Top 27 Prospects: Texas Rangers by Eric Longenhagen March 1, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Texas Rangers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. Top Prospects Series 2018 2017 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Rangers Top Prospects Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV 1 Willie Calhoun 23 MLB DH 2018 50 2 Leody Taveras 19 A CF 2020 50 3 Cole Ragans 20 A- LHP 2020 50 4 Yohander Mendez 23 MLB LHP 2018 50 5 Bubba Thompson 19 R CF 2022 45 6 Pedro Gonzalez 20 R CF 2021 45 7 Hans Crouse 19 R RHP 2021 45 8 Ronald Guzman 23 AAA 1B 2018 45 9 Chris Seise 19 A- SS 2022 40 10 Kyle Cody 23 A+ RHP 2019 40 11 Brendon Davis 20 A+ 3B 2022 40 12 Mike Matuella 23 A RHP 2019 40 13 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 22 AA UTIL 2019 40 14 Josh Morgan 22 R INF 2020 40 15 Jonathan Hernandez 21 A+ RHP 2020 40 16 Anderson Tejeda 19 R SS 2021 40 17 Brett Martin 22 A+ LHP 2020 40 18 Joe Palumbo 23 A+ LHP 2020 40 19 Carlos Tocci 22 AAA CF 2018 40 20 Jose Trevino 25 AA C 2018 40 21 Matt Whatley 22 A- C 2021 40 22 Connor Sadzeck 26 AA RHP 2018 40 23 Tyler Phillips 20 A RHP 2022 40 24 Jean Casanova 20 R RHP 2021 40 25 Alex Speas 20 A- RHP 2022 40 26 A.J. Alexy 19 A RHP 2022 40 27 Miguel Aparicio 18 A CF 2020 40 50 FV Prospects 1. Willie Calhoun, DH Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Yavapai JC (AZ) Age 22 Height 5’8 Weight 187 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 65/65 50/60 30/30 40/40 45/45 Calhoun doesn’t have a position (he’s been tried at third, second, and in the outfield since college), but he’s going to rake. Scouts have him projected for plus hit and power. He takes huge, beer-league-softball hacks but has the hand-eye coordination and bat control to make it work. He could yank out 30 or more homers as soon as he’s given regular at-bats. The corner-outfield and DH situation in Texas is pretty crowded, but he should start seeing regular big-league time this year. There’s some risk that Calhoun’s aggression is exploited the way Rougie Odor’s has been, but otherwise Calhoun looks like a stable mid-order slugger. 2. Leody Taveras, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 170 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/55 45/50 20/45 60/60 45/55 55/55 Taveras didn’t have a spectacular 2017, but he was just a teenager in full-season ball, so his .250/.312/.360 line is pretty palatable. He still projects as a plus hitter with plus defense in center field and a plus arm, but questions about his power potential pervade. He’s somewhat projectable, physically, but unless a change in approach is made, his power output and overall ceiling are capped. He still profiles as an above-average regular, but he’s a great developmental distance away from that. 3. Cole Ragans, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from North Florida Christian HS (FL) Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 45/50 40/50 60/65 40/50 Ragans emerged as a sophomore on a loaded Tallahasse-area high-school team with five pro players on it. He isn’t a sexy-upside type of prospect, but Ragans has a clear separator that will get him to the big leagues: a knockout 65-grade changeup for which he has plus feel. His fastball is sneaky productive despite average velocity and his curveball has always been fringy, though scouts assume there will be an average breaking ball of some sort eventually due to Ragans’ ability to get the most out of his other pitches. His upside is a mid-rotation starter and more likely a back-end innings eater, but Ragans doesn’t need to make many more adjustments before he’s ready, and scouts rave about his makeup. 4. Yohander Mendez, LHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Venezuela Age 22 Height 6’5 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 55/55 45/50 45/45 55/60 45/50 Mendez is still up this high because he has above-average velocity — especially for a left-handed starter — and a difference-making changeup. He also had a solid year at Double-A, where he posted 22% and 7% strikeout and walk rates, respectively, over 24 starts. Scouts have grown a little bit concerned about Mendez’s body and athleticism, and the way they impact his command. He struggles to locate his fastball to his glove side, which makes it hard to set up his fringey slider off the plate, away from lefties. Mendez has a loopy, get-me-over curveball that works situationally, but it isn’t going to miss many bats and he shelved it during his brief big-league stint late in 2017. There’s still enough here to project Mendez as a near-ready No. 4 starter, but he’s trending down. 45 FV Prospects 5. Bubba Thompson, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from McGill-Toolen HS (AL) Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 45/55 20/50 70/70 40/55 50/50 Thompson was a two-sport star in high school. He threw 38 touchdowns and led McGill-Toolen football to the 7A state title game in Alabama as a senior quarterback. Please enjoy this highlight reel of Thompson dropping 40- to 50-yard dimes. On the baseball field, Thompson made pretty significant progress as a senior and moved toward the