The Rangers enjoyed a remarkable run of scouting and player development success early this decade. While their current system doesn’t quite reach the heights of pipelines past, don’t sleep on this organization’s ability to consistently churn out big league pieces. Texas’ characteristic emphasis on athleticism, power, and upside is evident in the stockpile of risk/reward prospects near the top of the list. A top-notch group of scouts and coaches should keep the system flourishing even after its top players graduate.
A defining trait of any Rangers farm system seems to be high-ceiling talent at up-the-middle positions. This year’s version of the list is no different, as top prospects like (#1) Leody Taveras, (#4) Anderson Tejeda, (#5) Bubba Thompson, and (#9) Julio Pablo Martinez all have the athleticism to play shortstop or center field at the Major League level.
–PITCHING ON THE WAY
Texas has struggled to find consistent rotation options at the Major League level, dipping into the free agent market in recent years to fill holes they weren’t able to with homegrown prospects. That trend could reverse in years to come, though, as the pipeline is filled with more interesting arms than it has been in quite some time. Texas has made a run on high school pitching, selecting (#2) Hans Crouse, (#3) Cole Winn, (#11) Cole Ragans, and (#14) Owen White early in the draft. They’ve added to that group with trades, acquiring (#6) Taylor Hearn, (#8) Brock Burke, and (#12) A.J. Alexy in recent deals. To top it off, names like (#7) Joe Palumbo, (#13) Jonathan Hernandez, and (#15) Tyler Phillips have blossomed into bonafide big league pitching prospects after a few years in the system. Ronny Henriquez (Pure Projection) and Mason Englert (Pure Projection) are two more to keep an eye on low in the system.
There’s a lot of potential upside in the pipeline right now, but seeing as most of those prospects are very young and/or far away from the big leagues, one can expect a general level of attrition in some cases moving forward. Here inlies the method behind Texas’ systematic procurement of this player type, though: the sheer quantity of high-upside assets allows the team to wind up with a few gems, even after accounting for the “fail rate” that accompanies this type of prospect.
TOP 15 PREF LIST
|9||Julio Pablo Martinez||OF||45||Moderate||2020|
CREAM OF THE CROP
(#1) Leody Taveras, OF
Taveras’ 2018 was not unlike his 2017 full-season debut in Low-A: his stats alone were relatively pedestrian, with tools and scouting grades that were significantly better. Another similarity is how young he was for the level, playing all of last season as a 19-year-old in the Carolina League. Taveras is a remarkable athlete who impacts the game in CF, grading as a potential 70 defender at a premium position. A switch-hitter, he’s more advanced from the left side but has made progress with his right-handed stroke. Though it has yet to translate to game action, there’s sneaky power potential that could still be coming as Taveras fills out a wiry 6-foot-1 frame. We’re bullish on the tools, chalking up his lack of production to being extremely young for his level each step of the way so far in his career. Switch-hitting compounds this, as young players learning two different swings often come into their offensive game a bit later. Taveras will head back to High-A to begin 2019, and hopefully will show some progress with the bat. His defense in CF is enough to make him a regular, with the chance to be an above-average contributor and potential franchise cornerstone if his offense comes on the way we think it can.
(#2) Hans Crouse, RHP
Ceiling: 60 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Frontline Starter (#2/#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 6m
Video | Report
Concerns about an effortful, quirky delivery caused Crouse to slide to the second round in 2017 after entering the draft cycle as a consensus first-rounder. Texas was thrilled to pounce on him there, and he has made that look like a wise investment since signing. Crouse dominated the AZL after signing, pitching similarly well the next summer in the Northwest League and finishing last year in Low-A. He’s back in the South Atlantic League to begin 2019 and has continued the strong pace. A lean, lanky 6-foot-4, the 20-year-old righty is full of unique mound antics: hesitation moves, shoulder wiggles (think Johnny Cueto), and frequent flustering can be both entertaining and agitating at times to opponents and teammates. No matter how one perceives them, Crouse has more deception than most with a natural ability to disrupt timing. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches higher, getting on hitters quickly with explosive late ride above the hands. He’ll throw both a curveball and slider variant of his breaker, flashing an above-average curve at best. Crouse’s changeup is a work in progress but has come a long way: thrown with deceptive armspeed, it floats up in the zone at times but now also flashes like an above-average pitch, baffling opposite-handed batters at its best with late dive action. Crouse is an odd bird, though he’s extremely talented and the Rangers have been wise to let him run with his individuality. It requires projection—and there’s risk with basically any prep-drafted pitcher this far away from the big leagues—but we placed him 81st on our recent Top 125 because the ingredients are here for a #2/#3 starter.
