The 2015 Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1.  Joey Gallo, 3B

Born: 11/19/93  Age: 21   Height: 6-5   Weight: 205   B/T: L/R                                                        
Top CALs: Miguel Sano, Giancarlo Stanton, Michael Burgess, Kris Bryant, Jay Bruce
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 193 .293 .435 .733 1.169 .440 19.2% 26.9% 183
2013 19 A 446 .245 .334 .610 .944 .365 10.8% 37.0% 163
2014 20 A+ 246 .323 .463 .735 1.199 .413 20.7% 26.0% 221
2014 20 AA 291 .232 .334 .524 .858 .292 12.4% 39.5% 141

Background: The minor league homerun leader in 2013, Gallo had to settle for the runner-up title last season, finishing one shy of the 43 homeruns slugged by Kris Bryant, who, not coincidentally, shares the same personal hitting coach – Bryant’s dad. Gallo began the year by torching the Carolina League pitching to the tune of .323/.463/.735 before cooling off in his 68-game stint with Frisco (.232/.334/.524). Overall, the former first round pick, 39th overall, hit .271/.394/.615. He would also finish in the top five strikeouts too, with 179, the second consecutive year he surpassed the 170-mark.

Projection: Owner of the best raw power in the minor leagues – yes, including Kris Bryant – and in the conversation for tops in all of baseball. The only   question – besides where’s it going to land – is how often will he make contact? Of his 1264 career plate appearances, Gallo’s fanned in 429 of them, or 33.9% of the time. He compensates for some of those swing-and-miss issues with an above-average eye at the plate, but he’s never going to hit for much of an average. Forty-five, 50-HR power potential. .230, .240 batting average potential. One thing worth noting, though, he hits fellow southpaws remarkably well. Actually better than RHs (.294/.403/.718 vs. .256/.370/.603). Defensively speaking, he’s making progress, but he’ll never be mistaken for Brooks Robinson, or even Joe Randa for that matter.

Ceiling:  4.0-to 4.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

2.  Jake Thompson, RHP

Born: 01/31/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-4   Weight: 235   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Arodys Vizcaino, Eduardo Sanchez, Luke Jackson, Mike Montgomery, Phillippe Aumont
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A 83.3 3.13 3.33 9.8 24.6% 3.5 8.7% 0.43 72.2%
2014 20 A+ 83.0 3.14 3.11 8.6 23.1% 2.7 7.3% 0.33 73.9%
2014 20 AA 11.0 2.45 3.45 5.7 14.9% 3.3 8.5% 0.00 80.0%
2014 20 AA 35.7 3.28 3.34 11.1 29.7% 4.5 12.2% 0.76 79.4%

Background: Acquired from Detroit along with Corey Knebel (later flipped to the Brewers in the Yovani Gallardo deal) for Joakim Soria, who coughed up six runs in 11 innings down the stretch for the Tigers. Thompson, a second round pick in 2012, made 24 starts last season: 16 in the Florida State League and the final eight in Class AA. In total, he finished the year with 130 punch outs, 47 walks, and a 3.12 ERA in a career high 129.2 innings.

Projection: In last season’s book I ranked him as the 57th best prospect in baseball, writing:

“Detroit is slowly bringing along Thompson, who’s tossed just 111.2 innings through his first 24 games. Solid control, above-average ability to miss bats, and plenty of youth on his side, the big right-hander’s name could start to jump this season as the training wheels are taken off.”

Well, it’s starting to jump. Only 12 other pitchers with 100+ innings under the age of 22 who pitched above Low Class A had a better strikeout rate. The control took a step forward in with Lakeland before regressing some in Class AA. Thompson has the ceiling of a solid #3-type pitcher, maybe squeaking in a few fringy #2-type seasons.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

3.  Chi-Chi Gonzalez, RHP

Born: 01/15/92  Age: 23   Height: 6-2   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Jesse Beal, Brian Flynn, Josh Rainwater, Devin Anderson, Luis Diaz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A- 23.7 4.56 3.19 7.6 19.1% 2.7 6.7% 0.38 60.1%
2013 21 A+ 19.0 2.84 3.88 7.1 19.2% 4.3 11.5% 0.47 70.8%
2014 22 A+ 65.3 2.62 3.62 6.8 17.8% 2.2 5.8% 0.41 75.9%
2014 22 AA 73.3 2.70 3.09 7.9 20.7% 3.1 8.1% 0.37 71.9%

