Texas Rangers: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Aaron Fitt

Texas Rangers: Chat

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, 2009.

    JAYPERS (IL): Just how tough was it to rank the Top 3? How many of these ten names would get your vote for the overall Top 100?

Aaron Fitt: Hi everyone. Sorry I'm a couple minutes late (I'll make up for it by going long). Let's get going... The top three was tough — I think you could have gone in any order with those three and it would have been defensible. In the end, I did not have much trouble settling on Feliz again for No. 1, but I flip-flopped Smoak and Perez over and over before settling on Smoak at 2.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Which seems more likely to happen in Scheppers' future at this point - SP or RP? You left the door open for either to occur in your scouting report.

Aaron Fitt: I would say RP. That fastball-power curve combo could be utterly dominant in relief, and he wouldn't even really need to develop his change. His mechanics and command also seem more suited to the pen.

    Grant (Miami, FL): How does Profar compare to Andrus at the same age? Does he have more offensive upside?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, more offensive upside, but not as much defensive upside or speed. The biggest reason those two get compared is their makeup and their uncommon polish relative to their ages. Their tool sets aren't actually that similar, though.

    Lyle (Vancouver, Canada): Thanks for the chat Aaron. Do you think Moreland can make it as an outfielder with his lack of range?

Aaron Fitt: I do — his range is below-average, but it's not horrible, and he makes up for it somewhat with good instincts and a plus arm. He played mostly right field in college and did fine out there.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What's the scoop on Luis Sardinas, and where did he land overall?

Aaron Fitt: He's got an exciting speed/defense package at shortstop, and the Rangers think he's got a real chance to hit, too, though he's not as strong or as advanced offensively as Profar. He came in at No. 13.

    T-Rex (Dallas): How far did Max Ramirez fall on your list since last year?

Aaron Fitt: Only to 11, but that was a real tough one — I considered him anywhere from about No. 9 to about No. 25, and opinions inside the Rangers organization vary on him about that widely. But in the end, I decided to mostly throw out his 2009. This guy has always hit in the past, and I think he will hit again.

    Peter (Detroit): Does Tommy Mendonca go back to the California League to start the season? Do you expect his numbers to be along the line he put up in Spokane?

Aaron Fitt: I bet he'll start at Hickory and finish in Bakersfield. He's got to continue working on his swing before he'll be ready for High A. His progress after the rangers tweaked his mechanics last year was encouraging, though.

    Drew (NY): When do you predict Justin Smoak will get his first MLB at-bat?

Aaron Fitt: I'll say... July.

    Paige (Detroit): Clark Murphy - prospect or suspect?

Aaron Fitt: Suspect. He took a huge step backward this year — got off to a slow start, then got his mechanics out of whack and struggled to pull the ball with any authority. And he let his offensive struggles affect his defense — he was really bad at first base last year.

    Matt (San Diego, CA): Does Robert Erlin start off in Clinton this year or is that a bit aggressive for him?

Aaron Fitt: He'll definitely start the year in extended spring training, as the Rangers typically do with their young high school arms in their first full seasons. He might actually be polished enough to jump to low A in June or so, but I think it's more likely he will head to Spokane. The Rangers move their young pitchers slowly and cautiously, and given the pitching depth in the system, there's no reason to rush anyone.

    Harold (Houston): Did Carlos Pimentel sneak into your Top 30 this year? I was intrigued by the brief sleeper writeup you gave him in last year's Handbook?

Aaron Fitt: He did not. I still think he's interesting, but his stuff is not overwhelming so he's going to have to prove it at every step. I like his changeup, and his fastball has some sink, but his velocity still hasn't really jumped as expected — he's still working at 88-90. And he needs to improve his breaking ball.

    Drew (NY): After Michael Main's unfortunate 2009 season, where might he start this year and what do you hope to see from him (aside from staying healthy)?

Aaron Fitt: It sounds like he's going to start in high Class A, and the Rangers hope he can pitch his way to Frisco during the season. I'm a bit down on him. I want to see him stay healthy and actually produce over a full season before I'm convinced he's anything more than a tease — a perennial instructional league superstar.

    Drew (NY): Martin Perez was limited in most starts to 5-6 innings last season. Do you anticipate any growing pains as the Rangers begin to stretch him out at AA?

Aaron Fitt: I don't anticipate any problems. He's ready.

    JAYPERS (IL): Had he signed, where would Matt Purke have ranked on your list?

Aaron Fitt: Good one... no lower than fifth, no higher than fourth. Probably fourth — I think I like him more than Scheppers. Of course, he would have ranked No. 1 on a number of other organizations' lists...

