2012 Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Forman





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, 2011.


Matt Forman: Good afternoon everybody, and thanks for stopping by the Rangers Top 10 chat. There are already a good number of questions lined up in the queue, so let's get started a few minutes early. I'll try to hit all of the highlights, but if I miss anything or if you have any follow-up questions, you can find me on Twitter @matt_forman.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of your top 10 do you believe could make it onto BA's top 100 list?

Matt Forman: This seems like a good place to start, since it's always a popular question... I won't have a say in determining BA's top 100 list, but I have to imagine Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez, Mike Olt and Leonys Martin are locks. Neil Ramirez and Cody Buckel should garner some consideration, and for me, they both would make the cut.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you that Darvish won't become the latest in a long line of international pitchers whose pitches just don't pan out for them in the bigs?

Matt Forman: As I guessed would be the case, plenty of Darvish questions. It's worth noting that the Darvish signing came the day of the deadline for the magazine to go to press, and he meets BA's prospect standard of 50 innings pitched. I haven't done a tremendous about of Darvish-specific reporting, but I'm a big fan. To answer Jaypers' question (and not quibble over its premise), I'll go with a 9.

    Kelly (St Cloud, MN): With the acquisition of Darvish, how many notches does this push the system as a whole up on the top 30?

Matt Forman: In terms of organizational rankings, the Yu Darvish acquisition gives the Rangers two of baseball's top 10 prospects — including Jurickson Profar. I would wager no other organization can make such a claim, and these rankings usually skew in favor of elite, impact talent. To me, Texas ranked in the top 6-8 before signing Darvish, and adding him to the equation only further bolsters the org's strength. Off the top of my head, along with Toronto and San Diego, the Rangers are in the conversation for the top farm system in baseball.

    Eric (New York): What went wrong with David Perez at Spokane last season? Still in the top 30?

Matt Forman: Perez walked almost a batter an inning at Spokane in 2011 — 29 walks in 30.1 innings pitched — and that really says in all. After recording eight swinging strikeouts in the first three innings of his stateside debut in July, he started struggling and never really regained the form that he showed during extended spring (22 strikeouts and one walk in 13 innings), which prompted the Rangers to push him to the Northwest League. Perez lost his release point and struggled to repeat his delivery, leading to a loss on confidence, and everything spiraled downhill. His changeup also took a step back, and he fell in love with his curveball. So not the best year, but there's still a lot to be excited about with Perez — great frame with long limbs, explosive fastball and solid breaking ball — and he has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher in the organization. He fell in the 21-30 range.

    Laura (Miami, FL): No Roman Mendez sighting on the top 10....interesting. What's his upside?

Matt Forman: Roman Mendez had a strong year in Hickory, and he received some consideration for the top 10. Mendez not being included is more a reflection of the strength and depth of the Rangers' farm system, not of his ability. Scouts are split on his upside, which will largely depend on the development of his secondary stuff and his command, though his walk rate dropped significantly in 2011. He could end up as a mid-rotation starter type, or he could end up in the back end of a bullpen, and he could move quickly in the latter role. When Mendez is on, he sits 94-95 with all sorts of movement.

    Veronica (Los Angeles): Who's this guy you have closing in 2015? He's not even in the top 10

Matt Forman: Good question, Veronica. That would be Matt West, who ranked as the No. 10 prospect before the Yu Darvish signing. West was drafted in the second round in 2007 as a third baseman, but he never quite put it together at the plate. Over four seasons, West hit .241/.344/.364 and topped out at low Class A, but he always had a strong arm, and the Rangers approached him about converting to the mound prior to the 2011 season. The early returns have been staggering, both in terms of stats and stuff. In 26 innings in Spokane, West posted 35 strikeouts and 1 walk. Yep, you read that correctly: 1 walk pitching against live hitters, not air. He has two plus-plus pitches and earns comparisons to Jason Motte for his background and power stuff.

    Matt (Philly): Before Darvish joined, who won the "Best Fastball" and "Best Slider" categories in your rankings?

Matt Forman: To piggyback off the previous answer, Matt West took both titles. West pumps 94-96 mph gas and can touch 99, and he has a wipeout 82-84 mph slider that has so much depth some scouts confuse it for a curveball.

    Joe F. (Beaumont, SC): Any word if Buckel has continued, or abandoned, his singing/acting career? In his senior year of High School, he threw a no hitter against a ballclub which featured Christian Yelich, a first round pick now in the Marlins system. Before the game, Buckel had not had time to remove facial makeup which had been applied during drama class. As he did post game interviews, Buckels makeup—pancake foundation, mascara and eyeliner—melted and ran down his face! Cody is a great kid and I hope he is a successful big leaguer.

