League Top 20 Prospects

Texas League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Scouting reports on the best in the Texas League




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Chin-Hui Tsao, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
2. *Zack Greinke, rhp, Wichita (Royals)
3. *Laynce Nix, of, Frisco (Rangers)
4. *Ramon Nivar, of/2b, Frisco (Rangers)
5. *Jose Lopez, ss, San Antonio (Mariners)
6. *Travis Blackley, lhp, San Antonio (Mariners)
7. *Bobby Jenks, rhp, Arkansas (Angels)
8. *Clint Nageotte, rhp, San Antonio (Mariners)
9. *Jimmy Gobble, lhp, Wichita (Royals)
10. *Chris Snelling, of, San Antonio (Mariners)
*Has played in major leagues.
The Double-A Texas League featured one pleasant storyline after another this season. A handful of prospects made the circuit a nice whistle stop, while others learned to blend their tools to become intriguing prospects.

There wasn't a true can't-miss prospect along the lines of a recent standout such as Troy Tulowitzki when the season began, yet excitement built around a handful of other players. Frisco sent six core players on to the majors, led by slugging first baseman Chris Davis, and had four of the league's top six position prospects.

Several notable pitchers appeared in the TL but didn't qualify for this list, including lefties Brett Anderson (Midland), Derek Holland (Frisco) and Jaime Garcia (Springfield) and righties Trevor Cahill (Midland), Neftali Feliz (Frisco) and Carlos Rosa (Northwest Arkansas).


1. Dexter Fowler, of, Tulsa (Rockies)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 175 Age: 22 Drafted: Rockies '04 (14)
Dexter Fowler
Fowler came into the season eager to display his talents after an ankle sprain in 2006 and broken hand in 2007 cost him valuable development time. Managers praised him as the TL's most electrifying player, and he won a bronze medal with the U.S. Olympic team and received a September callup to the majors.

A cerebral switch-hitter, Fowler had his best offensive season and did a much better job of controlling the strike zone, translating his power potential into doubles and homers. His speed and center-field defense are both well-above average, and he has solid arm strength.

"He's a guy that kind of compares to guys like Colby Rasmus and Mitch Maier, guys that can hit, run and definitely play the outfield," Tulsa manager Stu Cole said. "He definitely was one of the most exciting players I've seen come through this league."

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
421
92
141
31
9
9
64
65
89
20
8
.335
.431
.515
 
2. Chris Davis, 1b, Frisco (Rangers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 235 Age: 22 Drafted: Rangers '06 (5)
Davis terrorized the TL for 30 games at the end of 2007 and 46 at the start of this season, slugging 25 homers. He earned a promotion to Triple-A in late May and to Texas a month later, homering in his first two big league starts and never looking back. He has huge power to all fields and has shown the ability to hit for average despite a propensity for striking out.

A third baseman in his first stint with Frisco, Davis moved to first base this year after his footwork and actions were found lacking at the hot corner. He looked much better at his new position, and he fits the offensive profile there as well. He has plus arm strength and below-averge speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
186
43
62
14
0
13
42
13
44
5
1
.333 .376 .618
 
3. Kyle Blanks, 1b, San Antonio (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 270 Age: 22 Drafted: Padres '04 D/F (42)
Blanks' prospect status has steadily risen since the Padres drafted him in the 42nd round in 2004. His massive 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame gives him plenty of power, and he turned in his second straight 20-homer/100-RBI season. He continues to improve his plate discipline, allowing him to get into counts where he can look for pitches to drive.

Blanks is an exceptional athlete for his size. He's a below-average runner but is agile at first base. He's blocked in San Diego by Adrian Gonzalez, however, and it's not certain that Blanks could handle a move to left field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
492
75
160
23
5
20
107
51
90
5
4
.325 .404 .514
 
4. Vin Mazzaro, rhp, Midland (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Athletics '05 (3)
Mazzaro set the tone for a prospect-laden Midland staff that also included Simmons and got cameos from Anderson, Cahill and Henry Rodriguez. The TL pitcher of the year, Mazzaro led the league in wins (12) and ERA (1.90) and earned a promotion to Triple-A in August.