    Ben (Leland Grove): What's your assessment of Beavan at this time? Top 20? 30?

Aaron Fitt: No. 17. The stuff still isn't what it was in high school, but he's a winner, a competitor, he pounds the zone, he's durable, and his velocity did start to creep back up a bit this year — he at least touched 93 now and then. He'll find a way to contribute in the big leagues.

    JAYPERS (IL): If you had to pick between Feliz and Stephen Strasburg when deciding whose fastball is most impressive, who gets the nod and why?

Aaron Fitt: Love this question. Amazingly, they're both legit 80 pitches... Feliz might have just a touch more life, and he does it more easily, but Strasburg has a bit better command of his fastball, so I'd probably go with his. But it's a toss-up, really.

    Charlie (Houston, TX): Do you see Miguel Velazquez having a breakout season? All of the tools seem to be there.

Aaron Fitt: Last year was a breakout season, of sorts, but I do think many more people will know his name next year. He's a very, very intriguing sleeper — think a young Nelson Cruz.

    Jeff (Pittsburgh): Hey Aaron, did Omar Poveda slot into the top 30? What kind of future does he have on a team this deep in pitching talent?

Aaron Fitt: He slotted in at No. 20, in fact. People are constantly overlooking this guy because he's not a sexy prospect, but he's a three-pitch strike-thrower, and he'll be a useful big leaguer, though not an above-average big leaguer.

    james (arlington): did chad tracy get any consideration for the list? he led the TX league in HR and was 2nd in RBIs. does he have a shot to make the big league club this year, or is he stuck with smoak and davis there?

Aaron Fitt: He had a real good year, but he did not make the top 30. It's a good righthanded power bat, which is definitely a valuable commodity, but there's obviously no room for him at first base in Texas — and he's a lousy defensive first baseman anyway, though he's worse in the outfield and behind the plate. Really, his future is as a DH who can play some first base for a team that's willing to make the defensive sacrifice. I don't think he's got much of a big league future with the Rangers.

    Phillip (Anguilla): Do you believe that locating a farm team in Bakersfield or some of the other hitter's launching pads is harmful to the long-term development of young pitching?

Aaron Fitt: Yes. That kind of environment can destroy a young pitcher's confidence, cause him to overthrow or fall into other mechanical troubles. I suppose it can also make some young pitchers tougher (or in the Rangers' case, prepare them for the hitter-friendly environment in Arlington), but on the whole I think it would be better not to have to send young pitchers to those kinds of environments in A ball, given the choice. But I will add that that's just my gut response — it's not based on any sort of scientific study.

    Scott (Dallas): Quick thoughts on the following pitchers: David Perez, Shawn Blackwell, Braden Tullis, Matt Thompson

Aaron Fitt: Blackwell has a good curveball and some feel for pitching, and I think his high-80s velocity could increase as he fills out his 6-foot-5 frame. Tullis is a favorite of BA's Northwest guru, Conor Glassey. He's got a pretty good sinker and a decent change, but he'll need to improve his slider. Thompson has very good control, an average fastball and a promising hard, overhand curve. He's got a shot.

    Jay (Ft Worth): What is the future for Mike Bianucci? He crushed the ball last year! Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: I could see Bianucci as a righthanded power bat off the bench, a fourth outfielder. He's got good power and athleticism, but he swings and misses a lot and is not a very good defender. The Rangers generally like another corner outfielder, Joey Butler, better. Butler just has a little better feel for all phases of the game, though he doesn't have Bianucci's power.

    Bill (New Canaan, CT): Aaron- Thanks for taking my question. Who do you think is the best comparable to Justin Smoak among current major league players? Also, with Vlad Guerrero added to the Texas roster, are there enough ABs in 2010 for Vlad, Chris Davis and Smoak if Vlad stays healthy and Davis recovers from his atrocious 2009? Thanks again.

Aaron Fitt: We constantly hear Teixeira comps for Smoak, and I don't think that's too far off base. He doesn't have Teixeira's hit tool, but he's a switch-hitter with similar power potential and a chance to be a good defender, though I'm not sure he'll be quite as good as Tex around the bag. I don't think there are enough at-bats for all three of those guys in 2010, and I expect Smoak to start at Triple-A. I bet he'll get his shot when Vlad inevitably misses time with injuries, however.

    Matt (Ada, OK): Closer to the top 10, Wilfredo Boscan or Blake Beavan?

Aaron Fitt: Beavan.

    Matt (Ada, OK): Most likely to make an impact at the big league level: Tim Murphy, Richard Bleier, Zach Phillips or Robbert Erlin?

