The 2017 Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects

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1. Yohander Mendez, LHP                   
Born: 01/17/95 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Sean Gallagher, Nick Struck, Jared Lansford, Javier Solano , Trevor Gott
Height: 6-5 Weight: 200 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 17 R 45.3 2 1 1.99 2.95 6.95 2.58 19.60% 7.30% 0.20 77.10%
2013 18 A- 33.3 1 2 3.78 5.30 6.21 4.59 15.20% 11.30% 1.08 72.70%
2014 19 A 31.0 3 0 2.32 3.65 8.13 0.58 24.10% 1.70% 1.16 84.80%
2015 20 A 66.1 3 3 2.44 2.41 10.04 2.04 27.50% 5.60% 0.27 75.80%
2016 21 A+ 33.0 4 1 2.45 2.78 12.27 3.00 34.60% 8.50% 0.55 78.80%
2016 21 AA 46.2 4 1 3.09 2.93 8.87 2.70 24.10% 7.30% 0.39 72.00%
2016 21 AAA 31.1 4 1 0.57 3.95 6.32 4.60 18.50% 13.50% 0.00 93.10%

Background: Overshadowed by other prospects the Rangers signed as part of their wild international spending spree in 2011. Mendez, who inked his name on the dotted line for $1.5 million, watched as Nomar Mazara zoomed through the minors with relative ease and Ronald Guzman make it up to the Midwest League as an 18-year-old – both of whom were signed at the same time as the lanky lefty. Mendez, on the other hand, battled some elbow issues early in his career, which limited him to just 115.1 innings over his first three seasons. So the fact that he stayed on the mound long enough to hurl 66+ innings two years ago was a victory in itself. And that’s before you consider his actual production: in 21 appearances with Hickory in the South Atlantic League, eight of which were starts, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound left-hander posted an impressive 74-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 2.44 ERA.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mendez opened last year up in High Class A and closed it out with a pair of appearances in the Texas League. In between? A whole lot of dominance. The big southpaw threw a combined 111.0 innings during his three stops in the minors, fanning 113 and walking 41 to go along with a 2.19 ERA and a 3.17 FIP.

Projection: Talk about making up for lost time. There aren’t too many prospects that skip through three levels and make it the big leagues in a season’s time. Mendez showed tremendous poise for a 21-year-old hurler, missing a solid amount of bats during his stops in High Class A and Class AA and doing a fantastic job of limiting free passes. His fastball sat comfortably in the 91- to 92-mph range, so he’s not likely to ascend to a true #1. But he’s going to be a very solid #2/#3-type arm. He’s probably another year away though.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016

 

 

2. Leody Taveras, CF                                        
Born: 09/08/98 Age: 18 Bats: B Top CALs: Pablo Olivares, Jahmai Jones, Jake Bauers, Daniel Jimenez, Yoman Rodriguez
Height: 6-1 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 17 R 155 6 3 1 0.278 0.329 0.382 0.104 7.10% 15.50% 104

Background: Never afraid to make a splash on the international market, the Rangers signed the Dominican-born outfielder to a spicy $2.1 million two years ago. Taveras, a switch-hitting center fielder, didn’t make his debut until last season, spending parts of the year in three different leagues: the Dominican Summer League, Arizona Summer League, and the Northwest League. Overall, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Taveras hit an aggregate .271/.324/.366 with 14 doubles, six triples, one homerun, and 18 stolen bases in 26 attempts.

Projection: Not too much data to go off of, especially the brief stint in the Dominican Summer League. But Taveras handled his extended action in the Arizona Summer League rather nicely, particularly for a 17-year-old. He showed a decent eye, a little bit of power, above-average speed, and strong contact skills. Just with incoming prep players, it’ll be a wait-and-see approach until more data is available.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

3. Ariel Jurado, RHP                                          
Born: 01/30/96 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Zach McAllister, Zack Littell, Joe Wieland, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jose Ortegano
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 17 R 49.0 6 0 2.39 1.93 8.63 0.55 23.70% 1.50% 0.18 64.10%
2014 18 R 38.7 2 1 1.63 3.26 8.15 1.86 21.70% 5.00% 0.23 68.10%
2015 19 A 99.0 12 1 2.45 2.62 8.64 1.09 24.40% 3.10% 0.45 70.40%
2016 20 A+ 79.1 7 2 3.86 3.53 8.05 2.72 21.50% 7.30% 0.45 68.40%
2016 20 AA 43.2 1 4 3.30 3.30 7.21 2.06 19.40% 5.60% 0.62 75.30%

