Texas Rangers: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Jon Daniels
Farm Director: Scott Servais
Scouting Director: Kip Fagg

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The organization graduated a number of prospects in ’09 (Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon, etc.) but the Top 10 list is still going strong, which is a testament to the system’s depth. With that said, the back end of the list starts to get a little weak but there are some sleepers in the organization and the club offered a number of over-slot deals in the ’09 draft, which will help for 2010.

1. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Majors
DOB: May 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Atlanta)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 91-97 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Feliz wowed a lot of people in his MLB debut in ’09 and it’s fortunate that his rookie eligibility did not expire. He posted a 2.48 FIP in 31.0 big league relief innings and allowed just 13 hits. Along with that, he showed solid control (2.32 BB/9) and an eye-popping strikeout rate (11.32 K/9). The good news for Rangers fans (and bad news for hitters) is that Feliz will be converted back to a starting pitcher, which is a role he has had for much of his career. He could be an outstanding reliever but Feliz also holds the potential to be a solid No. 1 or 2 starter with a little more experience and development of his secondary pitches. He relied very heavily on his fastball in ’09 at the MLB level (+70%) and it would be nice to see him inch that ground-ball rate up over 40%. As a starter, the 21 year old may need a little more seasoning in the minors.

2. Justin Smoak, 1B, Double-A
DOB: December 1986 Bats: B Throws: L
Signed: 2008 1st round – University of South Carolina
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Smoak’s season began well when he hit .328/.449/.481 in 183 double-A games despite spending just 14 games at the A-ball level in ’08. However, he then hit the disabled list and struggled in triple-A upon his return. The switch-hitter managed a line of just .244/.363/.360 in 197 at-bats after the promotion. Smoak’s power all but dried up as his ISO dropped from .153 to .117. His strikeout rate rose from 19.1% to 22.8%, although his walk rate remained good at 14.8% at the senior level. A former first round draft pick, he projects to be an above-average regular but he needs to improve against left-handers (.626 OPS vs lefties, .950 vs righties). He should opened the 2010 season back in triple-A but he should eventually push Chris Davis to DH.

3. Martin Perez, LHP, Double-A
DOB: April 1991 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

Perez is another talented hurler in the Rangers system. The southpaw began in the year in low-A ball and he impressed by allowing 82 hits in 93.2 innings while posting a 3.82 FIP. He showed good control (3.17 BB/9) and missed a lot of bats (10.09 K/9). The 18-year-old pitcher was so impressive that he skipped high-A and moved right to double-A where he posted a 3.82 FIP in 21.0 innings (five starts). Perez continued to show good control but his strikeout rate dropped to 6.00 K/9 in the small-sample size. He’ll need to keep improving his change-up but his fastball and curveball make an intriguing one-two combination. Perez should open ’10 back in double-A.

4. Kasey Kiker, LHP, Double-A
DOB: November 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2006 1st round – Alabama HS
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, plus change-up, curveball

Kiker gets lost in the shuffle a bit but he was a top draft pick in ’07 and he had a nice season in ’09 at the double-A level. The 22-year-old southpaw made 25 double-A appearances and he posted a 4.20 FIP in 126.0 innings while allowing 108 hits. His control slipped in ’09 (4.71 BB/9) but his strikeout rate remained good at 8.57 K/9 thanks to his good change-up and developing curveball. His fastball remains inconsistent, both in terms of command and velocity. The two biggest concerns right now are his low ground-ball rate, which is below 40%, and his L/R splits: 1.13 WHIP vs lefties, 1.43 vs righties. He could develop into a No. 3 starter but he likely needs at least one more year of seasoning in the minors.

5. Robert Ross, LHP, Short-season
DOB: June 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 2nd round – Kentucky HS
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, slider, change-up

There have been some mixed reviews on Ross, but the lefty had a nice debut in short-season ball in ’09. He showed good control with a walk rate of just 2.06 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was impressive at 9.20 K/9, especially given his lack of experience. From a scouting standpoint, Ross has better-than-average velocity on his fastball but it has lacked movement at times. He received excellent sink on the pitch in ’09, though, and produced a ground-ball rate just above 63%. It’s not that easy to find left-handed pitching prospects with good velocity and nice ground-ball numbers, so the Rangers have something here in Ross. The organization just needs to be patient.