front of the high-school outfield class because he started hitting and was a much better bet to stay in center field than the other top high-school bats. He signed for $2 million and got his first taste of pro ball in the AZL. There, Thompson looked as you might expect a raw, two-sport athlete to look. He generated impressive power on contact but had pitch-recognition issues typical of players focusing on baseball for the first time. Due to knee tendinitis, he didn’t run well in the summer, but the condition required only maintenance and rest, never a complete shut down. As long as that’s remedied, he projects as a plus-plus runner who is at least above average in center field, and he has the present bat speed and frame to merit power projection. Thompson is a high-variance prospect because it’s tough to project his bat, but he has premium athleticism and makeup. (He arrived at camp early and has been attending college games in Surprise just to drink up more baseball.) Those prospects tend to cure their own ills. 6. Pedro Gonzalez, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic Age 20 Height 6’5 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 50/60 30/55 45/40 40/45 50/55 Gonzalez was tough to scout while he was with Colorado because the Rockies don’t have an AZL team, nor do they play many games during extended spring training or fall instructional league. It meant that Gonzalez spent more time in the Dominican than is typical for a prospect of his age and caliber. He was sent to Texas as a high-end Player to be Named Later in the Jonathan Lucroy deal after dominating a repeat trip to the Pioneer League. Gonzalez has big power projection because his well-constructed frame has room for another 30 pounds or so. He’s a long-levered 6-foot-5, which causes some swing and miss, but if Gonzalez stays in center field and hits for power, then there’s room for him to have contact issues and still profile as a regular. At Gonzalez’s size, or the size he projects to be, that might be difficult. He’s only a 45 runner from home to first because it takes him a few steps to really get moving, but Gonzalez is a 55 runner underway and has enough range to stay in center field for now. This is a classic high-variance outfield prospect. Gonzalez might stay in center field and have a middle-of-the-order bat, or he might end up a strikeout-prone corner guy. The light looked like it was starting to come on for him late last year as he dominated instructional league. 7. Hans Crouse, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Dana Hills HS (CA) Age 18 Height 6’4 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 60/70 45/55 35/45 Crouse has premium stuff, but teams were concerned about his ability to start when he was in high school because he has a strange delivery and well-below-average command. Pro scouts were drooling over his arm after he signed: he was up to 99 in the AZL, sitting 95-97, and mixing in his plus curveball and promising changeup. Crouse’s fastball plays down a little because he’s a short-strider and doesn’t generate good extension, but he has No. 3 starter stuff if he can improve his command enough to pitch every fifth day. If he can’t, his stuff is nasty enough to pitch late, high-leverage innings. 8. Ronald Guzman, 1B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic Age 22 Height 6’5 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 60/60 45/50 30/30 50/55 50/50 Guzman is remarkably difficult to strike out for a hitter his size and only K’d at a 16% clip last year at Triple-A. His defense has improved dramatically since he first entered pro ball but is still fringey. The same is true for his in-game power, which is average overall but mediocre at first base. His .298/.372/.434 line last year at Triple-A was good for a 112 wRC+. MLB average at first was 113 last year, and Guzman’s defense rounds his profile down. He has great makeup and is nearly big-league ready. He’ll probably have a long MLB career as a second-division regular. 40 FV Prospects 9. Chris Seise, SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Winter Orange HS (FL) Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/55 20/45 50/45 40/50 55/60 The 2017 draft was thin at shortstop, and some argued Seise has more upside than any of the other prospects available. Those scouts thought he’d stay at short and grow into big raw power. Even those optimistic about Seise developing pop had concerns about his ability to hit, though. Scouts have knocked his timing, plate coverage, and bat control. While Seise’s hands and actions need some polish, he’s very graceful and smooth for his size, and has plenty of arm for short. His chances of staying there are pretty good, especially as big shortstops without traditionally viable range are becoming more widely accepted throughout baseball. If he’s a 50 defender at short at maturity and his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-2 frame has grown into above-average raw power, as scouts currently project, he’ll be an everyday player. There’s also a chance he grows off of short, at which point it will be necessary for the bat to develop. 