Background: Jurado turned in one the most impressive showings in the South Atlantic League two years ago. Among all Low Class A arms with at least 90 innings, his 2.45 ERA ranked as the seventh best and no arm topped his 2.62 FIP. The organization pushed the Panamanian right-hander up to High Class A last season where he saw only a modest downturn in his peripherals, averaging 8.1 strikeouts and just 2.7 walks per nine innings in 16 starts. He also saw another eight games, six of which were starts, with the RoughRiders in the Texas League. Overall, he finished the year with 123.0 innings, 106 strikeouts, just 34 walks, and an aggregate 3.66 ERA.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Let’s just put Jurado’s performance up against some of his peers: among all Low Class A hurlers with at least 90 innings last season no one topped his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 21.3%. And the last two 19-year-old pitchers to post a strikeout-to-walk percentage above 21% were Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, two of the minors’ best young arms.

Jurado does everything you could ever want a young pitcher to do: he limits walks with the best of them, misses a whole lot of bats, handles aggressive promotions, and has succeeded against much older competition. Throw in one of the minors’ top groundball rates, 66%, and there’s a strong foundation for at least a mid-rotation arm.”

Well, pretty much the exact same thing could be said a year later. Jurado fanned 20.7% and walked just 6.7% of the hitters he faced last season. He also generated a whole helluva lot of action on the ground – again. He posted a 63.4% GB-rate in High Class A and a 51.9% mark in Class AA.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

4. Anderson Tejeda, SS                                    
Born: 05/01/98 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs:  N/A

 

Height: 5-11 Weight: 160 Throws: R

Background: Signed for a six-figure bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. Tejeda’s moved around quite a bit over the past two seasons: he split his professional debut between both of the organization’s Dominican Summer League affiliates, hitting a combined .312/.393/.522, and after a brief 14-game crash course back in the DSL last season, Tejeda split the remaining part of the season between the Arizona Summer League and short season ball. He batted a solid .283/.326/.520 with 14 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 homeruns last season.

Projection: One of the defining points of early statistical analysis has to do with sample size – or more specifically, beware of small sample sizes. Anything can happen in a small data sample: utility players can look like Babe Ruth and The Sultan of Swat can look like a Punch-and-Judy hitter. But what happens if a litany of small samples sizes all add up to the same thing – impressive production? That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Over the past two seasons Tejeda’s slugged a combined .295/.356/.521 with 33 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases (in 23 attempts) in 121 total games. Granted half of that has come in the hitter-friendly DSL, but his production stateside has been solid. He’s showing some very, very intriguing power potential.

He’s going to be THE Breakout Prospect for 2017.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

5. Andy Ibanez, 2B                                               
Born: 04/03/93 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Devin Goodwin, T.J. Rivera, LJ Mazzilli, Matt Cusick, Dean Anna
Height: 5-10 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 23 A 220 18 1 7 0.324 0.413 0.546 0.222 13.20% 12.70% 171
2016 23 AA 340 18 2 6 0.261 0.318 0.391 0.130 7.40% 13.80% 104

Background: Considering his production in the Cuban National Series and the cost of notable prospects defecting from the country, one has to wonder how the Rangers were able to sign the second baseman to a $1.6 million deal two years ago. Ibanez, according to Baseball-Reference.com, made his professional debut in the Cuban National Series at the age of 18, hitting a respectable .278/.309/.383 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, and three homeruns in 321 trips to the plate. And he really shined during his follow up campaign, slugging .300/.361/.441 with a league-leading 29 doubles and four homeruns. His numbers took a noticeable downturn during his final year with Isla de la Juventud, batting .267/.377/.435 with 13 doubles, four triples, and six homeruns. Ibanez didn’t make his stateside debut until last season. He made quick work of the South Atlantic League en route to slugging .324/.413/.546 with 18 doubles, one triple, seven homeruns, and 10 stolen bases (though it took 18 attempts) in 49 games. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 71%. Texas promoted the 5-foot-10, 170-pound second baseman straight up to Class AA in early June. He would string together a league average-ish .261/.318/.391 triple-slash line.

