Dissecting the Rangers Middle Infield Pipeline

Lately it seems like the Rangers have been able to produce a good amount of talented middle infielders, either through trades, international signings or the Rule 5 draft. Start with current incumbents for the big club, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Andrus was acquired in the fateful Mark Teixeira deal, and Kinsler was drafted in the 17th round of the 2003 Draft. The next to come in is #1 prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar was signed out of Curacao for a $1.55M signing bonus, and we all know how that investment has turned out. So who's next?

AAA Round Rock

2B Leury Garcia - 22 yrs old - S/R - .252/.303/.396/.699, (28-111), 6 2B, 2 HR, 2 3B, 17 R, 14 RBI, 8-9 SB, 8 BB, 32 K

Seen as a defensive first 2B, he's good depth to have in the system in case of a string of injuries. In a small sample size earlier in the year he hit .192/.236/.231/.467 in 52 AB. He posted a -0.4 UZR in that span as well. In his time in AAA he's put up a .304 wOBA and 80 wRC+. It's hard to see him being anything more than AAA depth at this point for the Rangers. I'm sure another team could use him as a back up middle infielder for the big club, or a defense-first starter. Scouts have said he is a plus runner and plus defender with excellent range. He could easily play SS but has been blocked by more competent defenders (Profar, Andrus, Kinsler). Garcia was ranked 15th in the Texas system by FanGraphs, 19th by, and 20th by Baseball America going into the season.

AA Frisco

SS Hanser Alberto - 20 yrs old - R/R - .219/.259/.293/.552, (65-321), 5 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 33 R, 30 RBI, 11-15 SB, 14 BB, 35 K

Alberto has had a horrible first half of 2013 at the plate. He's registered a .276 wOBA and 52 wRC+. He hasn't always been this bad and he's also incredibly young for AA. He's being hurt by a .231 BABIP which is 66 points below league average. He's also struck out almost 9 points less than league avearge. Last year he hit .337/.385/.463/.849 with a 134 wRC+ and .386 wOBA for Hickory (A) and then was promoted to Myrtle Beach (A+) and put up a .265/.273/.362/.635 line with a 72 wRC+ and .283 wOBA. With hindsight always being 20/20, he could have used a little more time in A+ and there's a chance that could still happen if he can't produce much with the stick. In the field he's seen as above average across the board (hands/arm strength/range). This year he has made 15 errors in 395 chances for a .962 fielding %. He was ranked 19th by John Sickels prior to the season, with John being the only one with him noted.

2B Odubel Herrera - 21 yrs old - L/R - .244/.270/.319/.589, (85-348), 10 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 34 R, 24 RBI, 12-16 SB, 12 BB, 57 K

Herrera has also regressed quite a bit this year from a .284/.335/.382/.717 line last year with a 99 wRC+ and .324 wOBA. His wRC+ has dropped to 63 and his wOBA is down to .263. He's put the ball on the ground over 55% of the time this year and his BABIP of .297 is 37 points lower than his career average of .334. He's a gap hitter who usually hits for average with not much power and iffy plate discipline. In the field he can play SS or 2B but is blocked at short in the system and he's more competent as a 2B. He's only made 8 errors so far in 2013 in 381 chances for a .979 fielding %. Nobody had Herrera in their pre-season org rankings, though BA did have him at #28 last year.

A+ Myrtle Beach

SS Luis Sardinas - 20 yrs old - S/R - .293/.349/.358/.708, (98-335), 13 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 60 R, 28 RBI, 24-31 SB, 27 BB, 50 K

So far Sardinas has put up an almost identical line to last year when he hit .291/.346/.356/.702 in 40 less at bats. He's a small guy, listed at 6'1 150 lbs, and has shown some good wheels this year and its worth noting that even with limited power, he's only hit into 2 double plays this year. He's put up a 99 wRC+ so far with a .331 wOBA. He's also hitting line drives 3.5% less than league average while putting the ball on the ground over 12% more than league average. While power will never be a big part of his game, his defense is, and that is what will be what carries him to Arlington. His arm, range, hands and speed all rate out as plus to plus-plus by scouts. He's even said to have the softest hands in the system. With more development the numbers will show his defensive prowess, but so far it has translated to 21 errors in 343 chances for a .939 fielding %. He's been a popular choice for a breakout season with ranking him 3rd in the Texas system, FanGraphs - 5th, Baseball Prospectus - 5th, Baseball America - 7th, John Sickels - 9th, Keith Law - 9th, and Bullpen Banter - 9th. also had him as the 84th best prospect in the game.

