Texas Rangers

Original Published Date: Dec. 9, 2012

Over the past three years, the Texas Rangers have had one of the best teams in the Major Leagues.  Over that same period, their minor league system grades out as one of the most talented and deep organizations in all of baseball.  They’ve done it by being both aggressive in Latin America and taking risks in the amateur draft that have paid off.  With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, things will get harder, but if 2012 was any indication, they are going to navigate the new waters just fine.

Jurickson Profar is the best prospect in the minor leagues.  He’s not in same class as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper but he is a first division talent with a chance to appear in multiple all-star games.  Mike Olt is the second five-star talent within the system and brings elite power and excellent defensive chops.  Both Profar and Olt should contribute in Texas for 2013.

The Rangers paid mightily for Leonys Martin in 2011 and I believe you will see his combination of speed, power, and excellent defensive ability in Texas for at least 300 at-bats in 2013.  I am down on Martin Perez and while I think he’ll contribute at the Major League level, I see him as a number three or back-of-the-rotation starter as his stuff is just average.

While I’m down on Perez, I’m all in on 2012 first round draft pick Lewis Brinson.  He’s a premium athlete with tons of tools that is progressing faster than many thought.    He could one of the breakouts of 2013.

The overall system is Top five in my book with a number of players who will contribute to the big club in 2013.

1. Jurickson Profar (SS/2B)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Curacao
Ht:6-0  Weight: 165 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2012
2012 AA 480 76 14 62 16 .281 .368 83.5 13.8 .311

Before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Major League teams had been spending freely in Latin America.  However, the problem with investing in 16-year-old teenagers is there’s absolutely no guarantee whether they will ever progress to the upper minor leagues, much less the major leagues.

And then there are players like Jurickson Profar that make it all worthwhile…

Profar was signed for $1.5 million dollars in the Year of Trout (2009) and made his debut in the college heavy Northwest league in 2010 at the ripe age of 17.  While he only batted .250 in 252 at-bats, his plus bat-speed, excellent defensive play, and overall maturity started a quick ascension that ended in a promotion to the majors at 19-years-old.   What I find the most interesting in analyzing Profar is that he doesn’t have one truly elite tool.  However, every tool is at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale and when you add them all together, he has the future potential of an all-star performer.

Watching Profar hit, you immediately see his quick compact swing.  While his splits would indicate that his swing works better from his natural right-side, the swing is consistent and good from both sides.   In fact, as he gains more experience, I can easily see the splits disappearing with the ability to hit .280-.290 at the highest level.  Because of his bat speed, there is also future power (20 home runs), particularly as he puts weight onto his 165 pound frame.   As with all of his tools, he’s not a burner but has enough speed and instincts on the basepaths to steal 25 bases in the major leagues.

Even at 20-years-old, it appears that Jurickson Profar is nearly ready for the major leagues.  Of course the big question is where he will play?  He has the chops to play shortstop but candidly while his defensive skills are great, Andrus skills are better.  The most logical alternative is for him to move to second base with Kinsler moving to first or the outfield.  Of course, there could be a trade that changes all of this.

In any respect, Profar should be contributing in the major leagues in 2013.  I don’t see him becoming an instant star but the likelihood of him being a top five performer at whatever position he plays by 2015 is very high.

Fantasy Impact: I would be drafting Profar late in a re-draft league in 2013 to fill a middle infield position.  For Dynasty Leagues, he’s a must add in all drafts and you should consider drafting him as a Top 10 shortstop in the late single digit rounds.

2. Mike Olt (3B/1B)

2013 Age: 24 BP: Connecticut
Ht:6-2 Weight:210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2012
2012 AA 354 65 28 82 4 .288 .398 71.5 17.2 .326

While Mike Olt will never win a batting title, the combination of plus power, a great approach and excellent defensive skills should enable him to be a first division starter at the highest level .Selected in the supplemental round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Connecticut, Mike Olt made quick work of the minor leagues and made his big league debut in 2012.  He has plus raw power from the right side and while the swing is long and highly leveraged, I believe he’ll make enough contact in order to hit 25+ home runs at the highest level.  Part of the reason for my optimism is his ability to work a count and take a walk (17%).  While he might have to settle for a .250 batting average, his on base percentage should be .100 points higher.

Defensively, Olt is a very good third baseman.  He’s not quite in Adrian Beltre’s class, but his lateral movements are very good for a guy with below average speed.  His arm is also excellent allowing him to make all his throws effectively.  However, as with Profar, he’ll have to change positions in order to contribute at the Major League level in 2013.  The likely position is first base, which will hurt his overall value to the Rangers.  However, the bat should adequately play there and at this juncture, he’s the best option the Rangers have.

