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Texas Rangers

I’ve been critical for many years of how the Texas Rangers have approached their prospects.  They fall in love with toolsy high-end players with questionable hit tools, and the result has not been good.  That has changed. 

There are still plenty of those toolsy players in the system, but over the past three years, they have added players that can hit.  Josh Jung, Evan Carter, Justin Foscue, and Aaron Zavala are great examples.  While the upside might not be a superstar, they all have full-time regular upside, with several having an All-Star upside.  By taking this approach, they have lowered the overall risk of their system by adding more certainty with higher floor players.

On the pitching side, they have added two top college arms, Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.  Leiter had a tough season, and there will be questions about Rocker’s health until there isn’t.  However, both have top-of-the-rotation ceilings.

I love the direction the team is taking and believe it will work.  Combine that with ownership’s desire to spend money in free agency, and Texas’s future looks promising.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Josh Jung
  • Biggest Mover: Aaron Zavala
  • Emerging Prospect: Emiliano Teodo

1. Josh Jung (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B
  • Tools Summary: Another missed season due to injury – this time, it was shoulder surgery.  Once he played, he showed a feel to hit with power.

I wrote last year that I was surprised I was writing about Josh Jung as I assumed he would have too many Major League at-bats.  Unfortunately, I have to write the same thing this year.  In 2021, he missed most of the season with a fractured foot; in 2022, he had labrum surgery on his shoulder.  He finally got into games in August and looked good, so good that the Rangers gave him a look in the big leagues in September, where he played very well.  He shows a solid approach with a feel to barrel the ball with above-average power.  That should make him a Top 15 third baseman in the league. 

2. Evan Carter (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF
  • Tools Summary: Plus speed with plenty of bat speed to suggest a 20-20 player.

Evan Carter had an impressive 2022 season.  Playing as one of the youngest players in High-A, he showed plus speed, an advanced approach at the plate, and plenty of doubles power. The Rangers rewarded him with a late-season promotion to Double-A, where he continued to play well.

There’s enough bat speed to suggest that once he physically fills out, there is 20 home run pop in the bat.  Therefore, the upside is substantial, so he continues to be a Top 100 prospect for me and rising quickly.

3. Dustin Harris (OF/1B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF or Top 10 1B
  • Tools Summary: Double-plus raw power with enough foot speed to steal double-digit bases annually.

Harris built upon his breakout season in 2021 to show power speed and excellent bat control.  He slashed .257/.346/.471 in 85 games in Double-A, with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases.  He also posted a 19% strikeout rate while walking 10% of the time.  The Rangers had him spending more time in the outfield in 2022, allowing him to take advantage of his speed.  Fantasy managers hope he stays at first, as a chance to roster a 20-20 player would be a significant advantage.  Regardless, his upside is a full-time regular with fantasy impact.

4. Kumar Rocker (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s athletic with a big arsenal but was rusty in the Fall.  The big question remains: why didn’t the Mets sign him in 2021?

The Rangers surprised the baseball world when they took Kumar Rocker with the third overall pick last July.  Most know the story, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version.  He was considered one of the best prospects entering the 2021 college season, even discussed as being the number one overall player, but he struggled at times in 2021, and he dropped to the tenth pick, where the Mets grabbed him.  Then it got weird.  The Mets didn’t like something in his medicals and didn’t sign him.  What they saw was never revealed, but clearly, they were worried enough to bypass the talent.  Rocker left Vanderbilt and pitched sparingly for the Tri-City Valley Cats (an Independent League baseball team).  But all ended well when the Rangers signed him for a $5.2 million signing bonus last July.

I saw him in the Fall League, and while the command wasn’t there, he was sitting 94 to 96 MPH (T 97) with his fastball while flashing his double-plus slider.  It’s a power delivery, and he shows plenty of confidence on the mound.  From what I saw, the upside was an easy number two starter.  However, is he healthy?  What did the Mets see?  It does add risk for Dynasty League managers as they contemplate taking him with a high pick in Spring Supplemental Drafts or even in Inaugural Drafts.  The upside is substantial, though, and if he fell to me to the back of the first round, I would be jumping in with both feet.

5. Jack Leiter (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with some risk
  • Tools Summary: A rough debut from the number two overall pick of the 2021 Draft has many fantasy managers concerned.  While understandable, it’s time to show patience in hopes he sorts out his control issues.

A lot is expected of you when you’re taken with the second overall pick in the draft after dominating college.  Is it fair?  I’m not sure, but as the old saying goes…it is…what it is.  Thus, is the plight of Jack Leiter.   The Rangers challenged him with a Double-A assignment in 2023, which didn’t go as planned.  He struggled mightily with his control (5.4 BB/9) and gave up a hit an inning.  He threw a ton of pitches per outing and only got to the sixth inning in one of his starts.  The stuff was fine, but his pitch selection and ability to throw strikes need to improve.  You must be patient if you selected him with a high draft pick in your rookie draft.  Now is not the time to sell him for 70 cents on the dollar.  I think he’ll be better, but I also recognize that the Rangers don’t have a rich recent history of developing pitchers.  I’m sorry, I had to say it…

6. Justin Foscue (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: He showed a meaningful improvement in his contact rate, and when you combine that with plus power potential, the ceiling is a full-time regular.

After an uneven 2021 season, it was good to see Justin Foscue show better contact at the plate.  While he only hit 15 home runs in Double-A, he did slug .483 and given his bat speed and swing path, you can project 20+ home run pop.  However, the 14.3% strikeout rate he posted last season stands out and should get you excited. Assuming he can continue that, he has full-time regular upside with a chance to be a high OBP with power.  There’s little speed in the profile. 