ON THE HORIZON
(#6) Taylor Hearn, LHP
A fifth-rounder by the Nationals in 2015, Hearn has been a part of two trades as a pro. Washington shipped him to Pittsburgh in 2016, and the Pirates sent him to Texas last year in the Keone Kela deadline deal. An extremely athletic 6-foot-5, Hearn looks like a NBA wing player and brings left-handed velocity to the table that excites scouts. His heater touches 97 mph in a rotation role, getting on hitters quickly from a loose, fluid arm-stroke. Both his slider and changeup are inconsistent but show promising action. Hearn’s control and command will determine if he’s able to fulfill his mid-rotation upside; despite neither secondary grading as a true bat-misser, his plus fastball and left-handed deception still could make him a #3/#4 type rotation piece if he limits walks and keeps the heater away from the heart of the plate. It’s easy to see Hearn finding success in a high-leverage bullpen role if that doesn’t happen.
(#7) Joe Palumbo, LHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 170 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 5m
Palumbo has been a scouting and player development success story for the organization, now looking like a future piece of the big league staff after being a 30th round pick in 2013. He started to get some buzz with a strong 2016 season that carried over to 2017 but was shelved that April with Tommy John surgery. Upon returning to game action in 2018, Palumbo’s stuff was unchanged and his control actually looked better. The fastball touches 96 mph and sits comfortably in the 92-to-94 mph range. His curve already grades as an above-average pitch and could finish plus, displaying good power (78-to-81 mph) and sharp two-plane break. Palumbo’s changeup needs more separation from the fastball but shows enthusing late action that allow some future projection. He’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds and needs to develop more of a true third pitch to work back through lineups. The ceiling is a back-rotation starter, though Palumbo’s two-pitch mix could be very effective in relief if durability or arsenal depth necessitates a change of role.
(#8) Brock Burke, LHP
A third-round pick by the Rays out of a Colorado high school in 2014, Burke is a classic example of a later-blooming cold-weather arm. He moved slowly through Tampa’s system—not pitching in full-season ball until his fourth year as a pro in 2017–but has really come on as a prospect since. Texas acquired Burke in the three-team deal that sent Jurickson Profar to Oakland this off-season. Burke has filled out a 6-foot-4 frame, now able to reach 96 mph on his fastball and sit comfortably in the 91-to-93 mph range. He’ll still need to refine his in-zone command, but the velocity and late ride on his heater induce swinging strikes upstairs that allow him to elevate. Burke’s mid-80s slider shows the potential to be an average pitch. He will need to continue developing a changeup to work with three playable offerings. Burke’s frame, velocity, and chance for a full pitch mix give him the upside of a solid #4 starter.
(#9) Julio Pablo Martinez, OF
Teams that missed out on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes pivoted to focus their international scouting efforts on the Cuban outfielder, who signed for $2.8 million with Texas in 2017. He had an odd first year of pro ball, starting in the DSL before finishing in the Northwest League and heading to Fall League after the season. A short, twitchy, and athletic 5-foot-9, Martinez has good strength in his frame but lacks the size for true over-the-fence power. His game is centered around contact, speed, and defense, looking like a potential high-average hit tool with the wheels to be a basestealing threat. After missing game reps after leaving Cuba, Martinez’ bat-to-ball against off-speed stuff looked rusty at times last year, and he’ll still wave through a well-placed pitch more than you’d like a tablesetter to do. He’s a definite CF defender who covers good ground in the outfield with direct routes, fitting the profile of a lesser everyday player or quality fourth outfielder for a contender. Martinez has the skill set to move through the system quickly and yield a fairly immediate return at the big league level.
