Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

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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.

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Shortly after Jon Daniels became the youngest general manager in baseball history following the 2005 season, the Rangers fully committed to building a winner through their farm system. They restocked the organization through trades and the draft, and they poured resources into their Latin American operations.

After sinking to 28th in Baseball America's farm system rankings before the 2007 season, Texas rose to No. 1 just two years later. And in 2010, its plan reached fruition.

Led by young stars such as American League MVP Josh Hamilton, AL rookie of the year Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz—trade acquisitions all—the Rangers cruised to 90 wins, their best season and first AL West title since 1999. The farm system, which has sent key players such as Julio Borbon, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter and Mitch Moreland to Texas in recent years, also provided the trade bait for reinforcements. The Rangers had the depth to swing a blockbuster trade for Cliff Lee, plus smaller deals for Jorge Cantu, Cristian Guzman and Bengie Molina.

Texas finally won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, beating the Rays in the Division Series before vanquishing the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Though the Rangers lost the World Series in five games to the Giants, their season was an overwhelming success—on and off the field.

Now the franchise should find financial stability as well, after concluding a drawn-out process to replace former owner Tom Hicks, whose financial problems dragged the team into bankruptcy. Major League Baseball had to prop up the team's finances for a couple of years as Hicks' holdings went into bankruptcy—and in fact made a multimillion-dollar loan in May to keep the club going until the ownership situation could be resolved—but now has given way to a group led by team president Nolan Ryan and Pennsylvania attorney Chuck Greenberg.

The Ryan group initially agreed to buy the club early in 2010 for $530 million-$570 million, but Hicks' creditors were not satisfied with the arrangement and forced the process into an auction in bankruptcy court in August. The Ryan/Greenberg group faced off against a contingent headed by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, winning with a bid of $590 million, and was approved by MLB shortly thereafter.

The new owners inherit a team poised to win for years. Most of its best players are in their 20s, and the team will have more financial flexibility than it enjoyed in the final years of Hicks' ownership. While the farm system has been depleted by graduations and trades, it still has elite prospects in lefthander Martin Perez, shortstop Jurickson Profar and righty Tanner Scheppers.

The talent remains deep at the lower levels of the minors. Having four of the first 49 picks in the 2010 helped replenish the cupboard with outfielder Jake Skole, catcher Kellin Deglan, righthander Luke Jackson and third baseman Mike Olt. Another wave of exciting Latin American talent is on the way, led by Profar and Venezuelan shortstop Luis Sardinas.

The Rangers also took steps to improve their stock of catchers, after what had been regarded as an area of strength became a weakness when Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez didn't pan out. They not only drafted Deglan but also signed 16-year-old Colombian Jorge Alfaro for $1.3 million.

1.  Martin Perez, lhp   Born: April 4, 1991B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 178
 Drafted: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Rafic Saab/Manny Batista/Don Welke
Martin PerezBackground: After signing for $580,000 in 2007, Perez rocketed through the Rangers system to reach Double-A Frisco as an 18-year-old two years later. Along the way, he was often compared to fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana and former Yankees ace Ron Guidry for his short stature, big stuff and competitiveness. But Perez tasted adversity for the first time when he made the jump from the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in 2009, to the Texas League for a cameo at the end of the season. He got nervous, overthrew and didn't repeat his delivery well, posting a 5.57 ERA in five starts. He returned to Frisco in 2010 and looked on the verge of conquering Double-A when he posted a 2.45 ERA in his first six starts. But Perez was erratic from May onward, and a lower back strain caused him to miss a few starts in July and August. He regained some of his old form in a dominant playoff start, then carried his momentum over to instructional league in the fall.

Scouting Report: There aren't many lefthanders who can match Perez's potential with three pitches, not even in the major leagues. His fastball velocity has increased from the mid-80s when he signed to 91-95 mph with good sink when he's at his best. He did sit around 89-92 for much of last summer before regaining velocity toward the end of the season. His fastball command deserted him at times, playing a major role in his disappointing season. When he got in trouble, he would try to reach back and throw harder. That caused his head to jerk, his alignment to get out of whack, his release point to vary and his control to falter. Perez does have an easy arm action with minimal effort, and his smooth delivery has always been one of his greatest assets. Filling the strike zone shouldn't be an issue if he resists the temptation to overthrow. Perez's changeup was his best secondary pitch when he signed, and Texas had him focus on throwing it early in his career so he could refine it. The changeup was his go-to pitch in 2010, a plus offering with sink and fade. He throws it with good arm speed and deception. He also flashes a quality curveball with sharp 1-to-7 break, though he showed less feel for it last season than he did in 2009, when he could add and subtract from it at will, varying it from 68-81 mph. He worried about curveball velocity at the expense of command too often in 2010. He needs to do a better job throwing it for strikes early in counts and burying it once he gets ahead of hitters. Some scouts worry that his small frame won't lends itself to durability, but the Rangers aren't concerned.

