Texas Rangers Top 20 Prospects – 6/1

After a month of spring training and one-third of the 2011 regular season, a number of prospects have seen their stocks rise and fall since last offseason. Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole and Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks collaborate to provide an updated version of the Texas Rangers' top 20 prospects.

This list excludes prospects that have logged major league service time, such as left-hander Michael Kirkman. It also does not include pitcher Wilmer Font or shortstop Luis Sardinas, who have missed the entire season thus far due to injuries. Leonys Martin is also excluded for the time being, although he will be ranked on the next top 20.

1. Martin Perez, LHP (Frisco)

JC: Due to his projected arsenal of three above-average offerings, Perez remained the organization's top prospect after posting inconsistent results in 2010. The 20-year-old is the second-youngest pitcher in all of Double-A ball––just months behind Detroit's Jacob Turner. His stuff has remained strong this season. Perez features a consistent 90-95 mph fastball that touches up to 97 on occasion, an advanced 79-83 mph changeup with good tumble and sink, and a much-improved 71-77 mph curveball. While the command still needs refinement, he is beginning to post the results to match the stuff, with a 2.01 ERA through his first 10 starts this year.

2. Mike Olt, 3B (Myrtle Beach)

JP: A supplemental first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Olt wasn't seen as a sexy pick at the time; rather, Olt was seen a slot-friendly selection. After a solid debut in the college-heavy Northwest League, Olt emerged as the top position prospect in the system during spring training and has continued forward after starting the 2011 season in High-A Myrtle Beach. Olt has major league quality bat speed, plus power potential, and the defensive chops at 3B to grade out above-average at the major league level. He's a legit top 100 prospect in the minors. Who's a sexy draft pick now?

3. Neil Ramirez, RHP (Round Rock)

JC: Ramirez, who recently turned 22, is among the top breakout prospects in baseball so far this season. After making one start at High-A Myrtle Beach, he earned a Triple-A spot-start to replace ill Express starter Eric Hurley. But Ramirez forced the issue with a strong performance and ultimately solidified himself as a full-time Triple-A arm. Suddenly well ahead of schedule, Ramirez flashes a 90-96 mph fastball (sitting at 92-93 mph) with good angle, a plus big-breaking curveball, and a rapidly developing mid-80s changeup with good action. Like Perez, Ramirez must refine his command and work on keeping his pitch counts and walks down––but he's more than holding his own at the minors' highest level.

Erlin has progressed to Double-A.
4. Robbie Erlin, LHP (Frisco)

JP: The poster boy for pitchability, Erlin might lack ideal size for a starter, but his pure ability to pitch is the most advanced in the Rangers system, and perhaps in the entire minor leagues. After punishing Low-A hitters last season on his way to being named the Texas Rangers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Erlin set forth to build upon his impressive full-season debut with a promotion to High-A Myrtle Beach. Armed with an average fastball that he already shows plus command over and two solid-average to plus secondary pitches, Erlin not only held his own, but he also dominated the circuit before earning a recent promotion to Double-A Frisco.

5. Jurickson Profar, SS (Hickory)

JC: Profar's ranking in this spot should be seen as more of a praise on the other prospects than a slight on him. There is, and will be, plenty of debate to whether he or Olt is the system's top position prospect. Though the 18-year-old shortstop is the youngest player in the Sally League, he is off to a phenomenal start. Profar has a .270/.392/.525 slash line with 21 extra-base hits and more walks (24) than strikeouts (21) in 39 games. The switch-hitter has a mature skill-set to go along with solid-average projection both offensively and defensively. He's still young, but the ultimate projection is a first-division major league shortstop.

6. Tanner Scheppers, RHP (Round Rock)

JP: The big right-hander with the electric arsenal was considered by many to have the best arm in the 2009 draft class. When healthy, Scheppers has two 70-grade pitches in his arsenal, with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a nasty two-plane curve. His future will be in the bullpen, and I expect that journey to start when his back proves ready to go…whenever that happens to be. Legit late-inning arm.

