Top 15 Prospects: Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers organization is solid top to bottom with both high-ceiling talents and depth. In looking at the Top 10 prospects we can see that the organization’s main strengths are pitching and up-the-middle offensive players.

1. Jurickson Profar, SS
BORN: Feb. 20, 1993
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2009 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 1st

The Rangers organization already has a dynamic young shortstop in Elvis Andrus but Profar gives them a second potential all star player at that position. In fact, he has the potential to be even better than the incumbent. Playing well below the league average age in ’11, Profar showed an outstanding understanding of the strike zone, and he showed his advanced understanding of the game by going to the plate with an idea of what he wanted to do. In the field, the young player has a strong arm and excellent range. He could develop into a plus defender in time. Look for Profar to begin 2012 in high-A ball but he could see double-A by mid-season.

2. Martin Perez, LHP
BORN: April 4, 1991
EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 2nd

Perez split 2011 between double-A and triple-A where he posted solid but unspectacular numbers. However, if you consider the fact he was playing against players four to six years older than him, on average, his results look much better. The young southpaw pitched effectively at double-A but the promotion to triple-A saw his hits-per-nine-innings rate jump from 8.15 to 13.22 H/9. Perez did suffer from some bad luck and his triple-A ERA of 6.43 must taken with a grain of salt if you consider his FIP of 3.98. There is enough depth in the Rangers rotation, especially if the club signs Japanese import Yu Darvish, to expect the Venezuelan hurler to head back to triple-A for some more seasoning in 2012.

3. Leonys Martin, CF
BORN: March 6, 1988
EXPERIENCE: 1 season
ACQUIRED: 2011 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

The Rangers’ center field job is still up-in-the-air for 2012 (assuming the club wants Josh Hamilton in left) but Martin could be the solution. He’ll face competition from Julio Borbon and Craig Gentry but the Cuban defector has the highest ceiling of the trio. Martin was signed to a $15 million big league contract and has the tools to back up the dollar signs. He’s a plus defender with a strong arm. His offensive game is built around his above-average speed and solid line-drive swing. Martin had a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League and similar success this spring could help him lock up a starting gig in the outfield.

4. Neil Ramirez, RHP
BORN: May 25, 1989
EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 supplemental 1st round, Virginia HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 10th

Ramirez made some big waves in 2011 after entering the season as an underrated prospect. The right-hander zoomed through high-A and double-A, spending much of the season in triple-A. He missed a little time with shoulder soreness so that will be watched closely in ’12 when he likely returns to triple-A while awaiting an opening in the big league rotation. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph, as well as a potentially-plus curveball and an slightly-below-average changeup. Ramirez has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.

5. Rougned Odor, SS/2B
BORN: Feb. 3, 1994
EXPERIENCE: 1 season
ACQUIRED: 2011 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

The rich continues to get richer as the organization signed yet another top middle infield prospect out of the international market. Odor had a modest offensive debut but he was playing at the age of 17 in a league dominated by recently drafted college prospects. He needs to get stronger, having faded late in ’11, and should eventually display solid line-drive strength but power will never be a big part of his game. Odor flashes signals that he could develop into an above-average hitter in terms of batting average and should take a decent number of walks as he matures. He’s not as strong defensively as Jurickson Profar and Odor spent his debut playing the keystone where his arm strength and actions play up.

6. Robbie Ross, LHP
BORN: June 24, 1989
EXPERIENCE: 3 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 2nd round – Kentucky HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 7th

Although he doesn’t have plus fastball velocity, Ross is one of the organization’s best pitching prospects and has had nothing but success in pro ball. He has a funky delivery that creates deception and his heater has a lot of movement. The southpaw is still working to develop his secondary pitches (slider, changeup) but they both showed solid improvements in 2011. Although he struggles to command his fastball at times because of its movement, the Kentucky native has above-average control and does a nice job of working down in the zone, which helps him produce an above-average number of ground balls. Ross will likely return to double-A in 2012 and could spend much of the season there with the likes of Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez ahead of him on the depth chart.

7. Luis Sardinas, SS
BORN: May 16, 1993
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2009 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 9th

Sardinas continues the line of impressive shortstops prospects and he may have ranked higher on this list if he had not missed the first half of the year due to a dislocated shoulder suffered prior to the season. Despite the long layoff and subsequent rehab, Sardinas showed a solid offensive approach and excellent defensive skills. He’s raw defensively and makes a lot of youthful mistakes but he has a very strong arm. Sardinas could move up to low-A ball in 2012 and is currently sandwiched in between Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor on the depth chart at shortstop. Like Christian Villanueva, Sardinas could be an intriguing trade chip but the organization will likely look to increase his value with some healthy play in ’12.