He dominated with a power sinker that sat around 92-93 mph and touched 95. He also incorporated a four-seam fastball and a slider, but he mostly thrived with the sinker and commanded it well. He also did a better job of challenging hitters than he had in the past and was stubborn with runners on base.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
22
22
12
3
0
1.90
137.1
115
40
29
3
36
104
.229
 
5. Elvis Andrus, ss, Frisco (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Signed: Venezuela '05
The TL perks up whenever a teenager comes strolling through, and managers often did a double-take this season as the 19-year-old Andrus showed his talent throughout the summer. He was one of four Frisco players who joined the Rangers in the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007, along with Feliz and lefthanders Matt Harrison and Beau Jones.

Briefly slowed by a finger injury in May, Andrus hit .311 with 36 RBIs from June 1 to the end of the regular season. Texas would like to see him improve his two-strike approach, but he's a leadoff hitter in the making. He has plus speed and ranked second in the league with 53 steals (in 70 attempts). He also has solid gap power for a middle infielder.

Andrus has all the tools to excel defensively, with plus range and arm strength, soft hands and fine instincts. Like most young shortstops, he needs to get more consistent. He made 32 errors in 109 games, many on hurried throws.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
482
82
142
19
2
4
65
38
91
54
16
.295 .350 .367
 
6. Daniel Cortes, rhp, Northwest Arkansas (Royals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 225 Age: 21 Signed: White Sox '05 (7)
The Royals dispatched Cortes and several of its other best pitching prospects, including Blake Wood and Julio Pimentel, to their new TL affiliate eager to see how they might challenge each other. Cortes strained his left quad in mid-April and struggled for much of June and July, but he finished with a 4-0, 2.18 flourish in August.

Cortes put away more experienced hitters with his fastball and curve. His lively heater sat at 91-93 mph and touched 96 mph, though he needs to command it better. His 12-to-6 curveball is a legitimate strikeout pitch. He's still working to trust his changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
23
23
10
4
0 3.78
116.2
103
51
49
13
55
109
.241
 
7. Jess Todd, rhp, Springfield (Cardinals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 210 Age: 22 Signed: Cardinals '07 (2)
Because he's just 5-foot-11, scouts projected Todd as a likely bullpen guy when the Cardinals drafted him in the second round last year. But he enhanced his stock in 2008 while scaling three levels, and his stint in Springfield showed that he may be able to remain a starter. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in May, outdueled Mazzaro twice in a week and pitched in the Futures Game.

Todd picked up a two-seam fastball that sat at 89 mph and generated a lot of groundouts. He has some power to his four-seamer (it reaches 94 mph) and his slider, though his circle changeup remains squirrelly. He does a good job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
16
4
5
0
2.97
103
79
37
34
12
24
81
.216
 
8. Julio Borbon, of, Frisco (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 22 Drafted: Rangers '07 (1s)
Just as he had been for high Class A Bakersfield, Borbon became a catalyst for Frisco after joining the club in late June. He hit .337/.380/.459 while demonstrating most of the skills a team wants in a leadoff hitter. He showed the ability to drive the ball for occasional gap power, slap groundballs to take advantage of his plus-plus speed and bunt.

Borbon still can tighten his strike zone, and he needs to improve his basestealing ability. He did swipe 17 bases in 60 games but he also got caught 11 times. He uses his speed to intercept hits in the gaps or flyballs in the alleys, and while his arm is nothing special, it's playable in center field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
255
40
86
12
2
5
22
14
32
17
11
.337 .380 .459
 
9. Max Ramirez, c, Frisco (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175 Age: 23 Signed: Venezuela '02
For the first time in three years, Ramirez didn't change organizations at the trade deadline. His hitting remained a constant, however, as he led the TL in on-base percentage (.450) and slugging (.646) before a promotion to the major leagues. He returned to the minors a month later, but his time with Frisco opened eyes.

Ramirez works counts and drives the ball to all fields. He should produce for average and power, and his bat could carry him at a less challenging defensive position. It may have to, because questions linger about whether Ramirez can stick at catcher. A former third baseman, he has arm strength but hasn't had much success throwing out basestealers, erasing just 24 percent while giving up 52 swipes in 44 TL games. He's still learning the nuances of receiving and calling games.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
243
49
86
16
2
17
50
37
56
2
2
.354 .450 .646
 
10. James Simmons, rhp, Midland (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220 Age: 22 Drafted: Athletics '07 (1)
If the TL had an award for the best second-half performance, Simmons would have challenged Cortes for it. After going winless in May and June—he was shut down for three weeks with a tired arm—Simmons went 7-2, 3.00 over the final two months to finish second in the league in strikeouts (120 in 136 innings) and third in ERA (3.51).