Fantasy Value:  I’m more bullish on Olt in a Dynasty League than as a contributor in a re-draft league in 2013.  Assuming he is the first baseman in Texas for 2013, I would project 20 home runs with a .240 batting average and 70 RBI’s as he’ll hit down in the order.  However, once he moves to the more scarce position of third base and moves to a middle of the order bat, I think you will see a Top five contributor at 3B.

3. Leonys Martin (OF)

2013 Age: 24 BP: Cuba
Ht:6-2 Weight:190 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2012
2012 AAA 231 48 12 39 10 .359 .422 83.1 10.4 .390

As aggressive as the Rangers have been with Profar and Olt, they’ve been more conservative with 24-year-old Leonys Martin.

Martin defected from Cuba in 2010 and then signed a 5-year, $15.6 million dollar deal with Texas in May of 2011.  While his first year in professional baseball proved to be a bit of adjustment, he started showing his talent in 2012 with a slash line of .359/.422/.610 in 231 at-bats in the PCL.  While you have to look at statistics in the PCL with some skepticism, the scouting reports told a promising story.

Martin has great bat speed which allows him to stay back and let balls travel deep into the zone.  There’s also a lot of natural torque in this swing that allows him to explode off the ball.  Given his size and swing mechanics, I believe there is future above average power in his bat, particularly in the hitter friendly confines of Texas.  He also uses his speed very well in the outfield and can profile in all three outfield positions.  However, the speed on the basepaths is not showing up as he stole 10 bases in 2012 in Triple-A, but was caught nine times.  I have not studied his ability to read pitchers but clearly there are growth opportunities.

Fantasy Impact: I believe Martin has the skill set to become a first division starter in the Major Leagues.  As a fantasy player, he has a ceiling of a 20/20/.300 hitter who will play in a hitters ballpark.  When will he get the chance?  The outfield is currently crowded but Martin has the best chance to emerge as the primary centerfielder as the season goes along.  In a 2013 redraft league, I’m taking a late round flyer on him.

4. Lewis Brinson (OF)

2013 Age: 18 BP: Florida
Ht:6-3 Weight:170 Bats: Rigfht Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2012 R 237 54 7 42 14 .283 .345 68.8 8.9 .380

The Texas Rangers have a history of selecting toolsy players in both the amateur draft and internationally.  They repeated that strategy when they selected Florida teenager Lewis Brinson in the first round of the 2012 draft.

When I first saw Brinson in the 2011 Under Armour game, he reminded me physically of a right-handed Daryl Strawberry.  While Straw has three inches on him, Brinson’s long arms and legs make him look taller than his 6-foot-3 frame.  When he runs, he takes some of the longest strides I’ve ever seen and consequently covers a tremendous amount of ground.  While he has the skills to the profile as a centerfielder, he might ultimately profile best as a right fielder.

With many toolsy players, the big question is will they hit enough to find their way to the majors.  In that same Under Armour game, I was concerned about Brinson’s swing.  He held the bat very high on his setup and then had a very long leveraged swing.  He was able to make contact because he has great bat speed and obviously exceptional hand-eye coordination.  However, the swing would not work going forward.  During the fall, I had a chance to see Brinson again and the swing was completely revamped.  His hands were lower, the swing was shorter and he was making better contact.  I was actually impressed that he made this adjustment so quickly and this bodes well, in many respects, for him in the future.

As a raw 18-year-old, it’s very difficult to project whether Brinson can make it to the highest level.  However, the tools are elite, the athleticism is unquestionable and the swing is already looking better.  Clearly, I’m thinking…Yes.

Fantasy Impact: If you are in a deep Dynasty League or one that you are confident will be around for a long time, you should be adding Brinson to your team late in a draft.  It’s a lottery pick for sure, but one that could pay off handsomely down the road.

5. Martin Perez (LHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Venezuela
Ht: 6-0  Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AAA 127.0 122 60 10 3.97 4.89 4.25 1.40

In my opinion, Martin Perez is no longer an elite prospect.  While he progressed quickly through the minor leagues, making it to Triple-A at the age of 20, his stuff and subsequent performance has not kept pace.

While Perez’ fastball averaged 93.07 MPH in his 38 innings in Texas, his four seamer was pretty flat and didn’t generate a lot of swing and misses.  While the two seamer is a little better, it’s not a plus pitch in my opinion.  Perez also throws two breaking pitches, a curve and a slider.  While I would grade the slider as solid average, the curve is poor.  He does have a nice changeup that could become a weapon for him down the road.   It’s an ok arsenal but it’s not elite for me.

While the arsenal is not elite, Perez’s pitching mechanics are very good with an easy delivery and good balance on most of his pitches. In particular, he has good posture and pitches from a high three-quarters delivery which provides more downward plane than his 6-foot frame would suggest.  This is leading to a lot of ground balls which ultimately will increase his ability to be successful at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact: I think Martin Perez has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter on a major league team.  From a fantasy standpoint, his inability to strike out batters will decrease his value significantly.

