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Texas Rangers Top 20 Prospects

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My wife says that Thomas Diamond is very handsome in an All-American way. (AP photo)

1) Thomas Diamond, RHP, B+
2) John Danks, LHP, B+
3) Ian Kinsler, SS, B+
4) Juan Dominguez, RHP, B
5) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, B
6) Chris Young, RHP, B-
7) Vince Sinisi, OF, B-
8) John Hudgins, RHP, B-
9) Mike Nickeas, C, B-
10) Joaquin Arias, SS, C+
11) Eric Hurley, RHP, C+
12) Jason Botts, 1B, C+
13) Kameron Loe, RHP, C+
14) Josh Rupe, RHP, C+
15) Matt Lorenzo, RHP, C+
16) Mark Roberts, RHP, C+
17) Anthony Webster, OF, C+
18) Wes Littleton, RHP, C
19) K.C. Herren, OF, C
20) Marshall McDougall, 3B, C
A middle-of-the-pack system. With one major exception (we?ll get to that in a minute), I don?t think any of these grades will be particularly controversial. Thomas Diamond has first-class stuff, and put to rest many doubts about his command in his early pro performance last summer. Similar performance at higher levels will push him into the Grade A- range. Danks is a bit riskier. I think he was rushed too quickly to the California League last year, but they didn?t ask me. His ceiling is as high as Diamond?s if he can keep his command in gear.

Ian Kinsler came out of nowhere last year, but from looking at this numbers and watching him play, I think he is for real in a Michael Young-sort of way. Juan Dominguez keeps popping up in trade rumors. If he stays healthy he should have a successful career, but that can be said about a lot of people.

Adrian Gonzalez is blocked at first base and also pops up in trade talks. He needs an opportunity, and if he doesn?t break through somewhere this year the ticking on the clock will get much louder and his grade will treadmill.

Chris Young made substantial improvements last year and deserves to show up on more lists than he does.

I had some doubts about Vince Sinisi going into 2004, and I still think his power potential may be overrated by some. As I wrote in my book, his performance in the California League was ?better than skeptics expected but not as good as the optimists hoped.? His Double-A numbers will tell us a lot.

The most controversial grade on this list is Arias at C+. As you know, I try to find a middle ground between statistical performance analysis and traditional scouting, granted I lean to the stat side. In some cases, trying to find a middle ground can leave some guys with a middling grade. Traditional scouts praise Arias: he is extremely athletic, still very young at age 20, and ?projects? well. On some lists he shows up as among the elite prospects in the game.

Performance analysis, however, shows that despite hitting .300 last year, his overall OPS was actually worse than California League average. His walk rate is low, he does not steal bases at a particularly impressive percentage, and he makes too many errors. All of these things are correctable given his extreme youth, but it hasn?t happened yet. I will also note that the times I have seen Arias, he has played very sloppy defense, and looked overmatched at the plate. You could see his tools and athleticism, but there was little refinement.

So, in his case I had a dilemma. Scouts love him. The numbers are mediocre at this point, except for age-relative-to-league. The times I saw him in person (admittedly only twice), he looked pretty bad. So how do I grade him? I went with Grade C+, which will strike many people as much too low. His potential is certainly higher than that, but I want to see more. Feel free to move him up (or down) your own list depending on your own emphasis and bias.