8. Will Lamb, LHP
BORN: Sept. 9, 1990
EXPERIENCE: 1 season
ACQUIRED: 2011 2nd round, Clemson University
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

An under-the-radar selection in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft, Lamb had a solid pro debut and flashed better stuff than expected. The Rangers did an outstanding job of scouting him and grabbed him a few rounds earlier than he was projected to go by Baseball America. Lamb was a two-way player in college and was a legit prospect as a hitter. Now that he’s focusing on pitching he could really take off. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph (and did so more often than expected after signing), along with an above-average slider. Lamb will need to work on a third pitch if he’s going to stick as a starter in pro ball.

9. Mike Olt, 3B
BORN: Aug. 27, 1988
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2010 supplemental 1st round, U Connecticut
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 6th

Olt was one of a handful of interesting Rangers prospects that saw their ’11 seasons interrupted by injuries. The third baseman was well on his way to a strong offensive season when he broke his collarbone during a home-plate collision. After appearing in just 69 regular season games (where he posted an ISO rate of .238), the former U of Connecticut player posted a .415 ISO rate and slugged 13 home runs in 27 Arizona Fall League games. In the field, Olt plays an above-average third base and showcases a strong arm. With Adrian Beltre serving as a significant roadblock for the big league job at the hot corner, Olt could move to an outfield corner or possibly first base (where his arm would go to waste). Because of his success in the AFL, he will likely move up to double-A to begin 2012.

10. Christian Villanueva, 3B
BORN: June 19, 1991
EXPERIENCE: 3 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

A favorite of FanGraphs scouting guru Mike Newman, Villanueva received a glowing report from him recently. As such, I’ll let you click the link for the low-down on this third base prospect. One thing I will point out, though, is that the hot corner is spoken for by veteran Adrian Beltre for the next four to five seasons (including his option year), so Villanueva will either be a key trading chip or will have to transition to another position (He’s athletic enough to do so) if he’s going to play ball in Texas any time soon.

The Next Five

11. Michael Kirkman, LHP: Kirkman took a bit of a step backward in 2011 as he struggled with both his command and control. Still, he has above-average fastball velocity for a southpaw and flashes a plus slider. A starter in the minors, he’s likely best suited for the bullpen at the MLB level due to the lack of a reliable third pitch and inconsistent mechanics.

12. Jake Skole, OF: A former first round pick, Skole has been slow to develop to pro ball but he held his own in low-A ball in 2011. His raw power has yet to translate to in-game power and his ISO rate sat at .125. To have more success at the plate, Skole will need to make more contact (27 K%). The young outfielder has decent speed but is a poor base runner, as witnessed by his 60% stolen base rate (35 attempts). He should be an average to above-average right-fielder.

13. David Perez, RHP: Perez is very projectable but he’s also quite raw. His control completely deserted him while pitching in North America for the first time in 2011. The right-hander can touch the mid-90s with his fastball and he also flashes two other pitches (curveball, changeup) that could be above-average offerings as he matures. He had a disappointing season in short-season ball but pitched the entire year at 18 and was well below the average age (21) for the league.

14. Miguel de los Santos, LHP: The left-hander has a solid two-pitch mix with a low-90s fastball and plus changeup. If he can get more consistent with his breaking ball de los Santos could be a solid No. 3 starter but he’s probably headed for a career as a high-leverage reliever. His strikeout rate hasn’t dipped below 12.00 K/9 since ’07 but his control, as well as fastball command, is inconsistent.

15. Cody Buckel, RHP: Buckel doesn’t have the same pure stuff as many of the other pitchers on this list but he has solid pitchability and above-average command of a four-pitch repertoire. He has an unorthodox delivery but it works for him and he repeats it well, as witnessed by his walk rate of 2.51 BB/9 in low-A ball.

SLEEPER ALERT: Matt West, RHP: You may remember West from the 2007 amateur draft when he was the organization’s second round draft pick out of a Texas high school… as a third baseman. After stalling at the hot corner in low-A ball, West made the risky move of switching to the mound. After just one season it looks like it’s paid off… West showed solid control in his pitching debut, posting a walk rate of 0.35 BB/9 in 26 short-season innings. His strikeout rate sat at 12.12 K/9. With a strong spring he could perhaps jump to high-A ball.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


35 Responses to “Top 15 Prospects: Texas Rangers”

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  1. Bobby Ayala says:

    600th post! Congratulations! I always look forward to your analysis and reference your articles frequently on draft day; you’re the best writer on the site. Thanks!

