2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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Top Ten Prospects: Texas Rangers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By John Manuel
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
Background: Diamond entered 2004 with the goal of being drafted in the first 10 picks. He just squeezed his way in, completing his rise from a little-known 38th-round pick out of high school whose only significant scholarship offer came from New Orleans. With the Privateers, Diamond developed first into a dominant reliever and then into one of college baseball’s top starters. Diamond honed his stuff in two summers in the Northwoods League, surpassing Jeff Weaver as the highest-drafted alumnus of that summer league. Diamond was the Northwoods League’s No. 1 prospect in 2003, striking out 103 in 72 innings while hitting 97 mph and throwing a no-hitter. He exhibited similar dominance in 2004 for New Orleans and then after signing with the Rangers. Going into the draft, the Rangers’ top scouts, Grady Fuson and Ron Hopkins, considered Diamond on the same level as the more-heralded Rice trio of Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, all taken in the first eight picks. And while Diamond got his pro career off to a fine start after agreeing to a $2.025 million bonus, the Rice pitchers hadn’t signed by mid-December.
Strengths: Diamond can command a fastball with above-average velocity and also shows feel for a changeup, a rare combination for a young pitcher. His fastball sat at 90-94 mph after he signed, and the Rangers like the ease with which he throws and his aggressive use of the pitch. Diamond has smoothed out his mechanics since high school, when he topped out at 92, and now has good deception on both his fastball and changeup. He readily repeats his delivery and has a smooth arm action. His changeup is an above-average pitch, with occasional plus life down in the zone. His strong, physical frame should enable him to be an innings-eating workhorse in the rotation. His ceiling is as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Weaknesses: Diamond’s breaking ball is clearly his third pitch. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to spin the ball, but he hasn’t thrown his curveball or slider consistently enough to trust either one. The Rangers are split on which breaking pitch he should use. Some like his curveball better and want him to focus on throwing it harder. He usually throws it out of the zone, hoping hitters will chase. His arm slot has other scouts preferring his slider, which at times has good bite. He threw more curves after signing and apparently prefers that pitch.
The Future: He needs experience, but Diamond has the stuff to move quickly. He ate up lower levels because of his fastball command and changeup, and the Rangers are eager to see how that combination plays at higher levels. His mission in spring training will be to pick a breaking ball and stick with it for a year. How well that pitch works will determine whether he spends all year at Texas’ new high Class A Bakersfield affiliate or moves up to Double-A Frisco.
Background: Danks wasn’t good enough to make the roster for scout Randy Taylor’s Area Code Games team as a high school junior in 2002. A year later, Taylor and the Rangers drafted him with the ninth overall pick. His younger brother Jordan, an outfielder, is a top prospect for the 2005 draft.
Strengths: Danks has excellent athletic ability and has grown much stronger since Taylor cut him. He throws his fastball at 87-92 mph and projects to throw as hard as 90-95 in the future. His hammer curveball has excellent bite and is the best in the system. He competes well.
Weaknesses: The Rangers took away Danks’ curveball in spring training to make him work on his changeup, and while it made significant progress, it’s still his third pitch. He showed good stuff after a promotion to high Class A Stockton, but he left too many pitches over the plate. He needs to handle in-game adversity better.
The Future: Danks and Thomas Diamond should give the Rangers a pair of frontline future starters. His spring will determine whether he’s pushed to Double-A or returns to the California League.
Background: Arias will forever be known as part of the Alex Rodriguez trade in February 2004. He reluctantly left the Yankees organization but settled in after a modest April to bat .300 or better in every month the rest of the way.
Strengths: Arias has superior athletic ability and premium tools in his long, wiry frame. He grades out as average or better across the board, with well-above-average speed and arm strength. While he made 40 errors in high Class A, the Rangers consider him a premium defender with good hands who can make the play in the hole.
Weaknesses: Arias won’t be a weak hitter, but he also won’t be an animal. While he has some raw power, he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter. His game needs plenty of refinement, from making routine plays consistently to having more quality at-bats and fewer giveaways at the plate due to poor discipline.
The Future: The Rangers liked Stephen Drew, the top-rated position player in the 2004 draft, but say Arias has better tools, is two years younger and has a better chance to play shortstop in the majors. In other words, they love him. He’s start 2005 in Double-A.
Background: Kinsler played at three colleges in three years, losing playing time at Arizona State to Dustin Pedroia (Boston’s top draft pick in 2004) before moving on to Missouri, where in 2003 he helped the Tigers to their first NCAA playoff berth in seven years.
Strengths: An offseason strength program coupled with his already short swing and instruction from Rangers coaches allowed Kinsler’s bat to blossom in 2004. He tied for the minor league lead with 51 doubles and has average major league power for a middle infielder. He swings with gusto but still makes consistent contact and gets his share of walks and hit by pitches (18).
Weaknesses: Kinsler’s hands, arm, speed and instincts are all average. That may not be enough for him to stay at shortstop, and second base is his likely future destination. He lost 15 pounds during the season, and he’ll have to work to keep his strength up over a full year.
The Future: No one predicted Kinsler’s outburst, but no scout who saw him in 2004 used the word “fluke” either. Doing it again is the challenge, one he likely will face as Triple-A Oklahoma’s shortstop.
