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: Justin Smoak – Despite his struggles as a first-year pro at Triple-A last season, Smoak has the best hit tool in the Rangers' system. He batted .328 at Double-A in '09. He handles the bat well from both sides of the plate and has excellent strike-zone judgement.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Moreland, Tomas Telis

Best Hitter for Power: Tom Mendonca – While he certainly has a few adjustments to make in the pro game, Mendonca has staggering power. He impressed with his light-tower pop at Fall Instructional League, and the third baseman has 30-plus home run potential in the Major Leagues.

Honorable Mention: Cristian Santana, Justin Smoak

Best Plate Discipline: Justin Smoak – The switch-hitter rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone from either side of the plate. Even while he batted just .244 in 54 games with Oklahoma City last season, he still worked 35 walks while striking out 45 times. Smoak should be a hitter that walks about as much as he strikes out throughout his career.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Moreland, John Whittleman

Best Left-Handed Swing: Justin Smoak – Though Smoak is solid from both sides, he is more advanced as a left-handed hitter. The 23-year-old absolutely mashed righties in the Texas League last season, hitting .379 with a .509 on-base percentage. In 132 official at-bats against Double-A RHP, he had 14 extra-base hits and 35 free passes.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Moreland, Tomas Telis

Velazquez has a good-looking swing.
Best Right-Handed Swing: Miguel Velazquez – The Puerto Rico native has above-average tools across the board, including an excellent bat. His plate discipline could use a bit of work, but it isn't below average, either. Velazquez figures to hit for a decent average and strong power in the future.

Honorable Mention: Max Ramirez, Chad Tracy

Best Base Runner: Craig Gentry – Gentry employs a nice mixture of plus speed with intelligence on the base paths. Finally playing fully healthy in 2009, the speedster swiped 49 bases in just 55 attempts at Double-A Frisco. Even if he doesn't hit enough to play a regular role in the big leagues, Gentry's speed and base running skills could help any club.

Honorable Mention: Joaquin Arias, Leury Garcia

Best Raw Speed: Leury Garcia – The 5-foot-7 shortstop is incredibly fast and he has a quick first step. Garcia is already a decent base runner, and he has the raw speed to steal bases at will in the minor leagues. He had 19 in 25 tries with Hickory last season, and the numbers should multiply as he reaches base more often and gets more comfortable reading pitchers.

Honorable Mention: Braxton Lane, Luis Sardinas

Best Untapped Talent: Engel Beltre – Despite his issues at High-A Bakersfield in 2009, Beltre still has five-tool potential and perhaps the highest ceiling for any position player in the organization. Plate discipline holds him back, but the 20-year-old impresses with his swing, raw power, speed, and defensive skills.

Honorable Mention: Cristian Santana, Ruben Sierra

Pitching Honors:

Deepest Repertoire: Tanner Scheppers – The fireballer may end up in the bullpen, but it certainly won't be because of his repertoire. Scheppers has two of the system's best pitches [fastball, curveball], but he also has a slider and a changeup that he can throw effectively for strikes when he wants.

Honorable Mention: Martin Perez, Carlos Pimentel

Best Fastball for Starting Pitcher: Neftali Feliz – Like Scheppers, Feliz's future may reside in the bullpen, but he is a starting pitching prospect for now. Feliz not only tops out at 101 mph, but his fastball has plenty of late life that makes it seemingly unhittable at times. Most pitchers' fastballs straighten out when they reach triple digits, but not Feliz's.

Honorable Mention: Wilmer Font, Tanner Scheppers

Grullon's fastball has lots of movement.
Best Fastball for Relief Pitcher: Geuris Grullon – At 88-92 mph [topping out at 94], Grullon doesn't have the best velocity, but the movement on his fastball is absolutely filthy, and even Grullon is still learning to harness it. When he commands it, Grullon's fastball leads to tons of swinging strikes and ground balls.

Honorable Mention: Alexi Ogando, Pedro Strop

Best Curveball: Tanner Scheppers – The 23-year-old's hard low-80s hammer curve has two-plane break, and it is the most dominant breaking pitch in the system. Particularly out of the bullpen, Scheppers' mid-upper-90s fastball and knee-buckling curveball could make him a lethal weapon in the big leagues this season.

Honorable Mention: Daniel Gutierrez, Matt Thompson

Best Slider: Ben Snyder – Snyder's outstanding slider makes him deadly against fellow left-handed hitters, and it may allow him to win a spot in the Rangers' bullpen out of Spring Training. His slider helped him limit lefties to a .146 batting average last year at Double-A Connecticut while fanning 57 batters in 46.2 innings against them.

