Texas Rangers Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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 late 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) Willie Calhoun, INF-OF, Grade B+/A-: Age 23, fourth round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 from Yavapai Junior College, traded to Rangers in Yu Darvish deal; hit .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers, 42 walks, 61 strikeouts in 486 at-bats in Triple-A, then hit .265/.324/.353 in 34 major league at-bats; yes, he was playing in the Pacific Coast League but everyone thinks the bat is real and I agree; excellent bat speed from the left side combined with good feel for hitting leads to production; low strikeout rate combined with power a big attraction; question is the glove; he doesn’t really make that many errors at second base but his range is substandard and he’s most likely a left fielder; bat will get him a job somewhere one way or another; ETA 2018.
2) Leody Taveras, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, signed by Rangers from the Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2,100,000; hit .249/.312/.369 with eight homers, 47 walks, 92 strikeouts, 20 steals in 522 at-bats in Low-A; played most of the season at age 18 so he deserves some slack with the stats; exciting power/speed combination and already shows a knack for the strike zone; you can make a great case at him for number one in the system; I went with Calhoun due to proximity to the majors but Taveras can field as well as hit so adjust your valuation accordingly; ETA 2021.
3) Yohander Mendez, LHP, Grade B: Age 23, signed out of Venezuela in 2011; solid year in Double-A with 3.79 ERA, 124/43 K/BB in 138 innings, 114 hits; has 15 major league innings in ’16 and ’17 with 7.63 ERA and 7/5 K/BB; low-90s fastball that touches 94-95 fairly frequently, playing up due to contrast with superb change-up; also has a so-so curveball and slider; looks like a number three starter on the right day although I’d like to see him get more consistent with a breaking ball before going with a B+; ETA 2018.
4) Kyle Cody, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 23, sixth round pick in 2016 as a senior from University of Kentucky; had first-round talent but fell due to concerns about health and erratic track record; very impressive in 2017, posting 2.64 ERA in 126 innings between Low-A and Double-A, 136/43 K/BB, only four homers allowed; no question about his stuff, fastball in low-to-mid-90s along with a very good slider; change-up is inconsistent but didn’t hurt him any in A-ball; control is unusually good for a 6-foot-7 pitcher; like Mendez and Cole Ragans, looks like a number three starter when he’s right; ETA 2020.
5) Cole Ragans, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Tallahassee, Florida; posted 3.61 ERA in 57 innings in Northwest League with 87/35 K/BB, 50 hits; typical lefty stuff with low-90s fastball and a very good change-up, especially for his age; negatives include erratic breaking ball and shaky overall command, although high strikeout rate points to significant upside; watch for any reduction in walk rate; ETA 2021.
6) Hans Crouse, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Dana Point, California; threw 20 innings in rookie ball with 0.45 ERA, 30/7 K/BB, only seven hits allowed; well-known to scouts from high school heroics and a mid-90s fastball, has reportedly hit 99; slider is a second plus pitch but his change-up needs more work; his mechanics are unconventional and there’s some concern about durability; I want to see how he manages a pro workload before going with a higher grade but his upside is outstanding and he blew away the Arizona Rookie League; ETA 2021.
7) Ronald Guzman, 1B, Grade B-/B: Age 23, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $3,450,000; had a good year in Triple-A, hitting .298/.372/.434, 12 homers, 47 walks, 85 strikeouts in 470 at-bats; has done a fine job improving his feel for the strike zone but has yet to fully tap raw power inherent in 6-5, 225 pound frame; he has a line drive swing which would be fine if he were an outfielder but he’s a first baseman now; defense has improved there but it is hard for a first base prospect with just average game power to stand out; ETA 2018.
8) Bubba Thompson, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in Mobile, Alabama; hit .257/.317/.434 in rookie ball debut, three homers, five steals, six walks, 28 strikeouts in 113 at-bats; best tools are 70-grade speed and 60/65 arm but also has potential for above-average power if he can lock down his swing; also needs to improve pitch selectivity; high-ceiling, high-risk type; ETA 2022.
