About the making of this list: These rankings were cultivated through in-person viewings, industry feedback, video, stats, and blindfolded throwing of darts. FV grades and risk assessment were withheld. Many of players I have not seen live and assigning grades to those players would be disingenuous and a fool’s errand at this juncture. I am slowly building a network of industry contacts, but mine pales in comparison to that of the other media outlets, such as MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and Fangraphs. For that reason, they are often able to provide FV grades in situations I cannot. However, I did see over half of the players on this list in person, a total that makes me feel simultaneously proud and embarrassed. For your reading pleasure I humbly submit to you a 6600 word dissertation, the Texas Rangers top 30.
1) Cole Winn, RHP
Age 19.04 (11/25/1999)
Highest Level: Yet to play in official MiLB game.
The Rangers selected Winn 15th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Orange Lutheran H.S. in California. Following the draft from my decrepit AirBnB in northwest Indiana, I scratched my head at the selection. It had nothing to do with Winn, who I had seen at the NHSI and liked. I could not get track record of first round high school pitchers out my mind. The list is marred with injury and underperformance. Looking back at some aged draft classes, how many of these guys still profile to be starting pitchers?
2014: Brady Aiken (1), Tyler Kolek (2), Kodi Medeiros (12), Touki Toussaint (16), Grant Holmes (22), Luis Ortiz (30), Justus Sheffield (31), Michael Kopech (33).
2013: Kohl Stewart (4), Trey Ball (7), Phil Bickford (10), Hunter Harvey (22), Rob Kaminsky (28), Ian Clarkin (33).
2012: Max Fried (7), Nick Travieso (14), Lucas Giolito (16), Lucas Sims (21), Ty Hensley (30).
All of this is to say, I place Cole Winn atop my Rangers top 30 with great trepidation, but there is too much here to resist. If a year from now we look back at this list and he is like the Sirens causing me to crash my ships into the rocks, then so be it. Let’s talk starting pitcher starter kit. What do you want? Body: How does 6’2” 190 sound? Athleticism: Lots. Pitch mix: he has four pitches which all have a chance to play to average or better. Mechanics: Some of the cleanest, easiest you will ever see. Within the pool of first round HS pitchers, Winn strikes me as about as safe as you can get. There are a lot of positive signs, but he has yet to pitch an inning of pro ball beyond instructs. He must prove himself, not only versus pro-caliber competition, but he must also withstand the physical rigors of full season ball.
The pitch mix starts with the fastball. In a scrimmage vs ASU this fall it was low 90s, touching 94, and the pitch reportedly touched 96 in the spring. Winn has the ability to operate it up in the zone where it can generate swing and miss largely due to high spin rates. I checked the Trackman data after NHSI and saw it maxed out at 2660 RPM, placing him in elite company. There are three fastball variants: straight 4 seam, a 2 seam, and a cutter. With added weight, it is not unreasonable to expect another tick or two on the pitch. The curve is his best secondary with sharp spin and 11 to 5 shape. The FB and CB both project to plus. While less consistent, the changeup also flashed 55 this fall. The slider could play to average. I love the depth of his arsenal and Winn’s present feel for it, especially considering his age.
Overall, he could projects to be a #2-#3 starter and 200 innings a year guy. Considering the changing roles of pitchers in today’s game, pitchers with a legitimate chance to stick as a starter gain more value. Winn falls into that category, which is a large part of why he falls #1 on this list. The Rangers’ decision to not pitch Winn following the draft may allow for a narrow buy-low opportunity in fantasy leagues. I expect him to start in Hickory and excel there. He is very polished for his age and could be a fast mover.
2) Hans Crouse, RHP
Age: 20.24 (9/15/1998)
Highest Level: A
54.2 IP, 2.47 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 27.3% K%, 8.4% BB%, .208 BAA
Drafted in the second round in 2017 (66th overall), Crouse is a 6’4” 180 lb, high-waisted righty. He has double-plus arm speed and works from a low three quarters slot. There’s some violence in his delivery, complete with head whack at foot strike, but the quality of his stuff coupled with his ability to find the zone regularly easily supersedes these blemishes. The fastball reportedly runs up into high 90s with sink. Crouse backs it up with a double-plus slider that he has advanced feel for: there is a “more cuttery” version used to steal strikes within the zone and a bigger break version that is his primary two-strike swing and miss offering. The FB/SL combo could be two 70 offerings. Crouse threw 38 innings in the short season Northwest League before being promoted to single-A Hickory. The statistical results at Hickory took a step back, but the sample was miniscule (only 16.2 innings) and Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) reported the Rangers asked Crouse to work on his changeup upon promotion. This is all part of the process with minor league players and why scouting the stat line can be so misleading. At present the changeup grades to below average. Its development should go a long way in determining Crouse’s profile. Is he a top of the rotation starter or a straight **fire emoji** lights-out reliever? Due to the depth of arsenal the likelihood of ceiling may not be that of Cole Winn, but the pen fall back provides value as well. Crouse strikes me as a competitor with fiery body language/demeanor to match.