Aaron Fitt: Hmm... most likely would be Phillips. I see him as a pretty safe bet to be a strike-throwing lefty out of the pen pretty soon. I would put Corey Young in that discussion also. There's more risk involved with those other guys.

    Jon (Peoria): Is the fact that Engel Beltre didn't make the top 10 proof that the Rangers have one of the best minor league systems or that there are too many questions about whether Beltre can reach his potential?

Aaron Fitt: I think it's both. He's incredibly talented and would be a fine fit in anyone's top 10, even after his lousy 2009. But he's got a lot to prove, too, and he is by no means a sure thing.

    Fresno State Bulldogger (San Francisco): Aaron, Good to see Tanner Scheppers so high on the Texas list. What's your prognosis on fellow Fresno State product Tommy Mendonca? I fear his downfall as a legitimate big-league hitter is his high strikeout rate. But would his outstanding range as a fielder cancel out some of his inconsistency at the plate?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, I think his defense — and his power — will mitigate his below-average hit tool somewhat. But I really do have major questions about whether he'll ever hit enough to hold down a big league job. Still, he's got a couple of very loud tools, and I love the grinder makeup, so he's got a chance.

    Ethan (NJ): How long until Smoak has .300/.400/.500 slash stats?

Aaron Fitt: I see him as more of a .280/.375/.525 guy — maybe as soon as 2011.

    RT (Dallas, TX): Thanks for the chat today. Would you consider Matt Cain for Smoak and Perez?

Aaron Fitt: No way.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): Hi Aaron: Last year, you mentioned Corey Young as a sleeper. What contributed the most to his problems getting hitters out at Tulsa? Who would you mention as sleepers this year?

Aaron Fitt: Once he got to Double-A, he did not trust his stuff the same way he had in the past, he got too tentative, and he just did not throw quality strikes. The Rangers want him to challenge hitters more next year, and I suspect he'll get back on track. For sleepers this year, I'll go with Jake Brigham (big-time power stuff, if he can harness it), Richard Alvarez (superb feel for pitching — will the velocity jump?) and Chad Bell (he's like a young Matt Harrison).

    Avery (Walnut Creek): Crow v. Sheppers. Will these two be permanently linked solely because they each spent a year in Indy ball? Who has a higher ceiling and who has the lower floor?

Aaron Fitt: Not only because of the Indy ball factor — they were the top two college righthanders in the college draft class their junior years, before Scheppers got hurt. And they're linked for me because they both dominated on the same day at the USD Tournament I went to early that year (Brian Matusz went head to head against Scheppers in one of the most exciting matchups I've ever seen in college). Anyway, I'll say Scheppers has the higher ceiling and the lower floor.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Former Phillies fellow Greg Golson - how far down has he dropped? Would he get a high rating if still a Phillie organization guy?

Aaron Fitt: He's fallen out of the top 30 just because I don't think he's ever going to hit. And no, he wouldn't rank highly in the Phillies system either — they've got a very good system with excellent depth.

    Shawn Nelson (Chippewa Falls Wi.): Do you really not see Main,Kiker,Poveda or Beaven as starting pitchers in your future lineup? By the way,how is Main doing? Will he be ready this spring? Thanks

Aaron Fitt: I really don't. Who would you take out? Feliz, Perez and Holland are front-line guys. Feldman is a proven winner who was the best pitcher on the staff for most of last year. Tommy Hunter is already in the big leagues and is going to be a workhorse No. 5. That's potentially a pretty filthy rotation, and that's not taking into account Rich Harden...

    Steve (Sarasota): OK, he had a weak season, but doesn't every thoroubred get one Mulligan? How could Engle Beltre have missed this list?

Aaron Fitt: He got a mulligan — he's still on the list at No. 14 (PLUG: purchase the Prospect Handbook for full writeups on the entire Top 30, plus 870 other prospects from other teams!). If he wasn't a thoroughbred, he wouldn't be in the top 30 at all after putting up a .598 OPS in A-ball.

    Khanone (Seoul, South Korea): What is your opinion between HDVD(Hurley, Danks, Volquez, Diamond) in the past & Fantastic 4(Feliz, Perez, Smoak, Scheppers) this year? Which has more ceiling or quality? And thank you for your answer to my question who's the most intriguing Korean prospect in Rangers system?