Projection: Ibanez’s production in the Sally is completely negligible – he was too old and had a professional background. It just proved that he wasn’t going to be a complete bust. His production in the Texas League, however, is more indicative of his true talent and production level. He showed a decent eye at the plate, strong contact skills, a little bit of power and speed. Ignoring his first 10 games with Frisco, a.k.a. the adjustment period, he batted a solid .274/.327/.401 over his final 71 games. He looks like a fringy big league starter, though that time won’t likely come in Arlington.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

6. Joe Palumbo, LHP                                
Born: 10/26/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Pedro Payano, Jose Rodriguez, Sebastian Vader, Ronny Morla, Edgar Ibarra
Height: 6-1 Weight: 168 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 19 R 42.7 4 4 2.32 3.00 10.34 3.16 28.30% 8.70% 0.00 70.20%
2015 20 A- 54.1 3 3 2.82 4.15 6.96 3.64 17.90% 9.40% 0.50 71.40%
2016 21 A 96.1 7 5 2.24 2.76 11.40 3.36 30.80% 9.10% 0.47 79.60%

Background: Fun Fact: The 30th round of the 2013 draft offered up a surprising amount of talent – the Jays signed slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez for roughly $900,000, Boston came to terms with Nick Longhi for about $400,000, and the Rangers plucked promising left-hander Joe Palumbo out of St. John Bapist with the 910th pick that year. After a brief debut in the Arizona Summer League that season, the 6-foot-1, 168-pound southpaw put together a promising 49-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.2 innings during his second stint the following season. He would spend the overwhelming majority of the next year, 2015, in the Northwest League with mediocre results. But last season, though, Palumbo shined as one of the top performing lefties in either Low Class A league.

In 33 appearances with the Hickory Crawdads, seven of which were starts, Palumbo threw a career high 96.1 innings with a whopping 122 punch outs and walked just 36 en route to cobbling together a 2.24 ERA and a 2.76 FIP.

Projection: Coming out of nowhere, Palumbo’s dominance certainly matches up well with a lot of pitchers in Low Class A. Consider the following (minimum of 90 innings):

  • Only St. Louis’ hard-throwing Sandy Alcantara posted a better strikeout rate, 11.86 K/9 vs. 11.40 K/9.
  • He paced the level in strikeout rate (30.8%).
  • His strikeout-to-walk percentage, 21.7%, tied for fifth best showing.
  • He finished with the ninth best FIP (2.76).

Palumbo didn’t make his first start of the year until the end of July, but he was particularly impressive during his seven-game stint in the rotation: 38.0 IP, 39 K, 10 BB, and a 2.37 ERA. There’s an awful lot of risk involved, because he lacks any type of track record, but he’s one to watch in 2017. He’s a long shot to develop into a backend starter.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

7. Cole Ragans, LHP                        
Born: 12/12/97 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 190 Throws: L

Background: Death, taxes, and the Rangers taking talented high school players in the opening round. Texas plucked the 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-hander with 30th pick last June out of North Florida Christian High School.

Projection: Ragans’ debuted last all of 7.2 innings, so there’s virtually nothing to analyze. Per the usual, it’s going to be a wait-and-see approach.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

8. Josh Morgan, 2B/3B/SS                                 
Born: 11/16/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Matthew Cerda, Thairo Estrada, Danry Vasquez, Wyatt Mathisen, Edilio Colina
Height: 5-11 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 19 A 416 15 1 3 0.288 0.385 0.362 0.074 10.80% 12.70% 121
2016 20 A+ 533 19 2 7 0.300 0.367 0.394 0.094 8.30% 11.40% 109

Background: Fun Fact Part I: There were only five players below the age of 21 to make at least 500 trips in the California League last season – Luis Urias, the lone 19-year-old to accomplish the feat, Johan Mieses, Franmil Reyes, Forrest Wall, and Josh Morgan. Fun Fact Part II: Among those five, Morgan finished second in batting average (.300), walk rate (8.3%), strikeout rate (11.4%), and on-base percentage (.367). The Rangers grabbed the 5-foot-11, 185-pound infielder extraordinaire in the third round out of Orange Lutheran High School in 2014. Morgan turned in a quasi-impressive professional debut as split time between the Arizona Summer League and Northwest League that year, hitting .322/.436/.347. The front office pushed him up to the Sally two years ago and he once again responded with a solid batting average and tremendous OBP-skills (.288/.385/.362). Last season Morgan batted .300/.367/.394 with career bests in doubles (19), triples (two), and homeruns (seven). His overall production topped the league average mark by 12%.

Projection: Typically when it comes to players spending half their time with the High Desert Mavericks you’ll see some extreme home/road splits, but that’s not the case with it comes to Morgan. He batted .296/.362/.391 at home vs. .304/.373/.396 on the road, an extremely positive sign for his future production. And even once his overall numbers are adjusted for the bandbox, they drop to a still respectable .287/.354/.367.