3) Bubba Thompson, OF
Age: 20.511 (6/9/1998)
Highest Level: A
.289/.344/.446, 8 HR, .157 ISO, 125 wRC+, 6.3% BB%, 28.7% K%, 32 SB
Thompson was the Rangers first round draft pick in 2017 and showed polish beyond his years in the SAL. He was a two-way player in high school having also played QB on the football team. As you might expect he is a great athlete, both physical and agile. It is worth noting Thompson missed time in 2017 due to a knee injury, somewhat of a red flag considering the amount of his value tied to his legs. His speed is very evident in the numbers, not only in his SB totals but also his .396 BABIP. That rate looks unsustainable on the surface, but double-plus speed plays.
All things considered, his assignment to full-season ball was fairly aggressive, and Thompson did not disappoint. The statistics were good and even better when you consider his age for the level. The skills and mechanics are commensurate with stat line. Specifically, the swing mechanics have undergone an overhaul since spring training, when the base stance was more upright and the swing its self, rigid, with the front foot often down early. In-season, working from a wider base stance, Thompson has shortened the leg kick, looked more balanced and attacked the ball with authority. It was unclear how much the spring training swing was hampered by the lingering knee injury, but the midseason stoke was undoubtedly 100x better. Swing change in hand, Thompson has an excellent chance to stick up the middle in center and contribute above average value on both sides of the ball.
4) Julio Pablo Martinez, OF
Age: 22.73 (3/21/1996)
Highest Level: SS-A
.252/351/.436, 8 HR, .184 ISO, 121 wRC+, 12.5% BB%, 25.3% K%, 11 SB
The Rangers signed Martinez for $2.8mm last March. He took an odd path to the majors, coming to the states and first playing in independent league baseball, specifically in the Canadian-American Association. Having scouted two independent leagues, I wanted to give context to level of competition in the Can-Am. It is generally considered the fourth strongest league, ranking behind the Atlantic League, the American Association and the Frontier League. Many Can-Am players would fare OK in A ball, but the average age is about 27 so the majority lack the upside of prospects in affiliated ball who are substantially younger. Martinez’s Can-Am League stat line: .297/.345/.449, 17BB:56K ratio, 20/24 SBs. It looks decent on the surface, but I would have hoped for more from someone ranked in the upper half of top 100s.
Returning to positive vibes, the Cuban outfielder possesses double-plus speed, which is the cornerstone of his profile. It provides him with a high floor and should allow him to stick up the middle in CF. His roughly fringe average arm should play there as well. Offensively, the bat to ball skills are impressive. There were times he’d employ a step in the bucket up the first base line and still make solid contact (somehow). His “normal swing” is well balanced with little wasted motion. The approach looks contact-oriented. JPM will not be totally devoid of power, but I do not expect it to be a huge part of his game either. Something in the 30-40 range, or 5-15 HRs a season at maturity is a reasonable expectation. There is a chance he exceeds my power expectation and puts this ranking to shame, but I see him more as a solid every day player who contributes above average defensive value and around average offensive production with a small bushel of steals (20-30 annually).
5) Leody Taveras, OF
Age: 20.26 (9/8/1998)
Highest Level: Hi-A
.246/.312/.332, .086 ISO, 5 HR, 85 wRC+, 16.6% K%, 8.8% BB%, 19 SB
A'ight, hold up, hold up! Stop the beat a minute, I got somethin' to say. In the last offseason Taveras drew ubiquitous praise from evaluators and was rated as highly as top 50 on some lists. One does not get ranked on an annual prospect list haphazardly; these players have pedigree for a reason. Every year top 100 prospects under-perform expectations and plummet from lists. They get discarded like old newpapers, but should they? There is no doubt he struggled in 2018, but at this junction who is the more likely to be an above average every day regular: Leody or anyone below him?