The Future: Texas believes that the speed bump Perez hit in 2010 will help him in the long run. He's still just 19 and is on his way to having three legitimate plus pitches and becoming a true ace. He figures to pitch at the Rangers' new Triple-A Round Rock affiliate in 2011—perhaps right out of the gate if he has a strong spring. The Rangers still believe he has the stuff to pitch at the front of a big league rotation.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Frisco (AA) 5 8 5.96 24 23 0 0 100 117 12 50 101 .290
2.  Jurickson Profar, ss   Born: Feb. 20, 1993B-T: B-RHt: 6-0Wt: 170
 Signed: Curacao, 2009Signed by: Mike Daly/Chu Halabi/Jose Felomina
Jurickson ProfarBackground: Profar led Curacao to the 2004 Little League World Series championship and attracted plenty of interest on the international market as a pitcher. The Rangers raised some eyebrows when they signed him as a shortstop for $1.55 million, a franchise record for an international signee, but he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League as a 17-year-old last summer.

Scouting Report: Still young and skinny, Profar projects as a true five-tool talent once he matures physically. A natural righthanded hitter, he has a nice line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate, though he fell off from the left side as he wore down late in 2010. He likes pitches on the outer half and tends to cut off his swing a bit, so he'll need to learn to pull the ball with more authority. He controls the strike zone well for his age, and should become a plus hitter with average power. Profar's instincts make his average speed play up on the bases and help him get friendly hops at short. His range, quickness, soft hands and strong hands give him a chance to be a plus defender at shortstop. As with his hero, Elvis Andrus, Profar's makeup sets him apart.

The Future: Profar wants to get to the big leagues as quickly as Andrus did. While that's unlikely, he's moving quickly and will play at low Class A Hickory at age 18.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Spokane (SS) .250 .323 .373 252 42 63 19 0 4 23 28 46 8
3.  Tanner Scheppers, rhp   Born: Jan. 17, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
 Drafted: St. Paul (American Association), 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Derek Lee
Tanner ScheppersBackground: Shoulder problems caused Scheppers to miss Fresno State's 2008 College World Series championship run and knocked him from a projected top-10 choice to the second round of the draft. He resurfaced in independent ball in 2009, then signed for $1.25 million as a sandwich pick. He pitched mostly in relief last year because the Rangers wanted to limit his innings and needed bullpen reinforcements.

Scouting Report: Scheppers' four-seam fastball rarely drops below 95 and tops out at 98 when he starts, and bumps triple digits when he comes out of the bullpen. Some scouts say his fastball is straight, but others say it has good riding life up in the zone. He dabbled late in the year with a low-90s sinker. Scheppers throws both an 11-to-5 curveball and a hard slider that are plus pitches at times. He has feel for a changeup but throws it too hard at 87-88 mph. He rushes his delivery when he works from the stretch, causing him to lose his release point and pitch up in the zone.

The Future: Texas is committed to developing Scheppers as a starter. He has the stuff to pitch at the front of a rotation, if he can refine his command, or in the late innings as a reliever. He figures to open 2011 in Triple-A and get a taste of the big leagues at some point.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Frisco (AA) 0 0 0.82 6 0 0 2 11 3 1 0 19 .079
Oklahoma City (AAA) 1 3 5.48 30 7 0 4 69 82 5 30 71 .297
4.  Robbie Erlin, lhp   Born: Oct. 8, 1990B-T: L-LHt: 6-0Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS—Scotts Valley, Calif., 2009 (3rd round)Signed by: Butch Metzger
Robbie ErlinBackground: After signing him away from a Cal Poly commitment for $425,000 as a 2009 third-round pick, the Rangers planned for Erlin to begin 2010 in extended spring training and then begin his professional career with short-season Spokane. Instead, Erlin forced his way to low Class A Hickory with a strong spring and led the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.12) and strikeout-walk ratio (7.4) as a 19-year-old.

