Texas Rangers Top 50 Prospects

The Texas Rangers' minor league system is as deep as ever going into the 2012 season. While the farm system is helping the club win at the major league level, the organization restocked by signing three of its top 20 prospects via the international free agent market last summer. Lone Star Dugout presents our top 50 Rangers prospects list entering the 2012 campaign.

1. Jurickson Profar, SS – The 18-year-old Profar took home South Atlantic League MVP honors in 2011 despite being the circuit's youngest player. Aside from outstanding across-the-board numbers, he has a good collection of tools that include plus hit, solid-average future power, a good glove and a strong arm. The package is topped off by his advanced game awareness and maturity, which should help him maximize his already impressive talent. If the Rangers choose to take an aggressive approach with Profar, it wouldn't be a total shock to see him competing in Double-A at some point this coming season.

2. Martin Perez, LHP – Perez both excites and frustrates talent evaluators, flashing three plus pitches while posting inconsistent results over the last two seasons. The left-hander showed significant improvement in Double-A last season––particularly with his mid-to-upper 70s curveball––before struggling against Triple-A hitters. His arsenal, which includes a 90-96 mph fastball, curve and changeup, gives him the ceiling of a number two starter. Though Perez may need a full season of development in Triple-A, that's not exactly a negative considering he turns just 21 in April.

3. Mike Olt, 3B – Currently blocked at third base by Adrian Beltre, Olt will pick up a first baseman's mitt this spring, though he's likely to keep getting the majority of his looks at the hot corner. Olt has everything scouts want to see in a defender at third, flashing shortstop-like actions that include excellent range and a plus arm. He's also athletic enough to play left field if needed. At the plate, he has plus power to all fields and draws his share of walks. Even with his legitimate bat speed, Olt's high strikeout rate last season raises some question marks. Still, his glove and power give him a chance to become a first-division big league third baseman.

4. Leonys Martin, CF – The Cuba native finished last season in Arlington despite the fact that he didn't sign a professional contract until early May. While Martin doesn't have any elite tools, he does everything pretty well, giving him a nice package for an up-the-middle player. The 23-year-old is an above-average defender in center field with good range and a plus arm. He supplements at least an average hit tool with a good approach and fringe-average power. Martin could begin the year by getting more seasoning in Triple-A, but he should compete for the club's opening day center field job in spring training.

Ramirez flashes three plus pitches.
5. Neil Ramirez, RHP – One of the organization's hardest working players, Ramirez battled shoulder fatigue down the stretch last season and his stuff lost sharpness. The 22-year-old right-hander displayed his abilities during the first half, attacking hitters with three above-averages pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. His overall command has some room for further development. Assuming he's back at full strength in 2012, Ramirez could make an impact in Arlington either as a starting pitcher or out of the bullpen. He touched up to 98 mph with a sharp curveball in short relief outings last spring.

6. Ronald Guzman, 1B – Though he has yet to appear in an official game, the 17-year-old Guzman showed his polish with an impressive performance at instructs. A native of the Dominican Republic, he graduated high school prior to signing and already speaks a fair amount of English. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound prospect has a smooth swing with bat speed, raw power and advanced pitch recognition skills that are rarely found in players his age. He began working at first base this past fall, moving to the position after playing in the outfield as an amateur. Guzman projects as a big-bodied first baseman with a plus bat down the line, though he's obviously in the early stages of his developmental process.

7. Roman Mendez, RHP – Mendez is among the system's most talented hurlers, possessing a fastball that flirts with the upper-90s and sits between 92-96 mph in starts. While most scouts admit he's most likely to become an impact late-inning reliever with closer potential, some believe he has a shot at sticking in the rotation. The former Red Sox prospect throws strikes but will have to refine his command and secondary stuff in order to remain a starter. His 80-83 mph slider became more consistent and flashed plus more often last season. Although his changeup improved slightly, it's still a major work in progress.