It is also worth noting Taveras was the third youngest player in the Carolina League this season (Nats Luis Garcia and Juan Soto were younger). I am inclined to give him a mulligan and chalk up his 2018 as a bump in the road. Tools like plus speed and defense, with instincts and range in CF do not go away. The power output was really discouraging but a 16.6% K rate for a player 3.5 years below league average age is damn good.
6) Taylor Hearn, LHP
Age: 24.29 (8/30/1994)
Highest Level: AA
129 IP, 3.49 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 26.2% K%, 8.8% BB%, .214 BAA
Roughly a year ago there were split camps as to whether Hearn could be a starter. In 2016 he yo-yo’d between starting and relieving, and when he became a full-time starter in 2017, he suffered two injuries that limited his innings. As a result, some evaluators grew concerned he would be able to withstand a SP workload for a full season. His performance in 2018 allayed these qualms, and the starter camp is growing. Not only did he perform well statistically, he also set a career high with 129 IP.
The first words I think of with Taylor Hearn are athletic lefty. His arm is incredibly loose, and he works efficiently to home with very little effort. It is one of the cleanest deliveries I have seen in the past 16 months. His fastball sits 93-96 and can touch high 90s with life. A slider that flashes plus and a changeup round out his mix. The change is less consistent but projects to average at maturity. The splits bear out what you might suspect, he can work both sided hitters effectively. Left-handed hitters were held to a .646 OPS and right-handed hitters were held to a .615 OPS. With three viable pitches and an easy delivery, there is a very good chance Hearn settles in to the back end of a rotation in the very near future.
7) Sherten Apostel, 3B
Age 19.75 (3/11/1999)
.278/.420/.460, .182 ISO, 8 HR, 140 wRC+, 18.3% BB%, 22.3% K%, 3 SB
Highest Level: SS-A
Potential 60 hit, 60 power bats are hard to come by, and I think Sherten Apostel has a chance to be one. He is physically advanced. The listed numbers of 6’4” 200 are probably a bit light, and it is difficult to believe Apostel is still a teenager. His strength leads to present plus raw power and more is on its way. An advanced approach should enable the power to play consistently in games, and this is what excites me. The career BB:K rate of 120:161 is interesting, but Apostel’s tools are what first piqued my interest in him this fall. Mechanically, Apostel has incredibly strong hands with efficient weight transfer from his lower half to upper body through the hips. His hands slot a bit on the higher side, slightly above his shoulders, which adds some length to his swing but also creates an uppercut path geared for doing damage. The length of his swing did not limit his contact ability in my looks. Apostel’s combination of physique and swing mechanics grease the skids for future plus game power, without the expense of contact.
Defensively, a rosy projection is a 40-grade third baseman. The arm was playable, but his feet were heavy and range was marginal. It seems very likely a move across the diamond will occur. If the bat plays to the degree I believe it will, the Rangers would be perfectly ok with that exchange. I see a possible above average regular, whose bat carries the profile and provides little defensive value. Having not played above the Short Season Northwest League, Apostel is far away and should be considered consequently risky. However, it is worth noting under the Daniels regime Texas has a history of moving young, advanced position players aggressively (Mazara, Odor), which lends credence to the idea Apostel could see a similar trajectory. This is pure speculation on my part though. With regards to fantasy leagues, it is my belief my he is dramatically undervalued by the public at large. You know what to dooooo (Andre 3000 from Outkast Voice).
8) Cole Ragans, LHP
Age: 21.00 (12/12/1997)
DNP 2018, 2017: 57.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 34.8% K%, 14% BB%, .234 BAA
Highest Level: NWL – SS-A
Last march Ragans went down with TJ during spring training. The former first round pick (30th in 2016) missed the entire season and just started throwing again this fall. He reportedly threw from 105 feet on 10/23 and is expected back around midseason 2019. Before going down with injury, Ragans showed an overpowering three-pitch mix. In an albeit limited 58 inning stint, he dominated the 2017 Northwest League by striking out 34.8% of opposing batters. My only look at Ragans was in his spring training appearance, preceding the elbow injury. His fastball was 88-92 that day, but he commanded it well and the pitch had quality life. The changeup is considered his best pitch, which projects to plus or better. Feel for both secondary pitches was excellent in my viewing; he worked the curve and change down in the zone and both had distinct shape and excellent depth. His mechanics are clean with excellent balance and posture, allowing for a very repeatable delivery. Return from injury presents an added layer of risk, but there is still much to like with Ragans. I love his aptitude for pitching and ability to expand the plate with his stuff. The limited track record and injury represent substantial risk, but I still view Ragans as a potential mid-rotation starter.
