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