Texas Rangers Top 20 Prospects for 2017
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Yohander Mendez, LHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2011, posted 2.19 ERA with 113/41 K/BB in 111 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A; threw two MLB innings; loose arm, fastball at 90-93 MPH plays up due to contrast with outstanding change-up; slider varies from game to game, sometimes impressive, sometimes not; control slipped in Triple-A (16 walks in 31 innings) and he needs more time at that level; needs another plus pitch to project as a true ace but should be a fine mid-rotation starter if he stays healthy. ETA late 2017.
2) Ariel Jurado, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 20, signed out of Panama in 2012; 3.66 ERA in 123 innings between High-A and Double-A, 106/34 K/BB, 1.98 GO/AO; fastball sits at 90-93 but with terrific sink; throws strikes and hits his spots with it; mixes in solid-average change-up and a breaking ball of varying quality; mound presence and pitchability are better than his pure stuff but should be a solid workhorse type; perhaps more dominant on a per-inning basis if he moves to pen at some point. ETA late 2017.
3) Andy Ibanez, 2B-3B, Grade B: Age 23, Cuban signed in 2015; hit .324/.413/.546 in 185 at-bats in Low-A, then promoted to Double-A and hit .261/.318/.391 in 307 at-bats; combined for 36 doubles and 13 homers; opinions vary wildly; some observers see him as a near-future MLB regular, others think he will be a bench bat at best; doubles power and a mature hitting approach are key features; bat should be very solid but doubts revolve around glove; lacks speed and range, arm is stretched at third base, tools fit best at second but skeptics say his actions are too stiff to work up the middle and bat isn’t quite enough for a corner; I understand the defensive skepticism but there’s been so much focus on that, his bat may be under-appreciated; ETA 2018.
4) Leody Taveras, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2,100,000; hit combined .271/.324/.366 in 306 at-bats between DSL, Arizona Rookie League, and Northwest League; hit just .228/.271/.293 in NWL but was very young and inexperienced for the level; 60-grade speed, 55 or 60 arm, tools and instincts for center; switch-hitter with wiry strength, not much game power yet but more may come; doesn’t draw many walks yet but feel for hitting and swing mechanics are well-regarded; high-upside no question but could still develop in any number of directions. ETA 2021.
5) Anderson Tejeda, INF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014 for just $100,000; looks like a bargain at that price; hit .283/.326/.520 between DSL, AZL, and NWL; combined for 10 homers, 18 walks, 73 strikeouts in 269 at-bats; whiffed 33 times in 94 at-bats in NWL but also hit eight homers in just 23 games; lefty hitter with bat speed, 55 power despite 5-11, 160 build; wiry strong; aggressive hitter and contact will be a concern at higher levels but production was remarkable overall; good throwing arm, average speed; range stretched at shortstop, fielding at second needs work too; not as athletic as Taveras but has more present power. ETA 2021.
6) Josh Morgan, INF-C, Grade B-: Age 21, third round pick in 2014 from high school in California; hit .300/.367/.394 with seven homers, 44 walks, 61 strikeouts in 470 at-bats in High-A; contact hitter, not a lot of power at this point but gets on base; pop may increase as he matures, perhaps to a surprising extent; versatile glove, competent at second, third, and short; has played catcher on an experimental basis and reportedly will see more time at that position in ’17; projection as super-utility player with impressive versatility and on-base skills; ETA 2019.
7) Ronald Guzman, 1B, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .274/.333/.449 between Double-A and Triple-A, combined for 16 homers, 39 walks, 105 strikeouts in 463 at-bats; signed for $3,450,000 in 2011 from Dominican Republic; stock has been up and down throughout his career; still learning to tap power in 6-5, 205 frame; strike zone judgment has shown some improvement and swing mechanics more consistent but a full year of Triple-A is still needed; mediocre at first base and doesn’t run well enough for the outfield so bat has to carry him; has made progress but not enough to guarantee a regular 1B job just yet. ETA late 2017.
8) Cole Ragans, LHP, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Florida; fanned nine in 7.2 rookie ball innings while walking six; classic 6-4, 190 build; chance for three plus pitches with 90-95 fastball along with curve, change-up; still projectable and velocity may increase further; shows a lot of polish on his best days but understandable inconsistency due to age; very plausible number three starter if all goes well, maintains good health, etc.; maximal outcome would be something like Jon Lester or Cole Hamels. ETA 2021.
9) Brett Martin, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2014 from Walters State Community College; combined 4.41 ERA in 69 innings between Low-A, High-A, and brief rookie ball rehab due to minor elbow injury; low-90s fastball, strong curve that earns 60 projection grades; change-up below average right now but may improve; also has a slider/cutter hybrid; potential mid-rotation arm if the elbow is OK. ETA late 2018.
10) Alex Speas, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 18, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; fanned 11 in 8.1 rookie ball innings while walking seven; projectable and athletic at 6-4, 190, and already throws 92-96 MPH, hitting 98 at times; flashes plus breaking ball (hard curve or slider depending on your source), needs to improve change-up and overall command; very high ceiling, could be a number two starter if change-up and control improve; will need development time. ETA 2022.
