|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
Aaron Fitt at 2 p.m. ET
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||John Danks, lhp Born: April 15, 1985 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: HS--Round Rock, Texas, 2003 (1st round) • Signed by: Randy Taylor|
|Background: Throughout his career, Danks has been one of the youngest pitchers in his league and has started off each new stop by struggling against older competition. But every year, he makes adjustments, masters the level and advances to the next challenge. After he stumbled to a 7.15 ERA in April at Double-A Frisco, he went 4-0, 2.70 in his next eight starts to earn a promotion. He posted a 5.90 ERA in his first eight starts at Triple-A Oklahoma, then rallied to turn in a 2.32 ERA in his final six. Because he's lefthanded and has a deeper and more consistent repertoire, he has passed the other members of the DVD trio (Edinson Volquez, Thomas Diamond) to become the top pitching prospect in the system. The ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Danks comes from an athletic family. His father John played basketball at Texas, younger brother Jordan is a sophomore outfielder for the Longhorns and a possible first-rounder in the 2008 draft, and younger sister Emily is a standout high school volleyball player.|
Strengths: Danks offers a rare package for a 21-year-old lefthander, with a polished three-pitch mix and a track record of success up through Triple-A. His tight 1-to-7 curveball rated as his best pitch coming out of high school, but since then his tumbling changeup has also become a plus offering. His changeup is now more reliable than his curveball. He also has a four-seam fastball that sits at 90-92 mph and tops out at 94. Danks added a two-seam version in 2006 to help him widen the strike zone. He has a clean arm action from a high-three-quarters slot and does a good job repeating his easy delivery. Danks has started to fill out his durable, athletic frame, and he could add a little more velocity. His baseball IQ is outstanding, and he has a better feel for pitching than most hurlers his age. He does a good job of holding runners, as nine of 21 basestealers (43 percent) were caught on his watch in 2006.
Weaknesses: At this point, it's just a matter of fine-tuning for Danks. He still needs to command his fastball better, because while he can throw it for strikes at any time, he gets punished sometimes when he leaves it up in the zone. His fastball is firm but not overpowering, so he needs to get ahead with it early in the count. Danks' command of his curveball comes and goes, though his changeup often bails him out. He'll need a more consistent curve in order to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
The Future: There was some sentiment that Danks could have started 2006 in the big leagues, but the Rangers were determined not to rush him and will continue to be patient. He'll have a chance to force his way into the big league rotation during spring training, but the more likely scenario is a return to Triple-A and a midseason debut in the majors. Once he settles in, Danks should pitch at or near the front of the Texas rotation for years to come.
|2.||Eric Hurley, rhp Born: Sept. 17, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 195|
|Drafted: HS--Jacksonville, 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Guy DeMutis|
|Background: Hurley survived the hitter-happy high Class A California League in the first half of the season, though he went 0-2, 9.45 in three July starts after returning from the Futures Game. Nonetheless, the Rangers promoted him to the Double-A Texas League, where former Wolfson High (Jacksonville) teammate and fellow 2004 first-round pick Billy Butler of the Royals already was exceling. Hurley snapped out of his midseason funk by finishing strong at Frisco.|
Strengths: Hurley is a true power pitcher with a pair of plus pitches and a chance for a third. He gets stronger as the game progresses, so if opponents don't get to him early in the game when his fastball is sitting around 90 mph, they soon have to contend with 93-96 mph heat, even in the late innings. He has developed enough confidence in his above-average slider to throw it in any count, an improvement from 2005. He's driven to reach the big leagues and receptive to instruction.
Weaknesses: Hurley's changeup remains underutilized and below-average. He does have a good feel for it and is working on improving the pitch.
The Future: Hurley could be a top-end starter if his changeup develops. If not, he has the stuff to be a big league closer. He'll likely begin 2007 back in Double-A, though he could see the majors by the end of the season.
|3.||Edinson Volquez, rhp Born: July 3, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 200|
|Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001 • Signed by: Rodolfo Rosario|
|Background: Volquez ranked as the Rangers' top prospect a year ago on the strength of a fastball and changeup that each rated as the best in the system. But questions emerged about his ability to make adjustments after his disastrous big league stint in 2006. His career 9.20 ERA is the highest in baseball's modern era for a pitcher with at least 10 career starts.|
Strengths: Volquez still has the electric stuff that fueled sky-high expectations a year ago, with a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and an above-average changeup in the mid-70s. He always has been lauded for his makeup and work ethic, and he showed he can be effective at higher levels by holding his own in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League prior to his big league callup.