Background: The second highest pick ever out of Oral Roberts University, Gonzalez, the 23rd overall selection two years ago, dominated the amateur competition during his junior campaign, setting career bests in ERA (1.83), strikeouts (10.01 K/9), and walk rates (2.14 BB/9). The franchise had the big right-hander split his debut between Spokane and Myrtle Beach where the numbers were OK, though far from impressive: 42.2 IP, 35 K, and 16 BB. Last season Gonzalez started back in the Carolina League for 11 starts before getting bumped up to Frisco in the second half. He finished the year with 113 strikeouts and 41 walks in 138.2 innings.

Projection: Prior to the draft two years ago I wrote,

“Gonzalez is a decent grab somewhere around the middle of the first round, but he’s not going to be a star. He may not even make it to the big leagues right away, either. His K-rate will definitely regress once in the professional ranks, and his future will largely depend upon the amount of groundballs he generates – something he’s shown a strong tendency of doing now. [He’s] another one of those low ceiling/high floor-types, sort of like Cincinnati’s Mike Leake.”

Two years in and Gonzalez has fanned a run-of-the-mill 19.3% and he’s sporting a career groundball rate north of 51%. Solid middle-of-the-rotation arm.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

4.  Luke Jackson, RHP

Born: 08/24/91  Age: 23   Height: 6-2   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Dan Cortes, Hector Santiago, Jordan Walden, Billy Buckner, Wade Davis
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 101.0 2.41 3.55 9.3 24.9% 4.2 11.3% 0.53 82.1%
2013 21 AA 27.0 0.67 2.17 10.0 29.1% 4.0 11.7% 0.00 92.0%
2014 22 AA 83.3 3.02 2.92 9.0 24.8% 2.6 7.2% 0.54 73.4%
2014 22 AAA 40.0 10.35 6.73 9.7 21.4% 6.3 13.9% 2.03 50.4%

Background: Jackson’s control, which took a couple baby steps forward over the previous two seasons, leapt forward in a big way last season – at least during his 83.1 innings with Frisco; he walked 24. And then the wheels all but fell off in his final 40.0 innings in the PCL (a la Matt Wisler): Jackson walked 28, or 6.3 BB/9. Throughout the ups-and-downs, though, the Florida-born right-hander still continued to miss a lot of bats – 126 in his 123.1 total innings.

Projection: The strikeout ability is promising – he’s whiffed nearly 25% of the batters he’s faced in his career. And prior to the implosion with Round Rock the control/command was trending in the right direction. Jackson’s CALs are all over the place, ranging from a league average starter to a pair of dominant late-inning arms. The ceiling’s higher than that – assuming the control not only bounces back but takes another step forward.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2015

 

 

5.  Jorge Alfaro, C

Born: 06/11/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-2   Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Gary Sanchez, Kellin Deglan, Sebastian Valle, Alex Lavisky, Andrew Knapp
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A 300 .261 .320 .430 .750 .169 5.3% 28.0% 105
2013 20 A 420 .258 .338 .452 .790 .194 6.7% 26.4% 128
2014 21 A+ 437 .261 .318 .440 .758 .178 5.3% 22.9% 112
2014 21 AA 99 .261 .343 .443 .787 .182 6.1% 23.2% 126

Background: Signed out of Columbia when he was at the ripe ol’ age of 16, Alfaro has come a long way since flopping in his debut stint in the Dominican Summer League when he batted .221/.278/.291. Since then the 6-foot-2 backstop has slowly progressed through the minor leagues, flashing above-average power – his main calling card. Last year, Alfaro spent the majority of the year in High Class A, where he hit .261/.318/.440 with 22 doubles, five triples, and 13 homeruns while topping the Carolina League offensive average by 12%.

