Top Prospects, Top Tools

Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the Texas Rangers prospects with the top pitching, offensive, and defensive tools. In this feature, we crown players with titles such as "Best Curveball", "Best Outfield Arm", "Best Power", and many more.

Offensive Honors:

Best Hitter for Average: Jurickson Profar – An advanced feel for hitting allowed the 17-year-old switch-hitter to hold his own against much older competition last summer. Profar has a relatively mature swing from both sides of the plate, an excellent feel for the strike zone, and he can spray the ball to all fields. The shortstop has all the necessary tools to become a perennial .300 hitter in the big leagues.

Honorable Mention: Engel Beltre, Odubel Herrera

Best Hitter for Power: Jorge Alfaro – Of the three players listed, Olt and Mendonca may have the most present game pop, but Alfaro has slightly more power potential. The backstop projects for true 70-grade power and already puts on impressive displays of strength in batting practice despite being just 17 years old. Alfaro may be a couple years away from even showing game power at the lower levels, but the potential is clearly evident.

Honorable Mention: Tom Mendonca, Mike Olt

Best Plate Discipline: Chris McGuiness – The former Red Sox prospect led all of NCAA Division I ball with 65 walks in 59 contests at The Citadel in '09. During his first full pro season, he drew 77 free passes and posted a .406 on-base percentage between the Low- and High-A levels. McGuiness' excellent feel for the strike zone and overall average hit tool make him a strong on-base threat.

Honorable Mention: Santiago Chirino, Jurickson Profar

Best Base Runner: Craig Gentry – While he isn't the fastest player in the system, Gentry's above-average speed plays up due to his excellent instincts on the base paths. The 27-year-old shined with Double-A Frisco in '09, swiping a Texas League-leading 49 bases in 56 attempts. He is also adept at taking the extra base and going first-to-third on singles to the outfield.

Honorable Mention: Leury Garcia, Teodoro Martinez

Garcia had 47 steals last season.
Best Raw Speed: Leury Garcia – The 5-foot-7, 153-pound shortstop flies around the bases and is emerging as the organization's most prolific base stealer. Injuries limited Garcia to 89 games at Single-A Hickory last summer, but that didn't stop him from stealing 47 bases. Garcia was also much more aggressive––he had 56 attempts and reached base via hit, walk, or HBP just 119 times.

Honorable Mention: Chris Garia, Luis Sardinas

Best Athlete: Jordan Akins – The 6-foot-3, 192-pound outfielder signed a dual baseball-football scholarship with the University of Central Florida. A quarterback and wide receiver in high school, he had football offers from UConn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Ole Miss, among others. Akins is extremely raw but may have the best tool package in the system with plus speed, raw power, and arm strength.

Honorable Mention: Engel Beltre, Jake Skole

Pitching Honors:

Best Fastball for Starting Pitcher: Tanner Scheppers – Even in Scheppers' starts at Triple-A last season, he flashed a consistent 95-98 mph fastball and held the velocity deep into his pitch count. The pitch, which has a little late life, draws an elite 70-grade rating and can miss bats at any level. He often worked too far up in the zone last year, making him more hittable than he should be given his raw stuff.

Honorable Mention: Wilmer Font, Roman Mendez

Best Fastball for Relief Pitcher: Ovispo de los Santos – The fireballing Dominican made waves when he touched triple digits during an outing with Spokane last summer. While de los Santos is still developing the secondary stuff, his fastball is special, generally sitting between 93-98 mph and bumping even higher at times. The 23-year-old could stand to refine his command of the heater, though he throws plenty of strikes with it.

Honorable Mention: Pedro Strop, Mason Tobin

Best Curveball: Tanner Scheppers – In addition to the big-time fastball, Scheppers possesses a 78-81 mph curveball that is arguably the top breaking pitch in the Texas system. The right-hander's curve is sharp with lots of depth and late two-plane break. The Rangers are committed to giving Scheppers a chance to stick as a starter. But if he can't, his two wipeout offerings could make him a stellar late-inning reliever.

Honorable Mention: Cody Buckel, Matt Thompson

Best Slider: Michael Kirkman – The southpaw put his slider on the shelf in favor of a curveball while he dealt with career-threatening control issues between '06 and '08. He brought the slider back in '09, and it quickly became a plus big league offering. The pitch sits at 81-84 mph with plenty of late break and good tilt. He does a good job of burying it toward the back foot of right-handed hitters to chase strikeouts.

Honorable Mention: Joe Ortiz, Robbie Ross

de los Santos racked up 112 strikeouts in 70.1 frames in '10.
Best Changeup: Miguel de los Santos – De los Santos spent the '09 campaign focusing on his changeup, as visa issues left him stranded in the Dominican Summer League. The pitch gradually progressed into a legitimate plus offering that he uses to both lefties and righties. The left-hander now has lots of confidence in his change, and he may even rely on it too often at times. It works between 78-80 mph with screwball-like action and some sink.

