Texas Rangers

Original Published Date: January 16, 2016

The Rangers reminded us that prospects are not just players “you hope will make it to the big leagues to help your team” but are tradeable assets that can be used to bring in outside talent.  That’s what they did at the trading deadline when they sent three top 10 prospects to the Phillies for Cole Hamels.  The move helped them make the playoffs and should help them over the next two years.  Will Nick Williams or Jorge Alfaro become all stars?  They could, but teams also need to leverage their talent in other ways to bring in talent that can push their major league club over the top.  Hey Pirates…are you listening?

While the move hurt their minor league system, they still have four quality players that all should make our Top 100 list.  Lewis Brinson leads the list followed by Nomar Mazara.  Both are elite prospects with Brinson having the higher ceiling but Mazara having the higher floor.  They are followed by two interesting right-handed pitchers in Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz.  Tate has nasty stuff that might work better in the pen but the Rangers want to see it work in the rotation.  Ortiz missed time with a barking elbow which clearly raises some red flags.

Finally there is Joey Gallo.  I ranked him fifth.  I encourage you to read the write-up as I’m torn.  The raw power is off the chart but I just believe the swing and miss will be so great that he will profile as a Mark Reynolds type of player.  That’s a very good player but one that will likely have a high peak but a short career.  If I’m in a fantasy league, I’m selling high.

1. Lewis Brinson (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 170 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 A+,AA,AAA 398 74 20 69 18 .332 .403 75.4 9.6 .393

Lewis Brinson struck out 191 times in 503 plate appearance two years ago in Low-A.  This year, he struck out 98 times in 456 plate appearance across three levels (High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A).  While we talk about players needing to improve their approach, or cut down their swing and miss, few actually do it; even fewer do it to the extent of what Brinson has done.  It points to both talent and makeup and from all accounts Brinson has both in spades and is now on the door step of the show.

The Rangers really pushed him hard last year.  He started off in High-A and finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, even making a few plate appearances in the Puerto Rican winter league.  He performed at each level, showing power, speed and excellent defense.  The final stat line was 20 home runs, 18 stolen bases with a .403 on-base percentage and a .601 slugging percentage.

Scouting Report: Brinson is a five tool talent who can hit, hit for power, run, while playing plus defense.   We’ve already discussed the improvement in his approach which is born out of better pitch recognition and shortening up his swing when he gets behind in the count.  That said, the swing will always have some length but the approach is now good enough that he should be able to get to his plus power.

Brinson’s power is centered around plus bat speed and the ability to put back spin on the ball.  While his high water mark in home runs has been 21, the upside could be 30.  Combine that with plus foot speed and the dream is a 30 HR/30 SB ceiling.  While that’s unlikely to happen, there’s more than a zero chance it happens; considerably more.

With a dynamic offensive upside, his defense could be equally as good.  He uses his speed very well in the field, getting great jumps with a solid arm.  If it sounds like I’m all-in on Brinson, I am…but I always have been.

Fantasy Impact:  The fantasy impact for Brinson is a first round draft pick and one of the best players in the league.  The floor is 15 HR/20 SB with a .250 batting average who plays all the time because of his defense.  He’s one of the best prospects in the game and it’s time everyone gets on-board.

2. Nomar Mazara (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016
2015 AA,AAA 490 68 14 69 2 .296 .366 79.2 9.3 .342

If it wasn’t for my insane love for Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara would have been the top prospect in the system.  He’s good, very good and is nearly ready for the big leagues.  What’s really scary though is he turns 21-years-old in April and has already played 20 games in Triple-A.

Mazara had an excellent year across Double and Triple-A.  In 131 games he hit .296/.366/.443 with 14 home runs and a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While Josh Hamilton is likely to start the year manning left field, Mazara should be there by the second half, possibly sooner once Hamilton inevitably gets hurt.

Scouting Report: Mazara’s carrying tool is plus raw power.  He has cut down on his swing and the result has been better contact but a slight loss in over-the-fence power.  I believe this is temporary as Mazara should have enough raw power to hit the ball out of any park and as he learns to add backspin to the ball upon impact, the ceiling is 30 plus home runs annually.   It might take two to three years before he fully realizes his potential, but a stat line of 25/100/.270 could be a realistic floor.

Mazara is a below average runner but has enough athleticism to stay in the outfield.  His plus arm allows him to profile as a power hitting right fielder at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  For those Dynasty League owners of Mazara, don’t be dismayed by his number two rankings.  Mazara is an elite talent who could be a top 30 pick in a fantasy draft.  He simply falls to number two given my insane love for Lewis Brinson.  While Brinson’s ceiling is higher, primarily driven by his speed, Mazara is the safer bet to be an impact talent in fantasy.