(#13) Jonathan Hernandez, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 8m
Hernandez had a breakout 2018, partially due to a spike in velocity that saw his fastball scape the high-90s. He reached Double-A for the first time, though struggled there due to a lack of control and pitchability. Hernandez’ power fastball routinely reaches the 96-to-98 mph range, mixing a two-seam variant with run a few ticks below that. His slider is at least an average pitch and flashes better, and it could take another step forward if Hernandez ever moves to a ‘pen role. His changeup lags behind the other two pitches, thrown sparingly and lacking much movement. Hernandez has the velocity and glimpses of breaking ball to lay the groundwork for a #3/#4 SP profile, but he likely won’t develop the control/command to reach that ceiling. He has backer-ovation upside, though it’s interesting to think about him in a leverage ‘pen role. Added to the 40-Man Roster prior to last season, Hernandez could surface in the big leagues by late-2019.
Eli White, INF
An 11th round pick by Oakland in 2016 from Clemson, White was known as a slick-fielding athlete with limited offensive upside before a breakout 2018 season. He slashed .306/.388/.450 in Double-A, keeping up the pace with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League after the year. Texas acquired him in the Jurisckson Profar trade this off-season, sending White to Triple-A to begin the 2019 campaign. His best attributes are largely the same, as the 24-year-old infielder has the versatility to line up at a number of positions and play them well. His offensive progress gives more hope White can hold down a useful spot-starting role in the big leagues. He could surface in Texas at some point this year, though he’s not yet on the 40-Man Roster.
Kyle Cody, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2020 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’7” / 245 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 7m
It has been a long road for Cody, who agreed to a $1M bonus with Minnesota after his junior year at Kentucky in 2015, only to see the deal fall through after a post-draft physical revealed medical issues. He returned to school as was a sixth-round pick by Texas as a senior. Cody had always shown big stuff and a physical frame, but he finally put everything together in 2017 and looked like one of the better arms in the system. He hurt his elbow leading up to 2018, and after rehabbing and two AZL appearances, ultimately opted to undergo Tommy John surgery. Before the injury, Cody’s fastball touched 97 mph in a starting role and sat in the mid-90s from his imposing 6-foot-7 frame. His mid-80s slider drew above-average grades from scouts and gave the foundation for two miss-bat pitches. There’s still a scenario in which he comes back and shows mid-rotation upside, though Texas could opt to move him to the ‘pen—potentially for multi-inning stints—in an effort to fast-track Cody to the big leagues. He’ll be 25 upon returning from injury, likely late this season or into the fall.
C.D. Pelham, LHP
DeMarcus Evans (On the Horizon) wasn’t the Rangers’ only late-round find in 2015. They also took Pelham in the 33rd round from tiny Spartanburg Methodist in South Carolina. An extremely physical athlete who didn’t start pitching until his senior year of high school, Pelham started putting the pieces together in relief and rocketed to the big leagues last year. There’s some hope that he can improve well below-average control/command because of his relatively short amount of time on the mound, but until he does, Pelham’s huge left-handed velocity won’t play in leverage situations. The fastball touches 99 mph and sits in the upper-90s, backed by a power cutter/slider with hard shape but limited depth. This type of prospect can become vastly more valuable with just one tweak, so Pelham is worth rostering on the 40-Man while the Rangers give him more developmental reps in Triple-A.
Michael Matuella, RHP
Viewed as a potential first-rounder entering his junior year at Duke, Matuella’s significant durability issues slid him to the third round in 2015. Unfortunately, those questions about his ability to stay healthy have only become more founded in pro ball. He has totaled less than 200 innings and hasn’t yet pitched above A-Ball. The Rangers have moved him to the ‘pen in an effort to keep him healthy, and his velocity was back near triple-digits this fall during Instructional League. Matuella throws a hard slider in the 84-to-88 mph range that flashes bat-missing qualities when he finishes it consistently. His size and raw stuff still leave the door open to pitch leverage innings, but he’ll have to stay healthy. After heading to the DL again early in 2019, there’s real reason to wonder if that will be able to happen.
