The Rangers have one of the elite minor leagues systems in all of baseball. I don’t really want to try to explain how deep this system is with highly talented players; instead, I’ll just let you dig into the Top 15.
1. Jurickson Profar – SS (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
Profar has a very strong case as the best prospect in all of baseball. He is a precocious talent that can contribute in every aspect of the game. His plus-plus hitting ability is evident the first time you see him, and he also shows good pop with some scouts projecting average to plus power as well. Defensively, he is a very good shortstop, showing fundamentals and the ability to make the spectacular play. His arm is strong and his speed plays well in games. Profar is a superstar in the making and the Rangers will have to make room for him very soon.
2. Mike Olt – 3B (4)
In most organizations Mike Olt would enter the season as the everyday third baseman. In the Texas Rangers organization, with arguably the best infielder defender in baseball at third base in Adrian Beltre, Olt is forced to find another way to break into the big leagues, possibly at first base. Olt’s glove at third base is strong and he is a good enough baseball player to handle a variety of defensive assignments. He has easy plus power and a good approach, though he does swing through plenty of pitches.
3. Martin Perez – LHP (2)
I’m quite sure many fans suffer from severe prospect fatigue when it comes to Martin Perez. Once considered on the fast track to the big leagues, Perez has struggled to harness his impressive raw stuff and has yet to show consistency on the mound. A broken forearm this spring may set him back even further, just as he was on the verge of a big league rotation spot. Perez still has the potential to fit in the middle of the Rangers rotation, he just may have to wait until later this year.
4. Jorge Alfaro – C (10)
The Rangers have spent considerable money in Latin America in recent years and while the farm has several impressive talents from this region, next to Jurickson Profar, Alfaro could be the most impressive. He has a near-elite arm behind the plate and while he is still raw, his defensive tools are starting to play in games. He also owns light-tower power with some hitting ability and a developing approach. If Alfaro manages to maximize his tools, he could be a monster prospect, but right now, he remains extremely raw and will need a few more years of development.
5. Lewis Brinson – OF (NR)
A stud athlete, many of Brinson’s tools rate as at least plus attributes, with only his raw hitting ability lagging behind. He is an aggressive swinger that lacks advanced control of the barrel, leaving scouts to question how much he can hit against better pitching. If he hits at an average level (near the peak of his hit projection), Brinson could show above-average game power to go along with plus speed on the bases. He has the potential to defend at a high level in center field and also shows a plus arm. Brinson is a very raw, but also very talented player that sits in the classic boom or bust realm.
6. Luis Sardinas – SS (NR)
Sardinas has battled injuries as a professional and there are scouts out there that are very worried about his long-term durability. When he’s on the field he is a plus runner with good range and good hands at shortstop. His arm is strong and he profiles as a very good defender at the infield’s toughest position. He is a high-average hitter with easy contact ability but little power, making his offensive game a little soft.
7. Luke Jackson – RHP (12)
I admit, even with a complex and often times varied delivery, I can’t get past my affinity for Jackson’s leveraged fastball that sits in the 93-94 mph range and touches 98 mph on occasion. His fastball can overpower hitters and at times he shows an ability to live in the lower third of the zone, making it difficult to lift. His curveball has plus potential as a quality second pitch and while his change-up is well below-average, he is willing to mix it in at times. Jackson profiles as more of a fourth starter for me, relying heavily on two pitches and there are scouts that believe he could excel as a setup man.
8. Ronald Guzman – 1B (7)
Guzman was one of the Rangers two huge Latin American signings in 2011 and he did nothing in 2012 to tarnish his amateur resume. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 210 pounds, Guzman has a massive big-league body that should continue to add strength. He is an extremely polished hitter for any age, showing a sound approach, good contact ability and the potential to be a plus-plus hitter. His power will flash in the plus range but is not consistently on display in games yet. Guzman lacks secondary tools and will rely entirely on his bat, making him a very risky prospect.
9. Justin Grimm – RHP (NR)
Grimm breezed through Double- and Triple-A in 2012 and reached Texas where he showed promise but also showed he needed additional development. With a broad mix of pitches and a good feel for his craft, Grimm should be able to make the adjustments necessary to succeed in the big leagues. His fastball works from 90-96 mph with his four-seamer showing in those upper registers, but the pitch also flattens out and is relatively hittable. His curveball is a true weapon and grades out as his best pitch; sitting in the plus range. He also mixes in a change-up that shows promise. Grimm can be a bit too hittable for some scouts liking and profiles as an inning-eating number four arm.
10. Nomar Mazara – OF (NR)
Mazara has bigger raw power than his 2011 J2 classmate Ronald Guzman, but he lacks the hit tool utility or projection for his power to play at its upper levels. With plus-plus raw power, even a downgrade in his useable power will allow him to hit 20-25 home runs a year as he hits in the .250-.260 range. Mazara is a decent defender with enough projection in his arm to profile in right field. His underdeveloped hitting approach and feel for the barrel could make him a little slower to develop than Guzman, but they should remain on roughly the same timetable through the minor leagues.
11. Cody Buckel – RHP (NR)
Buckel gets by with solid stuff and an exceptional feel for pitching. His fastball can reach 93-94 mph on occasion but sits a full grade lower than that and plays up because it is generally located extremely well. His secondary pitches are quality offerings and can miss bats at times, particularly when played off his fastball and located well. Buckel’s ceiling is at the back of a big league rotation but his extremely low risk level keeps him higher on the prospect radar than many pitchers with this such a profile.
12. Joey Gallo – 3B (NR)
A first round pick last summer, Gallo stands out for his ridiculous arm strength and raw power. Both tools play at a near-elite level and make him a really intriguing prospect. Gallo’s hit tool is a giant question mark with some scouts believing he will always swing and miss at a prodigious pace. If he can make any kind of consistent contact, he could hit 25-30 home runs without much trouble. There are also questions about Gallo’s defensive future. His defense at third base is questionable at best and most scouts I spoke with felt a trip to first base was in his future.
13. Roman Mendez – RHP (6)
Though he likely ends up in the bullpen long term, there are still scouts that believe Mendez can hack it as a starter. His fastball is a positively electric pitch that can reach the upper-90s with tons of explosive life. He slider and change-up are both pitches that flash in the plus range when he trusts them. Mendez is still more of a thrower than a pitcher and that gives many evaluators pause when looking at a pitcher with his experience. In either role, Mendez has impact potential, whether as a number three starter or late inning power reliever.
14. Rougned Odor – 2B (NR)
I struggle with second baseman that hit for average and lack considerable secondary tools. Odor is one of those players but he does play plus defense at second base and could hit .280-.290 with gap power and 10-15 steals, making him an intriguing option at the keystone. Still just 19-years old, he could fill out a bit and add some more pop but I will have to see that to believe it and his projection likely won’t change much for me until that time. What Odor lacks in ceiling he makes up for in his projected ability to move quickly through the minor leagues.
15. Jairo Beras – OF (NR)
Part of me says I shouldn’t put Beras in here yet. Another part of me screams that the raw power and physical gifts are just too great to ignore. I’ll compromise by placing him at the back of the list to acknowledge what could be in 2013. Beras has a tremendous frame and excellent physical projection, backed by huge raw power and what some scouts believe is a surprising feel for the bat. He projects well on an outfield corner defensively, but his bat will be the calling card.