2B Rougned Odor - 19 yrs old - L/R - .295/.362/.446/.808, (98-332), 30 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 58 R, 51 RBI, 25-30 SB, 23 BB, 59 K

Statistically speaking, you could say Odor has had the best season so far of the group. He has the distinction of being the Carolina League leader in doubles, and leads all Carolina league second baseman in H, 3B, RBI, SB, and HBP. Quite impressive for a 19 year old. He has an ability to pepper the gaps for doubles and can steal bases at a well above average clip. When Ben Badler of Baseball America was asked about Odor he said, "(He has) One of the sweetest swings in the minors...he's not a great runner and he's not a premium athlete, but he's going to hit a ton and there's 15-20 HR potential in there." From those words he seems to assume some of those doubles will translate to bombs. His plate discipline needs work but he's got pop and instincts at the plate with the hand-eye coordination to barrel up the ball. On defense he grades out as above average as a second baseman with the ability to fill in at short if need be. He's spent his entire minor league career at 2B and has shown a quick exchange rolling double plays and doesn't have a problem hanging in there with a runner coming straight for him.

A Hickory

SS Luis Marte - 19 yrs old - R/R - .226/.252/.293/.545, (64-301), 10 2B, 3 HR, 35 R, 24 RBI, 13-16 SB, 8 BB, 61 K

The organization showed a lot of faith in promoting Marte to Hickory, skipping short season Spokane. More so when you look at his line from the Arizona Complex League where he hit .187/.224/.263/.487. Yes, a .487 OPS. He's definitely a project at this point and being only 19, which helps his case. He's put up a 54 wRC+ and .254 wOBA this year along with a .277 BABIP that is 37 points below league average. What might be the worst about Marte's numbers is the 2.7 BB% this year. That's 6 percent less than league average for the Sally. The good thing is he's starting to hit more line drives (up 4.4% to 14.8) and more balls on the ground (up 5.2% to 44.8) which lets him utulize his speed, which rates as above average at 4.2 seconds from home to first. His glove work is solid, profiling as a potential above average SS where he has good-to-great hands and a well above average arm while looking the part. He could profile as an above average defender at a premium position. He was not ranked by any publications as a top prospect.

2B Ryan Rua - 23 yrs old - R/R - .260/.369/.620/.989, (78-300), 28 HR, 22 2B, 1 3B, 62 R, 75 RBI, 11-13 SB, 43 BB, 74 K

Talk about coming out of nowhere. Rua was drafted in the 17th round of the 2011 draft from D2 Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. Nothing from last year hinted at the offensive outburst that was to come from Rua. He batted .293/.368/.432/.800 over 280 AB last year with 16 2B, and 7 HR for short season Spokane. Obviously, he has some serious pop in his bat but nothing to suggest more than above average power down the line. Although he has more bombs than teammate Joey Gallo, he is nowhere near Gallo in terms of his power tool. His speed won't set the world on fire either with a 45-50 grade on it. On defense he shows a solid arm, decent range, and the ability to roll a double play, but nothing spectacular or even above average. This year he's made 11 errors in 395 chances for a .972 fielding %. Not many folks realize that this is the first full year of Rua playing at the keystone as he was drafted as a 3B. Once he begins seeing more advanced breaking balls and upper level velocity he will have to prove himself as more than an older player beating up on younger competition.

Short Season A Spokane

SS Alberto Truinfel - 19 yrs old - R/R - .220/.301/.350/.651, (22-100), 5 2B, 2 HR, 1 3B, 13 R, 15 RBI, 2-6 SB, 10 BB, 19 K

The younger brother of Mariners INF Carlos Triunfel, Alberto signed for $300 K in 2010. His bat seems to have stalled a bit, getting good reviews prior to 2012, but not so much before this year. He has a late trigger and the swing is not fluid like before. His stance is too upright and noisy for some while he chops down at the ball. On the base paths he's not very fast, with average speed at best. His defense is what he's known for with nice hands, clean actions and good footwork. The arm is the only thing lacking but appears to be good enough to hold down SS. He's been tagged as a "gamer" with good but not great tools that play.