8. Tanner Scheppers, RHP – Coming into the 2011 season, Scheppers was expected to be pitching out of the Rangers' bullpen by the All-Star break. Yet his disappointing campaign began on the disabled list and ended with him still in the minor leagues. Command issues held Scheppers back last year, as his fastball often stayed up in the strike zone and he struggled with walks at times. The 24-year-old still has late-inning relief potential with two wipeout pitches in his 94-98 mph fastball and knee-buckling power curveball. Without a doubt, his X factor is his command, and it'll be something worth monitoring this coming season.

9. Jorge Alfaro, C – The Colombian backstop entices scouts with two 70-grade raw tools in his power and arm from behind the plate. Still only 18, Alfaro is miles away from the majors both offensively and defensively but has all of the tools to become an all-around elite major league catcher. In addition to his sound swing and mammoth strength for his age, Alfaro is a good athlete and runs very well for a catcher. Following a strong performance with Spokane, the youngster should progress forward to Hickory in 2012.

10. Matt West, RHP – The former third baseman touched 94 mph in an experimental bullpen session at the end of camp last season, and he hasn't looked back from there. West was added to the 40-man roster in December despite having virtually no pitching experience above the short-season levels, but he has an advanced feel for the mound and should begin to move quickly. In 27 innings last year, West fanned 35 while walking only one batter. While he must refine his within-the-zone fastball command, the reliever has two potentially elite pitches in a 94-97 mph fastball and low-80s slider.

11. David Perez, RHP – Perez's 2011 campaign was a tale of two seasons. After dominating his way through extended spring training, the young righty joined short-season Spokane and posted an 8.60 ERA, battling his own mechanics throughout the summer. At extended last year, Perez pounded the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball, mature curveball and developing changeup. Though his velocity remained solid with Spokane, he had trouble with command and walked 29 batters in 30.1 innings. Regardless of the struggles, Perez is only 19 and has perhaps the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization.

Ross is coming off a dominant 2011 season.
12. Robbie Ross, LHP – The Rangers' Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2011, Ross posted a 2.34 ERA in 161.1 total innings between the High- and Double-A levels. The 5-foot-11 southpaw not only handled a heavy workload as a starting pitcher last season, but his stuff also ticked up following a late-season promotion to Frisco. His fastball works at 88-93 mph with excellent life, and he began throwing his plus 83-87 mph slider harder late in the year. Even if Ross never fully develops his currently fringy-at-best changeup, his fastball-slider mix could make him a late-inning lefty reliever.

13. Jordan Akins, OF – Akins has arguably the highest ceiling in the system, though he's a ways from actualizing his elite athleticism and pure talent. The 19-year-old flashes all five tools, and his raw power, speed, range and arm strength are all easily plus. A former two-sport star in high school, Akins was a Division I football recruit who only recently began putting his full-time focus on baseball. The organization praises the Georgia native for his work ethic and makeup. He began making significant strides late in the regular season and at instructs in 2011.

14. Leury Garcia, SS – The Rangers organization's undisputed king of defensive and speed tools, Garcia has elite range and arm strength at shortstop to go along with borderline 80-grade wheels. Even with his raw talent, the 20-year-old needs to cut down on his high error totals. The diminutive switch-hitter doesn't have big upside with the bat, but some scouts see him as a speedy glove-first big league shortstop. The club could take advantage of his athleticism and arm by developing him as a super-utility type––playing him all around the diamond––in the coming years. Garcia is expected to play some center field this spring.

15. Cody Buckel, RHP – The 6-foot-1, 183-pound Buckel has a fastball that can reach the mid-90s, but he works best in the 89-92 mph range in starts while mixing in an impressive array of secondary pitches. A 19-year-old high school product, Buckel is intelligent on the mound and throws strikes with his arsenal: fastball, curveball, cut-slider and changeup. Though he isn't totally overpowering, Buckel couples solid-average stuff with a feel for the mound, helping him log 120 strikeouts (with only 27 walks) in 96.2 innings for Hickory in 2011.

