2014 Top 10 Prospects: Texas Rangers by Marc Hulet February 20, 2014 The Rangers’ reliance on the minor league system to fill holes at the big league level has ensured that the depth is not quite as deep as it used to be. However, the organization still has an enviable system and some exciting talent on the way — especially in the infield. #1 Rougned Odor | 60/AA (2B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 569 156 41 11 35 91 32 .305 .365 .474 .378 The Year in Review: Odor definitely didn’t stink in 2013; in fact, he had a breakout season by hitting .305 with an .839 OPS as a teenager combined between High-A ball and Double-A. The left-handed hitter showed good line-drive pop and hit 41 doubles and 11 home runs. He also swiped 32 bases in 42 attempts. Odor received some additional experience during the off-season by seeing 32 games of action in the Venezuelan Winter League. The Scouting Report: The Rangers graduated one outstanding middle infield prospect in 2013 in Jurickson Profar, but another one is on the way. Odor, who recently turned 20, has an advanced hitting approach for his age and his above-average bat speed helps him hit balls with authority into the gaps. I’d like to see him be a little more selective at the plate. He’ll likely never hit for big home run power and his speed on the bases is just average. The Venezuela native still has work to do to polish his game at second base but he has the athletic ability to be average or better. The Year Ahead: Odor will almost certainly return to Double-A to open the 2014 season. With Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar at the MLB level there is no reason to rush the young second base prospect. The Career Outlook: The Venezuela native looks like a future impact offensive player at second base for the Rangers, which could force the club to once again relocate Profar. #2 Jorge Alfaro | 60/A+ (C) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 539 134 30 18 37 139 20 .283 .360 .468 .381 The Year in Review: Alfaro spent the majority of 2013 in Low-A ball where he slugged 39 extra base hits, including 16 homers, in 104 games. He had some issues at the plate with 111 strikeouts and just 28 walks but he showed his above-average athleticism (for a catcher) by nabbing 16 bases in 19 attempts. He hit very well in the Arizona Fall League (.938 OPS) despite further contact issues (17 Ks in 19 games). The Scouting Report: Alfaro didn’t start catching until shortly before signing his first pro contract and also missed valuable development time in 2012 thanks to injuries so he’s still raw behind the plate. He shows enough athletic ability to suggest he’ll eventually improve his receiving to the point where he can be an average or better defender. Alfaro, 20, has a strong arm that should allow him to control the running game in the Majors. His naturally-aggressive nature at the plate hinders his offensive tools and he may not hit for a great average due to his high strikeout totals. Alfaro has above-average power potential. The Year Ahead: Aflaro spent three games in High-A in 2013 and he should return there for much of ’14 while he looks to polish his defense. He could be ready to supplant the questionable Geovany Soto/J.P. Arencibia catching tandem (or whoever else shows up in the interim) late 2015 or mid-2016. The Career Outlook: Athletic for a catcher, Alfaro could handle another position if needed but a move will hinder his value and he’s shown enough improvement to date that a move likely won’t be necessary. He projects as a solid all-around catcher capable of hitting bombs with aplomb. #3 Luis Sardinas | 55/AA (SS) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 573 149 19 2 36 75 32 .288 .340 .347 .321 The Year in Review: Speaking of infield depth, Sardinas is another talented middle infield prospect — although he receives most of his accolades for his work with the glove. Like Rougned Odor, the young shortstop split the 2013 season between High-A and Double-A. He hit a combined .288 with 32 steals in 42 attempts. He also spent time in the Venezuelan Winter League and hit .354 in 31 games. The Scouting Report: The slick-fielding Sardinas is often overlooked in an organization brimming with young infielders. The young athlete isn’t as gifted offensively as the likes of Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor but he is a skilled defender at shortstop with an above-average arm, plus range and good actions. At the plate, Sardinas understands his strengths and doesn’t try to muscle the ball, instead focusing on an all-fields approach and hitting the ball where it’s pitched. He also has above-average speed that should allow him to steal 20+ bases in a full big league season. The Year Ahead: Sardinas will likely pair with Odor to form a talented double-play combo in the Texas League. He’ll likely spend a full year in the minors but could reach Triple-A in the second half. The Career Outlook: Sardinas could develop into a solid, but unspectacular, hitter but he has a chance to be a plus fielder at a key defensive position. #4 Luke Jackson | 60/AA (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 25 23 128.0 92 6 9.42 4.15 2.04 3.17 The Year in Review: Jackson had a successful season in 2013 from a statistical standpoint with just 92 hits allowed and 134 strikeouts in 128.0 innings. He spent the majority of the season in High-A but also made six appearances (four starts) in Double-A. He allowed just six home runs on the season despite a fairly average fly-ball rate. The Scouting Report: Trades and