2006 Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Chat Wrap: Aaron Fitt took your Rangers questions

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, 2006.

The Rangers followed up their surprising 89-win 2004 campaign with their fifth losing season in the last six years. The exciting young infield core of Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young and Hank Blalock produced excellent numbers again, as Texas’ 260 homers were just four shy of the major league record.

But as usual, pitching was the problem for the Rangers. They scored the third-most runs in baseball but gave up the fifth-most. They jettisoned three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation by the end of July and entered the offseason looking for answers.

The identity of the man responsible for finding those answers changed in the offseason. Former general manager John Hart originally was to step down after the 2004 season, turning the reins over to assistant general manager Grady Fuson, who also ran the farm and scouting departments. But Hart and manager Buck Showalter persuaded owner Tom Hicks that Hart should return for 2005, leading to Fuson’s departure.

Hart stepped down as GM after the 2005 season, moving into a consultant role after Texas went 311-337 on his watch. Hart protégé Jon Daniels, 28, was promoted from assistant GM to become the youngest general manager in baseball history. Daniels hired Rockies director of baseball operations Thad Levine to be his assistant, and tabbed Rockies pro scout Scott Servais to replace Dom Chiti as farm director, with Chiti becoming bullpen coach. Daniels retained Ron Hopkins, who succeeded Fuson as scouting director.

Daniels’ first major move was trying to swing a deal for Josh Beckett, which would have given the Rangers a young ace who was a Texas native to boot. That trade fell through at the last second, as the Red Sox swooped in and acquired Beckett. But then Daniels got busy in December.

He pulled off a blockbuster at the Winter Meetings, acquiring Brad Wilkerson, pitching prospect Armando Galarraga and journeyman Terrmel Sledge from the Nationals for Soriano, who becomes a free agent after 2006. He made a smaller deal to acquire lefthander Fabio Castro, the No. 1 overall pick in the major league Rule 5 draft.

Then Daniels directly addressed the 2006 rotation with a trio of moves. He got former all-star Vicente Padilla from the Phillies for spare part Ricardo Rodriguez. Next, he picked up Adam Eaton and setup man Akinori Otsuka in a six-player deal with the Padres that cost him Chris Young and first-base prospect Adrian Gonzalez. Finally, he signed Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million contract after failing to land free agents A.J. Burnett and Matt Morris.

In the near future, the Rangers anticipate that they won’t have to go outside the organization for mound help. Five of their top seven prospects are pitchers, led by the DVD trio of John Danks, Edison Volquez and Thomas Diamond. The Rangers’ newfound pitching depth is largely the result of Fuson’s drafts. He used first-round picks on Danks (2003), Diamond (2004) and Hurley, and he also found Kameron Loe in the 20th round in 2002. With all those arms on hand, Hopkins had the freedom to focus on position players in the 2005 draft. Texas used its first three picks on a premium athlete (outfielder John Mayberry Jr.), a pure hitter (third baseman Johnny Whittleman) and a Gold Glove-caliber defender (Taylor Teagarden), and later added some promising high school pitchers in Shane Funk, Michael Kirkman, Jacob Rasner and Matt Nevarez.

Texas also continued to expand its presence in Latin America. While the Rangers are making progress in Venezuela with players such as catcher Manuel Pina and righthander Omar Poveda, they’re making a bigger impact in the Dominican Republic. Second baseman Jose Vallejo already is establishing himself as a legitimate prospect in the United States, while Texas signed catcher Cristian Santana, shortstop Johan Yan and righthander Fabio Castillo to six-figure bonuses in 2005.


1. EDISON VOLQUEZ       Born: July 3, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 170
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001   Signed by: Rodolfo Rosario

Background: Volquez draws Pedro Martinez comparisons as much for his electric personality as his electric arm. Though he’s a fierce competitor, Volquez often has a big smile on his face when he’s not on the mound. He speaks English well and relates well to American players. He’s not intimidated pitching in front of 20,000 passionate fans in the Dominican League, and he wasn’t intimidated speaking to a group of high-ranking Rangers front-office personnel during an organization banquet. Volquez is even built like Martinez, with a wiry frame and long arms and fingers. Known as Julio Reyes and believed to be 15 1/2 months younger until baseball’s visa crackdown, he’s still advanced and mature for a 22-year-old. Part of the Rangers’ DVD trio, along with John Danks and Thomas Diamond, Volquez surged past the two first-round picks in 2005. He was the first to reach Double-A Frisco and remains the lone member of the group to reach the majors. He got a rude awakening in Texas, losing his first three starts and giving up six runs over two innings in three relief outings.