6. Jorge Alfaro (C)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Columbia
Ht:6-2 Weight:185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
2012 LowA 272 40 5 34 7 .261 .320 69.1 5.9 .357

If you look at Jorge Alfaro’s 2012 slash line of .261/.320/.430, you might simply shrug your shoulders and continue on.  However, Alfaro has some of the best tools in the system and if he can develop his hit-tool, you could be looking at a star.

Alfaro is a premium athlete with tremendous raw power, speed, and agility.  His agility and speed can be best seen by his graceful movements behind the plate.  He’s constantly moving and always in a good position to receive the ball.  His arm is a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale and why many believe that Alfaro could develop into an all-star caliber backstop.

He also has elite bat-speed, so much so, it looks like he’s swinging out of his shoes.  That bat speed should help translate into plus future power; if he can only make enough contact.  In 2012, it wasn’t good as he had a 69% contact rate and a 6% walk rate.  That combination will not cut it long-term and needs to be corrected.  However, if he can, you’re looking at a star.

Fantasy Impact: Alfaro is not rosterable on a Dynasty League until he can improve his contact and cut down on his aggressiveness at the plate.  However, I believe he will and therefore I’m  keeping  a close eye on his progress in 2013.

7. Luis Sardinas (SS)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Venezuela
Ht:6-1 Weight:150 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
2012 LowA 374 65 2 30 32 .291 .346 86.1 7.8 .333

When you talk about Rangers shortstop prospects, people immediately wax poetically about Jurickson Profar and mostly ignore Luis Sardinas.  While Profar has a nice glove that should translate into an above average defender, Sardinas is an elite defender that is improving his offensive game quickly.

The hit tool is very good with Sardinas demonstrating a nice compact swing with the ability to make contact from both sides of the plate.   He doesn’t use his lower trunk very well, so unless he changes that, I don’t anticipate future power.  He also has plus-plus speed and that translated into 32 stolen bases in 374 at-bats in 2012.

Sardinas should start 2013 in High-A and provided he can stay healthy, I could see a promotion to Double-A by the end of the year.

Fantasy Impact: If I’m in a deep Dynasty League, I would consider taking a late flyer on Sardinas as the speed could be a major asset, particularly at shortstop.

8. Rougned Odor (2B)

Blessed with one of the best names in all of professional baseball, Odor also has excellent skills that should play at the highest level.   He has great bat speed and a compact swing that produced a nice 85% contact rate with future above average power potential.  He does need to be more patient at the plate as he currently has a poor 6% walk rate.  Odor also has above average speed with 19 stolen bases but was caught 10 times.  While the ceiling is not as high as some of the other elite talent in the Texas system, his floor is one of the highest.

9. Cody Buckel (RHP)

Cody Buckel had an impressive 2012 and handled High-A and Double-A with little difficulty.  He has a nice arsenal of a low-90’s fastball, an above average slider and changeup.  He averaged a strikeout an inning and three walks per nine – all very good.  So why is he #9 on my list?  It’s his delivery and pitching mechanics.  He reminds me of Trevor Bauer with a crazy long stride that gives him great momentum to the plate but reduces his downward plane.  Given that he’s only 6-foot-1 and likes to pitch up in the strike zone (1.34 G/F), I don’t believe he can survive without an elite fastball and at least one plus secondary pitch.  However, to-date, he has proven me wrong, but Triple-A or the Majors will be the true test.

10. Joey Gallo (3B)

I don’t believe in Joey Gallo but thought his 2012 professional debut deserved a Top 10 ranking; so I put him as the #10 prospect.  Does he have more upside than Ronald Guzman, Leury Garcia, or Luke Jackson?  Perhaps, but my concern about Gallo’s upside has to do with his ability to make contact.  Yes, he has 80 grade raw power and can absolutely crush balls as was evident in his 18 home runs in the AZL, but it came with a 66% contact rate.  Things got worse when he was promoted to the Northwest League.  In his brief 56 at-bats, he struck out 26 times.  I don’t like the swing as he keeps his hands high which causes a lot of movement to get in position to swing.  The bat speed is good and helps him launch bombs, but the swing needs to be revamped.  There is clearly talent, but for fantasy owners in a Dynasty League who will be jumping on him early, I’m sitting out.

3 comments on “Texas Rangers

  1. What was the name of that texas 1st baseman you had mentioned who has the possibility of being a stud?
    Or was this an inside joke?

  2. Rich,
    Did you see the report today indicating Profar may stay in the minors to begin the season with Kinsler staying at 2B? http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/21512673

    You just can’t make this stuff up. Best prospect in the minors, and they are thinking about not putting him in the show to start the season. Between Profar and Myers, there’s some questionable judgment of a lot of high paid execs in the front office…

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