Top 15 Prospects: Texas Rangers by Marc Hulet January 17, 2012 The Texas Rangers organization is solid top to bottom with both high-ceiling talents and depth. In looking at the Top 10 prospects we can see that the organization’s main strengths are pitching and up-the-middle offensive players. 1. Jurickson Profar, SS BORN: Feb. 20, 1993 EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons ACQUIRED: 2009 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 1st The Rangers organization already has a dynamic young shortstop in Elvis Andrus but Profar gives them a second potential all star player at that position. In fact, he has the potential to be even better than the incumbent. Playing well below the league average age in ’11, Profar showed an outstanding understanding of the strike zone, and he showed his advanced understanding of the game by going to the plate with an idea of what he wanted to do. In the field, the young player has a strong arm and excellent range. He could develop into a plus defender in time. Look for Profar to begin 2012 in high-A ball but he could see double-A by mid-season. 2. Martin Perez, LHP BORN: April 4, 1991 EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons ACQUIRED: 2007 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 2nd Perez split 2011 between double-A and triple-A where he posted solid but unspectacular numbers. However, if you consider the fact he was playing against players four to six years older than him, on average, his results look much better. The young southpaw pitched effectively at double-A but the promotion to triple-A saw his hits-per-nine-innings rate jump from 8.15 to 13.22 H/9. Perez did suffer from some bad luck and his triple-A ERA of 6.43 must taken with a grain of salt if you consider his FIP of 3.98. There is enough depth in the Rangers rotation, especially if the club signs Japanese import Yu Darvish, to expect the Venezuelan hurler to head back to triple-A for some more seasoning in 2012. 3. Leonys Martin, CF BORN: March 6, 1988 EXPERIENCE: 1 season ACQUIRED: 2011 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA The Rangers’ center field job is still up-in-the-air for 2012 (assuming the club wants Josh Hamilton in left) but Martin could be the solution. He’ll face competition from Julio Borbon and Craig Gentry but the Cuban defector has the highest ceiling of the trio. Martin was signed to a $15 million big league contract and has the tools to back up the dollar signs. He’s a plus defender with a strong arm. His offensive game is built around his above-average speed and solid line-drive swing. Martin had a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League and similar success this spring could help him lock up a starting gig in the outfield. 4. Neil Ramirez, RHP BORN: May 25, 1989 EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons ACQUIRED: 2007 supplemental 1st round, Virginia HS 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 10th Ramirez made some big waves in 2011 after entering the season as an underrated prospect. The right-hander zoomed through high-A and double-A, spending much of the season in triple-A. He missed a little time with shoulder soreness so that will be watched closely in ’12 when he likely returns to triple-A while awaiting an opening in the big league rotation. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph, as well as a potentially-plus curveball and an slightly-below-average changeup. Ramirez has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. 5. Rougned Odor, SS/2B BORN: Feb. 3, 1994 EXPERIENCE: 1 season ACQUIRED: 2011 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA The rich continues to get richer as the organization signed yet another top middle infield prospect out of the international market. Odor had a modest offensive debut but he was playing at the age of 17 in a league dominated by recently drafted college prospects. He needs to get stronger, having faded late in ’11, and should eventually display solid line-drive strength but power will never be a big part of his game. Odor flashes signals that he could develop into an above-average hitter in terms of batting average and should take a decent number of walks as he matures. He’s not as strong defensively as Jurickson Profar and Odor spent his debut playing the keystone where his arm strength and actions play up. 6. Robbie Ross, LHP BORN: June 24, 1989 EXPERIENCE: 3 seasons ACQUIRED: 2008 2nd round – Kentucky HS 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 7th Although he doesn’t have plus fastball velocity, Ross is one of the organization’s best pitching prospects and has had nothing but success in pro ball. He has a funky delivery that creates deception and his heater has a lot of movement. The southpaw is still working to develop his secondary pitches (slider, changeup) but they both showed solid improvements in 2011. Although he struggles to command his fastball at times because of its movement, the Kentucky native has above-average control and does a nice job of working down in the zone, which helps him produce an above-average number of ground balls. Ross will likely return to double-A in 2012 and could spend much of the season there with the likes of Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez ahead of him on the depth chart. 