Honorable Mention: Wilfredo Boscan, Martin Perez

Best Control: Robbie Erlin – The Rangers have a handful of starting pitchers that project for plus control, but left-hander Robbie Erlin tops them all due to his ability to fill the strike zone with all three pitches at a young age. The 20-year-old pitched his first full season with Single-A Hickory and issued only 17 free passes in 114.2 innings––a sparkling 3.8 percent walk rate.

Honorable Mention: Matt Thompson, Joe Wieland

Best Overall Potential: Martin Perez – It should come as no surprise that the system's top prospect has the best overall potential. Perez could be a future number-two starter in the majors, with a fastball that tops at 95-96 mph and two potential plus offspeed pitches in his curveball and changeup. He'll need to refine his overall command to take the next step, but Perez is still just 20 years old.

Honorable Mention: David Perez, Tanner Scheppers

Defensive Honors:

Best Defensive Outfielder: Engel Beltre – Though Gentry may be a slightly more advanced defender right now, Beltre profiles to become a bit better down the line. Beltre's quick reflexes allow him to get good jumps, and his reads and route-running have improved as he's progressed. Beltre has the speed to run down balls in both gaps once he gets moving. Also possessing a good arm, Beltre has the overall skill-set to become a plus big league centerfielder.

Honorable Mention: Craig Gentry, Teodoro Martinez

Best Defensive Middle Infielder: Leury Garcia – Garcia has elite defensive tools, but he will need to refine them. The 19-year-old committed 30 errors in 89 games last season (.929) and must slow the game down as he matures. Regardless, Garcia has both the best range and infield arm in the system. Some scouts question Garcia due to his tiny frame, though nobody doubts his package of premium speed, arm strength, and range.

Honorable Mention: Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas

Best Defensive Corner Infielder: Mike Olt – A shortstop for the first two years of his collegiate career, Olt moved to third base with UConn last season and carries above-average athleticism for the position. He has a nice overall mixture of skills with some range, soft hands, and above-average arm strength. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound prospect committed 10 errors in 64 games during last summer's pro debut, though that should improve as he progresses.

Honorable Mention: Chris McGuiness, Christian Villanueva

Felix is rock-solid behind the plate.
Best Defensive Catcher: Jose Felix – The Mexico native certainly doesn't have the most athleticism or the strongest arm behind the plate in the Texas system, but he has the best mixture of skills. Mechanically sound with strong instincts, Felix gunned down 71-of-122 (58%) attempted base stealers between the regular season, Arizona Fall League, and winterball in '10. He profiles as potential defensive-minded backup catcher in the majors.

Honorable Mention: Leonel de los Santos, Kellin Deglan

Best Arm Behind the Plate: Leonel de los Santos – All three catchers listed have incredible arm strength, and it's a particularly close battle between de los Santos and Alfaro. Macumba, as he's called by coaches and teammates, erased 28-of-68 (41%) attempted base stealers at Single-A Hickory in 2010. But if his offensive struggles continue for much longer (.206/.223/.267 last season), a move to the mound could be in his future.

Honorable Mention: Jorge Alfaro, Kellin Deglan

Best Outfield Range: Engel Beltre – Earlier in Beltre's professional career, he often got by on speed and athleticism. The prospect would put his head down and largely guess the ball's location before making the necessary adjustment. Now, as a 21-year-old, Beltre gets mature reads off the bat and is a much better route runner. Range should be his best asset as a defender, and it will let him play a solid center field in the majors.

Honorable Mention: Craig Gentry, Teodoro Martinez

Best Outfield Arm: Craig Gentry – Gentry has above-average arm strength, but much like with his speed, the tool plays up because he knows how to utilize it. While the range makes him an ideal centerfielder, his arm lets him fill in just fine at both corner spots. Gentry has a quick release, gets excellent carry behind his throws, and fires the ball to the bases with accuracy.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Akins, David Paisano

Best Infield Range: Leury Garcia – The shortstop has quick reflexes and covers plenty of ground to both sides––he routinely reaches grounders on the opposite side of the second-base bag. Garcia's mixture of range and athleticism can lead to many spectacular plays, but his lack of polish also means there aren't many routine plays.

Honorable Mention: Santiago Chirino, Luis Sardinas

Best Infield Arm: Leury Garcia – Garcia's laser arm rates as the best in a system stacked with strong infield arms. His arm stands a tick above the rest not just because of its strength, but also due to his extremely quick release. That combination allows him to finish many of the highlight-reel plays that his range can allow.

Honorable Mention: Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar

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