16. Christian Villanueva, 3B – Villanueva, 20, is coming off one of the organization's most impressive all-around seasons, hitting .278/.338/.465 in 126 games at Hickory. With quick hands and a short line-drive stroke, the Mexico native has a future solid-average hit tool with average power. He's also a borderline plus-plus defender at third base, showing incredibly strong instincts that help his decent-but-not-elite tools play up. Villanueva certainly isn't a burner on the base paths, but his 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts last season were a testament to his game awareness and overall polish.

17. Luke Jackson, RHP – Jackson had an inconsistent pro debut with Single-A Hickory last season, but he flashes three potential plus pitches. The 20-year-old got out to a strong start before he faded down the stretch. When going well, Jackson gets good downhill plane on his 91-94 mph fastball that he can run up to 97. His hard downer curveball wasn't sharp late in the year, but it's a mature offering with tight break and depth. Jackson also shows more than a rudimentary feel for his low-80s changeup, which has good fade and sinking action.

18. Nomar Mazara, OF – The 16-year-old outfielder made headlines when he signed for a record $4.95 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic last summer. While the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Mazara can display staggering raw power for his age out of a tall frame, he isn't as polished as Guzman and may need a couple years of short-season ball. The Rangers worked to adjust some mechanical issues in Mazara's swing during fall instructional league, including quieting down a big leg kick he had previously employed.

19. Yohander Mendez, LHP – The presence of Guzman and Mazara has actually allowed Mendez to fly under the radar. But the 6-foot-4 Venezuelan lefty is plenty talented, and he signed for a reported $1.5 million bonus––by far the most money the Rangers have given a pitcher in the international amateur market. Mendez impressed the organization after signing with an 89-91 mph fastball that bumped 92 and the makings of two quality secondary pitches. The 17-year-old attended instructs in the U.S. but didn't pitch in any games. He'll almost certainly make his official debut in the States this year.

Can Beltre right the ship?
20. Engel Beltre, CF – The 2012 season will be incredibly important for Beltre, as he looks to bounce back from a year in which he batted just .231/.285/.300 in 118 games at Double-A. Although the tools for success are still present, Beltre must refine his approach and plate discipline to make more consistent hard contact. His above-average defensive game in center has continued to develop just fine, and his strong arm enables him to fill in at either corner position, but it won't matter much if he can't provide more offensive production.

21. Rougned Odor, 2B – Advanced for his age, Odor played his 17-year-old season at short-season Spokane, where he more than held his own with both the bat and glove. He figures to be the everyday second baseman at Single-A Hickory this year. Odor is mature beyond his years as a hitter, showing some pitch recognition skills and a solid overall approach that should allow him to handle the Rangers' aggressive assignments for him. He also profiles as a plus defender at second base with good instincts, quick feet, sure hands and a strong arm.

22. Barret Loux, RHP – The Rangers erred on the side of caution with Loux in his first pro season, shutting him down after he experienced some shoulder tightness in early August. The 22-year-old is a definite big league-caliber arm with middle-of-the-rotation potential if he stays healthy. Loux attacks hitters with a four-pitch repertoire that includes a 90-94 mph fastball that hits 96 in bursts. He also has a very good feel for pitching on top of the decent stuff and big 6-foot-5 body.

23. Will Lamb, LHP – A great all-around athlete, Lamb worked as Clemson's everyday centerfielder and second-leading hitter in 2011 while also getting some time on the mound. Although he had more collegiate success as a position player, the Rangers were enticed by his lean 6-foot-6 frame, clean delivery and plus velocity and put him on the mound full-time for the first time in his career. Predictably, Lamb was a bit raw in some areas. But when right mechanically, his fastball sat between 90-95 mph––hitting 97––with a 77-83 mph slurve that showed plus potential.

24. Miguel de los Santos, LHP – The Dominican lefty is best-known for his wipeout changeup, a legitimate 70-grade pitch with tons of deception and screwball-like action. Since developing the pitch in '09, de los Santos has racked up 324 strikeouts in 197 innings at every level between the Dominican Summer League and Double-A. Coupled with a lively 89-91 mph fastball that has touched 94 in the past, he has big league stuff but is held back by below-average fastball command. The command troubles likely mean de los Santos is a future reliever, but his stuff could miss bats at any level.