Matt Forman: Thanks for chiming in, Joe. Unfortunately, I didn't ask about Cody Buckel's acting and singing career. For those out there interested in reading more on the topic, here's a link to a 2009 LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/15/sports/sp-sondheimer15

    Steve (Dallas): Matt, in a perfect world will Buckel remain in the rotation or will he wind up in the bullpen?

Matt Forman: Getting back to Buckel's baseball future... In a perfect world, he would stay in the rotation, and I give him a really good chance to do so. Buckel doesn't have prototypical size or overpowering stuff, but he has the intelligence, athleticism and moxie to make up for it, plus a solid four-pitch mix. And as one scout told me, "If you asked Cody, he might tell you he has eight pitches."

    Kevin (Jersey): Profar and Machado; are we just splitting hairs?. How close are they and who do you anticipate having a better career?

Matt Forman: I'll take Profar, but it's very close; only Machado's power tool would grade out higher on the 20-80 scouting scale, and Profar has a better shot of sticking at shortstop long term. Regardless, they're both top 10 prospects in all of baseball, and they'll both have very fine careers.

    Phil (North York): I have heard some good things about SS Leury Garcia - do you see him being a starter at the major legue level?

Matt Forman: Garcia kind of flies under the radar as a prospect, and a lot of that has to do with the organization he's in. Few, if any, organizations have up-the-middle talent like the Rangers — Profar, Martin, Alfaro, Odor, Sardinas and the list goes on — so Garcia doesn't get the same kind of attention he might in a different situation. Some scouts who saw Garcia this summer in the Carolina League thought Garcia was a better defensive shortstop than Manny Machado and Andrelton Simmons. Garcia has a tendency to be a little flashy, both at the plate and in the field, but he has game-changing speed and the system's best infield arm. I'm not sure he's going to break into the big leagues shortstop, but he could impact the game defensively at a variety of positions as a super-utility player.

    Big Dave (AR): Which of the Rangers prospects has the highest overall ceiling?

Matt Forman: Good question, Big Dave. It's a close call between Jorge Alfaro and Jordan Akins. You're talking about a middle-of-the-diamond, middle-of-the-order threat with Alfaro, and with Akins an All-Star caliber outfielder who could hold his own in center but likely ends up in right field. One scout said Akins offers a Mike Stanton-esque package of tools (including incredible raw power) and athleticism.

    Jason (Salem): Ronald Guzman or Nomar Mazara? Who's your pick to develop into the star they were paid as?

Matt Forman: A couple questions were phrased similarly about two of the Rangers' bonus-baby July 2 signings. Right now, I'll take Ronald Guzman, who's a little bit more advanced in terms of swing and approach. Both have power potential and tremendous upside, but it's going to take time.

    Dan (Maine): How far away was Tomas Telis from the top 10? Thanks!

Matt Forman: Telis wasn't particularly close to cracking the top 10, though he did make the 30. He can flat out mash. A switch-hitter, Telis rivals Profar as the organization's best pure hitter, as Telis has top-of-the-line hand-eye coordination and consistently barrels the ball.

    Marty (Orlando, FL): What is Jordan Akins ceiling? Seems like he is an unbelievable raw talent.

Matt Forman: Backtracking for a second to address Jordan Akins... I should have mentioned that he was THE standout during fall instructional league. Every source I spoke with raved about him; he was a conversation starter and stopper. Akins was a Division-I football recruit who's just starting to match tools with baseball skills. Certainly don't want to put the cart in front of the horse, because there's still a lot of development that needs to happen, but don't say we didn't warn you.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Matt, how far off the top 10 was Miguel de los Santos, and what did you think of his AFL performance? SP or RP in the foreseeable future?

Matt Forman: A couple questions about Miguel de los Santos, who wasn't close to making the top 10 but does have a spot on the 30. I wouldn't put too much weight into his Arizona Fall League performance (leading the circuit in strikeouts with 40), outside of being healthy and making up for lost time. He punches a bunch of hitters out, but he has struggled with command and has funky mechanics. For those reasons, and despite having the stuff to start — 89-92 fastball, ridiculous 76-78 changeup and a mid-70s curveball — he profiles best in the bullpen.

    Kyle (Minneapolis): Justin Grimm - someone to keep an eye on?