Projection: More hype than production right now, outside of his debut season in 2010 Alfaro’s always performed well at each stop without truly standing out with the bat. His Weighted Runs Created Plus totals for each stop beginning in 2010 (150+ PA): 72, 129, 105, 128, and 112. CAL links the Columbian-born backstop with a pair of higher profile catching prospects – Gary Sanchez and Andrew Knapp. Otherwise, it’s nothing special. League average starting backstop, maybe a tick or two better depending on how his defense grades out.

Ceiling:  2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

6.  Nomar Mazara, RF

Born: 04/26/95  Age: 20   Height: 6-4   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Michael Burgess, Charles Jones, Domingo Santana, Jonathan Garcia, Dylan Cozens
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 243 .264 .383 .448 .830 .184 15.2% 28.8% 123
2013 18 A 506 .236 .310 .382 .692 .146 8.7% 25.9% 101
2014 19 A 461 .264 .358 .470 .828 .206 12.4% 21.5% 130
2014 19 AA 97 .306 .381 .518 .899 .212 9.3% 22.7% 157

Background: At the time when most kids are passing – or failing – their driving tests Mazara was busy setting a record for the highest international bonus given to a prospect – $4.95 million. Not a bad sum for a 16-year-old. The Dominican-born right fielder had a solid debut in the Arizona Summer League as a 17-year-old in 2012, hitting .264/.383/.448 while topping the league average by 23%. Convinced that he was ready to handle full season ball, the club pushed him up to the Sally the following year. In 506 trips to the dish, Mazara hit .236/.310/.382 with 13 homeruns while producing at the league average. Again, it’s not bad work for a young prospect.

Last season, though, he repeated the Sally and fared much better. After starting out the season on a bit of a sour note – he hit .223/.298/.363 through the first two months – Mazara slugged a robust .302/.411/.571 over his next 246 plate appearances, prompting the club to push him straight up to the Texas League where he hit .306/.381/.518.

Projection: Plus-power potential with a tremendous feel for the strike zone and strong contact skills – against right-handers. Southpaws, on the other hand, are a totally different issue.

In 317 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Mazara’s hit .194/.290/.276 (compared to .276/.364/.486 vs. RHP). And last season’s work against lefties – .200/.268/.331 – was hardly better. So with all these potential platoon issues, one has to wonder why the club decided to push the then-19-year-old past High Class A and straight into the Texas League.  CAL doesn’t seem to be particularly impressed with Mazara either, for what it’s worth. But he has plenty of time to figure it out.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

7.  Lewis Brinson, CF

Born: 05/08/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-3   Weight: 170   B/T: R/R                                                         
Top CALs: Angel Morales, Guillermo Pimentel, Trayce Thompson, Yorman Rodriguez, Slade Heathcott
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 265 .283 .345 .523 .868 0.241 7.9% 27.9% 122
2013 19 A 503 .237 .322 .427 .749 0.190 9.5% 38.0% 117
2014 20 A 186 .335 .405 .579 .985 0.244 9.7% 24.7% 172
2014 20 A+ 199 .246 .307 .350 .656 0.104 7.5% 25.1% 87

Background: Taken 10 picks ahead of the modern-day Paul Bunyon (aka Joey Gallo), Brinson’s another toolsy outfielder with a handful of red flag issues, some of which he’s taken steps in correcting. After hitting .237/.322/.427 with a strikeout rate approaching 40% in the Sally in 2013, Brinson, the 29th overall pick, showed a much more modest K-rate in his repeat with Hickory, striking out just 24.7% of the time while hitting .335/.405/.579. The club pushed him up to High Class A in early July, and the results were…OK (.246/.307/.350). But he did manage to post a similar K-rate.