25. Justin Grimm, RHP – At his best, Grimm possesses two definite swing-and-miss offerings in his 91-96 mph fastball and sharp 78-83 mph slurve. He had a mechanical issue in college that caused his fastball to float up in the zone and make him hittable despite his plus velocity. Grimm's mechanics became more consistent during his pro debut, and his within-the-zone command improved as a result. His changeup is the biggest question mark, but even if it never comes along, the two plus pitches make him a late-inning relief prospect.

26. Jake Skole, OF – Texas challenged Skole in his first full season by sending him to Single-A Hickory directly out of spring training. The former first-round pick responded with a reasonably strong season, showing gradual improvement as the year progressed. Though Skole doesn't have any elite tools, he's a good athlete with plus speed and about solid-average tools otherwise, including his power, arm strength and range. The Georgia native also flashed some discipline by drawing 65 walks in 124 games last year.

27. Wilmer Font, RHP – The Venezuela native is expected to return from Tommy John surgery after missing nearly half the 2010 season and the entire '11 campaign. A big-bodied hurler with elite velocity, Font has a fastball that has bumped triple digits in the past and sits between 92-96 mph as a starting pitcher. Prior to the injury, he had a potentially solid-average changeup with a raw curveball. One story line worth following this season is whether the Rangers attempt to fast-track the 40-man roster member by putting him in the bullpen and letting him rely on his dominant fastball.

Herrera is a high-energy player.
28. Odubel Herrera, 2B – Perhaps one of the system's more underrated prospects, the 20-year-old Herrera is a scrapper with more than a couple legitimate tools. Despite a somewhat unorthodox swing, the left-handed hitter has extremely fast hands and strong wrists, making him short to the ball and giving him some surprising gap-to-gap pop. He's a disruptive player who has improved in the small-ball game and supplements his plus speed with solid base running skills. At second base, Herrera projects for a plus glove with quick feet, good range and an arm that would play anywhere in the infield.

29. Victor Payano, LHP – Like Perez, the highly projectable Payano was inconsistent at Spokane after a strong showing in extended spring training. The 6-foot-5 southpaw finished his first full year in the States by regaining his early-season form at instructs. Payano, who turned 19 in October, has a loose arm action and a fastball that already sits at 89-92 mph––touching 94––with room for more velocity as he matures. He also shows a feel for the strike zone with two raw-but-promising secondary pitches in a big-breaking low-70s curve and a low-to-mid 80s change.

30. Justin Miller, RHP – Miller, 24, stayed away from injuries and improved his mechanics in 2011, leading to a major breakout at Double-A Frisco. The Fresno State product improved not only his command and control, but also his fastball and slider. His plus fastball works at 93-96 mph and touched even higher––up to 98-99––late in the season. His 83-87 mph slider also progressed, becoming a solid-average offering that flashed plus on occasion. If Miller picks up in 2012 where he left off last summer, he could contribute to the Rangers' bullpen at some point this year.

31. Luis Marte, SS – Although the 18-year-old shortstop is at least a few years away from the majors, he has among the highest ceilings of any position prospect in the organization. Marte, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 166 pounds, projects as an easy plus defender due to his smooth actions, good range and plus arm. Also an advanced hitter with a quick bat and some present gap-to-gap pop, he shows glimpses of all five tools. Marte will play in the States this season, perhaps with short-season Spokane.

32. Tomas Telis, C – Listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, Telis may not be tall, but he has a strong lower-half and legitimate hitting skills, including a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. The switch-hitter has a quick, compact stroke from both sides of the plate. While he has a highly aggressive approach, his excellent hand-eye coordination enables him to make lots of contact. Few scouts doubt Telis' pure hitting ability, and the primary question is whether he'll develop defensively behind the plate.

33. Jake Brigham, RHP – Brigham earned a 40-man roster spot on the heels of a strong second half after moving to the Double-A Frisco bullpen in 2011. Likely a full-time reliever now, the righty can miss bats with all three of his pitches: a 93-97 mph fastball, upper-80s slider and power curveball. He's not quite a finished product and needs to tighten his command of all three offerings. Still, the 23-year-old improved last season and has the potential to become a late-inning reliever in the majors.