Matt Forman: Absolutely. Grimm had been on the Rangers' radar screen, and scouting director Kip Fagg's radar screen, for quite a while. They finally got Grimm in the fifth round in 2010, and he's really taken off, benefitting from being in a more structured, professional routine. Grimm is doing a better job of repeating his delivery, and Texas has worked to add a changeup, which gives him a chance to remain in the rotation.

    Nolan Ryan (Texas): Is Martin Perez still considered a top-notch starter, or did his stock take a Texas-sided hit this year?

Matt Forman: Still a top-notch starter, and still a top 25 prospect in all of baseball for me, considering the delivery, the stuff and the upside. Consider the context: He's going to spend 2012 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A, with an outside chance of cracking the big leagues. But to your point, I think this season will be an important one; Perez needs to be more consistent and, to a certain extent, you'd like to see his stats match his scouting reports.

    Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): First rounder Luke Jackson didn't set the world on fire at Hickory last season. Do you think he returns to Hickory in 2012? What is his ceiling?

Matt Forman: Jackson's 2011 season at Hickory marked his professional debut, so while the numbers weren't overwhelming, they certainly weren't bad. He held his own, stayed healthy, made 19 starts and showed the same stuff all year: a plus-plus fastball that touches 98, a curveball that flashes above average and a progressing changeup. He'll likely make the jump to Myrtle Beach next year, and he has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter, though a lot has to happen for him to reach it.

    Peter (San Diego): Is Luis Sardinas still a major league prospect after his injuries? Where would he fall as Ranger's prospect?

Matt Forman: Still a prospect, and he fell in the 15-25 range of the top 30. The injuries are a concern, if only because Sardinas has a slight body and you have to wonder if he can withstand the grind of a full, 140-plus-game season. But he's toolsy — some would say even more so than Jurickson Profar, and scouts say Sardinas evokes images of Tony Fernandez. If he's healthy, look for Sardinas to spend 2012 in Hickory with the goal of playing 80-90 games.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): I got to see Mike Olt play during the 2011 AFL and he was absolutely killing the ball, yet he's definitely overshadowed by Profar and Martin Perez (and now Darvish). Do you see him making some all-star teams during his prime?

Matt Forman: I'm a huge Mike Olt supporter, and by no means would it surprise me if he made a few All-Star teams. The reports out of the Arizona Fall League were incredibly positive about his offense, but not as glowing about his defense, which was surprising considering how solid he is at third base — not sure if that had to do with time spent away from the game recovering from injury, but it shouldn't be a concern going forward. I agree Olt gets overshadowed a little bit. He may not have huge, huge upside, but if you're looking at a .280 hitter who gets on base at a .350 clip, hits 25 home runs and plays solid defense, that's a really, really good player.

    Neil (Kingston): What the heck do the Rangers do with all that infield talent? Do you think Olt has the defensive ability to play OF? Does Villaneuva have the defensive ability to move to 2B? Seems like Odor and Garcia will have a tough time breaking through at the major league level!?!

Matt Forman: That's a good question, Neil — I'm not sure the Rangers know, but it's a good problem to have and certainly beats the alternative. Olt has the athleticism to hold his old in left field, and he'll spend some time this spring getting repetitions there and at first base. But his value is highest at third, so we'll have to see how that plays out. Villanueva challenges Olt for the organization's top defensive infielder. He played shortstop as an amateur in his native Mexico before moving to third, but he had never spent time on the other side of second base before fall instructional league. The way he moves around the bag and his actions suggest he can handle the position, though he'll need some work on turning the double-play. Garcia might break in as a super-utility player, and Odor is still several years away, but Texas has a glut of infield prospects. Pretty impressive when the big league club features Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler.

    Big Dave (AR): The Rangers next 10 or the Whitesox top 10?

Matt Forman: Fun question. I might be biased, having done the reporting for Texas' list, but I'll take the Rangers next 10. There's some significant impact potential with the names we've discussed outside the top 10 — Matt West, Jordan Akins, Luke Jackson, Leury Garcia, Ronald Guzman, Justin Grimm, Luis Sardinas, etc. — that would make me lean toward that group over Chicago's top group.

    Jake (Dallas, TX): How far off was Jake Skole this year?

Matt Forman: Skole fell in the 15-25 range of the 30. Since he had an ankle injury that affected him as an amateur, Skole hasn't shown the true plus speed that once excited scouts. He still has a chance to play in the middle of the diamond, but more than likely he'll have to move to an outfield corner. There's more power in his swing than initially expected, and his throwing arm took a step forward in 2011 too.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): Were the Rangers disappointed by the early contributions of 2nd round pick Zach Cone? What a story that was, the Rangers drafting him and his injured teammate at the end of the draft. Kudos to them!