7. David Perez, RHP (Extended Spring)

JC: The 18-year-old Perez has the highest ceiling of any right-handed arm in the system. He has everything scouts want to see in a young pitcher––a projectable 6-foot-5 frame, repeatable mechanics, a loose arm, and feel for secondary stuff. After working mostly at 89-91 mph last year and touching higher on occasion, Perez now throws his fastball between 90-96 mph and recently touched 98 in extended spring training. He pounds the strike zone and also flashes a mature 75-78 mph curveball. The youngster is likely headed for Spokane, where his mixture of stuff and polish should lead to plenty of success.

8. Engel Beltre, CF (Frisco)

JP: Still the reigning toolshed in the Rangers' system, Beltre's raw promise keeps him in the top ten in the system, but his inability to turn those raw tools into on-the-field production is dimming his star. After positive developmental steps in 2010, Beltre has once again stalled in his pursuit of greatness, struggling at the plate in Double-A Frisco, participating in a brawl between fans and players that resulted in a lengthy suspension, and now, getting passed on the organizational depth chart by Cuban newcomer, Leonys Martin. It's now or never.

9. Luke Jackson, RHP (Hickory)

JC: The 19-year-old Florida native shows an impressive three-pitch mix for a hurler that's less than a year removed from high school. Jackson has plus velocity––his fastball sits at 92-94 mph, and he has run it as high as 97 mph a handful of times this season. He also has a sharp low-80s curveball to go along with an advanced feel for a changeup. An impressive early-season stint at extended spring has already landed Jackson a spot in the Hickory rotation.

Alfaro has elite power potential.
10. Jorge Alfaro, C (Extended Spring)

JP: Despite being raw in all phases of his game, the soon-to-be 18 year-old has the highest tool-based ceiling in the Rangers' system. Thanks to a 70-grade arm behind the plate, and enough power potential in his swing to project to hit 30-35 home runs a season at maturity, Alfaro has a chance to be very special. It's going to take time, and development isn't always pretty, but in a few years the young Colombian could be a top-tier prospect in the minors. #TheLegend

11. Joe Wieland, RHP (Myrtle Beach)

JC: A command and control specialist with at least solid-average stuff, Wieland hasn't reached Double-A yet, but he is a major league starting pitcher waiting to happen. The 21-year-old has a four-pitch mix that includes an upper-80s, low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball, a newly developed slider, and a changeup. While he lacks elite projection, he should develop into a good innings-eating, middle-to-back of the rotation starter. He has an incredible 70 strikeouts and just three walks in 59 innings with the Pelicans this season.

12. Barret Loux, RHP (Myrtle Beach)

JP: Originally drafted 6th overall in the 2010 draft by the DBacks, poor medical reports prompted Arizona to pull their deal with the big right-hander, which included a $2M bonus. Granted free-agency by Major League Baseball, Loux took his starter's arsenal and his questionable medicals to Texas, where he signed for $312K. If the arm stays attached, Loux has a bright future on the mound, with a quality fastball that can touch the mid-90s, a big body conducive for chewing innings, and a very good feel for pitching.

13. Miguel de los Santos, LHP (Frisco)

JC: The Dominican Republic native battled a shoulder issue early in spring training, and he is currently on the Frisco DL (and rehabbing in Arizona) with the same injury. Though de los Santos has yielded 25 runs in his first 28 Double-A innings, he has flashed swing-and-miss stuff by logging 38 punchouts. The 22-year-old has funky mechanics and erratic fastball command, likely making him a reliever in the long term. But he features 89-91 mph velocity (touching up to 93-94 last season) to go along with a plus-plus changeup.

14. Roman Mendez, RHP (Hickory)

JP: Acquired from Boston in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade, Mendez is very much a dream at this point, but thanks to his fastball, he's a dream with a high ceiling. Armed with an explosive plus-plus fastball that I've clocked as high as 99 mph, the 20 year-old Dominican can overwhelm hitters with his smoke. His secondary arsenal and his overall command will ultimately decide his future role, but at the present, Mendez is more than holding his own as a full-season starter.