9) Brock Burke, LHP
Age: 22.34 (8/4/96)
137.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 27.2 K%, 7.6% BB%, .233 BAA
At 6’4” 200 lbs, Burke has a large frame. He’s very athletic with a live arm and plus fastball. The fastball has some sink to it which is amplified by Burke’s high three quarters slot. His cross-body arm action can also create natural cut on the fastball which sits mid 90s. The delivery starts slowly then bursts forward with both athleticism and violence; it is strong in momentum and torque and weak in balance. The follow through is often toward third rather than home. Burke did not have trouble throwing strikes, especially upon his promotion to AA, but one might argue the violence in his delivery could curb command within the zone. The slider is his best secondary and it resides in the mid 80s with pretty nice tilt, accentuated by the arm action. The curve and change are catching up but still have a chance to play to average. At present, he is more control over command, but the strides he made in the second half in Double-A cannot be understated. Both his K% and BB% are trending in the right direction. If the changeup and command continue to progress, we are looking at middle-of-rotation power arm. If they fall short, a lights out reliever in the pen is a nice fall back option.
10) Jonathan Hernandez, RHP
Age: 22.43 (7/6/1996)
121 IP, 3.63 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 27% K%, 10.7% BB%, .217 BAA
Highest Level: AA
The evolution of Hernandez as a pitcher over the years has been well-chronicled. As an amateur he was considered a pitchability guy. Following his pro debut, Hernandez saw a big uptick in his stuff. Interestingly, the spike in his velocity corresponded with a step back in command. Once a strength, the command now looks like a hurdle to a starting rotation spot. While I am unsure as to why this would have happened, there is effort in his delivery and a crossfire action. Not all signs point to the pen though. His stuff is worthy of a rotation spot. Reportedly, the fastball sits as high as 95-97 with sink/run, and his high 80s slider flashes is plus. A playable change and curve also project to average or better. The stats took a step back once he was promoted to the Texas League, but it is worth noting Hernandez turned 22 in July and was three years below the league average age. Given his stuff and age, it would behoove the Rangers to give him more time to figure things out as a starter.
11) Owen White, RHP
Age: 19.35 (8/9/1999)
Highest Level: Yet to play in official MiLB game.
The Rangers took White in the 2nd round in the 2018 draft at 55 overall. I saw White twice during instructs. Once was a part of 10/6’s triple-header gauntlet in which the Rangers played a morning instructs match followed by an evening double-header vs ASU at Surprise Stadium. White threw in the first leg of the double-header. The words “bull dog” may be be used to describe him; he works quickly in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to control the pace of the game. Fielders and scouts alike love players like this. The former high quarterback is the epitome of projection, listed at 6’3” 170 lbs. My recommended dietary plan? Feed the kid burgers thrice daily. Much good weight is likely on its way. It does not take a refined scout’s eye to see White’s athleticism. He works direct to home with a twitchy burst. However, I did notice some body speed difference between his fastball and secondary pitches. The repertoire looks worthy of a future rotation spot. White employed four pitches including a FB in the 90-94 range. Control for the slider was sporadic in this outing often missing down and away glove side, but the shape of the pitch looked sharp with late break. The CB 78-81 and mid 80s CHG also have a chance to play to above average or better. Having yet to play in a game beyond instructs White is unproven but the ingredients are here for a mid to back end starting pitcher.
12) A.J. Alexy, RHP
Age: 20.65 (4/21/1998)
108 IP, 3.58 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 30.5% K%, 11.5% BB%, .227 BAA
Highest Level: A
In April I saw Hickory face Delmarava and several intriguing arms threw in the series: DL Hall, Zac Lowther, and Brenan Hanifee. I preferred Alexy to all of them at the time. I admit to being wrong on that now. DL hall is preferable, but Alexy’s frame looks more capable of logging innings, and their pure stuff is closer than people may think. Alexy’s fastball touched mid-90s with some swing and miss up in the zone. A sweeping 11 to 5 curveball with big depth is Alexy’s best pitch. It backed up too often in my look. When located down knees would buckle, and it was easily plus. His changeup in the 84-87 range had inconsistent shape. Improvement on the pitch would help Alexy better attack lefties going forward. The platoon splits were notable; he fared better vs right-handed hitters in 2018 (.609 OPS vs RHH/.778 OPS vs LHH). His overall command was below average, and he did not locate well within the zone. Glancing at his Fangraphs game logs, Alexy made strides with his command over the his second half, cutting his walk rate from 15% to 8%. The mechanics are a bit stiff, especially his landing leg. The upper body whips over the front leg with some effort, which may make it difficult to maintain walk rate improvements. If he can keep these gains and improve his changeup, Alexy could be a backend starter. Like most starting pitcher prospects the door to the bull pen is always open.