Strengths: Though he did not post overwhelming numbers in 2005, Volquez transformed himself from sleeper to top prospect. Both his fastball and changeup rate as the best in the system. His fastball explodes out of his hand and tops out at 97 mph, showing good sink and run when he throws it at 93-95. He holds his velocity late into games, throwing as high as 95 mph in the ninth inning in one outing. His changeup sometimes merits a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Volquez is aggressive and comes right after hitters. He has had little problem throwing strikes as a pro. He has a clean, repeatable delivery and lightning-quick arm action, though there’s some effort in it. He isn’t the most physical pitcher, but he’s athletic and has added 10-15 pounds to his frame since spring training 2005.

Weaknesses: For Volquez to stick as a front-of-the-rotation starter rather than a power reliever, he must improve his erratic breaking ball. Sometimes it shows big downward break and looks like a curveball, while other times it features more tilt and looks like a true slider. Most of the time his breaking ball is harder and shows little depth, and he uses it more as a third option to cross hitters up. After he missed three weeks in July and August with a strained oblique, Volquez got a callup to the big leagues as the Rangers looked for a spark. He struggled with his fastball command in Texas, and overthrowing only made the problem worse. He tends to buckle plenty of knees with his changeup early in games, but doesn’t command it as well in later innings. Considering he throws in the mid-90s, he gives up more hits than he should.

The Future: Questions remain about Volquez’ ability to reach his considerable potential, but his tantalizing package of stuff and makeup can’t be overlooked. He should open 2006 with Triple-A Oklahoma but could be pitching in the Rangers rotation by the all-star break if the staff needs help–which it usually does.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bakersfield (Hi A) 5 4 4.19 11 11 1 0 67 64 9 12 77 .252
Frisco (AA) 1 5 4.14 10 10 1 0 59 58 6 17 49 .258
AZL Rangers (R) 0 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 2 2 0 0 2 .222
Texas 0 4 14.21 6 3 0 0 13 25 3 10 11 .403


2. JOHN DANKS, lhp        Born: April 15, 1985 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 190
Drafted: HS–Round Rock, Texas, 2003 (1st round)   Signed by: Randy Taylor

Background: Danks comes from an athletic family. His father John played basketball at Texas; younger brother Jordan, a slugging outfielder, could have been a 2005 first-round pick if he hadn’t committed strongly to the Longhorns; and younger sister Emily is a fine volleyball player. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2003 draft, John signed for $2.1 million.

Danks’ best pitch is a plus curveball that’s devastating against lefthanders. He can sneak his 87-93 mph fastball in on the hands of righties, and should pick up velocity as he fills out. He has good feel for his changeup, which the Rangers had him emphasize last year to further its development. He has a free, easy delivery and has improved his leverage from a high three-quarters arm slot. He shows poise beyond his age.
Not only would getting stronger give Danks more fastball, it also would help him avoid the late-season fades he has experienced. En route to a career-high 156 innings last season, he went 2-8, 6.46 in the final two months. He needs to continue to develop his changeup and avoid leaving his fastball up in the zone.
The Future:
Danks figures to start 2006 back in Double-A, with a Triple-A promotion likely and a September callup to Texas possible. He looks like a safe bet to develop into a No. 3 starter, and he has a ceiling of a No. 2.
2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bakersfield (Hi A) 3 3 2.50 10 10 0 0 58 50 5 16 53 .228
Frisco (AA) 4 10 5.49 18 17 0 0 98 117 12 34 85 .297


3. THOMAS DIAMOND, rhp   Born: April 6, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 230
Drafted: New Orleans, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Randy Taylor

Background: Signed for $2.025 million as the 10th overall pick in 2004, Diamond had a lights-out debut and dominated at high Class A Bakersfield last year before struggling with his command in Double-A. Diamond was hit hard in his final start of the year after going home to New Orleans to help his family after Hurricane Katrina.

Diamond is tough both physically and mentally, with a mean streak that suits his big, physical frame. He is a classic innings-eating power pitcher with a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 97. He also has an above-average changeup.
The biggest question for Diamond is whether he can get comfortable with a third pitch. He flashes a decent curveball now and then, but the Rangers introduced a slider to him halfway through 2005. Scouts think his arm slot is more suited to a slider. Diamond’s arm action is smooth but long and not deceptive, and he struggles to repeat his delivery. His fastball is too straight and often dropped to 89-91 mph last year. His command needs to get better.
The Future:
Diamond should develop into solid workhorse if he can improve his command. He could start 2006 in Double-A but figures to see Triple-A at some point.