Weaknesses: His curveball is erratic at best, as Volquez struggles to stay on top of it and can't throw it for strikes. He needs to do a better job of getting ahead in the count and commanding his fastball. The Rangers want him to stay on the rubber longer to give his arm a chance to catch up, allowing him to get more downhill plane on his pitches.
The Future: If he can refine his curve and command, Volquez can earn a rotation spot in the spring and eventually emerge as a frontline starter. If he can't, he soon could find himself in the bullpen.
|4.||Thomas Diamond, rhp Born: April 6, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 245|
|Drafted: New Orleans, 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Randy Taylor|
|Background: In his second tour of duty at Double-A, Diamond struggled with his control at times, causing his walk totals and pitch counts to climb. As a result, he failed to last six innings in any of his final nine starts and pitched past six innings just once. But he still led the Texas League in strikeouts and lowered his Double-A ERA by 1.11 from 2005.|
Strengths: A big, barrel-chested pitcher, Diamond can pitch up in the zone with a high-riding 91-94 mph fastball that touches 95-96 when he needs it. His plus changeup gives him an effective weapon against lefthanders, and he has found success with his 82-83 mph slider now that he has mostly abandoned his overhand curveball.
Weaknesses: Diamond began throwing his slider with more conviction late in the season, but he still needs to stay on top of it more consistently. He needs to develop his slider into an out pitch and to throw more strikes so he can avoid the long at-bats that plagued him in 2006.
The Future: Diamond still could become a mid-rotation workhorse if his slider emerges. Otherwise he could be ticketed for a late-inning role down the road. He'll open 2007 in Triple-A barring unforeseen developments in spring training.
|5.||John Mayberry Jr., of Born: Dec. 21, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 230|
|Drafted: Stanford, 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: Tim Fortugno|
|Background: The son of a former all-star and somewhat of a surprise pick at No. 19 overall in the 2005 draft, Mayberry pulled a hamstring in spring training and struggled in the first half of his first full season. He hit .236 with 10 homers in the first three months before making adjustments and batting .304 with 11 homers in the final two. He kept it going in Hawaii Winter Baseball, leading all hitters with a .545 slugging percentage and ranking second with 23 RBIs.|
Strengths: Long and athletic, Mayberry finally started to have success against inside fastballs after he changed his batting-practice routine and shortened his swing. His raw tools are exceptional, and he's starting to tap into his mammoth raw power, though the Rangers want him to improve his overall hitting with the belief his power will come later. Mayberry has good speed, a plus arm and is getting more comfortable in right field.
Weaknesses: The Rangers knew Mayberry would be a long-term project when they drafted him, and despite his second-half progress he still has a long way to go. He needs to improve his timing and patience at the plate, as well as his ability to pull the ball. More of a first baseman in college, he's working on his jumps and throwing accuracy in the outfield.
The Future: Mayberry's exceptional tools could make him a superstar if he figures everything out. He'll likely advance one level a year, making high Class A Bakersfield his next step.
|6.||Joaquin Arias, ss Born: Sept. 21, 1984 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 165|
|Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001 • Signed by: Victor Mata/Carlos Rios/Freddy Tiburcio (Yankees)|
|Background: The player to be named in the 2004 Alex Rodriguez trade with the Yankees, Arias failed to hit .300 for the first time in the Rangers system in 2006. He got off to his customary slow start, and though he rebounded his performance might have been hindered by a twisted ankle that he played through for a month. He did make his big league debut in September and went 6-for-11.|
Strengths: Arias always has stood out for his athleticism. His plus range and plus-plus arm allow him to make sensational plays at shortstop, and he's starting to become a more consistent defender as well. Arias has quick hands and consistently puts the bat on the ball. He's a plus-plus runner.
Weaknesses: Though Arias flashes above-average power in batting practice, he has yet to translate it into game action. He has an aggressive approach at the plate and the Rangers would like him to improve his selectivity. He still needs to add strength and improve his durability. For all his speed, he has succeeded in just 68 percent of his pro steal attempts.
The Future: Arias will repeat a level for the first time in his career in 2007, as the Rangers will be patient while he fills out his frame and refines his game. There's no rush with Michael Young entrenched as the shortstop in Texas.
|7.||Kasey Kiker, lhp Born: Nov. 19, 1987 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 170|
|Drafted: HS--Seale, Ala., 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Jeff Wood|
|Background: Kiker had a lengthy track record as the ace at Russell County High in Seale, Ala., winning a national title in 2005 and striking out 143 in 70 innings as a senior. Texas drafted him 12th overall in June and signed him for $1.6 million. His heavy prep workload mandated a strict pitch count in his pro debut. He seldom pitched enough innings to qualify for a win--accounting for his 0-7 record--but held his own against older competition in the short-season Northwest League.|
Strengths: Kiker has a quick arm and a strong lower half, helping him rev his lively fastball as high as 97 mph and keep it at 90-93. His changeup is his second-best pitch, though his 12-to-6 curveball also has tight rotation and hard break. He could have three average to plus pitches in time.