13) Jonathan Ornelas, SS
Age: 18.54 (5/26/2000)
.302/.389/.459, 3 HR, .157 ISO, 139 wRC+, 12.3% BB%, 20.2% K%, 15 SB
Highest Level: AZL – Rk
Bat speed should be the first thing to come to mind when you think of Jonathan Ornelas. The raw skill is probably double-plus. He has excellent hands. The swing mechanics, however, are not ideal. He has one of the strangest setups/loads you will ever see. The center of mass starts forward on his front leg. Then he leans backward slightly all while his hands stay high through slot position. The center of mass never truly comes back. In spite of this, Ornelas performed well in the AZL, a testament to his elite bat speed and bat to ball ability. How does this project going forward? I am ready to take a wait and see stance. It is possible mechanical flaws will be exposed at higher levels. Considering his hands’ starting location, one might expect Ornelas to have issues with well-located heat down in the zone. Please allow me to state my position more clearly: if forced to pick between the guy with 70 bat speed/40 mechanics and the guy with 70 mechanics/40 bat speed, you take guy #1 all day.
Statline scouts may see 15 stolen bases in 48 games as a possible future source of value. Ornelas turned in fringe average run times in my looks. It is possible this total represents a baserunning savy or is merely an indication of the quality of pitcher/catcher batteries in the AZL. Either way, it would be unwise to set high expectations for his stolen base totals going foward. Defensively, I could see Ornelas at SS or even sliding down the defensive spectrum to 3B where his plus arm would play. There is every day potential here, but proximity to the majors is a risk factor. A strong season in Hickory could put Ornelas in the conversation for 2020 top 100 lists.
14) Anderson Tejeda, SS
Age: 20.62 (5/1/1998)
.259/.331/.439, 19 HR, .180 ISO, 117 wRC+, 9.4% BB%, 27.2% K%, 11 SB
Highest Level: CRL – Hi-A
Tejeda played most of the season at age 20 in HiA, where he put up very good numbers. While is this a positive sign, he does not look like a future star. The hands and bat speed are impressive, but there are a lot of moving parts in his swing. It features a big leg kick, bringing his front knee back for torque at the hips. Also, his hands pull back as the lower body moves forward. They slot slightly below shoulder length before firing forward, and the result is a bat path geared for loft. Balls jump off his bat; the swing looks conducive to power on contact. At the same time, it also exposes Tejeda to substantial swing and miss. Essentially, the numbers do not lie here. He is reportedly around an average defender. The SS/2B label has been applied, which probably means an eventual move to 2nd or utility infield role. Overall, I see an interesting but imperfect profile. Think second-division regular type ceiling.
15) Chris Seise, SS
Age: 19.93 (1/6/1999)
2017: .284/.330/.400, 3 HR, .116 ISO, 102 wRC+, 5.6% BB%, 25.8% K%, 6 SB
Highest Level: SS-A
The Rangers drafted Seise 29th overall in 2017. He was sent to the short season Northwest League and performed ok but not great. Last March a shoulder injury necessitated rotator cuff surgery, and his recovery sidelined him for entirety of 2018. Seise drew disparate reviews on his defense, ranging anywhere from above average to below average. There is more of a consensus opinion on his bat, which features easy loft and power projection. The 6’2” frame 175 lb frame looks primed for more muscle. He has loose hands, a fluid swing and uses his lower half well. From all accounts Seise has a shot to play every day, but the injury history and limited track record of performance make him somewhat of a risky proposition.
16) Alex Speas, RHP
Age: 20.78 (3/4/1998)
28.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 39.5% K%, 16.9% BB%, .155 BAA
Highest Level: A
The Rangers 2016 3rd round pick is a relief-only prospect, but he has a chance to be an elite closer. His upright mechanics are not ideal, cutting into his extension. However, Speas is an excellent athlete, and there is minimal effort in the delivery. But I am burying the lead! His slider projects to double-plus with a repeatable arm speed and angle to his fastball. The pitch rests around 81-84, a big velo differential to the fastball. Speaking of the that fastball, it touches high 90s with reportedly elite spin rates. Some days it will be more mid 90s. A changeup also exists; Speas only threw one or two in my viewings. It was lagged behind the FB/SL and is a work in progress at this point. Please take note of the nearly 40% K% and .155 BAA. Needless to say Speas dominated the SAL. Two potential 70 offerings will be his ticket to the majors.