Scouting Report: Erlin is polished beyond his years, with outstanding command of all three of his offerings. He keeps hitters off balance by throwing any pitch in any count and can even mix a big leg kick with a slide step to disrupt their timing. Erlin attacks all four quadrants of the strike zone with an 89-91 mph fastball, an 1-to-7 curveball that's a plus pitch at times, and a quality changeup with fade and some turnover action. He can change speeds with his curveball and his changeup, which is 12-15 mph slower than his fastball. He's a fierce competitor with the best delivery in the system.

The Future: Despite his lack of size, Erlin profiles as a quality big league starter because of his off-the-charts feel for pitching and his competitiveness. He'll advance to Texas' new high Class A Myrtle Beach affiliate in 2011 and could race through the minors.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Hickory (Lo A) 6 3 2.12 28 17 0 1 115 89 9 17 125 .213
5.  Engel Beltre, of   Born: Nov. 1, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Pablo Lantigua (Red Sox)
Engel BeltreBackground: The centerpiece of the 2007 Eric Gagne trade with the Red Sox, Beltre struggled to slow the game down in his first taste of high Class A in 2009. He made big progress in his return last season, taking off after moving to the No. 3 slot in the Bakersfield lineup, where he hit .356/.402/.485. He started fast after a July promotion to Double-A, then cooled off.

Scouting Report: Beltre has an exciting package of tools, though there are varying opinions about his power potential. Some evaluators say he has plus raw power and envision him developing at least average game power, while others see him maxing out at 12-15 homers per year. He has a quick lefthanded swing and the ability to hit for average. Beltre made a concerted effort to be more patient last year, but at times he still tries to kill the ball, causing him to roll his front shoulder and not see the ball as well. Beltre has plus speed and is very aggressive on the basepaths—sometimes too aggressive. His range and instincts will make him a plus defender in center field, and his arm is both strong and accurate.

The Future: Beltre will start 2011 back at Frisco as a 21-year-old. If he continues to refine his offensive approach, he could arrive in Texas sometime the following season.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Bakersfield (Hi A) .331 .376 .460 263 38 87 11 4 5 35 11 34 10
Frisco (AA) .254 .301 .337 181 14 46 4 4 1 14 10 24 8
6.  Michael Kirkman, lhp   Born: Sept. 18, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Lake City, Fla., 2005 (5th round)Signed by: Guy DeMutis
Michael KirkmanBackground: Kirkman's mechanics and confidence deserted him after he hurt his hamstring in 2006, and for two years he barely could throw a ball above 80 mph—and nowhere near the plate. Pitching coordinator Keith Comstock got him back on track, and Kirkman earned Triple-A Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year honors in 2010 before contributing to the Rangers' World Series run as a reliever.

Scouting Report: Kirkman has good size and a strong arm that generates 91-94 mph fastballs with some sink. His plus 84-85 mph slide is an out pitch that he can bury on the back foot of righthanders and get lefties to chase out of the zone. He also mixes in a mid-70s curveball and a decent changeup, though he seldom used either in relief. He has a herky-jerky delivery with some length that makes it hard for hitters to pick up the ball but also impacts his command, which can be spotty.

The Future: Texas still believes Kirkman can be a big league starter, but his lack of fine command might make him a better fit in the bullpen. He should make the Opening Day roster as a reliever unless the Rangers decide to move him back to the rotation, in which case he could return to Triple-A until an opportunity arises.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Oklahoma City (AAA) 13 3 3.09 24 22 0 0 131 115 8 68 130 .235
Texas 0 0 1.65 14 0 0 0 16 9 0 10 16 .161
7.  Mike Olt, 3b   Born: Aug. 27, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Connecticut, 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jay Heafner
Mike OltBackground: After setting Connecticut career records with 44 home runs and 177 RBIs and leading the Huskies to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1994, Olt was the fourth of Texas' four picks before the second round of the 2010 draft. He signed for $717,300 and had a strong debut in the Northwest League, where he ranked as the No. 4 prospect.

Scouting Report: Midway through last spring, Olt went to a narrower stance that he said helped him see the ball better, but he took to a wider, more balanced set-up last summer. He has good leverage and generates above-average raw power, but a hitch in his swing causes his timing to get out of whack at times. He can get pull-happy and still must improve against good breaking balls. Olt began his college career as a shortstop, and his athleticism plays very well at the hot corner. He excels at making plays on slow rollers, and he owns smooth actions, soft hands and a plus arm.  He's a slightly below-average runner. Scouts and coaches constantly laud his makeup and work ethic.