9) Matt Whatley, C, Grade B-: Age 22, third round pick in 2017 out of Oral Roberts University; hit .295/.376/.452 in 166 at-bats between Arizona Rookie and Northwest Leagues, with 18 walks, 31 strikeouts; threw out 33% of runners; excellent defensive reputation, with good throwing skills, mobility, blocking, and leadership; could have been a first round pick but scouts weren’t sure about his bat, hurting his stock just enough to drop him down a couple of rounds; could be a steal for Texas, as he didn’t have many problems in his pro debut and showed intriguing power; ETA late 2020.
10) Chris Seise, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in Winter Garden, Florida; hit .336/.395/.509 in 116 at-bats in rookie ball, then .222/.250/.273 in 99 at-bats against older competition in the Northwest League; highly-rated for defensive tools, with range, hands, and arm all fitting well at shortstop; shows some gap power with the bat but more experienced pitchers exploited his over-aggressiveness in the NWL; has a shot to be a regular if he can lock down the hitting; ETA 2022.
11) Anderson Tejeda, INF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic for just $100,000 in 2014, hit .247/.309/.411 with eight homers, 10 steals, 36 walks, 132 strikeouts in 401 at-bats in Low-A, playing the first two months of the season at age 18; lefty hitter with occasional pop and decent speed, strike zone judgment needs work, tools probably fit best at second base in the long run; bat is more developed than Seise’s at this point but his fielding isn’t as good; ETA 2022.
12) Miguel Aparicio, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela in 2015; jumped from DSL in 2016 to Low-A to open 2017 and hit poorly, just .176/.255/.247 in 85 at-bats; sent back to the more-age-appropriate Northwest League in June and hit .293/.333/.395; sources who had eyes on him liked his intangibles, his swing, and his defensive ability in center field but had questions about long-term power projection; he’s a possible regular if you like the bat, more of a fourth outfielder for the doubters; ETA 2022.
13) Pedro Gonzalez, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, signed by the Colorado Rockies for $1,300,000 from the Dominican Republic in 2014, traded to Rangers in Jonathan Lucroy deal; hit .321/.388/.519 in the Pioneer League before the trade with 18 walks, 53 strikeouts, 11 steals; went 0-for-17 in the Northwest League after the trade; toolsy type with above-average raw power and some speed and arm strength, large size has caused some swing issues and his plate discipline remains a work in progress; high risk, but one of the best upsides in the system; ETA 2022.
14) Joe Palumbo, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, 30th round pick in 2013, had a breakthrough campaign in ’16 with 2.24 ERA, 122/36 K/BB in 96 innings in Low-A; good start in ’17 with one run allowed in 14 innings, 22/4 K/BB in High-A but blew elbow and had Tommy John surgery; when healthy can hit 95-96 with excellent curveball and decent change-up; obviously we need to see how he responds to surgery; ETA 2020?
15) A.J. Alexy, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th round in 2016 from high school in Elverson, Pennsylvania; came over to Texas in the Darvish trade; posted 3.53 ERA in 94 innings (over 24 starts) in Low-A, 113/52 K/BB, only 59 hits allowed; needs to improve his command/control but the Ks aren’t lying about his potential, low-90s fastball with a very good curve and an improving change-up; somewhat raw but capable of taking a huge leap forward at any time; ETA 2022.
16) Jonathan Hernandez, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, son of Fernando Hernandez; posted 4.03 ERA between Low-A and High-A with 110/44 K/BB, 121 hits; fastball reported as high as 95-97; good change-up, slider comes and goes and his command needs more tightening but that’s normal for his age; finished strong with 1.59 ERA in June; mid-rotation potential; was added to 40-man roster to protect from Rule 5; ETA 2021.