17) Tyler Phillips, RHP
Age: 21.13 (10/27/1997)
133 IP, 2.64 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 23.9% K%, 3.0% BB%, .233 BAA
Highest Level: Hi-A
What if I told you a 20-year-old pitcher lead the SAL in Fangraphs SwStr% (swing and miss/total pitches) and finished sixth in groundball rate? This isn’t a weird meta hypothetical; it is actually a succinct description of Tyler Phillips’ 2018 season, which was sneaky-good if you ask me. Considering our location on the list, a pitcher with a chance to start is a very good indicator of the system’s depth.
While he is not as sexy as many of the prospects above him on the list, Phillips has a lot going for him. For one, his age. At only 20 he was two years younger than the the South Atlantic League average. Part B, his stuff while not overpowering, it plays up due to plus command. He pounds the lower third of the zone and induces a good number of ground balls. And III, his body looks capable of starting, listed at 6”5’ 200”. In my viewing the fastball 90-92 with some sink. The changeup was his best pitch, easily plus with solid depth and fade. Perhaps more impressive was Phillips’ feel for the pitch, which he adeptly spotted to both sides of the plate. It is rare to see a changeup that good in the SAL. The curveball was in the high 70s and functioned as a chase pitch below the zone. Having only seen him once this is semi-speculative, but Phillips’ success in the minors in 2018 seems to be largely the result of his pitchability and feel rather than dominant raw stuff. This isn’t a death-null for his profile, but expectations should be tempered. Do not get love drunk off the numbers. He is polish over projection for me and profiles as a possible backend starter with a low ceiling. If he is not able to start every fifth day, the stuff will not play in the pen, and he could be relegated to a AAAA type role.
18) Joe Palumbo, LHP
Age: 24.13 (10/26/1994)
45.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 31.7% K%, 5.4% BB%, .205 BAA
Highest Level - AA
Palumbo missed large chunks of 2017/2018 due to a torn UCL. He underwent TJ surgery in April of 2017 and returned in June of 2018. In the midst of his TJ recovery last November, the Rangers added him to the 40 man roster anyway. This speaks volumes to their confidence in him. Upon return, the fastball was reportedly 92-96, and his high 70s curve flashed plus. The change was a clear third offering in the mid to high 80s. Palumbo looks to have the stuff to start, but lack of historical innings do not bode well for his chances there. The most innings he threw in a start last season was 5.1. The much more likely assignment for Palumbo is a pen role with the possibility of an occasional spot start. Still, this is an interesting arm capable of going multiple innings and producing significant value in the pen.
19) Eli White, SS/3B
Age: 24.45 (6/26/1994)
.306/.388/.450, 9 HR, .145 ISO, 132 wRC+, 10.7 BB%, 20.1 K%, 18 SB
Highest Level: AA
Looking at White’s 2018 stat line makes me feel extremely conflicted. There is a lot to like there. Offensively, White performed 32% better than the Texas League average as an age-appropriate shortstop. Why is it I still don’t feel overly-enthused about White? He seems to lack feel for the game, whether offensively with his swing plane and swing mechanics or on the base paths with inability to read pitchers. White stole 18 bags but was caught nine times, an unacceptable rate considering his easily plus speed. The swing plane is very linear and almost downward at times, something you rarely see above rookie ball. He also seems to fall backwards onto his back foot far too often while following through with his swing. White played football as an amateur but how long are we supposed to use that as a reason for rawness? His profile frustrates me because there are some interesting tools here; in addition to plus speed, he is a very good athlete. The defense at short was O.K. Many view White as a future utility type who can play multiple IF/OF spots. The tools look good enough to play every day, but the rawness to his game lingers, and that may limit his ceiling.
20) Jayce Easley, SS
Age: 19.36 (8/2/1999)
.287/.389/.325, 0 HR, .038 ISO, 114 wRC+, 14.5% BB%, 22.0% K%, 22 SB
Highest Level: Rk - AZL
This is the part of the list where prospects still have a shot to play every day but need a decent amount to go their way. Easley falls into that bucket. The fifth round pick in last year’s draft went to Sandra Day O’connor in Arizona, the same school as Nolan Gorman. He played shortstop and hit leadoff. He was committed to Oregon state but instead signed with the Rangers for $500k. Some evaluators deemed him to be a prime candidate to go to school and improve his stock before entering the draft.
