Seven of the club's pitchers appeared on Lone Star Dugout's Top 50 Rangers Prospects List. Catcher Leonel De Los Santos, first baseman Clark Murphy and third baseman Matt West were also included in the rankings.
|Leonel De Los Santos||C||R/R||5'10||170||10/02/89||AZL|
1) Leonel De Los Santos
De Los Santos' inclusion on a full-season roster is perhaps the year's biggest surprise thus far. The 19-year-old is best known for his plus-plus arm behind the plate [the system's best for a catcher], but he is a promising hitter as well. De Los Santos has decent gap-to-gap power that should develop as his body fills out. Because he is raw both offensively and defensively, his numbers may not reflect his talent level this season, but that the Rangers chose to jump him past short-season Spokane speaks to their thoughts on his potential.
2) Wilmer Font
On the heels of a promising 2007 season, Font ran into a number of issues last summer that limited him to just 4.1 innings in the Arizona League. Font pitched at instructs and then had an excellent 2009 Spring Training to earn his spot on the Hickory roster. Despite the rough '08 summer, Font has one of the best arms in the Rangers system, and his fastball reaches the mid-to-upper-90s on a consistent basis. His breaking ball is rapidly improving, and he could be primed for a breakout season in full-season ball this year.
3) First base
Though he is just one year removed from high school, Clark Murphy will be the full-time first baseman in Hickory this season. Murphy beat out Dennis Guinn for the job. Guinn, who was released at the end of Spring Training, was the Rangers' 17th round pick in last year's draft. He belted 19 home runs and batted .332 at collegiate powerhouse Florida State last year. But Murphy's raw power ranks with the system's best and he is steadily improving defensively. Like De Los Santos, Murphy will likely go through his struggles at times, but he should be able to hold his own in Hickory, particularly in the second half.
Three stories to follow
1) Is this Paisano's year?
The Rangers had high hopes for Paisano when they acquired him from the White Sox in the Brandon McCarthy-John Danks trade. With outstanding range and a strong arm, Paisano is arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the system, but his bat has lagged behind. The 21-year-old opened both the 2007 and 2008 seasons with Low-A Clinton, but he has batted just .192 there in 360 at-bats. Paisano has plus speed and promising raw power, and he certainly has the tools for a long-awaited breakout campaign.
2) Getting Fabio back on track.
The Rangers have invested a lot of efforts into the Latin American free agent market over the last few years, and Fabio Castillo was their first big-time signing since the movement began. Castillo had a tough season with Clinton last year, as he bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen while posting a 5.22 ERA in 91.1 innings. His fastball reached 94 mph at times, but it also got as low as 83 mph. The Rangers will be looking for more consistency out of their talented young hurler as he repeats the Low-A level.
3) Young talent on the pitching staff.
From top to bottom, the Crawdads pitching staff is loaded with young, high-ceiling talents. Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan, Carlos Pimentel, Wilmer Font, Jake Brigham, Fabio Castillo, and Joseph Ortiz all rank among the system's top 50 prospects. Two more top 20 prospects -- Neil Ramirez and Joe Wieland -- are expected to join the club a few weeks into the season.
One to watch
Second baseman Jason Ogata was the Rangers' 38th round pick in last year's draft, and he was a relatively light-hitting player during his collegiate career at LSU and Oregon State. Ogata batted just .244 with seven extra-base hits in 225 at-bats with Spokane last summer, but he had a big time Spring Training and will be Hickory's everyday second baseman this season. Ogata flashed a good approach with power to all fields, and it will be interesting to see if he can carry that hot streak into the regular season.