Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Gerry Fraley
1. Carlos Pena, 1b
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Northeastern, 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Joel Grampietro.
Background: Pena is a classic American success story. In search of a better life for his children, Penas father brought his family to Boston from the Dominican Republic in 1992. Pena rocketed to prominence with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 1997, leading college baseballs top summer circuit in homers and RBIs while taking his team to the championship. He hasnt stopped hitting since. Pena batted .342-13-52 in 146 at-bats during his final season at Northeastern, after which the Rangers took him with the No. 10 overall pick in the 1998 draft. Pena has driven in 100 runs in each of his full seasons as a pro.
Strengths: The Ballpark in Arlington favors lefthanded power hitters who can pull the ball. Thats Penas main asset. He smacked a combined 46 homers in his two seasons at Class A Charlotte and Double-A Tulsa. By comparison, Juan Gonzalez had 29 homers in his two seasons with those clubs (though he was three years younger). Pena is more than an all-or-nothing power hitter. He reached base in 45 consecutive games last season. He also can run, legging out 36 doubles and stealing 12 bases without being caught. Defensively, Pena is excellent at first base. He brings the intangible of outstanding character as well. Hes smart and hard-working, and he has an advanced understanding of how to play the game. He can be a franchise centerpiece on and off the field.
Weaknesses: Pena sometimes gets too pull-happy and out of control with his swing. The elite power hitters can take the outside pitch to the opposite field with force, but he too often tries to yank it to right field. Pena came in with no concept of the two-strike approach to hitting the Rangers stress. He made great strides in that aspect of his game last season, cutting his strikeouts by 32 while increasing his walks by 27 over the previous season. He needs to continue that progress.
The Future: The Rangers resisted the urge to push Pena to Triple-A Oklahoma last year. Theyll continue to move him pragmatically after signing free agent Andres Galarraga to a one-year deal, which should give Pena a full year at Oklahoma. He could appear in Texas late in 2001 and should be the starting first baseman in 2002.
2. Jovanny Cedeno, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Danilo Troncoso.
Background: The Rangers once worked the Dominican Republic as well as any organization, but their efforts there dropped off. The organization made a renewed push in recent years. Fernando Tatis and Ruben Mateo are the best hitters signed, while Cedeno is the most promising pitcher.
Strengths: Cedeno often is compared to Pedro Martinez because hes a lithe Dominican righthander with large hands that give him remarkable control of his changeup. Though Cedenos plus fastball is his best pitch, his changeup makes him a strikeout pitcher. He finished 2000 with a seven-game winning streak during which he had 79 strikeouts in 56 innings.
Weaknesses: Cedeno needs to add strength. He had nagging injuries the last two seasons. He pitched a career-high 130 innings in 2000 but missed his final start with shoulder stiffness. Cedeno is also inconsistent with his breaking pitch.
The Future: The Rangers will be careful with Cedeno, giving his body time to mature before piling innings on him. Cedeno may need at least three more full minor league seasons, which could create an option problem. He went on the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason.
3. Jason Romano, 2b
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSTampa, 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Mike Cadahia.
Background: Romano developed in the baseball hotbed of Tampa, where he attended Hillsborough High, the alma mater of Carl Everett, Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield. Some clubs had Romano ranked among the top 20 prospects for the 1997 draft, but he lasted until the 39th pick overall. His brother Jimmie, a catcher, signed with Texas as a 26th-round pick in 1998.
Strengths: Romano is a ballplayer in the best sense of the word. Hes a dirt dog who loves to play and will do whatever it takes to win. Romano is a line-drive hitter with speed. He has shown pop in the past, though his slugging percentage dropped 127 points from 1999 to 2000. He can handle hitting at the top of the order, most often batting in the No. 2 spot last season.
Weaknesses: The Rangers switched Romano from third base to second after drafting him, and his defense needs work. His footwork can get tangled, and that contributed to his 24 errors in 125 games at second last season. The club has no doubt Romano will work to improve.
The Future: Romano has stayed on schedule, advancing one level each season. How quickly he improves on defense will determine when he reaches the majors. The Rangers hope its for the 2002 season.
4. Kevin Mench, of
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Delaware, 1999 (fourth round). Signed by: Doug Harris.
Background: As a sophomore at Delaware in 1998, Mench led NCAA Division I in homers (33) and ranked fourth in hitting (.455), but it didnt help his draft status. After a subpar junior season, he went in the fourth round. Mench hit .357 in his pro debut and was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the high Class A Florida State League in 2000.
Strengths: Mench has been described as a Pete Incaviglia who can play the outfield. Mench has Incaviglias power and is a more refined hitter. He ranked among the FSL leaders in average and on-base percentage (.427) last season. Mench is muscular but runs well. He does everything with enthusiasm.
Weaknesses: Somewhat older than the competition in his first two professional seasons, Mench has been able to get away with being a pure pull hitter. Hell need to expand his swing as the level of competition increases. Because he lacks arm strength, Mench probably is limited to left field.
The Future: Mench batted .354 in the Arizona Fall League, leading Grand Canyon to the league title. Hell move up to Double-A in 2001 and could push for a spot in Texas sometime during the following year.
5. Joaquin Benoit, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Omar Minaya/Cornelio Pena.
Background: Former international scouting director Omar Minaya left the Rangers to become Mets assistant GM in September 1997, but his legacy endures. Minaya, who also signed Sammy Sosa, found Benoit, then a skinny righthander, in the Dominican Republic in 1996.
Strengths: Now 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Benoit looks like a pitcher. When he gets to the mound, he operates like a pitcher. He has a plus fastball and a sharp slider. He held opponents to a .237 batting average in the offense-mad Texas League last season.