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for joining us from Seoul! Obviously there is no comparison between HDVD and the Fantastic 4. When the HDVD group ranked as the top four prospects in the system in 2007, Texas ranked No. 28 in our minor league talent rankings. With the current group, Texas will rank´┐Żwell, much much higher. As for Part Two of your question — with apologies to Tae Kyung Ahn, the answer is Yoon-Hee Nam, a four-pitch lefty who came out of nowhere to post huge numbers in Hickory last year. He doesn't have special stuff, but he pounds the zone with four usable pitches.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thanks for the chat and the great work. He certainly had some struggles in the GCL this year, but what are your thoughts on Ruben Sierra Jr.? Some impressive raw tools there.

Aaron Fitt: Thanks, Joe! Sierra does have impressive raw tools, including plus-plus speed and intriguing raw power, but of course the operative word with Sierra is "raw". He's a bit of a clone of his dad with his approach — he's got the big leg kick and the long swing, and he's got a long way to go to learn the strike zone and refine his all-around game.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, could you compare/contrast Jurickson Profar and Leury Garcia? Profar more bat, Garcia more speed - similar gloves?

Aaron Fitt: Profar has much more bat, Garcia has much more speed (Garcia is a 70 runner), and Garcia has a better glove, notwithstanding his high error totals last year. Garcia needs to cut down on his mistakes, but he has the tools to be a sensational shortstop — we're talking plus-plus range and plus-plus arm strength. Profar could be a solid, reliable shortstop, maybe even a bit above-average, but his defensive tools just are not as loud, and he's not as fluid.

    Ryan (Tulsa): Did Boscan's inability to miss bats cause him to drop out of the top ten? Does he still have middle of the rotation potential? Thanks for the chat Aaron!

Aaron Fitt: He doesn't miss bats, and his velocity did not jump at all, and the Rangers are starting to sound less confident that he's going to throw much harder. He's a younger, less physical version of Omar Poveda — a command-and-control, three-pitch guy at the back of a big league rotation.

    Logan (CA): With Perez, Kiker, and Ross all being of the shorter variety for pitchers, is there an overall concern that their body types will not be able to project as durable starters down the road?

Aaron Fitt: You know, you don't ever hear that concern expressed about Perez, probably just because his arm action is so smooth and easy. Of the three, durability seems to be a bigger concern for Kiker, whom I see as a potentially above-average bullpen guy, though there are plenty of people in the Rangers system who still think he will be a starter. Ross isn't tall, but he's fairly physical.

    Phil (Chandler, AZ): Do you see pitchers Michael Kirkman and Braden Tullis moving into the Rangers Top 10 prospects next year?

Aaron Fitt: I don't see Tullis making that kind of jump, but I could see it with Kirkman, who landed safely inside the top 20 this year. Great to see him get his career turned around the way he has.

    Brian (Milwaukee, WI): Eric Hurley, is it time to write off this prospect off. It been an amazing fall from the Top 100 prospect he was a couple of years ago.

Aaron Fitt: I wouldn't write him off completely — nobody really knows how he's going to come back from his surgery. He's just a complete X-factor.

    Shawn (Dallas): Is this years top 10 stronger or weaker than last years?

Aaron Fitt: Weaker. Last year you still had Feliz, Smoak and Perez, but you also had Holland (who I like a bit better than Scheppers), Andrus, Borbon and Teagarden. All four of those guys are in the big leagues, and at least Andrus, Holland and Borbon look like they've got real star potential.

    chris (dallas): Feliz better closer or starter?

Aaron Fitt: True No. 1 starters are so rare that you've got to find out if Feliz can turn into that, since he certainly has that kind of potential. And yet, and I can't help thinking that this feels like the Papelbon situation the Red Sox faced a couple of years ago. Papelbon broke in as a reliever and dominated, but he had been a starter in the minors and the Sox tried to make him a starter the following spring training, before realizing that he was too valuable (and perhaps was better suited all along) in the bullpen.

    David (Grapevine, TX): If Tanner Scheppers had no health concerns, where would he rank?

Aaron Fitt: No. 4. Those three guys ahead of him are real blue-chip prospects, and they all have much better performance track records and are much safer bets to reach their ceilings.

    Jon (Peoria): What is the scouting report on de los Santos?

Aaron Fitt: He's got an 80 arm, which is a nice place to start, and he's making progress with his receiving and hitting, but he's still very raw. He needs to improve his English, too — an underrated skill for young Latin catchers.

    Rob (Alaska): Wow, a guy as young as Profar at 5. Does this suggest the system overall is down a bit (no longer #1?) or is Profar that strong?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, I do think it suggests that there is not as much depth of top-tier prospects as there were a year ago. The top four prospects in this system are the best in baseball, for my money, but I think it's a pretty significant drop-off to No. 5, no matter how much the Rangers love Profar (and believe me, they are enamored with him). But ideally, your No. 5 prospect wouldn't be a 16-year-old kid who has never played pro ball and who the preponderance of international scouts preferred as a pitcher.