Simmons began his pro career in Double-A last summer because he's exceptionally polished. He has plus-plus command of his 88-89 mph fastball, and his changeup grades as his best pitch. He throws two breaking balls, spotting a slider and using a big loopy curveball to throw off hitters' timing.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
25
9
6
0
3.51
136
150
58 53
11
32
120
.282
 
11. Aaron Cunningham, of, Midland (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: White Sox '05 (6)
It would have been understandable had Cunningham gotten lost this season following a whirlwind 2007, when the twice-traded outfielder was dealt to the Diamondbacks for Danny Richar in June and then was part of the prospect haul when the Diamondbacks acquired Danny Haren from Oakland in December. Instead, Cunningham enjoyed a fine Double-A debut, tore up Triple-A and reached the majors in August.

Cunningham is a natural hitter who makes consistent hard contact and has solid-average power. He's also a good athlete with solid speed. He's still a work in progress defensively, but he did see time at all three outfield positions and showed a strong arm.

"He's a tools guy," Midland manager Webster Garrison said. "Definitely a good hitter and he uses the whole field."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
347
65
110
18
6
12
52
38
92
12
4
.317 .386 .507
 
12. Kila Ka'aihue, 1b, Northwest Arkansas (Royals)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 230 Age: 24 Signed: Royals '02 (15)
Ka'aihue didn't fare well in his two previous stints in the league, batting .218/.326/.363 in 173 games at Wichita in 2006-07. He re-emerged as a power-hitting prospect this year, leading the TL in homers (26), on-base percentage (.463) and slugging (.624) and edging Fowler for the league MVP award. He hit 11 more homers in Triple-A and went deep off Gavin Floyd after a big league callup.

Ka'aihue showed great patience at the plate (his 104 walks overall led the minors) and the ability to turn on inside fastballs. His bat will have to carry him, because he's limited defensively at first base and on the basepaths.

"He got off to a good start and he just maintained it," Northwest Arkansas manager Brian Poldberg said. "He knew the strike zone well. And to his benefit, in an RBI situation in the past where he would take a walk, he would be more aggressive this year."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
282
62
88
10
0
26
78
80
40
3
2
.312 .464 .624
 
13. Daryl Jones, of, Springfield (Cardinals)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Cardinals '05 (3)
After three mostly frustrating years in the minors, Jones finally started to show why the Cardinals were elated to lure him away from Rice with a $450,000 bonus in the third round of the 2005 draft. A raw athlete who hit just .217/.306/.294 in low Class A last year, he springboarded from high Class A to the TL in 2008 and produced at both stops.

Jones made strides with his patience and power at the plate. He also improved as a basestealer, using his easy plus speed to swipe a combined 24 bases at a career-high 80 percent success rate. Though he's faster than fellow Cardinals farmhand Jon Jay, Jones isn't as instinctive in center field, so he played in left field. His arm is fringy at best.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
124
19
36
6
1
6
14
22
30
6
1
.290 .409 .500
 
14. Steve Garrison, lhp, San Antonio (Padres)
B-T: B-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 22 Drafted: Brewers '05 (10)
San Antonio manager Bill Masse described Garrison as someone who will throw 40 pitches in the bullpen and command each one so well that the catcher doesn't have to move. Though he tired down the stretch, he continued to show that he could be the steal of the trade that sent Scott Linebrink from the Padres to the Brewers in mid 2007.

Garrison challenges hitters with average stuff, running his 88 mph two-seam fastball in on righthanders. His hard slider is his strikeout pitch, and he also uses a 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup. He does fight his mechanics at times, however, and he needs to get stronger after getting shut down in mid-August with a sore shoulder.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24 7
7
0
3.82
129.2
123
59
55
13
37
108
.249
 
15. Will Inman, rhp, San Antonio (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Signed: Brewers '05 (3)
Another piece of the Linebrink trade, Inman has battled his control since changing organizations. While he led the TL with 140 strikeouts in 135 innings and ranked fourth with a 3.52 ERA, he also topped the TL with 71 walks. The key to his repertoire is a plus curveball with good depth. It sets up his 88-92 mph fastball, which gets on hitters in a hurry. He also uses his changeup well, enabling him to keep hitters off balance.