34. Kevin Matthews, LHP – The Rangers went a bit off the board with their first selection in last summer's draft, taking the 5-foot-11 high school lefty. Matthews posted good results in his debut summer between the two short-season levels, throwing his fastball at 89-92 mph and bumping 93-94 at times. His slurvy 78-81 mph breaking ball must be refined but flashed plus potential. Also an excellent athlete, Matthews began working to develop his little-used changeup as last season progressed.

35. Tom Mendonca, C – Mendonca is in the midst of making a full-time move from third base to catcher this offseason. While Mendonca has plus arm strength, only time will tell whether he can become a passable defender behind the plate. The left-handed hitter has plus power to all fields coupled with lots of swing and miss. He slugged .492 with 25 home runs at Double-A Frisco last year but also whiffed 160 times in 125 games.

Sardinas must stay healthy.
36. Luis Sardinas, SS – Sardinas has been hampered by injuries since signing for a reported $1.5 million out of Venezuela in the summer of 2009. While Sardinas has played well when healthy, the switch-hitter injured his left shoulder during a swing-and-miss in '10 and had surgery later that fall. He did the same to his right (throwing) shoulder in the same situation last summer, and once again surgery was needed. The slim 18-year-old has plenty of talent––including elite defensive skills and speed––but he'll first need to prove he can get stronger and stay healthy.

37. Zach Cone, OF – After starting strong in his debut summer with Spokane, the toolsy outfielder faltered down the stretch and went just 7-for-75 (.093) during the month of August. Cone, who was the 37th overall selection in the 2011 draft, has one of the system's best raw tool packages––but ‘raw' is the key word. The University of Georgia product is a good athlete who flashes raw power, plus speed and a good arm from the outfield, but he'll need to refine his pitch recognition and swing mechanics in order to actualize the pure talent.

38. Drew Robinson, 3B – Robinson had a tough all-around summer with short-season Spokane but stood out at both extended spring training and fall instructs. The left-handed hitter has a line-drive stroke with gap-to-gap power and some feel for the strike zone. He has an intriguing hit tool and could develop average or slightly better power as his frame fills out. Robinson had trouble adjusting to the hot corner in his first full season but has passable tools for the position, including decent athleticism and a good arm.

39. Kellin Deglan, C – Playing his first full season in 2011, the former first-round pick had an excellent year defensively but scuffled at the plate, hitting only .227/.320/.347 in 89 games with Hickory. The left-handed hitter has a good body with natural strength and raw power, but he'll have to refine his swing before finding consistent success offensively. Behind the plate, the 19-year-old projects as a plus defender. He earned solid marks for his receiving skills in addition to his above-average arm strength.

40. Francisco Mendoza, RHP – While Mendoza has always possessed a live arm, it wasn't until the second half of 2011 that he began to tap into his potential. The 24-year-old has a 91-96 mph fastball––often sitting at 92-95––with good life, but it was his much-improved slider that helped him rack up 50 strikeouts in 37.2 innings last season. Mendoza began flashing a plus-plus 87-90 mph slider with sharp, late two-plane break. Consistency has always been his question, but if he picks up in '12 where he left off last year, he could fly through the system.

41. Andrew Faulkner, LHP – The Rangers signed Faulkner out of high school as a 14th-round pick in last summer's draft, steering him away from a commitment to the University of South Carolina. He quickly established himself as a prospect worth watching with a strong debut in rookie ball. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound southpaw threw his fastball at 86-89 mph in high school but intrigued scouts with his fast arm action and projectable frame. Upon signing, Faulkner's velocity quickly jumped into the 89-92 mph range––bumping up to 93 with some frequency at instructs––while pounding the strike zone.

42. Ryan Strausborger, OF – Drawing some comparisons to Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry due to his above-average speed and defensive skills, Strausborger was named the organization's defender of the year for the 2011 campaign. The 23-year-old has good range and instincts to go along with plus arm strength, allowing him to play all three outfield positions at a high level. A former college shortstop, he could also be groomed as a super-utility player in the future. Although he scuffled at times in the second half, Strausborger has some intriguing offensive skills as well, including a little power to the pull side.