2B/SS Gabriel Roa - 21 yrs old - R/R - .150/.329/.183/.512, (9-60), 2 2B, 10 R, 7 RBI, 2-2 SB, 13 BB, 11 K

A 25th round selection in the 2012 draft, Roa was selected out of Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, IL. He skipped the rookie leagues and went straight to Spokane after the draft where he put up a .261/.334/.299/.633 line going 68-261 with 5 2B, 1 HR, 1 3B, 40 R, 28 RBI, 4-8 SB, 22 BB, 33 K. This year he's been victimized by a .184 BABIP, which is a killer for a guy who relies on singles like Roa. He has shown good plate discipline so far just not any power. He has yet to make an error this year in 83 chances at 2B, SS and 3B. I can't find much by way of scouting reports on him so considering his performance, age, and league its not hard to see him as nothing more than filler at this point.

2B/3B Janluis Castro - 19 yrs old - S/R - .214/.281/.282/.562, (22-103), 4 2B, 1 HR, 9 R, 15 RBI, 0-1 SB, 10 BB, 16 K

A 16th round pick in the 2012 draft from a high school in Puerto Rico, he mashed last year after being drafted. In the AZL he hit to a .350/.422/.467/.889 line with 11 2B, 1 HR, 1 3B, 17 R, 23 RBI, 4-8 SB and 16 BB to 22 K. This year he's posted a 68 wRC+ and .277 wOBA. His .241 BABIP is way below the league average of .303 and he's striking out 6.3% less than league average. Castro's 10:16 BB:K this year and 16:22 BB:K last year shows good plate discipline. So far in 13 games at the keystone he's played flawless D in 53 chances. He's also played 15 games at third with 3 errors in 29 chances. He's still young for the Northwest League and with the talent already in the system, he'll have plenty of time to get back to last year's form.

Rookie AZL Rangers

SS/3B Travis Demeritte - 18 yrs old - R/R - .260/.380/.429/.809, (20-77), 3 2B, 2 HR, 2 3B, 17 R, 11 RBI, 1-1 SB, 14 BB, 26 K

Demeritte was just selected in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, 30th overall. He's shown a great ability to get on base and score runs. He's registered a 131 wRC+ and .384 wOBA. Scouts praise his bat speed which some said was not far behind #5 overall pick Clint Frazier. This should translate to above average power with better discipline and feel for hitting. In the field he's got decent range with an above average arm. So far he's made 5 errors in 66 chances (12 G) at SS and 1 error in 13 chances (7 G) at 3B. His speed is just average and he will eventually have to move off SS. He fits best at third but scouts have said that he could handle 2B if needed. He's got a very high baseball IQ and plays the game with passion. If he continues putting up a solid line in the AZL, he could vault up organization rankings.

2B/SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa - 18 yrs old - R/R - .257/.329/.284/.613, (19-74), 2 2B, 15 R, 7 RBI, 5-5 SB, 7 BB, 13 K

Kiner-Falefa is another 2013 draftee, going in the 4th round from Mid Pacific HS in Honolulu. Along with his .613 OPS he's sporting a 83 wRC+ and .304 wOBA. He puts the ball on the ground quite a bit at 65.6% and he only hits 7.8% flyballs, both way off from league average (47% GB, 25.4% FB). He makes solid contact but needs to hit the weights and bulk up to become the gap-to-gap line drive hitter he projects to be. When he's on the dirt he's in his element. He's got soft hands, good footwork and average arm strength. This has translated to 3 errors in 62 chances as 2B and 2 errors in 48 chances at SS. Kiner-Falefa is definitely a wait and see kinda guy.

2B/3B Luis Mendez - 20 yrs old - S/R - .280/.364/.356/.720, (37-132), 5 2B, 1 HR, 1 3B, 20 R, 11 RBI, 4-9 SB, 16 BB, 24 K

AZL - .325/.423/.422/.844, (27-83), 3 2B, 1 HR, 1 3B, 13 R, 7 RBI, 2-6 SB, 13 BB, 13 K
A - .204/.259/.245/.504, (10-49), 2 2B, 7 R, 4 RBI, 2-3 SB, 3 BB, 11 K.

Mendez spent a month with Hickory playing SS, 2B, 1B and LF before the AZL started up. Since moving to the AZL he's cut back to playing just 2B and 3B. This will be Mendez's 3rd go round with the complex leagues where he hit .258/.390/.379/.769 in 2012 and .254/.379/.342/.721 in 2011. He's not having any problems with it this year with a 144 wRC+ and .406 wOBA. He's always shown great discipline at the plate with K/BB routinely around 1. He didn't do well in his first challenge of full season ball and could be the next on the list for a promotion to Spokane or back to Hickory.

Sources - Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Bullpen Banter, SB Nation, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central

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