Demarcus Evans, RHP
A good scouting and player development story, Evans has emerged as a prospect after the Rangers selected him in the 25th round from a Mississippi high school in 2015. He transitioned to the ‘pen last year in Low-A and the results were immediate: Evans struck out an incredible 46-percent of South Atlantic League opponents and pitched to a 1.77 ERA. His mid-90s fastball plays up because of extension and angle, though lack of command down in the zone leads to lots of aerial contact. The slider grades as an effective secondary, giving two 50/55-grade pitches to work with. His control is poor and holds back the projected impact of a two-pitch mix, making the ceiling more realistically a 6th/7th inning arm than a true leverage setup type.
Brett Martin, LHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Long Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 190 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 11m
Martin was the Rangers’ fourth-rounder in 2014 from the JuCO ranks. He has struggled with injuries as a pro, so despite having a frame and stuff mix that looks the part of a potential back-rotation starter, Texas has deployed him in multi-inning relief stints. Martin creates a tough angle to lefties, using his height well to throw downhill and hiding the ball behind a high, closed front side. He’s on the 40-Man Roster and provides a depth option that could fill a variety of low-leverage roles. Martin made his Major League debut shortly before this piece went to press.
Emerson Martinez, RHP
Martinez has flown under the radar a bit in the system as a starter. He’s 24-years-old and just getting his first taste of Double-A after two so-so seasons in High-A. The tools are here to potentially find more success in a short-stint role, as Martinez touches 95 mph as a starter and flashes a hard, sharp slider that could play up in the ‘pen. He doesn’t have the stuff or command to make it back through lineups from the rotation, something that has lead to meddling strikeout numbers despite solid overall stuff.
Jacob Lemoine, RHP
Lemoinie was shaping up to be a top-50 draft pick in 2015 before injuries dropped him to the fourth round. He didn’t get in an official pro game his first two year after signing, making his debut in 2017 in a relief-only role. Now 25, he has been forgotten somewhat in this system but had success last year and shows promising stuff. Lemoine’s fastball sits 93-to-94 mph and touches 96 mph. His best off-speed is a hard slider that flashes above-average at times. He has posted below-average walk rates as a pro, but the two-pitch mix lays the foundation for a potential middle relief profile.
(#3) Cole Winn, RHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: DNP Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 4m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight
Winn headlined a prep-heavy 2018 draft class for the Rangers, who selected the righty 15th overall and signed him to a $3.15 million bonus. As part of the organization’s pitching protocol, he sat out of official AZL action last summer and first toed the rubber in games during Instructional League. A projectable 6-foot-2, Winn checks lots of boxes and has significant room for growth. His fastball works in the 91-to-95 mph range and could scrape a few ticks higher with physical development. A sharp upper-70s curveball grades as his best off-speed, a potentially above-average pitch that has the look of a future bat-misser. Winn’s changeup is a work in progress, though he shows flashes of feel for it and is athletic enough to refine the pitch with reps. He repeats a clean delivery, giving reason to project on his control and command. The Rangers will continue to be conservative with Winn, who started the year in Extended Spring Training. He’s a few years off but the ceiling is high, a potential #3 starter with good velocity and above-average breaking stuff.
(#4) Anderson Tejeda, SS
Signed for $100K in 2013, Tejeda showed intriguing tools through his first few years in the system and emerged as one of the system’s best prospects last year. He slashed .259/.331/.439 with 19 home runs and 11 steals as 19-year-old shortstop in the Carolina League. Tejeda has the defensive tools to remain at the 6, with enough offensive upside to be a solid everyday player at a valuable position. He’s light on his feet and ranges well both ways, finishing plays with soft hands and an above-average arm. He’s over-aggressive at the plate—prone to chasing off-speed stuff and expanding the zone—but has the batspeed to produce both power and hard contact. A switch-hitter as an amateur, he struggled mightily against lefties his first few years of pro ball hitting only as a left-hander and will return to hitting from both sides in 2019. Tejeda takes a big cut that limits his speed up the line, but he’s a solid-average runner underway that can swipe a few bases. It’s easy to envision this type of player in a big league lineup every day; if the strikeouts and hit tool hold him back, a well-rounded toolset with sneaky pop sets Tejeda up well to fit at least a utility profile.