3. Dillon Tate (RHP)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: #2 Starter/Closer
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 SS,A 9.0 3 1 1 3.00 8.00 1.00 0.43

For the third year in a row, the Rangers selected a starting pitcher as the first pick in the June amateur draft.  In 2015, with the fourth overall pick, they selected college right-hander Dillon Tate.   After being hurt for most of his freshman year, Tate was the team’s closer in his sophomore year before an injury to one of the Gauchos starters sent him to the starting rotation last year.  He took full advantage of the opportunity.  In 103.1 innings, he struck out 111, walked 28 and posted a 2.25 ERA, which in turned earned him $4.2 million dollar signing bonus.

The Rangers took it easy with him to start his professional career, limiting him to nine innings across the Northwest League and Low-A.  He struck out eight and only gave up one run.  The Rangers will likely start him back in Hickory to begin 2016 with a mid-season promotion to High Desert probable.  I say probable as High Desert is one of the most extreme hitters park in all of baseball and the Rangers might be better served to skip him directly to Frisco in the Texas League.

Scouting Report: Tate has two double-plus pitches in his four-seamer that sits 92 to 94 MPH and routinely touches 96 MPH.  He complements his fastball with a slider that sits in the upper-80’s with nasty two-plane cutting action.  When you see the two pitches together, it’s easy to see why the Gauchos had him as their closer.  It’s nasty, nasty stuff.

The Rangers worked with Tate on his change-up in the fall instructional leagues and there is optimism that the pitch will develop.  While he lacks plus current control, he’s a very good athlete with good mechanics that given enough repetition, he should develop into a solid mid-rotation starter with a ceiling of a number two starter.

Fantasy Impact:  It’s dicey to draft Rangers starters in a fantasy league and Tate is no exception.  In a neutral park, I would be targeting him as a top 7 pick in an upcoming Dynasty League redraft.  However, I’m downshifting a few spots given where he will pitch half of his games.  There’s still a chance he gets moved to the bullpen as a closer and if he does, the stuff could make him a top five closer in baseball.

4. Luis Ortiz (RHP)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: #2 Starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A 50.0 45 10 1 1.62 8.28 1.80 1.08

Taken in the first round of the 2014 draft out of high school, Luis Ortiz was dominating the Sally League in his first 10 starts.  In 47.0 innings he struck out 44, walked nine while posting a 1.72 ERA.  Unfortunately after a June 15th start, he felt some pain in his forearm and was diagnosed with a flexor strain and missed the next two and half months, returning in September to pitch three innings in relief.

While forearm flexor strains can be a harbinger of more sever elbow problems, the fact that Ortiz pitched late in the season was a good thing.  What is a bigger concern is that he had a similar problem in 2014 during the spring which dropped his draft stock and allowed the Rangers to grab him late in the first round.  It’s definitely a situation that warrants monitoring as owners of Hunter Harvey found out in 2015.  The last time I looked, Harvey had not pitched at all in 2015 and keeps getting shutdown because of forearm and elbow concerns.

Scouting Report:  Assuming Ortiz is healthy, he has the most upside of any pitcher in the system.  He has a dynamic three pitch arsenal with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH (T96).  His slider is a step down from Tate but it’s plenty good to get swings and misses.  Where he excels is in his control, which is already plus and he shows excellent fastball command, particularly for someone so young.

At 6-foot-3 and a listed 230 pounds, there isn’t a whole lot of physical projection remaining and with solid mechanics, the fastball will likely tap out at 92 to 94 MPH.  Given his ability to throw strikes, that should be good enough to give him a ceiling of a number two starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Do you sell high on Ortiz?  Candidly, I’m scared of his barking elbow and if I got the right deal, I think I would.  He has a chance to be a Top 30 fantasy starter but you have to downshift because of Arlington and his elbow woes make me want to downshift even more.

5. Joey Gallo (3B/OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: All Star (1)
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 AA,AAA 321 41 23 63 2 .240 .342 56.7 13.6 .335

I need to take a second to apologize to my readers.  I recognize that I have been all over the map on Joey Gallo.  In 2013 and 14, he ranked 10th on this list.  In fact, in 2014, he didn’t even make the list and was in the dreaded “Bonus Prospect” section.  I compared him to Russell Branyan.  Last year, he was the top player in the system where I said he could bat .220, hit 40 home runs and garner some MVP votes.  This year…I’ve split the difference and put him at five.