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  2. Odor played 2B, not SS, last year. I don’t think he’s considered a shortstop prospect.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Good. A team with shortstops named Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, AND Jurickson Profar would have an unfair advantage in the Totally Awesome Names competition.

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      • Snark says:

        I can imagine Nadel’s 2016 call now: “Odor to Profar for one, Profar to Guzman, double play!”

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      • Snark says:

        (And I shouldn’t forget the potential Alfaro-to-Profar caught-stealing mouthful — even if Hulet didn’t pay proper obeisance to #TheLegend.)

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  3. Nate Douglas says:

    What’s up with Zach Cone? Disappointing considering he was a first-round draft pick?

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  4. Kyle says:

    No Tanner Scheppers?

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    • knockoutking says:

      West is seen as more of a RP prospect than Scheppers at this point in time by most (/basically all) prospect guys

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      • Marc Hulet says:

        I’d say both are pretty much relievers at the MLB level… I have West as the sleeper as the players considered for that spot are lesser-known guys… Scheppers is too high profile for that spot and the sleeper is not necessary considered the 16th best prospect… I am in no way saying West is better than Scheppers.

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  5. Austin Brancheau says:

    Is there a reason besides injuries that keeps Tanner Scheppers off this list?

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    • knockoutking says:

      he is a lesser RP prospect than west, although imho he is a better RP prospect than Kirkman.

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    • Marc Hulet says:

      Scheppers was heavily considered for the 11-15 range but ultimately missed because he’s a reliever with some serious injuries concerns, both from last year and during his college career.

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  6. Sully says:

    Totally random, but I thought you already did the Nationals Top Prospects for next year. Is the link on the main site old, or have you not completed that org. yet?

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  7. Ben says:

    I’m surprised by Roman Mendez being left off the list entirely. He posted some great numbers in single A this year but seems to get overlooked a lot.

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  8. d_i says:

    I’m not super tuned in with Rangers prospects, but I expected Olt to be top 5 based on what I’ve heard/read. Isn’t #9 lower than most consider him?

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    • J Walter Weatherman says:

      His age and injuries combined with the progress and high-ceilings of the other players are the reasons he isn’t seen as a top-5 prospect in the organization

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      • Snark says:

        So you don’t think Jason Parks, Jamey Newberg, Jason Cole, and others are up on Olt’s injury history and birthdate? Or were they just seduced by Olt’s humility and grit?

        Given the rest of this list, I’d argue that it’s Marc’s lack of familiarity with the 2011 performances within the Rangers’ farm system that leads him to rank Olt so low — not general (and questionable) statements about his health and age.

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  9. Marc Hulet says:

    I definitely don’t think those three guys are wrong. I’m rather familiar with the system… I just put added value on pitching and up the middle guys. As a result, Olt takes a small hit on defensive value, as well as a small hit for the injury (although not career threathening or chronic) and a small hit for age/level. He also has rather high strikeout rates and maintained a decent batting average in the past due to high BABIPs (not couting ’11 when his BABIP dipped along with his batting average). I’m also a fairly big fan of both Lamb and Sardinas so may have ranked them a little higher than others… although I haven’t seen any other their lists.

    So there were enough question marks (and intriguing other options), for me, to be cautious in ranking Olt higher.

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    • laxtonto says:

      You do realize that Sardinas injured his other shoulder in July, has had surgery now on shoulders both in the last 2 years and now has significant concerns about his prolonged shoulder health?

      If you ding Olt for his collar bone, you have to pretty much hammer Sardinas.

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      • Marc Hulet says:

        Yup. I am aware of Sardinas injury history. But he also has a strong pedigree than Olt, stronger overall tools and impressive results when he’s been able to get on the field. He was also performing at a young age even for the rookie leagues.

        Prior to publishing the list I actually moved the 7-10 guys around a bit… For me they’re all very close and I wouldn’t argue a different ranking of the four.

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    • Snark says:

      Well, first off, I was responding to JWW’s point about Olt’s injury and age, which made a generalization (“[Olt] isn’t seen as a top-5 prospect in the organization”) out of your specific ranking.

      But in reply: I’m not the first to notice this, but given your favoring of Sardinas, isn’t it worth pointing out that he’s now had surgery on *both* shoulders? On Lamb: I haven’t seen him pitch. I’m wondering if you have, and if not, what you’re basing your ranking on — especially since the reviews I’ve seen project him to be a reliever.