(#5) Bubba Thompson, OF
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Above-Average Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 9m
Thompson fits the Rangers’ mold of targeting high-ceiling athletes in the draft, regardless of baseball experience or present rawness. A two-sport star that was recruited to play football in the SEC, Thompson opted to turn pro after being selected with the 26th overall pick in 2017. He showed more polish than expected in his full-season pro debut last year, slashing .289/.344/.446 with eight home runs and 32 steals in Class A. Thompson is a physical specimen, a quick-twitchy 6-foot-2 with the chance to grow into power while maintaining excellent speed. As his South Atlantic League statline would indicate, there’s more bat-to-ball skill than many recent two-sport athletes just starting to commit themselves to baseball. That said, he’s still fairly raw in terms of pitch ID and zone awareness, two things that will need to come on for Thompson to unlock developing raw power in game action. With double-plus speed, he projects to impact games defensively in CF and on the bases. Thompson’s potential is vast—what’s now left to do is simply collect baseball reps. Assigned to High-A Down East to begin 2019, he fractured his hamate bone right before this went to press and will likely be back in game action by early summer.
(#10) Jonathan Ornelas, INF
The organization’s third-rounder last year from a Phoenix-area high school, Ornelas torched AZL competition playing close to home last summer after signing. Though it has been an admittedly short sample, he looks like a steal with the 91st overall pick and almost certainly would go higher if the draft were held again today. It’s unclear where exactly the 18-year-old will ultimately wind up in the defensively, though the early returns on his tools peg Ornelas as an bat-first infielder with a well-rounded overall game. A wiry, quick-twitch 6-foot-1, he has already added bulk since signing and still has room to get stronger. He whips the bat through the zone with plus batspeed, generating hard contact with burgeoning loft power. Quick hands and a balanced, athletic stroke allow significant projection on his power, which could jump as much as two full grades considering how young he is and the remaining growth potential. Defensively, Ornelas has played all around the infield and even flirted with outfield spots at times. His versatility could be an asset, though it’s most likely he profiles at 2B or 3B depending on how his bat and body develop. We love his blend of projection and barrel-feel; Ornelas has real breakout potential and could move closer to the front of this list as he starts to scratch the surface of his upside.
(#11) Cole Ragans, LHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 190 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 3m
Ragans was the 30th overall pick in 2016 from a Florida high school. He pitched sparingly after signing but turned heads in the Northwest League the summer of 2017, leaving scouts buzzing about a potential #2/#3 starter with Cole Hamels traits. Ragans succumbed to Tommy John surgery leading up to the 2018 season, so he’s on the shelf until the middle of this year. There’s still plenty to be excited about, as his 6-foot-4 frame still oozes projection and there’s reason to foresee gains to his control because of a clean delivery. His fastball worked in the 91-to-95 mph range before the injury, backed up by a potentially above-average changeup and playable curve. Ragans’ injury and missed development time have dropped him beneath a handful of other young pitching prospects, but he’ll move back near the top of this list if he comes back looking the same.
(#12) A.J. Alexy, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 195 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 11m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Spotlight
Originally the Dodgers’ 11th round pick from the Pennsylvania prep ranks in 2016, Alexy was one of the prospects Texas returned in the Yu Darvish trade at the 2017 deadline. Fairly new to pitching after converting late in his high school career, Alexy has shown steady progress and could be a breakout candidate in 2019. His 6-foot-4 frame is athletic and twitchy, creating the armspeed to run his fastball into the 96-to-97 mph range at best. Alexy’s upper-70s curveball shows consistent depth and occasional sharpness, grading as at least an average future pitch (and flashing better than that at best His changeup, control, and command will all need to sharpen in order to reach his ceiling, though Alexy’s body control and mechanics—paired with the limited mound time—hint those improvements are possible.