The Future: Olt may never be better than an average hitter, but his power potential and defensive ability give him a chance to be a valuable everyday player. He figures to start 2011 at Hickory but could reach Myrtle Beach quickly.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Spokane (SS) .293 .390 .464 263 57 77 16 1 9 43 40 77 6
8.  Luis Sardinas, ss   Born: May 16, 1993B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 150
 Signed: Venezuela, 2009Signed by: Mike Daly/Rafic Saab/Pedro Avila
Luis SardinasBackground: Texas invested seven-figure bonuses in two Latin American shortstops in 2009, landing Jurickson Profar and Sardinas ($1.2 million). Sardinas' 2010 pro debut was delayed when a pitch hit him on the hand in extended spring training, and he dislocated his shoulder on a swing and miss during instructional league.

Scouting Report: Sardinas is a quick-twitch athlete who reminds the Rangers of a young Tony Fernandez. He has louder raw tools than Profar but is less advanced in all phases of the game. Sardinas is a plus-plus runner with a lightning-quick first step that gives him excellent range at shortstop and the potential to be an elite basestealer. He also has above-average arm strength, but he must become more consistent defensively and avoid concentration lapses. Sardinas currently lacks strength at the plate and tries to compensate—especially as a lefthanded hitter—with his upper body in a way that gets his lower half out of sync and causes him to swing uphill. The Rangers want him to stay on top of the ball and hit it on the ground to use his speed better. He'll never hit for power, but he has the hand-eye coordination to hit for average and use the gaps.

The Future: Shoulder surgery will knock Sardinas out for most of 2011, but the Rangers can wait on his talent. If he adds strength and polish, he could be a dynamic shortstop.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Rangers (R) .311 .363 .350 103 22 32 4 0 0 8 7 15 8
9.  Jake Skole, of   Born: Jan. 17, 1992B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 192
 Drafted: HS-Roswell, Ga., 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Ryan Coe
Jake SkoleBackground: The younger brother of Georgia Tech slugger Matt Skole, Jake committed to the Yellow Jackets to play football and baseball. His gridiron commitment and an ankle injury depressed his draft stock until he came on late last spring. Shortly after he got two hits off Angels first-rounder Kaleb Cowart in a Georgia high school playoff game, the Rangers drafted Skole 15th overall and signed him for $1.56 million.

Scouting Report: Physical and athletic, Skole has plenty of strength but needs to use his lower half better in his swing in order to drive the ball with more authority. He projects to have average to plus power, and he could be an average or slightly better hitter from the left side. As a multisport athlete, Skole has some rough edges to polish, but Texas was pleasantly surprised by his offensive approach and strike-zone discipline. His ankle continued to hamper him a bit during his pro debut, but he has slightly above-average speed when fully healthy. The Rangers believe he has a chance to play center field, though some scouts project him as a right fielder. He has a solid-average arm.

The Future: Skole will advance to low Class A to start 2011. With his football days in the rear-view mirror, he should begin develop more quickly.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Rangers (R) .286 .394 .357 28 7 8 2 0 0 5 5 5 3
Spokane (SS) .254 .327 .348 201 29 51 9 2 2 27 23 52 6
10.  Miguel de los Santos, lhp   Born: July 10, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Danilo Trancoso
Miguel de los SantosBackground: De los Santos' development was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2007 and visa issues that kept him in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2009, but he made a splash back in the United States last season. He  averaged 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings while reaching low Class A for the first time, and he fanned eight of the 15 batters he faced in the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Scouting Report: De los Santos has an exciting three-pitch mix, highlighted by the best changeup in the system, a plus-plus pitch with screwball action and two-plane depth. His fastball sits at 90-92 range mph tops out at 94, but his fastball command comes and goes. He tends to fall in love with his heater at the expense of his other pitches. He also throws a sharp overhand curveball that rates as at least a solid-average pitch.

The Future: Whether de los Santos can repeat his delivery and refine his fastball command will determine if his future is in a starting or relieving role, but he has the pure stuff to be a quality No. 3 starter. He's already 22 and has pitched just 179 innings in five pro seasons, so the Rangers will start pushing him in 2011. He'll probably open the season in high Class A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Spokane (SS) 2 0 1.69 7 7 0 0 32 13 0 20 50 .116
Hickory (Lo A) 2 2 3.99 12 6 0 0 38 27 3 24 62 .199

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Photo Credits:
Bill Mitchell (Perez)