      Overall, your list is just… odd. No Akins, Alfaro, Guzman, or Jackson. Kirkman, Lamb, and Skole quite high. David Perez fairly low. It just doesn’t seem to reflect much of an underlying logic…

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      • Marc Hulet says:

        Alfaro was originally in the Top 15 but was a late cut. Jackson received some consideration, as did Guzman (although I don’t have enough personal info to rank him highly at this point), but Akins did not.

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    • Snark says:

      One more question — more to do with your approach than with Olt specifically, but it’s still about Olt and his offensive performance. The strikeouts are certainly a concern; everyone I’ve read recognizes that. But: if you’re going to go into peripheral stats off such small samples, what do you do with the .387 OBP on the .314 BABIP at high-A — the highest level Olt reached, and the one at which he played the most games in 2011?

      I should say that I’m actually low on Olt’s hit tool, relative to the many Rangers prospectophiles at, say, Lone Star Ball. I am far from thinking his bat his a guaranteed commodity. But if you’re not going by eye, here, this list really is baffling in several ways, and it’d be useful if you laid out your logic. Is it just gut?

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      • Goyo says:

        He knows the system like any baseball dork knows the system: break out the year-end stats and the BA handbook and pretend that your rankings and haughty homilies actually mean something more than anyone else’s.

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    • Goyo says:

      You’d look a lot less foolish if you just admit you didn’t know that Sardinas had been shelved again this year after surgery for the same injury to the other shoulder rather than trying to argue that a kid with a congenital shoulder defect merits a top 10 ranking. But then, that’s just me…

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  10. Wait Til Next Year says:

    Is Rougned Odor the son of Rouglas Odor, former Indians (late 80′s – early 90′s) farmhand? They’re both born in the same city, Maracaibo VZ.

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  11. mc says:

    No Jorge Alfaro makes this list invalid.

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  12. Snark says:

    Marc, I appreciate your willingness to respond to the comments, but these are sort of non-responsive responses. When you say you don’t have enough “personal info to rank [Guzman] highly at this point,” what does that mean? You noted that you haven’t checked out Parks’ rankings, or Cole’s evaluations, or presumably, the all-prospect teams Cole did with Parks — so what are you relying on? (It’s hard to think of two guys who know the Rangers’ prospects better than Cole and Parks.) If your personal info doesn’t come at least in part from their evaluations, where does it come from? BA? Goldstein? Sickels? Personal contacts in scouting, or in front offices? Just stats? Some combination?

    What information do you have, for example, that led you to exclude Akins from consideration altogether, but put Skole at 12? What data lead to Alfaro — and Mendez — being cut, but Lamb being ranked 8th and Kirkman kept on at 11? I know you have limited space and time, but these are questions that could be answered without overwhelming verbiage.

    If you’d explain your sources and ranking process (“Scouts tell me that Kirkman will almost certainly never start, and that his potential contribution from the ‘pen isn’t anywhere near what David Perez could bring as a starter — but because Kirkman could contribute in 2012, and Perez is still very raw, Kirkman gets the nod from me”) that would help — but there just doesn’t seem to be consistency behind your rankings, and you don’t seem willing to explain in any detail. It’s been mostly “I’m a big fan of this guy, this guy got cut, this guy didn’t get consideration” without much rhyme or reason. And when you have explained your thought process, there are holes you leave unfilled. The question about basing Olt’s ranking in part on his peripherals in about 750 PA, for example, is still out there (not only as a specific question, but as one about your general approach). So is the question of why you’re apparently writing off Sardinas’ serious injuries — whatever his pedigree, how much of a track record does he really have? What impressive results are you talking about? If they’re not what you see in his stats, what are they, and where are you seeing them?

    I know you’re sort of taking it on the chin, here, and I’m sorry if this feels like so much piling on. This is exactly the sort of responsibility that baseball bloggers — especially those of the saberist persuasion, who gave FanGraphs its first audience — demand from “mainstream media” guys all the time. Heck, I’ve seen FanGraphs demand this sort of transparency and logic from baseball writers.

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  13. SlowBluesguy says:

    The thing I like about this site is that you get a solid premise, with the addition of pertinent information from folks that are interested. When you think of a question, you go look it up yourself, and bring it to the Board. Keep it up. This is an awesome off season for the Rangers and learning about them is cool. We’re all enjoying it.

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  14. JESUS CH. says:

    CHRISTIAN VILLANUEVA IS A GOOD PLAYER AND THE BEST MEXICAN PROSPECT. I HOPE SO IN TWO YEARS THAT HE WILL BE PLAYING THE THIRD BASE WITH RANGERS

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  15. Ann Claps says:

    Why in the world is Alexi Ogando’s name not on this list?????? Somebody please explain this to me!!!!

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