7. Luis Sardinas, SS BORN: May 16, 1993 EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons ACQUIRED: 2009 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 9th Sardinas continues the line of impressive shortstops prospects and he may have ranked higher on this list if he had not missed the first half of the year due to a dislocated shoulder suffered prior to the season. Despite the long layoff and subsequent rehab, Sardinas showed a solid offensive approach and excellent defensive skills. He’s raw defensively and makes a lot of youthful mistakes but he has a very strong arm. Sardinas could move up to low-A ball in 2012 and is currently sandwiched in between Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor on the depth chart at shortstop. Like Christian Villanueva, Sardinas could be an intriguing trade chip but the organization will likely look to increase his value with some healthy play in ’12. 8. Will Lamb, LHP BORN: Sept. 9, 1990 EXPERIENCE: 1 season ACQUIRED: 2011 2nd round, Clemson University 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA An under-the-radar selection in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft, Lamb had a solid pro debut and flashed better stuff than expected. The Rangers did an outstanding job of scouting him and grabbed him a few rounds earlier than he was projected to go by Baseball America. Lamb was a two-way player in college and was a legit prospect as a hitter. Now that he’s focusing on pitching he could really take off. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph (and did so more often than expected after signing), along with an above-average slider. Lamb will need to work on a third pitch if he’s going to stick as a starter in pro ball. 9. Mike Olt, 3B BORN: Aug. 27, 1988 EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons ACQUIRED: 2010 supplemental 1st round, U Connecticut 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 6th Olt was one of a handful of interesting Rangers prospects that saw their ’11 seasons interrupted by injuries. The third baseman was well on his way to a strong offensive season when he broke his collarbone during a home-plate collision. After appearing in just 69 regular season games (where he posted an ISO rate of .238), the former U of Connecticut player posted a .415 ISO rate and slugged 13 home runs in 27 Arizona Fall League games. In the field, Olt plays an above-average third base and showcases a strong arm. With Adrian Beltre serving as a significant roadblock for the big league job at the hot corner, Olt could move to an outfield corner or possibly first base (where his arm would go to waste). Because of his success in the AFL, he will likely move up to double-A to begin 2012. 10. Christian Villanueva, 3B BORN: June 19, 1991 EXPERIENCE: 3 seasons ACQUIRED: 2008 international free agent 2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off A favorite of FanGraphs scouting guru Mike Newman, Villanueva received a glowing report from him recently. As such, I’ll let you click the link for the low-down on this third base prospect. One thing I will point out, though, is that the hot corner is spoken for by veteran Adrian Beltre for the next four to five seasons (including his option year), so Villanueva will either be a key trading chip or will have to transition to another position (He’s athletic enough to do so) if he’s going to play ball in Texas any time soon. The Next Five 11. Michael Kirkman, LHP: Kirkman took a bit of a step backward in 2011 as he struggled with both his command and control. Still, he has above-average fastball velocity for a southpaw and flashes a plus slider. A starter in the minors, he’s likely best suited for the bullpen at the MLB level due to the lack of a reliable third pitch and inconsistent mechanics. 12. Jake Skole, OF: A former first round pick, Skole has been slow to develop to pro ball but he held his own in low-A ball in 2011. His raw power has yet to translate to in-game power and his ISO rate sat at .125. To have more success at the plate, Skole will need to make more contact (27 K%). The young outfielder has decent speed but is a poor base runner, as witnessed by his 60% stolen base rate (35 attempts). He should be an average to above-average right-fielder. 13. David Perez, RHP: Perez is very projectable but he’s also quite raw. His control completely deserted him while pitching in North America for the first time in 2011. The right-hander can touch the mid-90s with his fastball and he also flashes two other pitches (curveball, changeup) that could be above-average offerings as he matures. He had a disappointing season in short-season ball but pitched the entire year at 18 and was well below the average age (21) for the league. 14. Miguel de los Santos, LHP: The left-hander has a solid two-pitch mix with a low-90s fastball and plus changeup. If he can get more consistent with his breaking ball de los Santos could be a solid No. 3 starter but he’s probably headed for a career as a high-leverage reliever. His strikeout rate hasn’t dipped below 12.00 K/9 since ’07 but his control, as well as fastball command, is inconsistent. 15. Cody Buckel, RHP: Buckel doesn’t have the same pure stuff as many of the other pitchers on this list but he has solid pitchability and above-average command of a four-pitch repertoire. He has an unorthodox delivery but it works for him and he repeats it well, as witnessed by his walk rate of 2.51 BB/9 in low-A ball. SLEEPER ALERT: Matt West, RHP: You may remember West from the 2007 amateur draft when he was the organization’s second round draft pick out of a Texas high school… as a third baseman. After stalling at the hot corner in low-A ball, West made the risky move of switching to the mound. After just one season it looks like it’s paid off… West showed solid control in his pitching debut, posting a walk rate of 0.35 BB/9 in 26 short-season innings. His strikeout rate sat at 12.12 K/9. With a strong spring he could perhaps jump to high-A ball.