We continue our farm system reviews this afternoon with the Texas Rangers. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a review of 2014, not a preview or new prospect list for 2015.
1) Rougned Odor, 2B, Grade B+: Borderline A-. Hit .259/.296/.397 with eight homers, 15 walks, 66 strikeouts in 348 at-bats for the Rangers. Considering his age (just 20) and lack of Triple-A experience, he held his own and the future looks bright.
2) Michael Choice, OF: Grade B. Borderline B+. Hit .182/.250/.320 with nine homers, 21 walks, 69 strikeouts in 253 major league at-bats. Batting average/OBP are obviously disappointing, but he has nothing left to prove in the minors and it is logical to let him play in a lost season. Age 24. I’m not sure what will happen here.
3) Jorge Alfaro, C, Grade B: hit .261/.323/.440 with 17 homers, 29 walks, 123 strikeouts in 486 at-bats between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco, steady production at both levels. Power is developing although holes in his approach are obvious. Continues to show outstanding arm strength and mobility combined with a high number of passed balls and fielding miscues. Age 21. Could become a star, a Triple-A flameout, or anything in between.
4) Nick Williams, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Hit .292/.343/.491 with 13 homers, 19 walks, 117 strikeouts in 377 at-bats for Myrtle Beach, then .226/.250/.290 with two walks and 21 strikeouts in 62 at-bats for Frisco. Still shows tremendous potential mixed with a raw approach. Age 21.
5) Luke Jackson, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Effective in Double-A (3.02 ERA, 83/24 K/BB in 83 innings) but horrible in Triple-A (10.35 ERA, 43/28 K/BB in 40 innings, 56 hits). Pitched terribly in his last five starts in particular; will have to study the scouting reports closely on this one and compare early season to late season. Age 23.
6) Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Impressive season: 2.66 ERA, 12-6 record, 113/41 K/BB in 139 innings, 123 hits combined between High-A and Double-A, 1.58 GO/AO. Scouting reports strong, stock up, should be ready for a trial next year. Age 22.
7) Ronald Guzman, 1B, Grade B-: Repeated at Low-A Hickory, hit .218/.283/.330 with six homers, 37 walks, 107 strikeouts in 445 at-bats. Hit .272/.325/.387 at the same level last year. A weak season overall although he finished strong. Age 19.
8) Joey Gallo, 3B, Grade B-: Hit .323/.463/.735 with 21 homers in 189 at-bats in High-A, then .232/.334/.524 with 21 homers in 250 at-bats in Double-A. Combined line: .271/.395/.615, 42 homers, 87 walks, 179 strikeouts. Enormous power but it remains to be seen what his batting average and OBP are going to look like. Age 20.
9) Luis Sardinas, SS, Grade B-: Hit .281/.302/.364 in 349 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A, .271/.307/.313 in 96 at-bats in the majors. Defense is the key asset here. Age 21.
10) Nomar Mazara, OF, Grade B-: Breakout season, hit .264/.358/.470 with 19 homers, 57 walks, 99 strikeouts in 398 at-bats in Low-A, then jumped to Double-A and got really hot at .306/.381/.518 in 85 at-bats to close the season. Big improvement in his feel for hitting this year and just 19 years old.
11) Travis Demeritte, INF, Grade B-: Hit .211/.310/.450 with 25 homers, 50 walks, 171 strikeouts in 398 at-bats for Hickory. Age 19, raw, very athletic, can he make the same progress that Gallo and Mazara made this year?
12) Nick Martinez, RHP, Grade B-: Made 21 major league starts, 3-11, 4.93 with 68/52 K/BB in 122 innings, 138 hits. No Triple-A experience; I think he can and will improve. Age 24.
13) Akeem Bostick, RHP, Grade B-: 5.17 ERA for Hickory, 64/28 K/BB in 92 innings, 98 hits. Erratic but has excellent potential, closed season on disabled list. Age 19.
14) Lewis Brinson, OF, Grade C+: Hit .335/.405/.579 in 164 at-bats for Hickory, 10 homers, 18 walks, 46 strikeouts. Promoted to Myrtle Beach and struggled, .246/.307/.350 with three homers, 15 walks, 50 whiffs in 183 at-bats. Highly athletic, bat sill questionable, young at 20.
15) Chris Bostick, INF, Grade C+: Hit .251/.322/.412 with 31 doubles, 11 homers, 47 walks, 116 strikeouts, 24 steals in 495 at-bats for Myrtle Beach. Age 21, potentially broad base of skills, Double-A transition next year will be critical.
16) Jairo Beras, OF, Grade C+: Hit .242/.305/.342 with seven homers, 33 walks, 133 strikeouts in 389 at-bats for Hickory. So far, he has not lived up to the hype or huge bonus. Age 19.
17) Alec Asher, RHP, Grade C+: Very solid year, 3.80 ERA in 154 innings for Frisco, 122/32 K/BB, 139 hits. Should be in line for a major league trial in 2015. Age 22.
18) Kelvin Vasquez, RHP, Grade C+: 4.35 ERA in 52 innings for Hickory, 44 hits, 58/18 K/BB. Went on DL in early June and never came off. Age 21.
19) Ryan Rua, 2B, Grade C+: Hit combined .306/.378/.488 with 18 homers, 51 walks, 97 strikeouts in 471 at-bats between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, similar production at both levels. Hit .273/.294/.333 in 66 major league at-bats thus far. Age 24, has proven that his ’13 breakthrough was not an illusion.
20) Wilmer Font, RHP, Grade C+: 3.48 ERA with 31/17 K/BB in 31 innings for Frisco, 25 hits. Effective when healthy but can’t stay that way, had elbow surgery to remove bone spur in August. Age 24.
It was a bad news/good news situation for the Rangers this year.
The bad news: the major league team was racked with injuries and ineffectiveness, currently sitting at 59-92. Rougned Odor held his own despite being rushed, but the fact that they had to rush him in that manner to begin with was indicative of the problems. Michael Choice couldn’t hit for average; Nick Martinez (another rush victim) went 3-11. It was clear pre-season that Texas had impressive high-ceiling prospect depth in the lower minors, but that the upper levels were thinner. The problems they encountered with roster depth when the injuries struck showed this. One bright note: despite some command issues, rookie Roman Mendez provided some decent relief innings sooner than anticipated.
Down on the farm, the news was better, as much of the high-ceiling talent the Rangers had at the lower levels played very well and is percolating up the organization. Joey Gallo’s monstrous power season stands out, but Nomar Mazara’s breakout was also very impressive. Jorge Alfaro still has flaws but few catchers offer his upside. Ryan Rua doesn’t have the huge athletic talents that the Rangers love, but he’s a good solid player who can take a larger role in ’15. Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson, and Travis Demeritte all showed flashes but remain high-upside, high-risk bets.
The pitching side offers features promising arms like Alex Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, and trade acquisitions Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Alec Asher deserves more attention than he receives, 2014 draftee Luis Ortiz and 2013 international signee Marcos Diplan also have huge upside.
I ranked the Rangers 10th overall on the pre-season farm system list, noting the large amount of high-risk, high-ceiling talent but also noting that some of that talent looked stagnant. I think that's still a fair assessment, although the development of Gallo and Mazara and the new additions to the organization should move them up a few notches.