Matt Forman: Though the numbers weren't great, the Rangers weren't disappointed by Cone's professional debut in Spokane. They knew what they were getting in Cone: premium body, premium tools, but serious questions about his bat. If it all clicks, watch out, but Cone needs to make some adjustments to his swing and approach. He's still raw — more like a high school draftee than a college guy — and it'll take time. There were some positive signs during fall instructional league, when Cone wasn't getting out on his front foot as much; Texas has worked to add a load to his swing, helping him stay behind the ball.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Do you believe Kevin Matthews was an overdraft? Your thoughts on his upside?

Matt Forman: Based on the industry consensus, yes, it seemed Matthews was a slight overdraft and, if I'm remembering correctly, I believe Matthews himself said the same thing. At the same time, the Rangers didn't think the 2011 draft class was as deep as everyone else professed it to be, and they allocated resources accordingly. But Texas has had success in that region, they've relied on area scout Ryan Coe, and they were comfortable with Matthews. He is very much a prospect, and he made the top 30. There's more athleticism and strength to Matthews than expected, and he's got plenty of upside.

    Frank (Chicago): Do you believe the Rangers made a wise investment in Barret Loux?

Matt Forman: Texas signed Loux for $312,000 — roughly third-round slot money, half of what he was offered out of high school and one-sixth of what he would've gotten had he signed as the sixth-overall selection of the Diamondbacks. To me, that's a wise investment, despite the medical concerns about his shoulder and elbow. You knock on wood and hope he stays healthy.

    Frank (Chicago): Between Robbie Ross and Barret Loux, who came closer to making your top 10?

Matt Forman: Ross ranked higher than Loux, and Ross received some consideration for the top 10. He made enough strides in 2011 that he looks like a safe bet to be a back-end rotation starter, maybe a No. 4. His 88-93 mph fastball is never straight and generates a lot of weak contact, he throws a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup, and his quirky high-leg kick delivery creates some deception.

    Sammy (Dallas): What can you tell us about shortstop Hanser Alberto?

Matt Forman: Alberto is a nice sleeper, and one to keep an eye on at Hickory in 2012. He didn't make the top 30, because he doesn't have top-line projection, but he can flat out hit. He has an aggressive approach, but Alberto seemingly can barrel nearly any pitch, in any location. His bat will have to carry him though, because he doesn't have much power, he's not a great defender and he has fringe-average speed.

    Dave (Cleburne, Texas): Will Leonys Martin be a star or a flop.. Will he start in Texas this year?

Matt Forman: To the first question, I'm going to say neither. More of an everyday regular, I would wager, and possibly more depending on how much his power shows up in games. And yes, I believe he will start the year in Texas.

    Al (NYC): As mentioned in Profar's scouting report, he may not break in the majors as a shortstop due to Andrus' presence. But if/when both are in their primes, who's most likely to move off short?

Matt Forman: This is something the Rangers won't worry about for now, and don't have to worry about it until Profar forces their hand. But, presented with this scenario, I imagine Andrus would stick at shortstop, while Profar spends time as a super-utility player. (It would be difficult to ask your All-Star shortstop to shift positions and make room for a prospect, even if he's one of the best in the game.)

    Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): Among the hurlers moving from short season teams to Hickory, who are your favorites?

Matt Forman: We've already discussed Matt West, David Perez and Will Lamb, but I would add Kyle Hendricks and Victor Payano to that mix of Spokane pitchers who are interesting. Hendicks has a loose arm and repeats his delivery as well as anybody in the system. His stuff grades out as average across the board, but he has a nice four-pitch mix, and he has a chance to move quickly. Payano won the Rangers' pitcher of instructional league award. He's tall, lanky 6-foot-6 lefty who's added 4-5 mph to his fastball velocity since signing in February 2010. Now that Payano is starting to develop a curveball, he's become a different kind of animal.

    mudwrestler (TX): Any Love for LHP Will Lamb?

Matt Forman: Not top 10 love, but top 30 love for sure. A two-way player at Clemson, Lamb has the potential to take off as he commits to pitching full time. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph, his low-80s slider flashes above-average and he uses his 6-foot-6 frame to generate good plane. The development of his changeup, which he didn't use much in college, will go a long way to determining his future role.

Matt Forman: Alright, everybody, thanks very much for stopping by. A ton of great questions. As I mentioned earlier, if I didn't get to your question or you'd like to follow up on anything, you can find me on Twitter @matt_forman. Be sure to check out Jim Shonerd's A's list and chat on Wednesday, and as always, thanks for subscribing to Baseball America.