10. Kyle Cody, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Kentucky Age 22 Height 6’7 Weight 245 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/70 60/60 45/50 40/45 Cody had a disappointing junior year at Kentucky, but the Twins, who were drafting a lot of relief-only prospects at the time, made him their second-rounder in 2015. He didn’t sign, in part due to post-draft medicals, and went back to Lexington for his senior year, then fell all the way to the sixth round in 2016. In a year and a half of pro ball, Cody has been healthy and thrown strikes while retaining the stuff that made him a potential first-rounder as a junior. His sinking fastball averaged 95 in 2017 and touched 99. He has a plus, vertically breaking slider that misses bats when buried in the dirt and he’s flashed a 50 changeup. There are scouts who still think Cody ends up pitching in relief, but throwing exclusively from the stretch as a pro has helped him throw more strikes. His stock is climbing, but we’re still talking about a 23-year-old who mostly pitched at Low-A last year and who had some medical red flags as an amateur. Another healthy year of strike-throwing might put those concerns to rest. 11. Brendon Davis, 3B Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from Lakewood HS (CA) Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 45/55 30/50 50/40 40/55 55/60 Davis, who is built like an NBA shooting guard, was one of the younger prospects in the 2015 draft class and still has a lot of room on his frame, which means he’s very likely to move to third base, full-time, at some point and he’s already seeing a lot of time there. That likely corner defensive profile is a little concerning when coupled with the strikeout issues caused by the length of Davis’s levers, but he might also grow into enough power to make up for it. Davis doubled his walk rate last season, and if that holds, he could develop into a three-true-outcomes hitter who is also an above-average defender at third base. 12. Mike Matuella, RHP Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Duke Age 23 Height 6’6 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 55/60 45/50 40/50 Matuella was a high-profile college prospect who was in contention to go first overall in 2015 before injuries derailed his stock and arguably his career. He was diagnosed with spondylosis and later blew out his elbow, requiring TJ ahead of the draft. He first stepped onto a pro mound during extended spring training in 2016 and his stuff was electric (93-96, plus breaking balls), but he made just one affiliated start before dealing with more elbow discomfort and was shut down for the rest of the season. The 2017 campaign was Matuella’s first healthy one in nearly five years (he never threw more than 58 innings in a season at Duke). He made 21 appearances that averaged about three-and-a-half innings per outing, logging 70 frames total. It appears Matuella has scrapped his slider and now works with a three-pitch mix. His fastball is plus. It averages 94 and has heavy sink. His curveball is a 55 and projects to plus as he continues to accrue reps he’s missed due to injury. His changeup, meanwhile, will flash 55 but is generally a 45 or 50. It’s solid No. 3/4 starter stuff depending on how aggressively you project on the changeup, but Matuella has extreme injury risk is far behind the age curve, from a workload standpoint, which dilutes his overall grade. The standard, annual innings increase for developing pitchers is 20 to 30 innings, which reasonably puts Matuella on track to throw 110-130 big-league innings in 2019. Texas could also just ‘pen him and move him through the minors more quickly, which would increase their chances of extracting big-league innings from Matuella before something else goes wrong. Matuella is a consensus elite makeup guy, and everyone in baseball is rooting for him. 13. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, UTIL Drafted: 4th Round, 2013 from Mid-Pacific Institute (HI) Age 22 Height 5’10 Weight 176 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 40/40 20/30 50/45 50/50 45/45 Kiner-Falefa catches once a week but spends most of his time playing either second or third base. His hands are terrific, and he’s an athletic receiver and ball-blocker with a fringey arm, but he’s a good enough defensive catcher now to be a legitimate part-time option back there. He also sees the ball well and has terrific bat-to-ball skills that allow him to spray relatively soft contact to all fields. He doesn’t have the power to play everyday at second or third base, but he seems likely to be a versatile and valuable bench option. 14. Josh Morgan, INF Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Orange Lutheran (CA) Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 45/45 30/40 40/40 45/50 55/55 Though Texas had been experimenting with Morgan behind the plate on the Surprise backfields for a little while, he only debuted as a catcher in affiliated ball in 2017. He played 36 games at catcher (and seven more in the AFL, where he did nothing but catch) and the rest at shortstop, but mostly abandoned second and third base, where he had seen semi-frequent reps dating back to 2014. Morgan has become a fringey, but passable, receiver with a 45 arm and a solid ground game. He’s a 30 runner (at least, he was in the AFL) and doesn’t have the lateral quickness nor arm strength to play short. He has good defensive footwork, average hands, and an average arm, and scouts considered him a future 50 defender at third, a 45 at second, and anything from a 40 to unplayable at shortstop. He projects as a contact-only backup catcher who can moonlight at other positions. 15. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 60/60 50/50 50/55 35/45 Hernandez looked like a pitchability righty during his first pro season in the U.S., exhibiting impressive command and an advanced understanding of pitching relative to his age. In the two seasons since then, however, he has become an enigmatic fireballer. Hernandez will touch 98 and sits 94-95 with a fastball that has a lot of arm-side tail because of Hernandez’s lower arm slot. That arm slot means his two-plane slider, which is already plus, plays above that against right-handed hitters. It also means scouts are questioning Hernandez’s ability to start because of how early left-handed hitter see the ball out of his hand — a fact that is compounded by his below-average control. He also has an average changeup and curveball, so there’s a viable offspeed pitch and sufficient repertoire depth here to help mitigate Hernandez’s platoon issues, at least. He’ll still have to develop a full grade of control to profile as an inefficient No. 4 starter. 16. Anderson Tejeda, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic Age 19 Height 5’11 Weight 160 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 55/60 20/50 55/55 30/40 60/60 Tejeda has cacophonous tools and absolutely no polish on either side of the ball. His natural, uphill swing and bat speed could one day allow him to hit for considerable power, but the plane of that stroke causes Tejeda to swing and miss thru pitches in the strike zone. His poor ball/strike recognition doesn’t help in this regard. At shortstop, Tejeda is error-prone. Some scouts don’t think he has the hands to stay on the dirt and want to see him tried in center field. He runs well enough to give that a try if Texas is inclined. Tejeda’s power and speed clearly represent premium tools, but a lot has to happen for them to play that way on the field. 17. Brett Martin, LHP Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Walters State Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 50/55 50/55 40/50 40/45 40/50 Martin has missed significant time with injury during each of the last three years. Between 2015 and -17, he had hip, elbow, and finally back issues that shelved him for much of May and June. He has mid-rotation upside if he can stay healthy and more consistently locate a fully developed changeup. Reports from the season have Martin sitting 91-93 with some sink, an above-average curveball, average cutter, and fringe command and changeup. When I saw him in the fall, he was up to 95, sitting 92-94 with no curveball (probably for developmental reasons) but a cutter and changeup that lined up with reports from the summer. Maritn is long-limbed and has lost many reps due to injury, so there’s reason to continue projecting on his secondaries and command. He’s unlikely to develop a knockout secondary offering but should end up with a deep coffer of 50s and 55s. If he can stay healthy, he could be a No. 4 starter, but he hasn’t shown he’s able to yet. 18. Joe Palumbo, LHP Drafted: 30th Round, 2014 from St. John the Baptist (NY) Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 168 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 55/60 40/45 40/45 Palumbo’s velocity ticked up in 2016 and didn’t regress when Texas moved him into the rotation late in the year. Scouts thought Palumbo’s combination of velocity, deception, and plus breaking ball gave him mid-rotation potential, but they wanted to see him hold this newfound heat every fifth day for an extended period of time. He was 90-94 and touching 96 during 2017 spring training but blew out his elbow after three great starts and needed Tommy John. Texas added him to the 40-man this offseason and moved him to the 60-day DL to make space for Jesse Chavez. He’s on track to start throwing off a mound soon. 19. Carlos Tocci, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Venezuela Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 30/30 20/30 60/60 50/55 60/60 Tocci, Texas’s Rule 5 pick from Philadelphia, slashed .307/.362/.398 as a 21-year-old at Double-A Reading last year before spending a fruitless final few weeks at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He’s a skinny 6-foot-2, 160 pounds and has very little raw power, but Tocci has good bat-to-ball skills, is an above-average runner with good instincts in center field, and has a plus arm. His lack of power will likely prevent him from everyday duty; instead, he profiles as a competent fourth outfielder. 