Eppley already has big league experience.
43. Cody Eppley, RHP – Eppley, 26, appeared in 10 games with the Rangers last season but has a chance to carve out a more consistent role in 2012. The sidearming reliever features a heavy 87-91 mph sinker and a sweeping upper-70s, low-80s slider out of a deceptive delivery that makes him tough on right-handed hitters. He also uses a changeup sparingly against lefties. Eppley, who induced over 2.5 groundouts per flyout in Triple-A last season, could become something of a middle relief righty specialist.

44. Nick Tepesch, RHP – The University of Missouri product pitched the entire 2011 season at Single-A Hickory, where he began to show signs of tapping into his raw potential. Standing tall at 6-foot-4 and flashing plus velocity, Tepesch fills up the strike zone with his four-pitch mix: low-90s fastball that touches 94-96 in bursts, 87-90 mph cutter, 77-82 mph curve and 82-85 mph changeup. Though Tepesch doesn't have a put-away offspeed pitch, his cut-slider became harder and sharper as last season progressed.

45. Mark Hamburger, RHP – Once most notable for his unique name and signing via a Minnesota Twins open tryout, Hamburger reached the major leagues last season after improving both his command and secondary stuff. The right-hander relies mostly on his good command of a 91-96 mph fastball, which has some late life. Though he doesn't quite have a swing-and-miss offspeed pitch, his slider took a step forward in 2011. He also found more success after introducing an upper-80s split-change into his arsenal. Hamburger could contribute to the Rangers' bullpen in middle relief this season.

46. Johan Yan, RHP – Yan has experienced no shortage of adjustments in his young career, going from third base prospect to over-the-top reliever to sidearm reliever. Yan took to the sidearm slot quickly in extended spring training two years ago, and now he's knocking on the door of the major leagues. Working out of a deceptive delivery, the 6-foot-3 righty features a heavy 86-90 mph sinker, low-to-mid 70s breaker and the occasional changeup. He's tough on fellow right-handers and yielded only one earned run in 26.2 Double-A innings last summer.

47. Randy Henry, RHP – The 21-year-old righty joined the Rangers' organization in the trade that sent Taylor Teagarden to the Orioles earlier this offseason. An Oklahoma native, Henry was Baltimore's fourth-round selection in the '09 draft. He has a good frame at 6-foot-3 to go with a 91-93 mph fastball with natural weight that can touch the mid-90s at times. He also mixes in a promising slider. While Henry pitched out of the bullpen last season and has late-inning relief potential, he could potentially transition back into a starting role.

48. Kyle Hendricks, RHP – Texas' eighth-round pick in last year's draft, the Dartmouth product put himself on the prospect radar shortly after signing for a reported $125,000. Hendricks displayed an advanced feel for pitching, attacking the strike zone with an 88-94 mph fastball, potential plus changeup and a usable breaking ball. After pitching with short-season Spokane, he handled himself well in a spot-start at Double-A Frisco before an impressive showing at instructs. The righty should work as a starting pitcher in his first full season.

49. Smerling Lantigua, 3B – The Rangers have turned out some impressive third base prospects in recent years, and Lantigua is perhaps the next in line. The 17-year-old performed well in the Dominican Summer League last season and flashed intriguing raw power out of a 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame. While he has good defensive tools, he's raw in the field and must develop his overall feel for third base. The Rangers like his offensive potential, and he'll likely make his state-side debut with the rookie Surprise Rangers in 2012.

50. Ovispo de los Santos, RHP – After a promising 2010 campaign, the hard-throwing righty appeared primed for a breakout last year, but he was sidelined in spring training with a sore right elbow and ended up missing the entire season. De los Santos ultimately underwent a procedure to shave bone spurs off his elbow. If the 24-year-old reliever is fully healthy this year, his 93-98 mph fastball––which touched triple digits at times in '10––could help him rise to the system's upper levels.

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