Am I taking the cowards way out?  Perhaps, but in the end, he’s such a volatile prospect that nobody really knows the player he will become.  For me, I think he’s Russell Branyan, or to use a more contemporary name…Mark Reynolds.

Scouting Report:  By now, even a causal fan knows Joey Gallo.  He might have the best raw power outside of Giancarlo Stanton in professional baseball but his 46% strikeout rate in his 108 big league bats was just scary.  It wasn’t much better in Triple-A, where it was 39.5%.

I could write a lot more about Gallo but the calculus will come down to whether he’ll hit enough to get regular playing time in the big leagues.  At this juncture, I just don’t think long-term, he will.  He’ll be given every chance and could pull a Mark Reynolds 2009 season where Reynolds hit 44 home runs and batted .260 with a .338 BABIP.  But while the peak on Gallo could be very high, players who strikeout as much as he does (and he might set records) usually wind up as an extra bat.  While I feel strongly about my position I also recognize that I could be completely wrong.  Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

Fantasy Impact:  I would be a seller of Gallo.  While he could hit 40 home runs annually, I just don’t believe he’ll hurdle the swing the miss problem.  I am by no means confident in my position, but in everything I’ve seen, I’m just not buying the package.

6. Ryan Cordell (OF)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
2015 A+,AA 507 84 18 75 20 .270 .327 75.1 7.1 .322

After posting a .904 OPS in 68 games in the California League, the Rangers decided it was time to promote Ryan Cordell to Double-A.  Things didn’t go nearly as well.  He went from making contact 80% of the time to 66% of the time.  His walk rate was cut in half.  The result was a slash line of .217/.263/.335 in 56 games in the Texas League.

From reports, Crodell seemed to be nursing a variety of injuries and as the season progressed, his timing got off and the results suffered.   The Rangers will likely start him back in Double-A and assuming his injuries are behind him, should post a much better stat line.  It should be noted that Cordell turns 24 before the season begins and therefore he needs to start performing consistently in order to keep his prospect status.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Cordell passes the eye test.  While he’s physically long, his swing is short and compact and therefore he makes very good contact.  With his compact swing and the ability to generate bat speed, Cordell has future above average power.  His 13 home runs and .528 slugging percentage he posted in High-A give a hint as to what the Rangers can dream on down the road.  While he’s not a burner, he has enough foot speed that he combines with excellent instincts on the basepaths to be a threat to steal 20 bases annually.

Fantasy Impact: Cordell ceiling is a 20 HR/20 SB performer with an above-average hit tool.  That should get fantasy owners excited.  There is a ton of risk, not the least of which was his poor performance in Double-A.  While eye witness accounts stressed that they believed Cordell was hurt, I didn’t get a chance to lay eyes on him.  I’m still a buyer of Cordell but I’m anxious to see him perform well in Double-A.  If he does, he could get a sneak peek in September.

7. Eric Jenkins (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 R,A 195 38 0 14 28 .262 .348 68.7 10.7 .381

The Rangers sandwiched high-schooler Eric Jenkins between two college pitchers in the first three rounds of the 2015 first year player draft.  Jenkins doesn’t turn 19 until the end of January and was one of the youngest players in the draft.   Primarily playing in rookie ball, he performed well in his first exposure to professional ball.  In 51 games he hit .249/.342/.339 and stole 27 of 30 bases.  The performance earned him a September promotion to Low-A where he got seven hits in 19 plate appearances.

Scouting Report: Jenkins carrying tool is double-plus speed that he shows both on the base paths and in the outfield. He is short to the ball but at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, doesn’t have much current strength and therefore doesn’t drive the ball much.  The Rangers will need to work on adding muscle to his frame for him to be effective as he moves through the system.  That said, his body frame suggested he will never be a power hitter, but regardless, strength is indeed important.  Without it, it becomes extremely difficult to fend off pitches thrown to the inside part of the plate.

Fantasy Impact:  Given his speed, Jenkins is an intriguing prospect for Dynasty Leagues.  He’s still very raw but does show instincts at the plate and assuming he adds strength, could become an impact leadoff bat at the highest level.  I would be targeting him in deeper Dynasty Leagues who roster 300 or more minor leaguers.

8. Travis Demeritte (2B)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: Extra Bat
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
2015 SS,A 190 27 5 19 10 .232 .332 57.9 12.3 .368

Travis Demeritte hit 25 home runs in 2014 to lead the Sally League.  On June 4th, 2015, Demeritte was suspended for 80 games when he tested positive for Furosemide, a banned performance enhancing drug.  Related?  Cause and effect?  I don’t know but it was clearly not good for the Rangers 2013 supplemental first round pick.