20. Jose Trevino, C Drafted: 6th Round, 2014 from Oral Roberts Age 24 Height 5’11 Weight 211 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 45/45 20/30 30/30 50/55 55/55 Trevino had a bad offensive season away from the friendly confines of the Rangers’ former Cal League affiliate, and his projection has shaded toward backup rather than second-division starter. He remains a good receiver with an average arm and every intangible quality you can possibly imagine, which is probably why he’s come so far so quickly as a catcher after he spent his college career playing all over the infield. Trevino is one of four catchers currently on the Rangers’ 40-man — five if you count Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Robinson Chirinos is atop the depth chart and mashed lefties last year, but there’s no obvious platoon partner anywhere in sight. His contract expires after the 2018 season, so Trevino has a clear path to playing time in 2019. 21. Matt Whatley, C Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Oral Roberts Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 40/45 20/30 45/40 50/60 60/60 An excellent defender with high-end makeup, Whatley has a plus arm and quiet hands that steal strikes from umpires. He has an aggressive, pull-heavy swing but below average bat speed, so it’s unlikely he does any sort of damage with the bat. He profiles as a glove-first backup. 22. Connor Sadzeck, RHP Drafted: 11th Round, 2011 from Howard College Age 25 Height 6’7 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 55/55 50/50 40/45 40/45 Texas developed Sadzeck as a starter until his age-26 season, but it appears he’s moving to the bullpen for the 2018 campaign, fulfilling the scouting prophecy laid forth for Sadzeck when he was drafted seven years ago. He has a plus fastball that will probably play up out of the bullpen (his fastball has been sitting in the upper 90s this spring, but he’s struggled in two appearances), and it could mean Sadzeck pares down a diverse but mediocre group of secondary pitches to a singular offspeed offering. Scouts have long preferred his slider, but Sadzeck has also utilized a curveball and changeup. He profiles in middle relief. 23. Tyler Phillips, RHP Drafted: 16th Round, 2015 from Bishop Eustace HS (NJ) Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 50/55 50/60 30/45 Texas sent Phillips back to extended spring training after seven tumultuous, early-season appearances at Low-A in 2017. After a month in Arizona, he went up to Spokane (where he pitched in 2016) and dominated, striking out 78 and walking 11 in 73 innings. Phillips has 40 command (and it looked worse than that when I saw him in the fall), but he’s a huge, northeastern prep arm who has made only 17 starts in three pro seasons, so there are legitimate reasons he has yet to polish his usage of very enticing stuff. Phillips sits 90-93 and will touch 95 with heavy sink. His changeup flashes plus surprisingly often, and Phillips’ curveball is average but flashes above, and most scouts have it projected there. There’s a potential mid-rotation arm in here somewhere if the control/command really come and enough stuff here to project him as an inefficient No. 4/5 or multi-inning relief piece if it doesn’t. 24. Jean Casanova, RHP Video Drafted: 35th Round, 2016 from Waukegan HS (IL) Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 155 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 50/55 45/50 45/50 45/60 Texas has scooped up a bunch of interesting size/athleticism/arm-strength lottery tickets in the late rounds of the draft. You’re about to meet several, but Phillips and Casanova are the best of them. He is a rail-thin 6-foot-3, 155 and is so slight of frame that it’s debatable whether or not he actually has physical projection. Casanova sits 89-92 and will touch 95. He has plus command projection and has already shown an ability to locate his fastball to all quadrants of the zone. He has a fringey 12-6 curveball and changeup. Both project to average and elicited a surprising amount of swing and misses last year, so perhaps there’s something going on here that allows his stuff to play up. He projects as a No. 4 starter with plus command. 25. Alex Speas, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from McEachern HS (GA) Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/70 50/60 40/45 30/45 Speas’ strike-throwing didn’t develop at all in 2017, and he pitched out of the Spokane bullpen for most of the summer. As a result, the amateur reports indicating Speas would likely become a reliever have turned into pro reports assuming he’s already on that path. His fastball has been all over the place the last two years. He was up to 99 as a high-school senior, then topped out at 95 that fall. He was 93-97 during 2017 spring training, and during the summer, I have him topping out at 99 but only sitting 92-94 at other times. Speas went from throwing every sixth or seventh day as a starter to throwing every third day as a reliever, and it’s possibles this transition caused his velo to fluctuate. It’s not something about which to worry right now, and we still have Speas’ fastball projected to a 70 out of the bullpen, but it’s worth monitoring during the 2018 campaign. He also has a two-plane breaking ball (some scouts call it a curve, others a slider) that projects to plus, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to