2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bakersfield (Hi A) 8 0 1.99 14 14 1 0 81 53 3 31 101 .191
Frisco (AA) 5 4 5.35 14 14 0 0 69 66 8 38 68 .249


4. JOAQUIN ARIAS, ss       Born: September 21, 1984 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 160
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001   Signed by: Victor Mata/Carlos Rios/Freddy Tiburcio (Yankees)

Background: Signed out of the Dominican for $300,000, Arias was the player to be named in the February 2004 Alex Rodriguez trade with the Yankees. Typically a slow starter, Arias batted .197 last April before making adjustments and hitting .341 the rest of the way.

Arias is a graceful strider who doesn’t look like he’s burning, but he’s a plus-plus runner who can reach first base in four seconds flat from the right side. His well-above-average arm and above-average range at shortstop allow him to make difficult plays look easy. He has quick, whippy hands and wrists with a good feel for the bat head, letting him control the outer half of the plate.
Arias needs to fill out his wiry frame. He still can be spastic in the field and butcher routine plays. He made adjustments after struggling with inside fastballs early in 2005, but he still shows more raw power in batting practice than in games, and he sometimes lets pitchers expand his strike zone. He needs to improve his baserunning instincts.
The Future:
Arias should be a plus defender in the majors and has a chance to be a table-setter with gap power. Ticketed for Triple-A this year, he might have to move to second base once he joins the Rangers because they have all-star Michael Young at shortstop.
2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Frisco (AA) .315 .335 .423 499 65 157 23 8 5 56 17 46 20 10


5. ERIC HURLEY, rhp       Born: September 17, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 195
Drafted: HS–Jacksonville, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Guy DeMutis

Background: Hurley hasn’t shot through the minors as quickly as his Wolfson High (Jacksonville) teammate and fellow 2004 first-round pick Billy Butler of the Royals, but he did lead the low Class A Midwest League in strikeouts during his first full pro season. His lean body held up well, and he showed maturity living on his own in Iowa and getting married as a 19-year-old.

Hurley was able to dominate high school hitters with only his 92-95 mph fastball, which has good life up in the zone and late boring action down at the knees. He made a lot of progress in 2005 with his late-breaking 78-83 mph slider, which looks like it will become an above-average pitch as well. He’s confident on the mound and has good command for his age.
Hurley’s changeup is still a work in progress but could end up an average pitch. He gets a lot of leverage from his long frame, but needs to grow into it and learn to repeat his delivery better.
The Future:
The next step for Hurley is conquering the hitter-friendly high Class A California League. He’s not as advanced or as famous as the DVD trio yet, but he may have a higher ceiling than all of them.
2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Clinton (Lo A) 12 6 3.77 28 28 0 0 155 135 11 59 152 .234


6. IAN KINSLER, 2b     Born: June 22, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 175
Drafted: Missouri, 2003 (17th round)    Signed by: Mike Grouse

Background: After Kinsler’s breakout 2004 season, when he hit .345 with a minor league-high 51 doubles, the Rangers moved him from shortstop to second base so he wouldn’t be blocked by Michael Young or Joaquin Arias. Kinsler embraced the move, worked hard in the offseason and had a solid year in Triple-A. He turned down an invitation to join Team USA’s Olympic qualifying squad to work on refining his skills in instructional league.

Kinsler may be an overachiever, but that doesn’t mean he lacks tools. He has a quick bat and is a terrific fastball hitter. He profiles as at least an average hitter in the majors, with a bit of power. Defensively, he has a plus arm and made a lot of progress at second base.
Scouts criticized Kinsler for swinging for the fences too much in Triple-A when that really isn’t his game. He’s a slightly below-average runner and still needs to get better at making routine plays at second.
The Future:
After trading Alfonso Soriano, the Rangers will give Kinsler a chance to win their second-base job. If he fails he still could make Texas as a reserve because he has little left to prove in Triple-A.
2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Oklahoma (AAA) .274 .348 .464 530 102 145 28 2 23 94 53 89 19 5


7. ARMANDO GALARRAGA, rhp      Born: January 15, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 170
Signed: Venezuela, 2000  Signed by: Fred Ferreira (Expos)

Background: Galarraga's inclusion in the four-player Alfonso Soriano trade in December with the Nationals gave Texas another promising arm. Because of 2002 Tommy John surgery, he pitched just 54 innings in his first three seasons in the United States. He stayed healthier once he began to take baseball more seriously in 2004, and he had his best year yet in 2005, earning a berth in the Futures Game and a promotion to Double-A.