Weaknesses: Getting Benoit to the mound has been the problem because hes protective of his body and worries about every twinge. His most serious injury was a strained elbow that didnt require surgery in 1998. Benoit has pitched more than 100 innings only once, and his command suffers from the erratic work. He also needs to work on his changeup to be more effective against lefthanders, who hit .308 off him in 2000.
The Future: Benoit pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. He needs to put together a full and healthy season to move away from the tease category.
6. Colby Lewis, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Draft1ed: Bakersfield (Calif.) JC, 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Kip Fagg/Mike Paustian.
Background: The Rangers re-emphasized power pitchers by taking Lewis with their first pick (38th overall) in 1999. Lewis had Tommy John surgery coming out of high school, but won over the Rangers with 108 strikeouts in 88 innings in his final season at Bakersfield (Calif.) Junior College. He was the top pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in his pro debut in 1999.
Strengths: Lewis throws hard. His four-seam fastball is a plus pitch and at times overpowering, reaching the mid-90s and featuring late life. He has 277 strikeouts in 228 pro innings. Lewis throws strikes more consistently than most young power pitchers. Both his curveball and slider are hard pitches, and his changeup shows promise. His elbow hasnt bothered him since his surgery.
Weaknesses: Lewis needs experience and refinement. He probably needs to settle on one breaking pitch and his changeup could use more polish.
The Future: The Rangers drafted Lewis knowing he would need plenty of minor league innings. Their expectation is that hell be ready to make a push to join the big league rotation at some point in 2003.
7. Mike Young, ss/2b
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Drafted: UC Santa Barbara, 1997 (5th round). Signed by: Bill Moore (Blue Jays).
Background: Will Young be better than Pirates second baseman Warren Morris? The Rangers essentially traded Morris for Young. Morris was the key player given up in 1998 for righthander Esteban Loiaza, who was dumped on Toronto last summer for Young and righthander Darwin Cubillan.
Strengths: The Rangers wanted Young for his athleticism. He runs well and has an excellent arm, good enough to play the outfield if necessary. The Blue Jays had Young batting cleanup at times, but the Rangers turned him into a leadoff hitter because of his quick swing. He responded, though he still needs to draw more walks.
Weaknesses: Young is still learning how to use his speed on the bases. He tends to be tentative. Young also can be too deliberate on defense. The Blue Jays had moved him to second base, but he returned to shortstop after the trade.
The Future: Settling on a position for Young was an issueuntil the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez. Young clearly wont be playing shortstop in Texas, and hes probably better suited for second base anyway. Unfortunately for him, hell have to contend with Romano.
8. Aaron Myette, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Central Arizona JC, 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Ed Pebley/Gary Pellant (White Sox).
Background: Always considered something of a loose cannon, Myette solidified his reputation by breaking his right hand against a clubhouse wall last spring. After rising quickly through the White Sox system, Myette hit the wall in an organization loaded with pitching talent. As a result, Chicago traded him and righthander Brian Schmack for shortstop Royce Clayton after the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez.
Strengths: Myette has a low-90s fastball with natural sink and isn't afraid to pitch inside. Both of his breaking pitches are considered average. He also has a nice feel for pitching.
Weaknesses: The key will be whether Myette has the confidence to get ahead against big league hitters. He hurt himself with walks when he pitched for the White Sox. His changeup is nothing special, one of the reasons lefthanders teed off on him in Triple-A and the majors.
The Future: If Myette had remained with the White Sox, he faced another year in Triple-A. With the Rangers, who need starters, hell get the chance to make the rotation in spring training.
9. Andy Pratt, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Drafted: HSChino Valley, Ariz., 1998 (9th round). Signed by: Dave Birecki.
Background: Pratt was leading the Class A South Atlantic League in strikeouts in June 1999 when he was shut down with elbow problems that required surgery. He bounced back strong in 2000. His father Tom pitched in the Royals organization, has been a college coach and big league scout and currently is a pitching coach in the Cubs system.
Strengths: Like many young lefthanders, Pratt relies on a changeup. Unlike many young lefthanders, hes willing to come inside with his fastball to keep hitters from sitting on it. Pratts fastball isnt overpowering, but its effective when he throws it in. He has good control. Hes competitive and has a mound presence that reflects being around the game most of his life.
Weaknesses: Pratts fastball and curveball are average at best. When hitters dont chase his changeup off the plate, he gets into trouble. Thats what happened to him after he was promoted to Double-A. He needs to add strength to his slight body.
The Future: If intelligence and guts count for anything, Pratt will do better in his return to Tulsa. Hell have to prove himself at every level.
10. Hank Blalock, 3b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 192. Drafted: HSSan Diego, 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Jim Lentine.
Background: Blalock is a product of national power Rancho Bernardo High. He broke into pro ball in 1999 by leading the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in several categories, including batting average (.361), doubles (17) and RBI (38). He easily held his own at Class A Savannah at age 19 last season.
Strengths: Blalock is already advanced at the plate. He has excellent bat control and good knowledge of the strike zone. In both of his pro seasons, he has walked more than he has struck out. He has power, though its more to the gaps than over the fence. Blalock also runs well and was caught in just eight of 39 basestealing attempts last year.
Weaknesses: At times, Blalock can become too pull-conscious and lengthen his swing too much. Hes OK defensively, though hes sometimes inconsistent when he lets bad at-bats affect him.
The Future: Blalock will make a big jump into the pitching-oriented Florida State League this season. Another strong offensive performance would dramatically elevate his standing. The Rangers signing of Ken Caminiti indicated dissatisfaction with Mike Lamb, so Blalock may be the organizations third baseman of the future.
Rest of the Best:
11. David Mead, rhp
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