hone his changeup in games because of the late-season move to the bullpen. Speas’ needs to make significant strike-throwing progress to be any kind of big leaguer at all, but he has late-inning stuff if he can. 26. A.J. Alexy, RHP Video Drafted: 11th Round, 2016 from Twin Valley HS (PA) Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 50/55 55/60 40/45 30/40 Alexy was an 11th-round pick out of a Pennsylvania high schol in 2016 and exhibited a pretty significant uptick in velocity under the Dodgers’ player-development program before moving to Texas as part of the package for Yu Darvish. Alexy was 88-92 after he signed but was sitting 90-92 and touching 95 before the trade. He has a tight, knee-buckling curveball that projects to plus, but his max-effort delivery and mediocre changeup feel make it likely that he winds up in the bullpen. Northeastern prep arms typically have more changeup/command projection because those are things they haven’t needed nor had time to develop as amateurs. Because of that, Alexy has some chance to start. To get there, though, he’ll have to reign in the control problems that became increasingly problematic as last year wore on. 27. Miguel Aparicio, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 165 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/55 30/40 20/30 55/55 45/60 40/45 Aparicio is a polished defensive center fielder, but he’s not a plus or better runner, so his ceiling as a defender is somewhat limited. He also has terrific bat control and hand-eye coordination, but he’s not selective enough to attack only those pitches he can drive. He settles for lots of subpar contact as a result. That will have to be remedied if Aparicio is going to profile as an everyday player, because he doesn’t have much raw power and his frame doesn’t suggest he’ll grow into any. There’s a chance his hit tool maxes out as he refines his approach with age, which would allow to to profile as a soft 50. It’s more likely he develops into a fourth outfielder. His mean projection looks something like what Carlos Tocci is right now. Other Prospects of Note Ryan Dease, RHP – Texas’s fourth-rounder from 2017, Dease’s 90-93 mph fastball has some life, and he has impressive feel for a potential plus changeup. He can already run the latter pitch back over the outside corner against righties, something not many pitchers can do with their changeups at all, let alone at age 18. Dease has a 40 breaking ball, which is why he isn’t in the main section of the list, and looks like a potential No. 4/5 starter. Ronald Herrera, RHP – The Yankees’ cup runneth over with 40-man-worthy talent, and Herrera was lost amid a surfeit of pitching in the upper reaches of the New York’s farm system. He was traded to Texas as part of what has become an annual exodus of 40-man spillover in exchange for LHP Reiver Sanmartin. Herrera has an above-average changeup and command. Every other aspect of the repertoire is fringey, but Herrera has had success up through Double-A and projects as, at least, a valuable depth arm and possible back-end starter. Keyber Rodriguez, SS – A switch-hitting Venezuelan shortstop, Rodriguez signed for $1 million last July. He has 40 raw pull-only power as a right-handed hitter and a more conservative style of hitting from the left side that leads to low-lying contact. Rodriguez has a pretty good shot to stay at short. He’s an above-average athlete with a 55 arm, and his hands and range are fine for the middle infield. Tyree Thompson, RHP – Thompson is a fastball/changeup/physical projection righty who was clearly asked to focus on fastball-command development in 2017 because he rarely threw anything else. His heater approaches the plate at a good angle and he’ll touch 94. His frame (6-foot-4, 165) has some room for mass yet at age 20. Thompson has shown glimpses of good fastball command, and he’ll show you a 50 or 55 changeup, though scouts don’t have a firm grasp on Thompson’s loopy rainbow curveball because he hasn’t used it much. Realistically, Thompson is back-end starter, but because he has arm strength, athleticism, and physical projection, there’s a chance he turns into more. Texas’s system is often full of guys like this. Damian Mendoza, RHP – Mendoza was the best Mexican prospect eligible to sign last July. His delivery is graceful and controlled, he’ll top out around 91, and also shows some breaking-ball feel. He doesn’t have a prototypical big-league pitcher’s frame, but he is somewhat projectable and checks most of the other boxes. Eric Jenkins, CF – Jenkins is a 70 runner with breathtaking range in center field, but he’s made no progress as a hitter and scouts are starting to wonder if he’ll even be a viable bench outfielder at this point. Last spring, he showed signs of limiting the scope of his offensive approach to something that took advantage of his speed, but that wasn’t the case during the regular season. He could still slap and slash his way into a big-league role but he needs to show progress soon. David Garcia, C – Most high-profile internationl prospects play in either the GCL or AZL at some point during their first pro season, but Garcia — who signed