Easley is one of the thinnest guys you will see on a baseball diamond. The frame: 5’8” 145 lbs. He is a fairly twitchy athlete with plus speed and range at short. Based on my looks in NHSI the arm is above average and a projection to plus is reasonable as he adds strength. Offensively, Easley has a good eye for the zone and walked at a surprising clip for someone who has little power. The rangers appear to have shortened the big leg kick/hip twist in his swing, it also looked shorter and more linear compared to my look at the NHSI, which should lend itself to more contact and less power. I can understand the thought process given Easley’s speed and lack of power. His best case scenario is something like Nicky Lopez, which would be a really good outcome.
21) Pedro Gonzalez, OF
Age: 21.13 (10/27/1997)
.234/.296/.421, 12 HR, .187 ISO, 104 wRC+, 7.5% BB%, 29.6% K%, 9 SB
Highest Level: A
The body: strong, projectable with easy plus power. Gonzalez mashes fastball but has pitch-recognition issues with breaking balls. He is an excellent athlete, moving well in center field. His arm is in the 55-60 range and would play in right if a move down the defensive spectrum were necessary. The mechanics: wide base stance, strong hands with a bat path geared for power and damage. The leg kick is fairly large with an efficient lower half energy transfer. It is a pretty fluid, aesthetically pleasing swing. There is a good chance swing and miss will preclude his hit tool from reaching beyond 40 which will limit his power potential. BUT, he could still play every day if a 40 hit is achieved. The compilation of other tools and athleticism is that good.
22) Mason Englert, RHP
Age: 19.11 (11/1/1999)
Highest Level: Yet to play in official MiLB game.
What he has: fast arm, good athleticism. There is effort in the delivery and a pause that disrupts his momentum home, which is well below average. Englert employs cross body arm action and looks off balance after landing. His follow through and release can be inconsistent. There is some deception due to slight pause in delivery. Mechanics point to future pen role, but the stuff suggests he can remain a starter. The fastball sat 91-94. His body slows slightly for the CB 74-77. The was SL 81-83 good late break. He lost a tick or two from the stretch. I missed the velo on only change thrown, but liked its depth down and away from a lefty. We can dream on him as a possible back end starter, but he is more likely to be a pen arm.
23) Reid Anderson, RHP
Age: 23.31 (8/22/1995)
117.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 21.3% K%, 6.3% BB%, .229 BAA
Anderson is a personal cheeseball. He put up an impressive performance in Hickory at roughly league average age in 2018, leading SAL in GB% and finishing sixth in SwStr%. The mechanics are simple and efficient, with a short arm action that makes it difficult to see the ball out of hand. He works direct to home with little wasted effort. Anderson throws strikes and works with a quick tempo, attacking hitters. The fastball sat 90-94 and touched 96, with some run at lower end of that band. His high 70s CB flashed plus and mid 80s CHG looked playable. It is also worth noting, something clicked for him in late July. There was a dramatic uptick in his groundballs and swinging strikes toward the end of the season. A 17th round pick in 2016, Anderson has never received much fanfare, but I see a possible back end starter.
24) C.D. Pelham, LHP
Age: 23.81 (2/21/1995)
46.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 24.8% K%, 12.2% BB%, .235 BAA (MiLB Stats Only)
Highest Level: MLB
A relief-only lefty fireballer, Pelham was added to the Rangers 40 man roster prior to the rosters expanding last September. Listed at 6’6” 235, Pelham is a huge dude! What I see in the mechanics: simple delivery, direct to home. Good balance, little head movement. The fastball scorches, AVERAGING 97 mph in the majors according to Brooks Baseball. In a tiny 7.2 inning MLB sample it was used 77% of the time. This is obviously a massive percentage and also an unsustainable rate. The mid-80s slider seems to be a work in progress, and if it can play to league average, Pelham will carve out a lengthy career in the pen. A mid 80s change also exists but is more of an afterthought at this point.
25) Ronny Henriquez, RHP
Age: 18.48 (6/20/2000)
58 IP, 1.55 ERA, 1.64 FIP, 36.1% K%, 3.7% BB%, .175 BAA
Highest Level: Rk - AZL
Diminutive Dominican #RonnyHenriquezInTwoWords. He is tiny, and I scoff in the general direction of the 5’10” listing on his baseball reference page; he is closer to 5’8”, but he is also an elite athlete. His right arm is incredibly live with what I recon is 80 arm speed. The fastball was 93-97 in instructs and the ball explodes out of hand, lands in catcher’s mitt and lights it on fire. Henriquez also has a high 70s curve, a mid 80s slider and a high 80s change. The curve was the best among them, flashing plus with inconsistent shape. He repeated his arm speed well for all pitches, and the ball is difficult to pick up out of hand despite below average extension. Having only thrown in the DSL and instructs, Henriquez is light years away from the majors, but there are tools here that point to him having a big impact in some manner. He may be unfairly perceived as a relief-only guy due to his size, but his stuff stood out. Please allow me to wipe the drool from my keyboard before moving forward.