15. Matt West, RHP (Extended Spring)

JC: Yet to throw a professional pitch outside of the Rangers' minor league complex, West earns this ranking based on potential. The third baseman-turned-reliever ran his fastball up to 94 mph while throwing an experimental bullpen session at the end of spring training. In games so far, he is featuring plus-plus velocity at 94-99 mph (sitting 95-97) with a sharp 83-88 mph slider and an overall advanced feel for the mound. While plenty of question marks remain, the stuff is legitimate and he is throwing strikes. West could open the short season as the Spokane closer.

16. Christian Villanueva, 3B (Hickory)

JP: After making his stateside debut last season in the complex league, Villanueva made the big jump to full-season Low-A to start 2011, and he has emerged as one of the top young position players in the Rangers system. With some scouts putting a future 70 on his glove at third, the 19-year old Mexican might have the best defensive chops on the farm. Despite not having a high offensive ceiling, Villanueva is hitting well at the level, and showing that his skill-set is well-rounded.

Payano's fastball is already up to 93 mph.
17. Victor Payano, LHP (Extended Spring)

JC: Like David Perez, the 18-year-old Payano is a scout's dream due to his lean 6-foot-5 frame, long arms, deceptive and repeatable delivery, and overall feel for the mound. The southpaw has already seen a velocity spike, working at 90-93 mph in an extended spring training outing––and there is certainly more velocity to come. He has also become more confident in his big-breaking 71-74 mph curveball, showing improved hand speed, which has led to harder, sharper break. Payano may not be quite as advanced as Perez, but he isn't too far behind.

18. Matt Thompson, RHP (Hickory)

JP: With prototypical size, advanced pitchability, and what one well-respected scout described as an 80-grade delivery, Matt Thompson is slowly developing into a prospect worth paying attention to (although, we've been trying to get you to pay attention to Thompson for years!). Presently dealing with some uncharacteristic command issues, Thompson makes his living with an average fastball, a very promising curveball, a changeup, and a new wrinkle to the arsenal: a cutter.

19. Justin Grimm, RHP (Myrtle Beach)

JC: Grimm was a big arm with less-than-inspiring results at the University of Georgia. Still, the Rangers liked his raw talent enough to select him in the fifth round of last year's draft and give him supplemental first-round money––he signed for over $100,000 more than Mike Olt. The 6-foot-3 hurler has already passed his initial test at Hickory and advanced to High-A Myrtle Beach. Grimm has two plus pitches in a 91-96 mph fastball and a 78-83 mph breaker. He is working to control the effort in his delivery––for more consistent command––and to add a usable changeup.

20. Jake Brigham, RHP (Frisco)

JP: Originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2006 draft, the 23 year-old righty has seen his share of developmental ups and downs as a professional. When on his game, Brigham brings an electric fastball and two quality breaking balls to the table, showing the ability to miss bats and induce weak contact. With a suspect changeup and come-and-go command, Brigham profiles best a late-inning reliever, but he is getting good results in the Double-A rotation at the present, and with more refinement, he might be able to stick in that role.

Just Missed: Cody Buckel, RHP

JP: Falling just short of the top 20, Buckel has the raw stuff and feel for pitching to make the jump onto the list before the season is over. With a torque-heavy delivery, the soon-to-be 19 year-old righty, can pump low 90s fastballs in the zone with a good feel for a deep arsenal of secondary pitches. Buckel lacks elite projection, but shows an aptitude for the mound, and is a good candidate to maximize his raw talents.

Just Missed: Robbie Ross, LHP

JC: Many scouts believe Ross will ultimately find a home in the bullpen, but even if that happens, he could develop into a nice late-inning lefty reliever. Yet another young strike-throwing prospect, Ross has an 88-93 mph fastball with lots of natural movement and a hard, sharp slider. He is still working to develop his fringy changeup as a third offering. Currently holding a 2.48 ERA at Myrtle Beach, Ross should be in Frisco later this season.

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