(#14) Owen White, RHP
White was the Rangers’ second-rounder in last year’s draft from the North Carolina prep ranks. He and (#3) Cole Winn both sat out of AZL action as part of the organization’s new pitching program, though Whitewas seeing live game action by Instructional League. He’s a plus athlete, a former quarterback who drew DI interest on the gridiron before giving it up to focus solely on baseball. This fall, the fastball worked between 91-95 mph and sat in the 92-to-94 mph range with nice armside run. His curveball shows depth and could turn into at least an average pitch, maybe more. White flashed burgeoning feel for a mid-80s changeup during instructs, giving the foundation of a three-pitch mix that should continue to get firmer as he fills out. He’s starting 2019 in Extended Spring Training and will likely be handled conservatively throughout his first full pro season.
(#15) Tyler Phillips, RHP
Phillips was extremely young for the high school class of 2015, so while he’s entering his fourth full year of pro ball, he’ll still be 21-years-old for all of 2019. He struggled badly in his first taste of full-season ball in 2017, but returned to the level last year and was excellent across 23 starts. Phillips was named a mid-season all-star in the South Atlantic League, and he’s developed quite nicely from overslot 16th round pick to potential #5 starter. A tall, athletic 6-foot-5, he throws a ton of strikes with consistent downhill angle. The fastball sits in the low-90s, touching 93-94 mph at best, but generally down in the 90-to-92 mph range. His changeup grades as the most advanced secondary, a fading pitch with good separation in the low-80s. Phillips’ slurvy slider projects as a fringe-to-average offering, something that limits his upside a bit. He’ll mix a loopy mid-70s curve for another look, though that’s no more than a wrinkle pitch. None of Phillips’ pitches grade as a true plus, but his frame and strikethrowing ability of a deep arsenal gives back-rotation upside.
Chris Seise, SS
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 2m
Seise went 29th overall in 2017 from a Florida high school, raising expectations by slashing .336/.395/.509 in the GCL after signing. He tore the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder last year, missing all of 2018 after requiring surgery. An extremely physical shortstop, Seise’s muscular, athletic 6-foot-2 frame draws comparisons to Trevor Story. That strength gives him more power potential than many middle infield prospects, all without making it guaranteed he’ll move off the position. Seise’s actions are fringy at the 6 right now but he’s athletic enough to make corrections. His defensive fundamentals break down at times—he’ll make routine plays, but do so with lackadaisical mechanics that could expose him to errors higher up the ladder—but that, too, can be improved with willingness and reps. His above-average throwing arm is no worse for wear after surgery, still showing easy strength and carry that should have no trouble staying on the left side of the infield. Seise would be an easy FV 50 prospect, and maybe higher, if his in-game feel to hit were more guaranteed. Despite his AZL numbers, complex-level stats don’t mean very much; Seise will swing through hittable pitches within the zone and has trouble covering the outer-third of the plate. There’s a ton of talent to work with here, and he could easily wind up within the organization’s top 15 by showing more bat-to-ball ability.
Diosbel Arias, 3B
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 8m
Arias was a member of a stacked Cuban national team, teaming with current top prospects like Luis Robert(White Sox) and Michel Baez (Padres). He debut in Cuba’s highest professional level as a 16-year-old, defecting a few years later and signing with the Rangers for $800K. Arias was old for the short-season Northwest League last year, but he tore up the level by slashing .366/.451/.491 in 61 games. Arias has a good arm—certainly enough for the left side of the infield—but he’s probably a step too slow for a Major League shortstop. As such, he’ll really need to hit and produce power to get in a lineup every day at the hot corner. Arias has a quick bat from the right side, though his level swing path is geared more for line drives than loft power right now. Nearly 30-percent of his balls in play were line drives last summer in the Northwest League, so there’s some reason to believe a bit more power will be on the come if he can add lift. Conservatively, he projects as an offensive-minded role player with some outside chance at finishing a regular.