Honorable Mention: Michael Kirkman, Robbie Ross

Best Changeup: Omar Poveda – The right-hander is very crafty with his changeup, throwing a couple different versions that often hit any spot on the radar gun between 74-82 mph. He can make his changeup cut, and he also throws one that has excellent fade and dive. Poveda is comfortable throwing the pitch against both left- and right-handers.

Honorable Mention: Kasey Kiker, Martin Perez

Best Control: Blake Beavan – The 6-foot-7 hurler's control allowed him to post a 4.01 ERA in the Texas League at 19-years-old despite missing very few bats. Beavan locates all of his pitches well [four- and two-seam fastball, slider, changeup], works both corners, and keeps the ball down in the zone.

Honorable Mention: Richard Bleier, Wilfredo Boscan

Best Raw Arm: Neftali Feliz – Was there any doubt? The 21-year-old has a legitimate 80-grade fastball [one of the very few in professional baseball], and his breaking ball and changeup both showed drastic improvement after his big league callup last season.

Honorable Mention: Wilmer Font, Carlos Melo

Best Overall Potential: Martin Perez – While he isn't necessarily tops in the system for any other tools right now, Perez does everything very well at just 18-years-old. The southpaw has an outstanding three-pitch mix [he should have three above-average down the line], advanced makeup, and a very good feel for pitching that allowed the Rangers to promote him to Double-A late last year.

Honorable Mention: Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers

Most Polished Pitcher: Martin Perez – Given his age, Perez's polish is well beyond his years. The Venezuela native will turn 19 at the end of Spring Training, and he figures to spend the entire season in the Texas League. Perez should have an opportunity to pitch in the Majors at 20-years-old.

Honorable Mention: Omar Poveda, Tanner Scheppers

Defensive Honors:

Gentry has excellent defensive tools.
Best Defensive Outfielder: Craig Gentry – All things considered, Gentry is the best defensive outfielder in the system. He knows himself well in the outfield, which allows him to make smart smart decisions. Gentry gets good jumps, takes direct routes, covers plenty of ground, and he has excellent control of his plus arm.

Honorable Mention: Jared Bolden, David Paisano

Best Defensive Infielder: Leury Garcia – Despite the incredibly high error totals, Garcia's raw defensive tools give him Gold Glove potential. The shortstop has plus [bordering on plus-plus] arm strength and range. He should cut down on the miscues as he matures and develops as a player.

Honorable Mention: Edwin Garcia, Tom Mendonca

Best Defensive Catcher: Leonel De Los Santos – The young backstop also earns this honor on potential. ‘Macumba' has incredible arm strength, and his receiving skills aren't bad either. The 20-year-old is still raw, and he figures to improve at game calling and handling pitching staffs in the coming years.

Honorable Mention: Jose Felix, Chris Gradoville

Best Outfield Instincts: David Paisano – Even though he has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury the last two seasons, Paisano still covers plenty of ground in the outfield because he reads the ball well off the bat. The Venezuela native has a solid first step and makes intelligent decisions in terms of routes and risks.

Honorable Mention: Jared Bolden, Craig Gentry

Best Outfield Range: Engel Beltre – Beltre covers the most ground in the system in terms of raw range. He doesn't always take the most direct routes, but the centerfielder generally has the speed to make up for any mistakes along the way. His route-running should improve as he develops, and Beltre projects as a plus defender in the outfield.

Honorable Mention: Craig Gentry, David Paisano

Best Outfield Arm: Craig Gentry – The 26-year-old may not have the strongest arm in the system, but it is polished. Gentry still has plus arm strength, and he gets good carry behind his throws with excellent accuracy to any base. His range makes him an ideal centerfielder, but Gentry has the arm to play at either of the corner spots.

Honorable Mention: Engel Beltre, Ruben Sierra

Best Infield Arm: Leury Garcia – Garcia has the strongest arm in a system stacked with strong infield arms. He consistently makes pinpoint laser throws to first base, complementing his outstanding range well. Garcia's arm allows him to finish many plays in which he covers lots of ground to reach a batted ball.

Honorable Mention: Jurickson Profar, Mike Hollander

Best Infield Range: Leury Garcia – The shortstop also takes the honor for best range in the system. Garcia covers ground to both sides, and he routinely fields grounders [and makes the play] on the opposite side of the second-base bag. His blazing speed helps, but it's the quick first step that gives Garcia so much defensive potential.

Honorable Mention: Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas


Future Rangers Top Stories