The Texas Rangers recently announced the addition of center fielder Engel Beltre and pitchers Fabio Castillo, Miguel de los Santos, and Wilmer Font to the club's 40-man roster.
The players were added in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which will occur on the morning of December 9 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando.
All four players added by the Rangers were initially signed at 18-years-old or younger, meaning they are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft after five years in professional baseball.
This year marks the first year of eligibility for Beltre, Font, and de los Santos, who were all initially signed in 2006. Fabio Castillo, who signed in July 2005, was eligible for selection last year but was not added to the roster after an inconsistent campaign with Single-A Hickory.
Coming into the 2010 season, Texas looked to have a number of tough 40-man roster decisions on its hands. But upper-level prospects like Daniel Gutierrez and Kasey Kiker faltered while some potential breakout candidates––including Jake Brigham and Kennil Gomez––didn't progress as the club had hoped. In the end, there weren't many dilemmas.
• Engel Beltre, OF: Ever since he joined the Texas organization as part of the Eric Gagne trade in July 2007, Engel Beltre has been one of the more naturally gifted prospects in the system. The Dominican Republic native possesses good foot speed, bat speed, and arm strength. But it wasn't until 2010 that he truly broke out from a performance standpoint.
Beltre, who turned 21-years-old earlier this month, is gradually developing his excellent package of raw tools into refined baseball skills. While learning to hit the ball on the ground, use all fields, and utilize his plus speed to his advantage, Beltre posted a .331/.376/.460 slash line in 68 contests at High-A Bakersfield. He was inconsistent at Double-A Frisco (.254/.301/.337 in 47 games) but showed flashes of promise.
Overall, the left-hander projects to hit for a strong average with a few home runs mixed in, though his plate discipline must still improve. Already an excellent defender, Beltre covers plenty of ground, reads batted balls well, and has a strong arm. He likely won't be ready to contribute to the big club in 2011 but could be the Rangers' center fielder of the future.
• Fabio Castillo, RHP: All four prospects experienced some sort of breakout performance in 2010, but perhaps none more so than Castillo. The right-hander logged over 170 innings at the Low-A level in '08 and '09, posting a cumulative 4.70 ERA and averaging much less than a strikeout per inning.
The Rangers pushed Castillo to High-A Bakersfield out of camp this past season, and it paid off in a big way. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound hurler dedicated himself to baseball on and off the field. Flashing more consistent mechanics, he began throwing his fastball between 93-97 mph with late movement, and his slider became at least a solid-average power pitch in the upper-80s.
With the much-improved stuff came better results. The 21-year-old hurled 17 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run at Bakersfield before his late-season promotion to Double-A. He then turned in a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, yielding three runs in 9.2 innings.
Castillo has the potential to become a reliable seventh-inning reliever down the line. With legitimate big-league stuff, he could reach the show at some point in 2011 as long as he continues to refine his command.
• Miguel de los Santos, LHP: The Dominican southpaw made headlines this season with his incredible strikeout numbers. In fact, de los Santos had the most strikeouts per nine innings (14.3) of any qualifying pitcher in all of minor league baseball.
Visa issues kept de los Santos confined to the Dominican Summer League during the '09 campaign. While clearly outclassing his competition, he was able to refine his changeup and develop it into a legitimate plus pitch. De los Santos' change, which has screwball-like action, is among the best in the system.
The prospect spent so much time working on his change during the last two seasons that his curve has regressed slightly. However, de los Santos made his breaking ball a primary focal point during last month's Fall Instructional League.
Despite his three-pitch mix, the 22-year-old is likely a power relief arm at the end of the day. He must refine the command of his 91-93 mph fastball in order to sustain success at the upper levels. Though he hasn't pitched above Low-A, de los Santos was worth protecting on the 40-man roster because he's a southpaw with legitimate big league stuff.
• Wilmer Font, RHP: The big righty showed progress in 2010 but will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last month. Font was shut down with elbow troubles in early July and attempted to rehab his injury for the remainder of the season. Ultimately the rehab proved unsuccessful and he was forced to go under the knife.
The 20-year-old has the raw ability to light up radar guns in the upper-90s, though he is beginning to learn that less is more in terms of aiding fastball command. During a late-May start at High-A Bakersfield, Font tossed seven strong innings and showed command of an 88-92 mph heater. His curveball––while still a bit loose at 69-74 mph––also showed progress. Though his changeup is considered the more advanced secondary pitch, he only flashed it a handful of times during the outing.
Font did a better job of throwing strikes with Bakersfield before he began experiencing elbow discomfort, and his secondary stuff is slowly but surely improving. Upon return, the 6-foot-4 hurler could be fast-tracked a bit as a power reliever. Font has a big frame and an exceptional raw arm, but missing a full season of development is definitely a blow.
Later in the week, Lone Star Dugout will take a look at some of the top players the Rangers have left unprotected for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
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