Osleivis Basabe, SS
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 165 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 18y, 6m
Basabe, who is the cousin of Luis Alexander Basabe (White Sox), signed with Texas from Venezuela for $550K. A premium athlete with advanced bat-to-ball skill, he hit .344 last summer in the DSL as a 17-year-old. Basabe has dynamic speed, turning in 70-grade run times that make CF an option if he moves off shortstop. He’s a no-doubt center-diamond defender, a potential base stealing threat with interesting hit tool ingredients to build on. His swing has excellent balance and natural rhythm, whipping the bat through the zone and generating lots of hard contact. A projectable 6-foot-1, Basabe is still just 18 and has lots of room to develop physically. He’s starting this year in Extended Spring Training stateside and will be an interesting player to follow over the next few years.
Mason Englert, RHP
Englert had a storybook high school career in Texas, breaking the state record for scoreless innings with 55 and going in the fourth round to the hometown Rangers. He signed for a well over-slot $1 million bonus, then was handled with care and stayed out the summer in the AZL. Englert got back on the mound during Instructional League, working 91-to-94 mph on his fastball and showing four pitches. He throws both a slider and curve—both of which could be average pitches—and his 82-to-86 mph changeup flashes burgeoning action at times. He’s an athletic 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, though a herky-jerky delivery impedes his in-zone command right now. Englert is a total projection play, but there’s starter ingredients and the frame to eat innings. He’ll be an interesting player to watch this summer in short-season ball.
Ronny Henriquez, RHP
Henriquez signed for just $10K in 2017, in large part because of his diminutive stature. He’s listed at 5-foot-10, and even that might be generous. Even so, that bonus looks like a steal and was far too low given the stuff he has shown since. Henriquez dominated the DSL last summer and exited scouts stateside during Instructional League last year. He started in Extended Spring Training but was bumped up to Low-A Hickory just before this piece went to press. His fastball touches 98 mph and sits in the mid-90s with explosive riding life. Henriquez’ mid-80s slider flashes sharp bite and could be an above-average pitch in time. His 89-to-90 mph changeup is crude and a developing third pitch, not uncommon for young pitchers with this profile. He’s athletic enough to project on three pitches, with the athleticism to continue teasing out more in-zone location as he learns his delivery better. It would be unusual if a pitching prospect this size actually wound up a starting pitcher, but Henriquez has the raw ingredients to give it a shot. It’s easy to imagine his power stuff transitioning to relief if he needs a fallback. There’s a lot of upside here, and Henriquez will only turn 19-years-old in the middle of this season.
Sam Huff, C
The Rangers’ seventh-rounder in 2016, Huff has shown steady progress since signing. In high school, the 6-foot-4 backstop showed power potential and a strong arm but was very raw both at the plate and on defense. While strikeouts and developing glovework are still the drawbacks, he’s shored up lots of the holes in his game and is still just 21-years-old. Huff has huge raw power that’s starting to fully translate to games, able to put balls out with loft to all parts of the park. His raw arm-strength still is plus, able to uncork lasers on the throw down with easy carry through targets. A dead fastball hitter, he gets to his power at the expense of contact—especially against soft stuff. Huff still waves through even substandard off-speed and will always come with strikeouts, something that makes his iffy walk numbers to date more of a concern. Presuming he can stay at catcher, there’s a pathway for this power-and-strikeouts profile to fit as a second-stringer or fill-in regular. If he moves to 1B, Huff’s drawbacks become far more likely to make him more of a 4A/upper-minors masher.
Sherten Apostel, 3B/1B
Texas acquired the 20-year-old slugger last year, the PTBNL the Rangers received from Pittsburgh in exchange for big league reliever Keone Kela. Apostel is an extra-physical 6-foot-4, already fairly physically mature with plus strength throughout. He’s thick through the shoulders and hips, something that allows more present ability to drive the ball than most bats his age but also could necessitate a move to 1B long-term. Apostel’s calling card is his raw power, as his frame and natural leverage produce easy raw and explosive BP contact. The consistency of his swing-path is limited right now, giving issue consistently squaring or lifting the ball at times. There’s plenty of swing/miss against off-speed with holes in the swing that expose him to velocity inside. He has the arm for the left side of the infield but will need to make strides defensively to stay there. In the absolute best-case scenario, Apostel’s physicality and power make him an everyday player at the hot corner. More realistically, the upside is a low-average, high-power R/R masher that moves between the corners.