26) Kyle Cody, RHP
Age: 24.34 (8/9/1994)
2017: 126 IP, 2.64 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 26.1% K%, 8.2% BB%, .216 BAA
Highest Level: Hi-A
Interesting backstory here: the Twins drafted Cody in the 2015 second round but ultimately backed out due to elbow concerns on his medicals. He returned to school at Kentucky for his senior year. A year later he re-entered the draft and the Rangers took him in the 6th. Many analysts viewed this selection as a big value. The 6’7” righty split time between Hickory and Down East in 2017, putting up solid numbers in the process. During 2018 spring training he was shut down with elbow soreness. He came back in July making two AZL appearances. Then he went down with TJ shortly thereafter. When healthy Cody looks like a future starter with the fastball touching high 90s and a reportedly plus slider. The TJ surgery means he will likely miss the entire 2019 season. One might expect with 2020 being his fourth minor league season, the Rangers will have incentive to fast-track him in a pen role.
27) Jason Bahr, RHP
Age: 23.82 (2/15/1995)
120.1 IP, 3.52 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 27.1% K%, 7.0% BB%, .234 BAA
Highest Level: Hi-A
Last July the Rangers sent cash considerations to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Austin Jackson, Cory Gearrin, and Bahr. Rangers GM Jon Daniels later said “Our primary motivation in the deal was acquiring Bahr….He's a guy we look at as maybe a little bit of an undervalued prospect." He is a big, lanky dude listed at 6’5” 190 lbs. Almost 24, the body is what it is at this point. That is not to say bad, but I would not expect much additional weight.Large differences in FB velocity have been reported, ranging anywhere from low 90s up to 97 on a given outing. It is a three-pitch mix also featuring a CB and CHG. Bahr barely played his first couple of years in college, making him perhaps more raw than than the average college draftee. He is a bit behind the 8 ball in terms of his development for his age and that will probably push him in the direction of a pen role.
28) Brendon Davis, INF
Age: 21.37 (7/28/1997)
.254/.334/.365, 6 HR, .111 ISO, 101 wRC+, 9.9 BB%, 22.7 K%, 6 SB
Highest Level: Hi-A
Davis is an athletic infield prospect with a 6’4” 185 projectable frame. With a sub .700 OPS, the career numbers have not been super sexy, but scouts like his tools more than the numbers would indicate. At 20 in Hi-A for much of the season, he was young for the level. The Rangers appear to be grooming for Davis for a super utility role. His defensive starts were distributed between three positions: 60 games at third, 26 games at shortstop, and 17 games at second.
29) Yerry Rodriguez, RHP
Age: 21.16 (10/15/1997)
63 IP, 2.86 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 31.5% K5, 3.1% BB%, .241 BAA
Highest Level: SS-A
Rodriguez is a possible pen arm with three playable pitches in his FB/SL/CHG. He works for a low three quarters slot and a cross-body arm action. The delivery is fairly low effort. Rodriguez works both sides of the plate and sequences his pitches well, often starting inside then expanding the zone with his slider down and way from righties. He has decent feel for his arsenal. The fastball reportedly reached as high as 96 on occasion but normally sat in the low 90s.
30) Osleivis Basabe, SS
Age: 18.25 (9/13/2000)
.344/.414/.474, 1 HR, .130 ISO, 154 wRC+, 10.4% BB%, 11.3% K%, 12 SB
Highest Level: DSL
In December of 2017 the Rangers missed out on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and decided to use $550,000 of their remaining bonus pool allocation to sign Osleivis Basabe out of Venezuela. Prior to the signing Basabe ranked 49th on Ben Badler’s (@BenBadler) international prospect list and 24th on Jesse Sanchez’s (@JesseSanchezMLB) list. This is a good post on the signing by Adam J Morris (@lonestarball). Basabe was considered a defense-first prospect at the time of his signing and played SS/CF. His offensive numbers in 2018 should be considered very encouraging.
Jason Pennini (@jasonpennini)