Commanding his fastball will be essential as Inman moves up the ladder. His unorthodox delivery offers deception with an exaggerated sweep of his lead arm, but isn't easily repeated. The Missions often had to pull him after five innings because of pitch-count issues.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
28
28
9
8
0
3.52
135.1
119
67
53
10
71
140
.234
 
16. Jon Jay, of, Springfield (Cardinals)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Cardinals '06 (2)
The 2008 season marked a second chance at the Texas League for Jay, who injured his shoulder sliding into third base in May 2007 and never returned to the Springfield lineup. He took over from Colby Rasmus in center field for Springfield this year and while he didn't show Rasmus' power, he offered a blend of several tools.

Though Jay has an odd approach, wobbling his bat over his left shoulder and taking a while to get his swing started, it works for him. He has fast hands that get the bat through the zone quickly, and he began turning on inside fastballs before he was promoted to Triple-A in late July.

His speed, center-field defense and arm are all decent to average. With Rick Ankiel and Rasmus ahead of him, Jay probably will have to play on an outfield corner for St. Louis, and his power doesn't profile well there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
372
57
114
17
3
11
47
39
46
10
7
.306 .379 .457
 
17. Kevin Jepsen, rhp, Arkansas (Angels)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215 Age: 24 Drafted: Angels '02 (2)
After repeating high Class A in 2007, Jepsen took off this year. He carved up TL hitters for two months, then did the same in Triple-A before moving on to the Olympics and the major leagues. He showed enough in nine September appearances with the Angels that they added him to their postseason roster.

Jepsen has a power fastball that ranges from 93-98 mph, and his curveball, a true 12-to-6 bender, is just as difficult to hit. The biggest knock on him is his lack of control, which can get him into jams. When he harnesses his stuff and throws strikes, hitters have little chance.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
0
2
1
11
1.42
31.2
22
5
5
0
18
35
.198
 
18. Fernando Salas, rhp, Springfield (Cardinals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Signed: Mexico '05
Salas pitched two seasons with Saltillo in the Mexican League before the Cardinals purchased his contract in February 2007. When he scuffled in high Class A in his U.S. debut, St. Louis loaned him back to Saltillo to finish last season. He had no difficulties in 2008, however, grabbing Springfield's closer role by late May and leading the TL with 25 saves.

Salas operates out of a deceiving short-arm delivery, so his 91-92 mph fastball jumps on hitters quickly. His curveball is serviceable, but he mostly gets outs by throwing strikes and locating his fastball to both sides of the plate.

He sometimes falls into a habit of pitching away from hitters, falling behind in the count and enabling hitters to sit on his fastball. Salas surrendered 12 homers, the most among the league's relievers.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
60
0
7
3
25
3.65
74
65
31
30
12
16
100
.236
 
19. Casey Weathers, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Rockies '07 (1)
The eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft, Weathers spent his first full pro season in Double-A. Projected a future closer, he served as a setup man for the Drillers before spending August with the U.S. Olympic team.

Weathers' fastball was as good as advertised, sitting in the mid-90s and topping out at 98 mph on scouts' radar guns. (It registered as 100 on a few scoreboards at opposing ballparks). The Rockies also emphasized that he needed to use his power slider and his changeup more often than he had in the past, and at times he battled the command of his secondary offerings. He'll especially need to come up with an improved change or better spot his fastball against lefthanded hitters, who batted .319/.458/.404 against him.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
44
0
2
1
2
3.05
44.1
34
18
15
1
28
54
.210
 
20. Chris Johnson, 3b, Corpus Christi (Astros)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220 Age: 24 Drafted: Astros '06 (4)
The Astros suspected that Johnson was ready for a breakout this season, and he didn't disappoint. Despite a lack of production in the Corpus Christi lineup, he made nice adjustments following a 9-for-44 start and earned a promotion to Triple-A in late July.

Recovered from a wrist injury that sapped his strength in 2007, Johnson showed signs of developing above-average power. He could use more patience at the plate, but he did make consistently hard contact. Though he has a thick lower half, Johnson runs OK and plays a solid third base. He sometimes rushes his throws, which led to 18 errors in the first two months, but he settled down and committed just five miscues in June and July.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
330
43
107
24
0
12
58
20
61
5
0
.324 .364 .506