David Garcia, C
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 170 lbs. B/T: S/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 1m
A former infielder who moved behind the plate shortly before turning 16 and signing pro, Garcia has been a quick learner at catcher. He’s more agile than many backstops, with good actions and quick footwork that bode well for his ability to stay at the position long-term. A switch-hitter, he shows a compact stroke from both sides and is stronger overall hitting left-handed. Garcia requires projection across the board, but the ingredients are here for a low-end regular or solid backup in time. He’ll only be 19 for the entirety of this season, likely to head to short-season ball after opening up in Extended Spring Training.
Pedro Gonzalez, OF
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 5m
Originally signed as a shortstop by the Rockies, the super-athletic Gonzalez grew to 6-foot-5 and has since moved to the outfield. The Rangers acquired him in a 2017 trade, and despite showing plenty of tools the last two years in Low-A, he has yet to show much bat-to-ball ability. A physical specimen, Gonzalez has the size and mobility of an NFL wideout. He covers easy ground in CF and has a no-doubt plus arm that will be an asset at any outfield spot. There’s above-average raw power in the tank, able to put towering drives out to the pullside in BP. Gonzalez is the type of prospect who wows you in a workout setting, but the issue to date has been his pure hitting ability in games. There’s limited present pitch recognition and no real patience to speak of, something that adds pressure to his hit tool and has caused strikeout rates around 30-percent to date. His speed, power, and center-diamond defense could still make him a role player even if he’s only ever a 40-grade hitter at best, though Gonzalez runs the risk of being a toolsy flameout if there’s legitimately no improvement at the plate in years to come. There are some skill and developmental comparisons to Michael A. Taylor here, right down to having played shortstop as an amateur.
Yerry Rodriguez, RHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 198 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 5m
Emmanuel Clase, RHP
Texas acquired Clase as a PTBNL in a small deal. He’s young (turned 21 in March of 2019) but already strictly a relief-only prospect. His power stuff turned heads in Extended Spring Training and the Northwest League last season, serving as the closer for Spokane. Clase’s fastball touches 99 mph and works in the 96-to-98 mph range with downhill angle from an over-top release point. His high-80s slider plays like a putaway pitch when he finishes it down in the zone. Clase has the stuff to pitch in high-leverage situations, and he could move quickly given his advanced velocity and off-speed pitch. The Rangers skipped him over Low-A altogether, starting the power-armed righty in the Carolina League to begin 2019.
Keithron Moss, SS/2B
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 165 lbs. B/T: S/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 17y, 7m
Moss signed from the Bahamas for $800K in 2017. He spent last season in the DSL and will be just 17-years-old for the majority of 2019. Moss is a muscular, quick-twitch 5-foot-11 with standout athleticism that fits defensively somewhere in the center of the diamond. He’s a switch-hitter with a promising mix of batspeed and pop, though he’s young enough that it’s tough to project exactly what type of hitter he’ll be down the road. He’s fairly raw at the plate and was badly overmatched at times last summer in the DSL. Moss is a lottery ticket with enough intriguing attributes to merit a mention somewhere off the ranked portion of this list.
Alex Speas, RHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 0m
Speas frame, athleticism, and lightning-quick arm drew lofty comparisons in high school, though concerns about his control dropped him to the second round in 2016. Unfortunately, though questions turned out to be valid: Speas struggled badly to throw strikes early in his pro career and was quickly moved to the ‘pen. His stuff still was impressive, touching 98 mph on his fastball and working in the 92-to-96 mph range with a hard slider. He was starting to figure it out in relief last year in the South Atlantic League when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Speas has the ingredients of a leverage arm, but his wildness—and now injury track record—add significant risk to the profile.