts are quite high on right-hander Matt Thompson, an athletic right-hander with projection and a silky-smooth delivery.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Neftali Feliz, RHP
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Martin Perez, LHP
4. Derek Holland, LHP
5. Jurickson Profar, SS
6. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
7. Tommy Hunter, RHP
8. Engel Beltre, CF
9. Julio Borbon, CF
10. Mitch Moreland, 1B

Feliz is a dominant closer who I still believe has upper-tier potential as a starter, but I remain convinced that the Rangers disagree with that assertion. Andrus has plenty of value on his defensive ability and speed alone, but he remains overrated offensively due to his misplacement at the top of the lineup. Holland still has excellent stuff, especially for someone throwing from the left side; the inability to sign Cliff Lee could finally give him a shot at a permanent rotation job. Hunter pitched well beyond his ability in 2010, but should still be a solid back-end starter. Borbon is similar to Andrus in that most of his value comes from his glove and wheels, but he needs to learn that walks are not evil. Moreland is a great story and the ultimate grinder, but as an everyday first baseman, he's below average.

Summary: The Rangers have a wealth of young, high-ceiling talent, but the majority of their prospects are just that, extremely young. There's plenty to dream on, but very little reality, and even less that can help them in 2011.

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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