Galarraga has a lively 92-94 mph sinker and a hard, sharp slider that he can throw for strikes and use as an out pitch. He has a strong, athletic frame and attacks hitters from a three-quarters arm slot. He's competitive and shows a mean streak.
For Galarraga to stick as a starter, he needs to complement his two plus offerings with a third pitch. He must continue to develop his changeup, which shows some promise. He doesn't walk many batters but sometimes misses his spots inside the zone.
The Future:
Galarraga can be a No. 3 starter if his changeup emerges. If that doesn't work out, he could be a powerful bullpen arm. He figures to start 2006 back in Double-A.
2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Potomac (Hi A) 3 4 2.48 14 14 0 0 80 69 7 23 79 .228
Harrisburg (AA) 3 4 5.19 13 13 1 0 76 80 10 21 58 .275


8. JASON BOTTS, of    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: After bouncing between first base and the outfield for a couple of years, Botts settled in left field in 2005 and posted good power numbers for the second straight year. He held his own in a September callup to Arlington but struggled in the Dominican League.

Botts has the body and athleticism of an NFL tight end, and he has more raw power than anyone in the system. He hits for power from both sides of the plate but is a better hitter righthanded. He draws walks and isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes. He runs well for his size, particularly once he gets under way.
Despite all his athleticism, Botts is brutal defensively and never will be better than adequate in left field. Some scouts question how usable his raw power is. He runs into some pitches, but his swing is long and lacks a suitable load, so he has trouble catching up with good fastballs, especially on the inner half.
The Future:
Botts doesn’t really have a position, so it’s hard to see him playing regularly in the majors in 2006. He should return to Triple-A to continue working on his defense, though he could provide the Rangers with an offensive boost if needed.
2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Oklahoma (AAA) .286 .375 .522 510 93 146 31 7 25 102 67 152 2 4
Texas .296 .367 .296 27 4 8 0 0 0 3 3 13 0 0


9. TAYLOR TEAGARDEN, c       Born: December 21, 1983 B-T: B-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200
Drafted: Texas, 2005 (3rd round)    Signed by: Randy Taylor

Background: Teagarden was a leader on Texas’ College World Series championship team last spring and was the best defensive catcher available in the draft. Because of concerns about his bat and his signability--he’s a Scott Boras client--the Rangers got him in the third round. He signed for $725,000, which could be a bargain, and hit well at short-season Spokane.

Teagarden has amazingly soft hands and good quickness and agility behind the plate. He blocks balls in the dirt well and has a strong, accurate throwing arm with a quick release. He put on an impressive show in instructional league, hitting balls out of the park to all fields, and the Rangers think he will develop at least average power.
Long-term wear on Teagarden’s elbow led him to have Tommy John surgery after instructional league. He has holes in his swing and stuck out in one-third of his at-bats during his debut. He’s a below-average runner but decent for a catcher.
The Future:
The surgery will cost Teagarden a nonroster invitation to big league camp, but the Rangers think he’ll be able to hit early in 2006 and throw by the end of season. It may be easier to get him at-bats as a DH in high Class A.
2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Spokane (SS) .281 .426 .635 96 23 27 5 4 7 16 23 32 1 1


10. JOHN MAYBERRY JR., of     Born: December 21, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-6 Wt: 230
Drafted: Stanford, 2005 (1st round)    Signed by: Tim Fortugno

Background: Mayberry first joined his father John (a two-time major league all-star) as a first-round pick when the Mariners drafted him 28th overall out of high school in 2002. After three years at Stanford, he went 19th in the 2005 draft and signed with the Rangers for $1.525 million.

The best college athlete in the 2005 draft, Mayberry earns 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale for both his raw power and arm strength. Though he was a slick-fielding first baseman in college, the Rangers think he can be at least an average defender in right field. His speed is above-average.
Mayberry never got comfortable at the plate at Stanford, tinkering with his stance too often and trying too hard to hit to the opposite field. His long swing lacks rhythm and balance. He shows light-tower power in batting practice but has to cheat on fastballs to generate power in game situations. Defensively, he needs to work on his jumps.
The Future:
Mayberry has enormous upside, but it will take a lot of time and hard work on his swing for him to reach his potential. He’ll spend six weeks at the Rangers’ Arizona complex before spring training working on his stroke, then will open the season at low Class A Clinton.
2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Spokane (SS) .253 .341 .438 265 51 67 16 0 11 26 26 71 7 3

Photo Credits:
Diamond: Shawn Davis
Danks, Mayberry, Teagarden, Volquez: Bill Mitchell
Galarraga: Tom Priddy