Weaknesses: He has a clean arm action from a high three-quarters slot, but Kiker tends to over-rotate and spin off some pitches. He struggled to command all of his pitches at times this summer, though he was better down the stretch. He also needs to work on holding runners and fielding his position after mostly neglecting those aspects and focusing on fastball command in his debut.
The Future: Kiker earns comparisons to Randy Wolf but throws harder. His slight frame lacks projection, but he already has quality stuff and could wind up in the middle of a big league rotation. He should be able to handle a promotion to low Class A Clinton in 2007.
|8.||Nick Masset, rhp Born: May 17, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 190|
|Drafted: St. Petersburg (Fla.) CC, D/F 2000 (8th round) • Signed by: Ray Jackson|
|Background: Masset has possessed tantalizing stuff ever since his high school days, when Tommy John surgery as a senior hurt his draft stock. Signed as a draft-and-follow for $225,000, he appeared on the verge of big things after his breakout 2004 season, but got crushed in 2005 and was inconsistent in 2006. He finished the season in the majors before dominating as a closer in the Mexican Pacific League.|
Strengths: Masset throws his fastball at 89-95 mph as a starter but ran it up to 97-98 in bullpen in Texas and Mexico. His hard 85-86 mph curveball with sharp downward bite rates as a plus pitch. His changeup and cutter/slider are at least average and help him against lefthanders.
Weaknesses: Erratic command spoiled Masset's 2005 season and still makes him more hittable than he should be. Despite his impressive array of four pitches, he has yet to locate them well enough to be a reliable starter. He showed plenty of moxie to bounce back from 2005 but must prove he can sustain success.
The Future: Masset may have pitched his way into the big league bullpen role with his strong winter. He still has the stuff and frame to be a durable, effective starter if he can master his command.
|9.||Jason Botts, of/dh Born: July 26, 1980 • B-T: B-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 250|
|Drafted: Glendale (Calif.) JC, D/F 1999 (46th round) • Signed by: Tim Fortugno|
|Background: The Rangers summoned Botts to the majors in May when DH Phil Nevin was struggling, and Botts showed flashes of promise in his sporadic playing time. He continued to hit when he was returned to Triple-A before breaking his hamate bone and missing three weeks in August.|
Strengths: Botts has huge power from both sides of the plate, and he has shown the ability to hit for average as well. He commands the strike zone and takes plenty of walks. He runs well for a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, especially once he gets going.
Weaknesses: Despite his sincere efforts to improve his defense, Botts remains a below-average defender in left field or at first base, so he will likely be primarily a DH. His willingness to work deep counts results in more than his share of strikeouts. There's still some question about his long swing and how well it will work against quality pitching in the big leagues.
The Future: Botts should earn a spot on the Rangers' Opening Day roster, either as the everyday DH or a power bat off the bench. He's 26 and has nothing left to prove in the minors.
|10.||Josh Rupe, rhp Born: Aug. 18, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 210|
|Signed: Louisburg (N.C.) JC, 2002 (3rd round) • Signed by: John Tumminia (White Sox)|
|Background: Part of the July 2003 Carl Everett trade with the White Sox, Rupe entered spring training with a legitimate chance to win a big league rotation spot but came down with elbow tendinitis. He didn't get going until June and the Rangers decided to use him out of the Double-A bullpen to get him back to the majors more quickly. He reached Texas in late July and proved to be an effective reliever.|
Strengths: Rupe has a starter's repertoire, with four average or better pitches he can throw for strikes. His 91-94 mph fastball has plenty of late sink and his plus slider is an out pitch. He also throws a solid 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup.
Weaknesses: Despite his stuff, Rupe hasn't stuck as a starter because he hasn't been able to stay healthy in that role. His mechanics are still inconsistent, though he has settled into a three-quarters arm slot.
The Future: Barring injury, Rupe will be on Texas' Opening Day roster, either as a starter or a set-up man. Though he has succeeded in relief, the Rangers haven't given up on the idea that he can help their rotation.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Danks: John Williamson
Hurley, Diamond, Mayberry Jr.: Steve Moore