17) Ariel Jurado, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Panama in 2012; posted 4.59 ERA with 95/37 K/BB in 157 innings in Double-A, 188 hits, 1.53 GO/AO; one of my favorites entering 2017 but he did not have a good year; still made every start and chewed innings and if anything his control actually improved, but Texas League observers reported obvious decline in stuff; fastball was down a tick in both velocity and (more importantly) sinking action; his slider regressed; still flashed a decent change-up but it wasn’t enough; given his age it is too soon to write him off but I was clearly too optimistic here; might do better in bullpen; ETA 2020.
18) Brett Martin, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2014 from Walters State Community College in Tennessee; posted 4.70 ERA with 90/35 K/BB in 84 innings in High-A, 94 hits; good stuff with 90-95 MPH fastball and a plus curveball, has a history of injuries including a sore elbow in ’16 and a bad back in ’17, holding down his innings; that’s obviously a problem since it raises durability concerns but also makes it hard for him to refine his change-up since he needs more innings to do that; could rank as high as 10th on pure upside; ETA 2020.
19) Jose Trevino, C, Grade C+: Age 25, sixth round pick in 2014 out of Oral Roberts; hit .241/.275/.323/ with seven homers, 19 walks, 44 strikeouts in 402 at-bats; superlative defender with strong throwing arm and quick release leading to 44% of runners caught; also a very reliable and mobile receiver with very few errors and passed balls; will get to the majors on defense alone; looked overmatched offensively in Double-A and he’s already 25, however I think he could be a late-bloomer with the bat; given that he does make contact well and has some athleticism; if he can hit .250 with a touch of power he could last a long time in the majors; ETA late 2018.
20) Andy Ibanez, 2B, Grade C+: Age 24, Cuban defector signed for $1,600,000 in 2015; hit .265/.323/.400 in Double-A with eight homers, 25 walks, 48 strikeouts in 310 at-bats; missed almost two months with a finger/hand injury; every time I see him play he hits the crap out of the ball, going 4-for-5 or something while showing above-average bat speed and lashing everything into the gaps; in aggregate however he’s been solid rather than excellent; same goes for his glove; scouts don’t give his range or arm strength anything more than so-so grades but he makes few mistakes and catches what he gets to, making just five errors in 70 games in ’17 for example; could put up big numbers in the Pacific Coast League; ETA late 2018.
OTHER GRADE C+: Edgar Arredondo, RHP; Clayton Blackburn, RHP; Noah Bremer, RHP; Adam Choplick, LHP; Brendon Davis, INF; Ryan Dease, RHP; Nick Gardewine, RHP; Scott Heineman, OF; Ronald Herrera, RHP; Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, INF; Michael Matuella, RHP; Josh Morgan, INF-C; C.D. Pelham, LHP; Yanio Perez, 1B-OF; Yahel Pozo, C; Tyreque Reed, 1B; Connor Sadzeck, RHP; Alex Speas, RHP; Jeff Springs, LHP; Carlos Tocci, OF
OTHERS OF NOTE: Wes Benjamin, LHP; Jairo Beras, RHP; Jose Cardona, OF; Andretty Cordero, 1B; Kole Enright, 2B; John Fasola, RHP; David Garcia, C; Reed Garrett, RHP; Eric Jenkins, OF; Starling Joseph, OF; Charles Leblanc, 3B; Jacob Lemoine, RHP; Christian Lopes, INF; Adam Parks, RHP; Tyler Phillips, RHP; Juremi Profar, 3B; Obie Ricumstrict, 3B; Drew Robinson, INF-OF; Ricardo Rodriguez, RHP; Adrian Sampson, RHP; Tayler Scott, RHP; Chad Smith, OF; Tyree Thompson, RHP; Joel Urena, LHP; Ricky Vanasco, RHP; Scott Williams, RHP
The Rangers have a lot of B-esque prospects who could take another step forward in ’18. They could also slip back if too many pitchers get hurt.
Right now I have Willie Calhoun right on the B+/A- edge but that could be revised upward a notch when I review all grades and put together the Top 175 prospect list at the end of the month.
I will be around in the comments section on Sunday to answer questions.