out of Venezuela for $800K in 2016 — was badly overmatched by the other prospects during his first pro instructional league and spent his whole first year in the DSL. When he was back in the states for his second instrux, he had made some clear progress but still looks likely to be a multi-year Rookie-ball prospect. He has promising defensive attributes (he’s a 45 receiver with an average arm already at age 18), and he has a good left-handed cut. He’s an interesting long-term prospect at a premium position and is probably a half-decade away from the majors. Yohel Pozo, C – Pozo is going to challenge Willians Astudillo for the Three False Incomes crown. He tracks pitches exceptionally well and has great bat control, which makes him difficult to strike out. But he’s also overly aggressive and doesn’t walk. Both his career walk and strikeout rates hover around 6% (Astudillo’s are each about 3%, which is mind-boggling), and Pozo actually has a pretty good chance to catch. He’s a 45 receiver with a 45 arm. It’s hard to project a prospect this weird, and catchers without power have a hard time being better than a 45, so it’s fair to say Pozo’s ceiling is limited despite his unique traits and then project him as a backup. Ariel Jurado, RHP – Jurado looked like a pretty stable No. 4 starter prospect after 2016. The sink on his fastball evaporated last year, and he was working with a 30 breaking ball. His arm slot was higher in 2017 than it was in 2016, so perhaps there’s some relationship with that mechanical change and a dip in Jurado’s stuff. There’s a chance he bounces back and returns to form as a likely sinker/changeup/command No. 4 starter, but if he’s as hittable this year as he was last, he’ll project as a minor-league depth arm. Adam Choplick, LHP – Choplick is a massive 6-foot-9 lefty reliever whose fastball plays like it’s in the mid-90s thanks to an extreme combination of deception and extension caused by the huge stride Choplick takes off of the rubber. He lands maybe a shoe’s length from the grass in front of the mound. Choplick is a below-average athlete with below-average control and an average curveball, but the ball is tough for hitters to pick up out of his hand one inning at a time, and he has a good chance to carve out a lefty relief role. Yanio Perez, 1B/DH – Perez got off to a hot start at Low-A but cooled off after he was promoted and didn’t look good in the AFL. He has 55 raw power, but he’s huge, nowhere near his listed 205, and really only playable at first base. It’s highly unlikely he has the bat-to-ball skills or approach to profile there. Instead, he might max out as a corner bench bat. Demarcus Evans, RHP – An imposing mound presence at 6-foot-4, 240, Evans struck out 81 hitters in just 60 innings last year but also walked 40. He sits 93-96 with nasty movement and has a plus, low-80s curveball. As you can probably guess based on his walk total, though, Evans has control issues. He projects in relief with his ultimate role likely dictated by how much his control develops. Andy Ibanez, 2B – Ibanez repeated Double-A last year as a 24-year-old and produced a statline nearly identical to that of his 2016 campaign, which resulted in a 102 wRC+ in the Southern League. He also began seeing some time at third base. There are contact skills here but probably not enough power on contact for Ibanez to be more than a fringe bench bat. Andretty Cordero, 1B/LF – It’s going to be tough for Cordero to profile because he’s an impatient right-right first baseman, but he does have above-average power, makes an average amount of contact, and will probably stick around for a while because he’s a good-bodied athlete, and those guys have longer shelf lives. If he develops a more patient approach during that time, maybe he finds his way to the majors. Keithron Moss, INF – Texas signed Moss out of the Bahamas for $800,000 in December. He’s a twitchy, switch-hitting infielder with high-end speed. He’s small and is a long-term developmental project both physically and technically, but he’s an interesting teenage athlete from a location that has begun producing more and more interesting baseball prospects. Joel Urena, LHP – This is a gigantic, 6-foot-5, 235-pound 18-year-old whom the Rangers drafted out of Monroe CC in New York in the seventh round. He has an average fastball/breaking-ball combo right now, and there might be a little more in here if he becomes more mechanically efficient. Realistically, he projects as a lefty reliever. Seth Nordlin, RHP – Nordlin sits 86-91 and has an above-average curveball that’s likely to tear up the lower levels of the minors. If his fastball ticks up as a pro, he could become relevant pretty quickly. Melvin Novoa, C – A strong-bodied 21-year-old Nicaraguan catcher, Novoa slashed .281/.338/.467 in the Northwest League last year. He’s a 40 receiver with a 45 arm and has a decent ground game. He’s got a shot to wind up with a 50 glove and arm, and he could at least be a backup who hits for strength-driven power with that kind of defensive profile. Kole Enright, INF – One year ago, Enright looked like a multi-positional utility bat who had a shot to hit his way into an everyday job. Then