2018-19 International Reviews: Texas Rangers
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018) signings: 40
The Rangers signed Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez last year for $2.8 million, with his signing coming in March during the tail end of the 2017-18 signing period. Once the 2018-19 signing period opened on July 2, their biggest signing was Jose Rodriguez, a 17-year-old catcher who signed on July 2 after training with Jorge Agudelo. The Rangers signed righthander Orcelis Gomez to a significant deal in 2017, and in the process of following Gomez, the Rangers identified Rodriguez early on in the scouting process as one of their top 2018 targets due to his offensive potential.
Rodriguez gets himself into good hitting position from the left side with a swing that's smooth, calm and compact. He's 6 feet, 185 pounds and drives the ball well to the gaps now, with a chance to develop average power given his physical upside. Scouts highest on Rodriguez liked his offensive potential, but he needs a lot of work defensively to avoid going to left field or first base. He has the arm strength to catch, but his blocking, receiving and throwing are still raw relative to his peers at the position. Rodriguez is expected to debut in the Dominican Summer League.
The Rangers also signed Venezuelan shortstop Luisangel Acuña, the 17-year-old brother of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña. He's a smaller-framed (5-foot-8, 155 pounds), hard-nosed player who performed well in games as an amateur. Acuña is a righthanded hitter with a line-drive approach and gap power, with plenty of wrist and forearm strength to make hard contact even though he's not physically imposing. He's an above-average runner and a bat-first player who a lot of scouts expect to end up at second base.
The Rangers' biggest bonus for a Dominican player last year went to 17-year-old shortstop John Mejia, who signed for $385,000 in September after training with Ivan Noboa. He's 5-foot-10, 165 pounds and stood out for his defense. He's not a flashy, acrobatic-type shortstop, but he's a heady, instinctive player who doesn't make as many mistakes compared to his peers at the position. He has good tools as well, with his arm and speed both grading out plus. Mejia's glove is ahead of his righthanded bat, but the Rangers saw his hitting tick up after July 2 when they signed him.
Junior Paniagua, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop who trained with Cachaza, signed with the Rangers for $300,000 on July 2 after missing a good chunk of time during the scouting process with a wrist injury. He's a smaller-framed player (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) who makes a lot of contact from the right side with a short, simple swing. Paniagua doesn't have much power, but he has a knack for the barrel, spreading line drives around the field. Paniagua's bat-to-ball skills stand out the most, but he does show solid instincts in the field, though his range and arm may suit him better at second base.
The biggest signing bonus for a Brazilian player in 2018 went to 16-year-old righthander Arthur Sabino, who got $175,000 from the Rangers on July 2. He has a strong, physical frame (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and repeats his sound mechanics well to throw a lot of strikes. His fastball parked around 85-88 mph as an amateur, but has since climbed to reach 91 mph, with a chance to continue climbing as he puts on more weight. He throws a slurvy curveball and has a changeup as well, but his fastball is his primary weapon, attacking hitters with that pitch to both sides of the plate with good location for his age.
Jhan Zambrano, who trained with Francisco Ortiz, is another Venezuelan player the Rangers signed on July 2. Zambrano is a 17-year-old righthander with a projectable frame (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) who throws a lot of strikes with a fastball in the upper 80s. He throws a changeup that's advanced for his age and keeps hitters off balance, with the changeup his primary secondary pitch right now ahead of his curveball.
Luis Zambrano (no relation to Jhan) is a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop/center fielder the Rangers signed out of Roberto Vahlis' program on July 2. Zambrano is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds and an excellent athlete with plus speed. Zambrano stood out more for his raw athleticism and explosiveness than his righthanded bat as an amateur, though the Rangers were pleased with the progress he made offensively since signing. Zambrano will develop as a shortstop, though his speed and athleticism would translate well in center field.
The Rangers signed Venezuelan catcher Efrenyer Narvaez from Vampirin, the same program they signed shortstop Keyber Rodriguez from in 2017. Narvaez, who signed when he turned 16 on July 25, is 5-foot-11, 155 pounds and was the catcher on the Venezuelan team that played in the COPABE 15U Pan American Championships in August 2017 in Colombia. A righthanded hitter, Narvaez is a defensive-oriented catcher with a strong arm, good instincts and intangibles behind the plate.
2019 MiLB Best Tools
As voted on by minor league managers and their coaching staffs, here are the players with the best tools in each minor league in 2019.
See also: 2017-18 Rangers International Review (Notable prospect Julio Pablo Martinez)
See also: 2016-17 Rangers International Review
See also: 2015-16 Rangers International Review (Notable prospect Leody Taveras)
See also: 2014-15 Rangers International Review
See also: 2013-14 Rangers International Review (Notable prospect Jonathan Hernandez)
See also: 2012-13 Rangers International Review
See also: 2011-12 AL West International Review (Notable prospects Rougned Odor, Leonys Martin, Nomar Maraza, Ronald Guzman)
See also: 2010-11 AL West International Review (Notable prospect Jorge Alfaro)