11) Joe Palumbo, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, 30th round pick in 2013 from high school in West Islip, New York; breakthrough season in ’16 with 2.24 ERA, 122/36 K/BB in 96 innings in Low-A, 71 hits; had success as both starter and reliever; fastball up to 93-95, also has above-average curveball; change-up needs additional work but there’s enough there to think he can keep starting; command within strike zone still needs more work but he’s made considerable progress; nice combination of strikeouts and ground balls; just now getting noticed outside Rangers circles. ETA 2019.
12) Jose Trevino, C, Grade C+: Age 24, sixth round pick in 2014 out of Oral Roberts; hit .303/.342/.434 with 30 doubles, nine homers, 26 walks, 49 strikeouts in 433 at-bats in High-A; compact but strong build at 5-11, 195, athletic enough to have played shortstop in college; good throwing arm with quick release, threw out 47% of runners; excellent receiving and leadership skills; as a hitter features occasional pop and contact approach but seldom draws walks and did much of his damage in friendly home park; glove will get him to the majors and there’s still some hope for the bat. ETA 2019.
13) Jose Leclerc, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2010; posted 3.00 ERA in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 78/38 K/BB, just 40 hits; posted 1.80 ERA in 15 major league innings but with ugly 15/13 K/BB; fastball between 88 and 98 averaging 94; mixes in slider/hard curve and occasional change-ups; can be overpowering but command, control remain troublesome; ETA 2017.
14) Connor Sadzeck, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 11th round pick in 2011 from Howard Junior College; huge 6-7, 240 pounder with fastball in mid-90s, touching 100 at his best; posted 4.16 ERA with 133/52 K/BB in 141 innings in Double-A, 127 hits; flashes plus slider, but still inconsistent with it; change-up is below average; command also spotty at times although walk rate isn’t bad; may fit best ultimately in bullpen; even a small improvement in command could result in a breakthrough without much warning. ETA late 2017.
15) Yeyson Yrizarri, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013 for $1,350,000; hit .269/.292/.389 with seven homers, 20 steals, nine walks, 90 strikeouts in 450 at-bats in Low-A; wide range of opinions on this one; all agree he has athletic tools including speed, arm strength; general quickness; may be excellent defensive shortstop with more experience; big question is the bat; swing is choppy and plate discipline has been terrible so far; some observers think this can and will improve, others believe his hitting will always be poor despite his youth; there are more negative precedents than positive ones but given his age anything can happen; ETA: 2021.
16) Mike Hauschild, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, drafted by Astros in 33rd round in 2012 from University of Dayton; selected by Rangers in Rule 5 draft; 3.22 ERA in 140 innings in Triple-A with 119/40 K/BB; 90 MPH sinker, average slider and change-up, good pitchability, durable, gets grounders; successful Pacific Coast League track record along Chris Heston or Matt Shoemaker lines; plausible that he can be a solid inning-eater along the same lines. ETA 2017.
17) Andrew Faulkner, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.97 ERA in 45 Triple-A innings, 39/20 K/BB, 6.75 ERA in 6.2 major league innings with one whiff, four walks; fastball at 91-95; breaking ball and change-up went backwards somewhat in ’16, as did general command and control; with more polish can be reliable bullpen lefty with enough stuff that he doesn’t have to be a pure LOOGY. ETA 2017.
18) Pedro Payano, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; 2.08 ERA in 74 innings in Low-A with 82/29 K/BB, 59 hits; season ended in July after being hit by line drive; left unprotected in Rule 5 but not selected; throws strikes with 90-93 MPH fastball; curve and change-up rate average; stuff plays up due to deception and command; statistical track record is strong but scouts seem more skeptical; ETA late 2019.
19) Kole Enright, 3B, Grade C+: Age 18, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Florida; hit .313/.378/.420 in Arizona Rookie League, 14 walks, 33 strikeouts in 150 at-bats; switch-hitter with good bat speed, gap power, chance for good plate discipline/OBP; fine throwing arm but may lack range and quickness for middle infield as he matures physically; tools fit best at third but uncertain if he’ll have home run power desired for that position; bat is quite intriguing. ETA 2021.
20) John Fasola, RHP, Grade C+/C: Age 25, posted 3.18 ERA in 51 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, 58/12 K/BB; then posted 2.00 ERA in nine Arizona Fall League innings with 9/0 K/BB; 31st round pick in 2014 from Kent State; middle relief type with mid-90s fastball but was especially sharp late in the year with 20/1 K/BB in 18 innings between Triple-A and AFL; doesn’t have ceiling of the younger C+ guys but could get to the MLB bullpen soon. ETA late 2017.
OTHERS GRADE C+: Jairo Beras, OF; Kyle Cody, RHP; Michael De Leon, INF; Demarcus Evans, RHP; David Garcia, C; Michael Mantuella, RHP; Yanio Perez, 3B
GRADE C: Jose Almonte, OF; Wes Benjamin, LHP; Jose Cardona, OF; LeDarious Clark, OF Frandy De La Rosa, 2B; Tyler Ferguson, RHP; Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B; Scott Heineman, OF; Jonathan Hernandez, RHP; Sam Huff, C; Eric Jenkins, OF; Isiah Kiner-Falefa, INF-C; Charles Leblanc, INF’ Brett Nicholas, C-1B; Tyler Phillips, RHP; Eduard Pinto, OF; Yohel Pozo, C; Juremi Profar, INF; Luke Tendler, OF; Xavier Turner, 3B; Drew Robinson, INF; Tyler Wagner, RHP
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