Projection: Very toolsy – 20- to 25-HR power, above-average speed, a decent eye at the plate, and the raw data suggests he can patrol center field effectively. Brinson’s CALs, however, aren’t all that inspiring: Angel Morales, Guillermo Pimentel, Trayce Thompson, Yorman Rodriguez, and Slade Heathcott. He’s another high risk/ high reward guy, with the potential to be a 3.0-win player. Maybe a tick better.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  Late 2016/Early 2017

 

 

8.  Delino DeShields, 2B/CF

Born: 08/16/92  Age: 22   Height: 5-9   Weight: 210   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Logan Watkins, Tyler Goeddel, Jonathan Galvez, Frank Martinez, Corban Joseph
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A 523 .298 .401 .439 .839 .141 13.4% 20.7% 134
2012 19 A+ 114 .237 .336 .381 .718 .144 11.4% 20.2% 90
2013 20 A+ 534 .317 .405 .468 .873 .151 10.7% 17.0% 133
2014 21 AA 507 .236 .346 .360 .706 .124 12.0% 22.1% 108

Background: The son of the man who was famously dealt for a young Pedro Martinez suffered one of the more horrific injuries last season – a reported 90 mph fastball to the side of the face, an injury that caused him to balloon up like a cartoon caricature. The amazing part: the former first round pick, eighth overall, missed less than a month of action. His numbers upon his return – .232/.340/.350 – were (unsurprisingly and equally understandably) the worst marks of his professional career.

Projection: Personally, I’m willing to give DeShields, who was hitting .256/.385/.426 pre-injury, a mulligan. It has to be incredibly difficult to jump back into a batter’s box after such a horrific injury. Prior to the beaning, the second-baseman-turned-center-fielder always showed strong walk rates, blazing speed, a surprising pop for a 5-foot-9 player. The bat’s going to be league average at best, but the legs could be a great separator, though.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

9.  Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

Born: 09/09/89  Age: 25   Height: 6-7   Weight: 230   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Michael O’Brien, Paul Clemens, Chris Reed, John Gast, Tanner Roark
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 AA 37.7 6.69 5.54 6.5 15.0% 6.5 15.0% 0.96 64.2%
2013 23 AA 109.7 2.95 3.63 8.7 24.0% 3.3 9.1% 0.74 76.1%
2013 23 AAA 30.3 2.97 2.94 6.2 16.7% 2.1 5.6% 0.30 74.5%
2014 24 AAA 138.0 2.61 3.86 7.2 19.5% 3.5 9.5% 0.59 79.4%

Background: Just another of the baby Sox to cut his big league teeth in 2014. Ranaudo, the former LSU Tiger, teamed with Matt Barnes to give P’tucket one of the better one-two punches in the upper minors. Ranaudo would make 24 starts in the International League, throwing 138.0 innings with 111 punch outs and 54 walks, and another seven (craptastic) starts in The Show.

Projection:  Ranaudo’s low 90s fastball plays up given his frame, but his strikeout rate’s been on steady decline since his dominant sophomore campaign in college. And last year’s minor league mark, 7.24 K/9, would be a career low in any season in which he tossed more than 40 innings. Sort of a fringy starter who’s best suited for a relief role.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

10.  Nick Williams, LF/CF

Born: 09/08/93  Age: 21   Height: 6-3   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Yorman Rodriguez, Angel Morales, Abner Abreu, Willy Garcia, Jonathan Garcia
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 224 .313 .375 .448 .823 .134 7.1% 22.3% 118
2013 19 A 404 .293 .337 .543 .879 .250 3.7% 27.2% 148
2014 20 A+ 408 .292 .343 .491 .834 .199 4.7% 28.7% 133
2014 20 AA 64 .226 .250 .290 .540 .065 3.1% 32.8% 46

Background: Brought into the organization in the same draft that welcomed fellow top prospects Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, and Alec Asher, Williams opened the year by hitting .292/.343/.491 with 28 doubles, four triples, 13 homeruns, and five stolen bases in 94 games with Myrtle Beach. The way he closed it out, though, pushed his overall production down noticeably; he batted a paltry .226/.250/.290 as he struggled in his promotion to the Texas League. For his career, the former second round pick owns a .293/.342/.489 triple-slash line.

Projection: Williams’ overall numbers tend to hide a pair of concerning red flags – a poor combination of increasing strikeout rates and a swing-at-everything mantra at the plate. He’s struck out in 26.9% and walked in just 4.8% of his plate appearances. Despite the impressive triple-slash lines throughout his career, CAL links Williams to a bunch of nondescript minor league outfielders.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

 

**All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.