    Desmond (San Antonio): better hitter in their prime: Alvarez or Smoak?

Aaron Fitt: We've been debating this question in the halls of BA since these two guys were freshmen in college. It's really, really close... but I suppose if I've got to pick, I'll take the switch-hitter — Smoak.

    Nate (North Carolina): At times throughout the season, BA writers called Perez's changeup "above average" and "plus". Even if he was only showing its potential in flashes, the general reports on the pitch have been extremely positive, yet you listed his changeup as a weakness. Is that just a weakness by default for him, or is it actually something fans should be concerned with?

Aaron Fitt: I suppose it's all relative — for some pitchers, flashing a plus changeup at times would be a strength, but for someone as polished as Perez, refining that pitch is something he needs to work on to reach his superstar potential. He does show a plus change at times, there is no question, and the pitch projects as a plus pitch, but he needs to become more consistent with it. Currently, sometimes it's above-average, but other times he struggles to turn it over and it doesn't fade as much.

    Steve V (Planfield, IL): What are the chances Beltre figures it out or is he the next Correy Patterson?

Aaron Fitt: Corey Patterson spent most of the last decade in the big leagues and was a useful player at times, though he was a disappointment relative to expectations. If Beltre doesn't figure it out, he won't be Corey Patterson, because he won't ever reach the big leagues. That said, I like his makeup, I think he's got some aptitude, and he's got a real chance to put it all together.

    Rob (Alaska): Is there still some thought that the Rangers want Profar to return to pitching and that they're just indulging his love of SS ala the Red Sox and Casey Kelly?

Aaron Fitt: I've got time for just a couple more. Rob, that theory is floating out there, but after speaking with a number of Rangers officials, I'm not buying it. They don't talk about the pitching possibility at all, and they couldn't be more excited about this guy as a position player. I don't think they would sell him so hard if they didn't really believe in him — otherwise they'd just be setting him up for failure.

    Todd (Tosa): Where did Joe Wieland end up? Where does he go this year? Thanks for the chat!

Aaron Fitt: I was aggressive with Wieland despite his lackluster year in Hickory — he comes in at No. 12. Expect him to start 2010 back in Hickory, with a chance to earn a promotion to Bakersfield.

    Blake (Virgina): How is Neil Ramirez progressing and your thoughts on him? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: He's progressing slowly. He still struggles from serious lapses in command and mechanics, but he also still shows a 92-96 fastball and a swing-and-miss power curve, so you can't give up on him.

    Brad (MO): Would Manny Pina or Tim Smith had made the top 30 if they hadn't been traded? How often does a legitimate prospect get traded for lesser prospects?

Aaron Fitt: Neither would have made the top 30. The only time you really see trades like this is when one team is fed up with a promising prospect who has makeup issues, and that was the case here. That could turn out to be a real steal for the Rangers.

    MATT (ADA, OK): Did Kennil Gomez, a victim of the Cal League make the top 30?

Aaron Fitt: He did not. His stock has taken a step back, not just because of the Cal League — it's just average stuff across the board. The Rangers now project him as a middle reliever.

    Jack (North Carolina): Thoughts on Nick McBride, HS righty taken in the fifth round last year?

Aaron Fitt: Projection guy — it's 87-91 right now with the makings of a good breaking ball, but the Rangers believe there's more in there.

    Allyson (Dallas): With 4 picks in the top 50 the Rangers will have a chance to restock the system once again. How strong is the 2010 draft and what position do you see the Rangers concentrating on this year? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Pretty good high school crop, not a very good college crop — extremely weak in college hitters, but decent depth in college pitching. I think the Rangers will take the best available players when they pick... certainly the system needs bats more than arms right now, but if the arms available when they pick are just much better than the bats, they're not going to draft hitters just for the sake of drafting hitters.

    Drew (NY): Where does Martin Perez rank compared to other minor league pitchers? Is he the second best lefty prospect behind Bumgarner?

Aaron Fitt: I think Brian Matusz is the top lefty prospect in baseball, though you could argue that he's not really a minor leaguer anymore (he is still prospect-eligible, however). After that, I would take Perez, but I think most BA prospect writers would go with Bumgarner and then Perez. Certainly, those are the top three guys, in some order. OK everyone, that's all for today — thanks for stopping by, as always. Great batch of questions today! Now it's time to turn our focus to the College Preview, starting with our preseason Top 25 on Wednesday.