7. Brock Porter (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2026 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He has the size and the big arm you want in a top-of-the-rotation starter. 

Brock Porter was one of the best pitchers at the draft last July, but concerns over his signability dropped him to the fourth round, where the Rangers pounced.  They gave him mid-first-round money ($3.7 million signing bonus) and believed, along with Rocker, they drafted two potential top-of-the-rotation starters.

Porter was ridiculous in his senior year of high school.  He went 9-0 with three no-hitters striking out 115 in 58 innings. He is from a cold weather state (Michigan), so the competition was not what you might see in Texas or Florida, but still, he was crazy good.  He’s 6-foot-4 with a fastball that can run up to the upper 90s, spin a curve, and show a feel for a change-up.  Did the Rangers hit gold here?  Time will tell, but getting a talent like Porter in the fourth round was impressive.

8. Luisangel Jose Acuna (SS/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B or Top 20 SS
  • Tools Summary: Plus speed with a bit of power and an approach that should allow him to hit enough to be a full-time player.

Luisangel Acuna continues to prove that while he might be Ronald’s little brother, he has a chance to be Major Leaguer and a pretty good one at that.  His carrying tool continues to be the plus speed that allowed him to tally 40 stolen bases across High and Double-A (eight more in the Fall League).  While he’s only 5-foot-8, there’s enough bat speed to suggest 8 to 10 home runs annually is possible.  Finally, he continues to show a patient approach at the plate with a few too many strikeouts, but he should hit enough to post a .260 batting average with a .340+ OBP.  Throw in 8 to 10 home runs and 25+ stolen bases, and fantasy managers need to start getting excited.

9. Aaron Zavala (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: He has a feel to hit with 15-15 upside.

Aaron Zavala, the Rangers’ 2021 second-round pick, had an impressive 2022 campaign.  Across High and Double-A, he slashed .277/.420/.453 with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases.  Most impressively, he walked nearly as much as he struck out (108K/89BB) with a reasonable 21% strikeout rate.  While I don’t see a star, he can hit and might eventually be able to pop 20 home runs annually.  He’s below the radar in most Dynasty Leagues, which usually means “VALUE.”

10. Owen White (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Finally fully healthy and showing a nice starter arsenal with a chance to be a number three starter.

The Rangers signed Owen White in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft, and he immediately had Tommy John Surgery.  He finally got on the mound for 33 innings in 2021, and the stuff and control looked promising.  Last season was even better.  The arsenal was improved with three above-average pitches in his fastball (94 to 95 MPH), a slider, and his best pitch, a fading change-up that misses plenty of bats.  There’s also some funk in his delivery that makes him even harder to square.  It’s a starter profile and body with enough athleticism to hang a number three starter on him.

11. Cole Winn (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP but needs to show better control
  • Tools Summary: He had a down season where strikes were at a premium.  The delivery and arsenal are still solid and point to a mid-rotation ceiling.

The control improvements that Cole Winn saw in Double-A in 2021 vanished last season in Triple-A.  He walked over six per nine, giving up a hit an inning.  The delivery is clean, but he continues to land off balance, likely causing him not to repeat his delivery.  The stuff is solid.  He’s still only 22 years old and will need to repeat Triple-A next season, and hopefully, he can get back on track.  If it all comes together, he has a mid-rotation ceiling.

12. Antoine Kelly (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: He has the size and high-end velocity to pitch at the top of the rotation, but his 30-grade control combined with his delivery could make it difficult for him to reach his ceiling.

The Rangers acquired high-risk, high-reward Antoine Kelly at the deadline for Matt Bush last July.  He has size (6-foot-5), is athletic, and has the big fastball to pitch at the top of the rotation.  However, his lower three-quarters delivery is not ideal, and more importantly, he’s unable to repeat his delivery, leading to control issues (5.3 BB/9 rate).  Likely contributing to his control issues is his surgery before the 2021 season to alleviate Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  There are clear warning signs, but he’s athletic, throws hard, and is a lefty, so I continue to be bullish despite the signs.

13. Gleider Figuereo (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B with risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s showing an excellent understanding of the strike zone with emerging power.

Gleider Figuereo built upon his excellent 2021 season, where he showed a solid approach to hit .280 with a .363 OBP in 35 games in the Complex League. He also showed plus pop hitting nine home runs and slugging an impressive .616.  He’s not that athletic, but his feel to hit, combined with growing power, could allow him to be a full-time regular at the highest level.  He’s a kid to watch.

14. Maximo Acosta (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SS or Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: He has good bat-to-ball skills with above-average speed.

When Maximo Acosta’s 2021 season ended with surgery to resolve his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, I didn’t know what to think.  Yes, he is young and talented, but the success rate of the surgery with baseball players has been uneven.  But 2022 was good…very good.  In 107 games in Low-A, he slashed .262/.341/.361 with four home runs and 44 stolen bases.  He has a solid approach and does not strike out too much.  There will never be a ton of home run power, but there should be enough doubles power to give him a ceiling of a full-time regular.

15. Emiliano Teodo (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Closer
  • Tools Summary: He has an electric arsenal, but the delivery points to a possible bullpen role.

Emiliano Teodo has one of the most electric fastball-slider combinations in the minor leagues.  The fastball sits in the upper-90s with riding action, and the slider is a 92-93 MPH offering that jumps on hitters.  He’s only 6 feet tall, and to get the velocity he throws, there is violence in his delivery, which might put him in the bullpen.  However, the stuff will play, and provided he can get to average control, he has the arsenal to pitch at the back of the bullpen.

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