he posted a disappointing .233/.314/.323 line in an aggressive assignment to Low-A. Scouts saw a drop-off in bat speed and general twitchiness. He’s still on the radar but needs to bounce back in 2018. Jairo Beras, RHP – Beras, 23, moved to the mound in 2017 after struggling to make contact yet again at Low-A. He has little more than premium arm strength at this point, sitting 95-98 and touching 99 during my instructional-league look. Chad Smith, OF – Smith is a three-year Rookie-ball guy who had on-paper success at Spokane last year. He has above-average bat speed, but his long, sweeping swing makes him strikeout prone and he’s a corner-only prospect. Luis Yander La O, 2B – La O’s bat head drags through the zone, so he’s late on some stuff he shouldn’t be, but he’s got some pop when he catches one up and in and the hand-eye coordination to hit is here. He’s already 26, so La O has to come quickly. He signed for $110,000 in January of 2017 and has several middle infielders to pass on the org depth chart to reach the majors. Jose Cardona, OF – Cardona has wonderful bat control and hand-eye coordination — and he lifted the ball in the air more often last year — but the overall quality of his contact took a step backward. He looked like a likely bench outfielder heading into 2017 and now needs a bit of a bounceback to recapture that projection. Michael De Leon, SS – De Leon peaked, physically, at a pretty early age and reports on his already middling tools have begun to regress. He’s still a pretty advanced 21-year-old with the moxie to pass at shortstop, but he’s looking more like upper-level depth at this point. Jeff Springs, LHP – As a 24-year-old at High-A, Springs struck out 146 hitters in 112.1 innings. He’s got a dandy changeup and sits 90-92, maxing out at 94. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Jose Cardona, OF Cardona appeared among the Fringe Five a couple times last year in that space designated as the Next Five — or, roughly the equivalent of an honorable-mention section. Cardona, like many of the players included in that weekly column, makes contact frequently. Unlike many of those players, however, Cardona also appears to be a legitimate defensive asset at a premium position. Consider his fielding numbers from the last three seasons, per Baseball Prospectus: Jose Cardona Fielding Runs, 2015-17 Year Level PA Pos Adj FRAA Defense Def/600 2015 Low-A 526 1.1 16.4 17.5 20.0 2016 High-A 453 0.9 2.4 3.3 4.4 2017 Double-A 465 0.5 9.3 9.8 12.6 Average — 481 0.8 9.4 10.2 12.7 SOURCE: Baseball Prospectus *Offensive plate appearances displayed to approximate playing time.**FRAA = Fielding Runs Above Average.***Def/600 = Total defensive run prorated to 600 PA (i.e. roughly full season). Most relevant here, probably, is that figure in the bottom-right corner, where one finds that, prorated to 600 plate appearances, Cardona has recorded nearly 13 more runs than average defensively per season. By comparison, only 12 major leaguers (catchers excluded) have exceeded that mark during the same timeframe. Top MLB Defenders, 2015-17 (Min. 1000 PA) Rank Name Team PA Pos Fld Def Def/600 1 Andrelton Simmons – – – 1713 19.0 48.3 67.3 23.6 2 Kevin Kiermaier Rays 1370 4.9 45.2 50.1 21.9 3 Brandon Crawford Giants 1754 19.1 39.3 58.4 20.0 4 Adeiny Hechavarria – – – 1394 16.2 27.9 44.1 19.0 5 Addison Russell Cubs 1506 14.4 33.2 47.6 19.0 6 Francisco Lindor Indians 1845 18.2 37.2 55.4 18.0 7 J.J. Hardy Orioles 1143 13.4 19.1 32.5 17.1 8 Jose Iglesias Tigers 1456 17.0 22.6 39.6 16.3 9 Billy Hamilton Reds 1547 5.3 35.4 40.7 15.8 10 Kevin Pillar Blue Jays 1844 5.9 42.6 48.5 15.8 11 Zack Cozart Reds 1229 12.0 15.5 27.5 13.4 12 Michael Taylor Nationals 1180 2.1 23.9 26.0 13.2 *Offensive plate appearances displayed to approximate playing time.**Fld = Fielding runs***Def/600 = Total defensive run prorated to 600 PA (i.e. roughly full season). Defensive data at even the major-league level is, of course, something to be handled cautiously. Nevertheless, Cardona’s numbers (which are similar by Clay Davenport’s methodology) point to what could be an elite outfielder, thus taking pressure of the bat. System Overview You can learn a lot about a team’s talent preferences and biases by looking at what the lottery-ticket prospects in the system are like. Upper-crust prospects like Taveras and Thompson are sought by every organization, but not all teams would be interested in someone like Evans and Pelham in the draft or Alexy, Davis, and Gonzalez in trades. Texas fills their backfields with big, explosive athletes, some with more refined baseball skills than others, and then tries to develop them. They’ve been doing it this way, mostly with success, for a while now. The organization also has a long track record of success on the international market and finds players from all over the world. They now have several late-round arms whom the industry considers prospects, and the system is full of up-the-middle talent. Texas is very likely to add two more good prospects in what looks to be a deep June draft (they pick 15th), and they’ve positioned themselves to sign Cuban OF Julio Pablo Martinez by acquiring international pool space.