Scouting Report:  The PED suspension creates a huge cloud of uncertainty around Demeritte.  However, he does have plus bat speed and plenty of leverage to suggest plus future power.  What is also in his profile is plenty of swing and miss and that, above the PED suspension is the most troubling aspect of his game.

In 210 professional games, he’s posted a 60% contact rate.  He walked 106 times which will help balance out his penchant to strike out, but unless he cuts down on his strike out rate, he’s an extra bat at the highest level.

He’s an average runner with the ability to steal high single digit stolen bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  Given where he was drafted, Demeritte is owned in many Dynasty Leagues.  While power is very much at a premium, I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to get to it.  2016 will be a key year as the Carolina League should be a good test for him and hopefully, he will be off any PEDs.

9. Josh Morgan (SS)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 5-11 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018-19
2015 A 351 59 3 36 9 .288 .385 84.9 10.8 .330

Josh Morgan has done nothing but hit since the Rangers drafted him in the third round of the 2014 first year player draft.  In 98 games at Hickory as a 19-year-old, he hit .288/.385/.362 with nine stolen bases while striking out 53 times and walking 45 times.   With his advanced approach, he should be well positioned to start 2016 in Myrtle Beach and could even see Double-A in the second half.

Scouting Report:  Morgan is a solid player but doesn’t have any true carrying tool.  He does have a very good approach and the ability to control the strike zone with a quick and short bat.  While there is bat speed that could eventually translate into average power, it has yet to do so.  In 154 games in the minor leagues, he has homered three times.  He’s also an average runner and should be able to steal high single-digit bases on an annual basis.

Defensively, the Rangers played Morgan at both shortstop and third base.  While his offensive tools play best at short, his defensively flexibility should allow him to play all over the infield in a utility role, ala Alberto Callaspo.

Fantasy Impact:  If Morgan develops power, then he could become a more interesting prospect but for now, he should only be owned in leagues with 400 or more minor leaguers.

10. Yohander Mendez (LHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #3 Starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A 66.1 57 18 2 2.04 10.04 2.44 1.09

After starting the year off in the bullpen, the Rangers moved Yohander Mendez to the starting rotation mid-season.  Overall he pitched well, but when he was out of the bullpen, he was nearly unhittable.  In 30 innings out of the bullpen, he posted a sub one ERA and WHIP while striking out 42 and walking eight.  Overall, he posted a 2.44 ERA with a 10.04 strikeout rate and a 2.04 walk rate.

Scouting Report:  Up until 2015, Mendez had been seen as a project – a skinny athletic pitcher that as his body matures, so should his stuff.  That seems to be happening as Mendez saw a big uptick in his fastball in 2015.  His curve ball is currently more of a hybrid slider/curve and is currently a below average offering.  The primary reason for his success to-date has been his excellent change-up.

In the lower levels of the minor leagues, hitters just don’t see the kind of change-up that Mendez throws.  The problem is as he moves through the system, he’ll need to show a better curve ball, or slider in order to be successful.  It should be the primary focus of the Rangers during the first half of 2016.

Fantasy Impact:  We love athletic pitchers with electric arms.  Mendez is not quite that profile yet but as he matures, he could quickly move into that realm.  For now, he should be monitored in all Dynasty Leagues and only rostered in teams that have 400 or more minor league players.

2016 Emerging Prospect:

Michael Matuella (RHP)

At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds and a double-plus fastball, Mike Matuella is an intriguing prospect that the Rangers took in the third round of the 2015 first year player draft.  He would have gone higher, perhaps in the first round if he didn’t have Tommy John Reconstructive surgery last spring.  Assuming he comes back healthy, he has a top-of-the-rotation arsenal and a college pedigree that is quite impressive.

11 comments on “Texas Rangers

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  5. I understand the concern with Gallo, but at the very least, I would have him ahead of Tate and Ortiz. I’m very worried about Ortiz and his arm, and with Tate being 2 years out+general inherent risks with pitchers in general, I’d have Gallo #3 at the very least. Not to mention, Tate and Ortiz haven’t pitched past A ball, so they still have a long way to go in their respective progression and development as players. To me, if you have Ortiz and Tate ahead of Gallo, that basically translates in my mind that you believe Gallo is going to bust. There are a wide range of outcomes with Gallo, but make no mistake, there are just as wide, if not wider, range of outcomes when it comes to Tate and Ortiz.

    I 100% respect your opinion Rich and I love your articles here on Prospect 361 (you’ve helped me find a ton of diamonds in the rough over the years!), but I will have to respectfully disagree with you here.

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