promotions have robbed the organization of a lot of its pitching depth but Jackson continues to get better and is now the most talented pitching prospect in the system — although questions remain about his future role. The right-hander has a strong pitcher’s frame but everything that comes out of his hand is hard — a fastball that touches 95-96 mph, as well as a curveball. He has a changeup in his arsenal but it’s rarely used. Jackson also struggles with both his command and control but when he finds the strike zone he can be hard to hit. The Year Ahead: The late season taste of Double-A should prepare him well to return to that level in 2014. He needs polish but he might see the Majors before the year is out. The Career Outlook: Jackson has the ceiling of a solid No. 3 starter if he can improve in a few of the areas listed above. Some contacts feel he’d be better-served by a move to the bullpen where he could potentially dominate as a high-leverage reliever. #5 Chi-Chi Gonzalez | 55/A+ (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 14 14 42.2 45 2 7.38 3.38 3.80 3.36 The Year in Review: The Florida native was selected 23rd overall in the 2013 amateur draft out of Oral Roberts University. Gonzalez made 14 starts after turning pro while splitting his time between short-season ball and High-A ball. He struggled against southpaws, especially with his command and control, but he produced an excellent ground-ball rate and showed an advanced feel for pitching. The Scouting Report: Gonzalez is an advanced college product that shouldn’t need much seasoning in the minors. He produces strong ground-ball numbers with a fastball that shows plenty of movement and enough velocity to make things interesting. He also flashes a plus slider and a developing changeup. His command and control were both inconsistent in his debut but project as average or better with further polish. The Year Ahead: Gonzalez’s performance in the spring time will likely help decide if he opens the year in High-A ball or Double-A, but he should see the latter league at some point in 2014. The Career Outlook: Gonzalez looks like a future No. 3 starter capable of keeping the ball on the ground while piling up innings. #6 Joey Gallo | 55/A- (3B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 467 103 23 40 50 172 15 .251 .338 .623 .425 The Year in Review: The Nevada slugger did just that — slug — in 2013 by sending 40 balls over the outfield fences in 111 games. He even added 14 stolen bases in 15 tries. Unfortunately, he hit just .245 with a .334 on-base percentage and stuck out a whopping 165 times. The Scouting Report: Gallo possesses plus-plus power and has one of the most potent bats in the minors in terms of home run potential. Unfortunately, he invokes comparisons to former Indians slugger Russell Branyan for the boom-or-bust, swing-and-miss tendencies. He struck out almost 40% of the time in 2013. In the field, Gallo shows a very strong arm but his range and foot work are both below average and he may end up in right field (first base is also an option but would negate part of his defensive value). The Year Ahead: Gallo will move up to High-A ball in 2014 where he’ll look to continue hitting bombs while trimming his legendary strikeout rate. The Career Outlook: As mentioned above, Gallo runs the risk of developing into a Branyan type of player or a future MVP of the Japanese league. If he makes enough contact, though, he could be a special player on this side of the ocean. #7 Michael Choice | 55/MLB (OF) Age PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR 23 19 5.3 % 31.6 % .278 .316 .333 .290 83 -0.4 0.0 0.0 The Year in Review: Since slugging 30 home runs over 467 at-bats in the California League (High-A) in 2011, Choice has produced two disappointing seasons in terms of power — including a combined 24 home runs over 869 at-bats. On the plus side, he hit .302 in Triple-A last year and backed that up with a .390 on-base percentage. He was traded from Oakland to Texas in the offseason during the Craig Gentry swap. The Scouting Report: Choice has plus raw power but he doesn’t always tap into it in game situations. He hit for a strong average in 2013 but the strikeout totals (although improved) will likely prevent him from hitting more than .270-.280 in a big league season. He has a patient approach and should produce strong on-base rates. Defensively, Choice has played centre field but is better suited to a corner where he shows respectable range and a strong arm. The Year Ahead: The Texas native may have to open the year back at Triple-A for a second year because he doesn’t really have a shot at a starting gig and would make a poor choice for the fourth outfielder’s role (mainly because it might stunt his development). The Career Outlook: Choice’s future likely hinges on his ability to tap into his raw power on a more consistent basis. #8 Nick Williams | 55/A- (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 404 110 19 17 15 110 8 .293 .337 .543 .395 The Year in Review: Williams’ 2013 numbers look fairly decent on the surface — including a .293 batting average and .879 OPS — but dig a little deeper and you’ll find 110 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 95 games. The left-handed hitter did a nice job of handling southpaws (.798 OPS). He clearly tired in August and September during his first full pro season and saw his OPS dip well below .700 for that period; he also struck out 34 times in his final 22 games. The Scouting Report: Williams does have the swing-and-miss tendencies that Joey