Background: An all-Ivy League center, Young’s basketball potential has paid off for him in baseball. He signed with the Pirates for $1.65 million in 2000, then got a three-year, $1.5 million contract extension this fall after the NBA’s Sacramento Kings approached him. Acquired in April for Einar Diaz, the Dallas native beat the Red Sox for his first big league victory.
Strengths: An athletic giant, Young always has had good command and the ability to repeat his delivery. Minor league pitching coaches Steve Luebber and Glenn Abbott tweaked his mechanics, changing his arm angle so Young could throw on a better downhill plane. The more he worked off his fastball, the harder he threw it, and he regularly hit 95 mph in the majors.
Weaknesses: Young used to rely more on a solid average curveball and developing changeup. With his new delivery and fastball-oriented approach, his feel for his secondary stuff slipped a bit.
The Future: As long as Young is healthy and throwing like he did in the second half in 2004, he should earn a spot in Texas’ 2005 rotation.
Background: Hudgins earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the 2003 College World Series with three victories in 10 days. He pitched just three innings in his first pro summer because of thoracic outlet syndrome, a circulatory condition he overcame without surgery.
Strengths: Cerebral and competitive, Hudgins knows how to use and command his average stuff. His best pitch is his changeup, which should develop into an above-average pitch due to its movement and deception. He has the confidence to throw it in any count. His solid-average curve also could become a plus pitch. He pounds the strike zone with an 87-91 mph fastball and average slider.
Weaknesses: Hudgins’ fastball can reach 93 mph, but it also can be very ordinary. He’s going to have to be fine and keep the ball down against big league hitters to be successful.
The Future: Always searching for an edge, Hudgins toyed with both a cutter and a split-finger fastball in the Arizona Fall League. He could arrive in Arlington in the second half of 2005.
Background: Dominguez had a roller-coaster season. He earned his first big league victory in late May at Yankee Stadium. After missing almost two months with a strained back, he finished the season on the disabled list with a right knee injury, a stint the Rangers extended as Dominguez struggled to deal with the death of his mother.
Strengths: Dominguez has two above-average big league pitches with a 91-96 mph fastball and a plus-plus changeup with good tumble. Both pitches look the same leaving his hand, and he’s tougher on lefthanders than righthanders.
Weaknesses: Dominguez’ lack of maturity chafed the big league staff. That’s a bigger problem than his fringy slider, which made progress and at times was an average pitch in 2004. He tends to sling the ball, which has made it hard for him to refine his slider.
The Future: It’s fair to say Dominguez has nothing left to prove in the minors. The Rangers are counting on him to seize the opportunity and earn a spot in the big league rotation out of spring training.
Background: Gonzalez was the No. 1 overall pick in 2000, a signability choice that looks better in retrospect as that draft’s first round appears to be the worst since 1975’s historically poor crop. Texas acquired Gonzalez from the Marlins for Ugueth Urbina in a July 2003 trade.
Strengths: Gonzalez is a natural with the bat. He has a smooth, sweet lefthanded swing that gives him the ability to hit line drives from foul pole to foul pole. He’s outstanding defensively at first with soft hands, an accurate arm and good footwork. His total package resembles that of Doug Mientkiewicz.
Weaknesses: Some scouts have never believed in Gonzalez’ power, and his modest slugging numbers against Triple-A and major league pitching didn’t allay those fears. Never blessed with a great body, he’s a poor runner who remains soft and needs to hit the weight room.
The Future: With Mark Teixeira ahead of him and powerful Jason Botts behind him, Gonzalez needs to make a move in 2005. The Rangers hope his poor big league debute helped him understand the work he needs to do. He’ll probably start the year back in Triple-A.
Background: Rupe grew up playing with and against some of the game’s top young talent, such as B.J. Upton, in Virginia’s Tidewater region. He joined the Rangers in the fruitful Carl Everett trade in 2003 that also netted Franklin Francisco and Anthony Webster. Rupe missed two months with a forearm strain in 2004, but had a healthy, productive second half.
Strengths: Rupe has shown four quality pitches. The best is his cut fastball, which he throws at 87-88 mph when it’s at its best. His low-90s fastball works well when he keeps it down in the zone. He throws his solid curveball and changeup for strikes.
Weaknesses: Rupe needs to work off his fastball more and harness his command of the pitch. At times, he flies open with his front shoulder and drags his arm. He tends to overthrow in an effort to throw harder.
The Future: When Rupe realizes that he can succeed without throwing 95 mph, staying healthy will be his biggest obstacle. Ticketed for Double-A to start 2005, he can become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Background: Though he performed poorly at the 2003 College World Series, Sinisi was Rice’s best hitter for two seasons and helped the Owls win the national championship. He dropped to the second round that June because of signability concerns but agreed to a $2.07 million bonus. Sinisi’s first full season ended in mid-June when he broke his left forearm in a collision with Joaquin Arias.
Strengths: Before he got hurt, Sinisi showed the hitting ability the Rangers coveted. He has a pure lefthanded swing, a smooth stroke that leaves the bat head in the strike zone for a long time. He’s short to the ball, hits the ball on the screws consistently and isn’t afraid to take a walk or go the other way.
Weaknesses: His power doesn’t wow anyone yet. While it’s often the last tool to come, scouts aren’t unanimous in believing Sinisi’s will develop. His below-average speed limits him to left field or first base.
The Future: Sinisi wasn’t healthy enough to swing the bat in instructional league, so he may start slowly in spring training while shaking off some rust. HIs spring performance will determine when the Rangers give him his first taste of Double-A.