The problem with Morgan, however, is his complete lack of power. He’s sporting a career .073 ISO and only topped that mark modestly last season (.094). Texas seems intent on bouncing him around the infield, but his offense clearly doesn’t play well at the hot corner. There is a silver lining to be had: he posted a .422 slugging percentage over his final 82 games. Unless he can repeat that power outage moving forward, he’s going to slide into a utility role at the big league level.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

9. Ronald Guzman, 1B                    
Born: 10/20/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Nick Longhi, Chris Marrero, Jose Osuna, Austin Gallagher, Stefan Welch
Height: 6-5 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 235 15 3 1 0.321 0.374 0.434 0.113 8.10% 17.90% 116
2013 18 A 191 8 0 4 0.272 0.325 0.387 0.116 5.80% 14.10% 106
2014 19 A 492 32 0 6 0.218 0.283 0.330 0.112 7.50% 21.70% 72
2015 20 A+ 452 25 7 9 0.277 0.319 0.434 0.156 6.00% 22.30% 103
2016 21 AA 415 16 5 15 0.288 0.348 0.477 0.189 8.00% 19.80% 135

Background: Another member of the club’s vaunted three-headed monster that was signed on the international market six years ago. The massive 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman blossomed into a legitimate offensive threat in the Texas League last season. In 102 games with the RoughRiders, the hulking Dominican-born infielder slugged .288/.345/.477 with 16 doubles, five triples, 15 homeruns, and a pair of stolen bases – just for good measure, of course. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 35% – easily the best mark of his five-year career.

Projection: I’m always curious about putting a player’s production into historical context. So let’s run Guzman through the gauntlet. First, here’s the list of criteria: between 2006-2016, 21-years-old, Texas League, a walk rate between 7.0% and 9.0%, an ISO between .180 and .200, and a strikeout rate between 15% and 20%. Now here’s the list of prospects that meets the aforementioned criteria:

  • Ronald Guzman
  • Nick Williams
  • Kyle Blanks

Blanks, by the way, is the only that isn’t currently a prospect. Anyway, despite possessing tremendous size, Guzman’s never hit for a whole lot of power. He offers a toolkit mostly consisting of average offerings – though he is sneaky quick for his size. And because he’s limited to just first base – a position that doesn’t provide a whole lot of defensive value – don’t expect him to generate a lot of wins above replacement.For his big league ceiling, think .240/.310/.410

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

 

10. Jairo Beras, OF                                                       
Born: 12/25/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Yorman Rodriguez, Elier Hernandez, Guillermo Pimentel, Cristian Santana, Johan Mieses
Height: 6-6 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 A 427 18 0 7 0.242 0.305 0.342 0.100 7.70% 31.10% 83
2015 19 A 350 18 2 9 0.291 0.332 0.440 0.150 5.40% 25.10% 119
2016 20 A+ 441 28 4 22 0.262 0.306 0.511 0.249 5.40% 27.40% 112

Background: Some guys just look better sporting a baseball uniform – like the 6-foot-6, 195-pound outfielder. The Rangers aggressively pushed the man-child up to the South Atlantic League three years ago – despite only appearing in 17 games in the Arizona Summer League, the lowest level of stateside baseball, during his debut. The result: the toolsy outfielder wasn’t ready for full season action. In 110 games with Hickory, Beras batted a well below-average .242/.305/.342 with an unsightly 31.1% K-rate and an 83 wRC+. The organization did the prudent thing and kept him in Low Class A the following season and the results were much improved. He slugged .291/.332/.440 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, nine homeruns, and nine stolen bases with a 119 wRC+ in 88 contests. And just for argument’s sake, here are those numbers over a 162-game schedule: 33 doubles, four triples, 17 homeruns, and 17 stolen bases. Not bad work for a 20-year-old in the Sally. Last season Beras got the call up to High Class A where he enjoyed spending half of his time playing in High Desert’s hitter-friendly confines. He batted .262/.306/.511 with 28 doubles, four triples, 22 homeruns, and five stolen bases en route to topping the league average mark by 12%.

Projection: I hate High Desert. If I were a member of a front office with some – significant – pull, the first move I would make is to relocate the club’s High Class A affiliate far, far away from that bandbox. Once Beras’ production is adjusted, his triple-slash line goes from .262/.306/.511 to a less impressive .244/.288/.458. The power is an above-average or better skill. But he doesn’t walk enough and he swings-and-misses too often. He just has the feel of one of those projectable prospects that quite never figures it out.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com



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.