Gallo and Lewis Brinson have but he is aggressive at the plate and needs to improve his pitch recognition. The ball jumps off his bat when he makes contact and he should be capable of at least 15-20 home runs at the big league level. He lacks first-step quickness but he’s a good runner. Williams played the corner outfield in 2013 in deference to Brinson but he has the potential to play center field despite a modest throwing arm. The Year Ahead: The young outfielder will move up to High-A ball and look to remain strong for the entire five month season while also becoming more patient at the plate in an effort to boost his on-base percentage. The Career Outlook: A Texas native, Williams has an intriguing multifaceted tool set but he still has a lot of polishing to do with his game. #9 Lewis Brinson | 55/A- (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 503 106 18 21 48 191 24 .237 .322 .427 .347 The Year in Review: Brinson’s final line on the season wasn’t terrible but his 191 strikeouts in 122 games — including in almost half of his at-bats against right-handed pitching — certainly limited his effectiveness. The fact that he was able to produce a 20-20 season as a teenager says a lot about his potential. The Scouting Report: Brinson was one of my favorite athletes available in the 2012 draft but his approach at the plate has taken a step back in pro ball and he’s become a prolific hacker at the plate, as witnessed by his strikeout rate of 38%. His long swing doesn’t do him any favors. Surrounded by power-hitting prospects in Low-A ball (Nick Williams, Joey Gallo), became homer-happy even though he possesses five-tool (albeit raw) potential. Brinson has plus potential on the base paths as well as in centre field. The Year Ahead: Brinson will likely move up to High-A ball along with Nick Williams and Joey Gallo. His athleticism and overall potential is exciting but he has a long, long way to go in terms of realizing his full potential. The Career Outlook: Unless he trims the strikeout rate, Brinson is going to burn out before he even hits Triple-A. If the light clicks on, though, he could be a solid big league performer. #10 Chris Bostick | 50/A- (2B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 555 138 25 14 51 122 25 .282 .354 .452 .368 The Year in Review: Bostick produce surprising pop in 2013 and went deep 14 times; his slugging percentage went up almost .100 points over his previous season. The infielder hit .282 but he struck out a lot. He was a threat on the base paths with 25 steals in 33 tries. Bostick arrived in Texas from Oakland along with fellow Top 10 prospect Michael Choice. The Scouting Report: The Rangers may have pulled off a real steal with the addition of both Michael Choice and Bostick from the A’s for a fourth outfielder in Craig Gentry and a middle reliever in Josh Lindblom. The young infielder isn’t overly physical but he improved his strength in 2013 and started hitting the ball with more authority, although he’ll never be a big home run hitter. He has enough speed and base running acumen to nab 15+ bases in a season. He’s shown an ability to handle both shortstop and second base but his future is probably at the keystone. The Year Ahead: Bostick will move from Low-A to High-A ball in 2014 and if he continues to hit well (and possibly trim the strikeouts) he could see Double-A late in the year. The Career Outlook: Bostick could develop into a solid big league second baseman — which is just what Texas needed, right? The Next Five: 11. Nomar Mazara, OF: Given a massive bonus to sign out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 as a 16 year old, Mazara spent ’13 in Low-A ball at the age of 18. He was a little overwhelmed at times — which is understandable — but he showed flashes of why he was so heavily coveted. When he can make contact, the ball goes a long way. The left-handed hitter struggled against southpaws and hit just .165 against them. In total, he struck out 131 times in 126 games. 12. David Ledbetter, RHP: David and his twin brother Ryan were both drafted (and signed) by the Rangers in 2013. The more talented of the two, David had a strong pro debut in the Northwest League and struck out 51 batters in 58.1 innings while also producing a solid ground-ball rate. He has a four-pitch repertoire that includes an 89-94 mph fastball with good sink, a curveball, a slider and a changeup. 13. Travis Demeritte, SS/3B: An athletic infielder, Demeritte played shortstop as an amateur but also spent some time at third during his debut. He has as strong arm but his range is hindered by his modest speed so the hot corner is likely his long-term destination. Demeritte is a bit of an inconsistent hitter but he had a strong debut with an .856 OPS. The strikeouts — 49 in 39 games — were an issue and he needs to make more consistent contact. 14. Ronald Guzman, 1B: Signed the same year as Mazara, Guzman’s 2013 season was interrupted by a knee injury. He flashes plus raw power but has yet to fully tap into it. He struggled mightily against southpaws in 2013 with a .496 OPS compared to .778 against righties. Guzman, 19 has limited defensive value. 15. Jairo Beras, OF: Beras appeared in just 17 games due to a broken hamate bone but he showed flashes of what made him such a highly-sought-after commodity on the international free agent market. The 18-year-old showed good power for his young age — not surprising given his frame and he also showed a good eye considering his limited playing time over the past year and a half. He possesses a very strong arm in the outfield.