6. Wilmer Font, RHP, Low-A
DOB: May 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Font is another impressive international find for the organization. The right-hander is a strong-bodied hurler at 6’4” 210 lbs so he should be a durable workhorse for the club. Only 19, he spent the ’09 season in low-A ball and allowed 93 hits in 108.1 innings while posting a 3.62 FIP. His control clearly needs work after he posted a 4.90 BB/9 but he had a good strikeout rate at 8.72 K/9. Font also needs to get more balls on the ground (37 GB%) despite a good HR/9 rate of 0.33. He’ll likely move up to the California League in 2010 where the balls fly out of the ball parks at a much higher rate. With some adjustments, Font has a bright future ahead of him.

7. Mitch Moreland, OF, Double-A
DOB: September 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 17th round – Mississippi State University
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Perhaps the biggest mover and shaker in the system in ’09, Moreland went from a 17th round draft pick out of college in ’07 to a Top 10 prospect in ’09, which is no small feat. After spending all of ’08 in low-A ball, Moreland played at both high-A and double-A in ’09 and should start this season in triple-A. The left-handed hitter produced a triple-slash line of .341/.421/.594 in 170 high-A at-bats. His line in double-A was .326/.373/.488 and he saw his power dip from an ISO rate of .253 to .163. Moreland has hit more than .325 over the past 240 minor league games, but he’s been aided by very high BABIPs (.359 in ’09) so you would have to expect some regression at the MLB level but his low strikeout rates show that he makes good contact. For a corner outfielder (and first baseman), his power is probably average. Defensively, he has poor range but a very good arm.

8. Wilfredo Boscan, RHP, Low-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-92 mph fastball, change-up, curveball

Boscan is not as flashy as Feliz or Perez, but he’s displayed some intriguing numbers despite an average fastball (albeit one that projects to add velocity). The right-hander has shown outstanding control over the past two seasons by posting walk rates of 1.43 and 1.62 BB/9. He’s also been right around the 50% ground-ball rate in his North American career (0.60 HR/9 in ’09). Of note is the drop in strikeouts, from 9.09 in ’08 to 5.04 K/9 in ’09. As mentioned, though, his 6’2” 160 lbs frame has room to fill out and develop. Boscan’s solid change-up gives him a real weapon to combat lefties (.212 vs .275 average). He just needs some more success against right-handers.

9. Michael Main, RHP, High-A
DOB: December 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – Florida HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

A serious viral infection derailed Main’s ’09 season and the right-hander has yet to make more than 16 starts in a season since signing in ’07. He made it back to the mound late in the season and showed potential but he’ll still need to show some that he can stay healthy for a full season and shoulder a starting pitcher’s workload. Main has the potential to have three pitches grade out at least average, or he could focus on developing his fastball and curveball into plus pitches, which might make him a dominating late-game reliever. Just 21, time is still on his side but he needs to show something in 2010 for people to keep believing in him as a top prospect.

10. Max Ramirez, C, Majors
DOB: October 1984 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2002 non-drafted international free agent (Atlanta)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 1

The back end of my Top 10 list was originally thrown into disarray when pitching prospect Danny Gutierrez was suspended for 50 games. It was enough to cause him to fall off my list entirely since this was not the first time that he’s had a cloud over his head. As a result, though, Ramirez makes the list despite having his own question marks thanks to his health. Ramirez was almost traded to Boston for veteran third baseman Mike Lowell during the off-season before injury concerns (for both players) put the kibosh on that deal. If healthy, Ramirez has the chance to be a third-string catcher, back-up first baseman and DH. The 25-year-old prospect is coming off a disappointing season that saw him hit .234/.323/.336 in 274 at-bats. He also showed a significant decrease in power (.102 ISO, his lowest total in four years) but that may have been caused by injuries. Ramirez shows good patience at the plate, but his 31.0% strikeout rate, which is right in line with his career norms, is cause for concern. Defensively, he’s not good enough to play as an everyday catcher.

Up Next:The Colorado Rockies

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Richie Abernathy
Richie Abernathy

It never fails!!! Haha!!!