Scouting Rangers Prospect #19: Julio Borbon

After signing late last season, the Rangers will get their first extended look at first-round pick Julio Borbon when he plays with High-A Bakersfield in 2008. Lone Star Dugout has an in-depth scouting report on the talented prospect.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Julio Borbon
Position: Outfield
DOB: February 20, 1986
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Throughout his collegiate career, Julio Borbon was always regarded as a talented player who had the potential to be selected high in the MLB Draft.

But his stock soared to new heights after his summer with Team USA in 2006. Playing against some of the world's top amateur competition – and with a wood bat – Borbon batted .364 with four triples, four home runs, and 15 stolen bases. Though he wasn't known for his ability to draw walks, Borbon worked 17 free passes – versus just 11 strikeouts – in 121 at-bats.

The centerfielder entered the 2007 season at the University of Tennessee as arguably the top position player prospect in that summer's draft. Unfortunately, Borbon's junior campaign never quite got off the ground, as he suffered a broken ankle in an intrasquad game just prior to the regular season.

Borbon made a relatively quick return, still appearing in 40 games with the Volunteers, but with much of Borbon's game coming from his game-changing speed, he was never able to play at full strength. The native of the Dominican Republic still batted .345, but he showed little power, little patience, and attempted only 13 steals all season.

In what was considered an extremely weak crop of college position players, Borbon was still regarded as the top collegiate outfielder when the draft rolled around. But his overall stock took a tumble, as he fell all the way to 35th overall, where the Rangers eagerly snatched him up.

The Rangers then began the negotiation process with Borbon and super-agent Scott Boras. With neither Borbon or Boras speaking to media during the contract negotiations, there was virtually no news until the outfielder signed on the August 15 deadline. The club ended up signing Borbon to a four-year big league contract worth $1.3 million. He also received an $800,000 signing bonus. Despite Borbon's fairly lucrative deal, his bonus was considered slot money for his draft position.

Shortly after signing, Borbon reported to short-season Spokane, where he was admittedly rusty. After not playing in a live game for nearly three months, Borbon went just 5-for-29 at the plate with the Indians before being sent to the club's minor league complex in Arizona. Borbon finished the season with the AZL Rangers and was 2-for-8 in the final two games of the season.

It wasn't until October's fall instructional league that the Rangers got their first extended look at the talented first-round pick. Borbon used the time to work on his plate discipline, among other things. It was there that he impressed the club with both his raw power and ability to lay down bunts.

Aside from his summer with Team USA, Borbon's numbers have never been dominant. But those who see him are able to witness his true potential. Borbon has the talent to become the Rangers' centerfielder and leadoff hitter for years to come, but only time will tell if that ceiling will ever be realized.

Borbon impressed the Rangers early in big league camp this year by getting four hits – including a home run – in nine at-bats. He was eventually optioned to High-A Bakersfield, where he will begin his first professional season.

Also See: Sizing up the outfield prospects (October 10, 2007)
Borbon makes up for lost time (October 21, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Mike Boulanger (November 6, 2007)

Batting and Power: Borbon has the opportunity to blossom into an ideal leadoff hitter if his tools develop. Although he didn't show much power in college, Borbon does have a good amount of raw power. That power may translate more into doubles, but Rangers hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger believes Borbon could hit 12-14 home runs per year. The left-hander is also an excellent bunter who can either lay down a sacrifice or drop one for a base hit. Strikeouts have never been much of a problem for the speedster, and don't figure to be in the future, but he still must improve his plate discipline. Borbon drew just six walks in 174 at-bats in college last year. If the prospect wants to hit at the top of a big league order, he will likely have to become more patient at the plate. Luckily, Borbon realizes this, as he told us during instructs that he wanted to work on seeing pitches and going deeper into counts.

Base Running and Speed: Borbon's recovering broken ankle kept him from displaying his speed last year at the University of Tennessee – and even after signing with the Rangers – but he is certainly one of the fastest players in the system. Because of his strong gap power, Borbon figures to run into his share of triples. He has the potential to steal upwards of 30-40 bases in the big leagues.

Defense: The best way to describe Borbon may be as a ‘solid-average' defender. Though his glove isn't quite up to par with some of the system's other top centerfielders, it isn't a liability. Borbon's speed helps give him very good range in the outfield, but he also has a below-average arm.

Projection: At his ceiling, some say that Borbon can be a Johnny Damon-type player, but the comparison is not entirely accurate. While Borbon does have some raw power that figures to develop, he probably won't hit 20 home runs in a big league season. Borbon has the ability to hit at the top of a big league order with strong gap and occasional home run power, steal 30 bases, and play a solid centerfield with a slightly below-average arm.

2008 Outlook: It has already been decided that Borbon will begin the season with High-A Bakersfield, as he was optioned to the Blaze midway through spring training. Borbon does have some polish and is already on the 40-man roster, so he could reach Double-A Frisco by season's end.

ETA: 2010.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
2007 AZL Rangers (RK) .250 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .375
Spokane (SSA) .172 29 0 0 2 1 3 2 3 .226 .172

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