Texas Rangers Top 10 Midseason Prospects
For the second straight year, the Rangers will likely finish with a losing record. Based on the composition of the major league team and their farm system, it’s not clear when that’s going to change.
The Rangers didn’t enter 2018 with playoff expectations, but they at least had a young nucleus of hitters to build around. Instead, Rougned Odor is scuffling again, Joey Gallo’s strikeouts have held him back from being productive and Nomar Mazara has yet to take the next big leap to become an above-average regular. The team has little in the way of young pitching in its starting rotation, either.
On the farm, Leody Taveras (No. 49) is the system’s only top 50 prospect, with fellow outfielders Julio Pablo Martinez (No. 51) and Willie Calhoun (No. 54) checking in close behind. Righthander Hans Crouse is one of the most exciting teenage pitchers in the minors, but injuries have wiped out the years of some of the team’s best prospects, including lefthander Cole Ragans, righthander Kyle Cody and shortstop Chris Seise.
The Rangers have typically been one of the teams trading away prospects to bolster their big league club, but as the trade deadline nears this year, the Rangers farm system needs a boost.
SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 10 Prospects
1. Leody Taveras, OF
High Class A Down East
Taveras has a lean, athletic frame and glides around in center field. He gets quick jumps off the bat, with his speed, arm and defense all grading out plus. Offensively, Taveras has strong hands, a sound swing from both sides of the plate with a knack for making contact. While Taveras has the attributes to be a good hitter, he has yet to translate that into high-level offensive performance. That’s mitigated some by the fact that the Rangers have pushed him to the high Class A Carolina League at just 19 years old, though eventually the performance will have to match the tools.
2. Julio Pablo Martinez, OF
Signed for $2.8 million in March, Martinez is still getting his timing back after a significant layoff from competitive game action since leaving Cuba. While Martinez’s strikeout rate might always be on the higher end, he has generally hit well in games. An adept low-ball hitter, Martinez has a promising combination of power and speed in center field.
3. Willie Calhoun, OF
Calhoun had established himself as one of the best hitters in the minors coming into the year, but he didn’t look like it early in the season. Calhoun appeared to be pressing, perhaps trying to do too much to force his way up to the big leagues. Since mid-June, Calhoun has settled in, appearing more like the future middle-of-the-order masher he looked like last year, a role he will have to fill given his defensive limits. He’s getting another chance in Texas to prove what he can do.
4. Hans Crouse, RHP
The Rangers have slow-played it with Crouse, who has the most upside of any pitching prospect in the organization. A cut on his thumb derailed his first outing and rain got in the way of another, but he showed why he has frontline starter potential on July 13 when he struck out 11 with no walks and only one hit allowed in seven shutout innings. His fastball parks at 93-96 mph and has reached 98 mph this season, along with a plus slider and feel for a changeup.
5. Cole Winn, RHP
Not yet assigned
The Rangers drafted Winn with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2018 draft. He probably won’t pitch any more this summer, with a focus more on strength and conditioning, instead. Winn’s fastball sits in the low-90s and can touch 96 mph, with the ability to spot it to both sides of the plate. He compliments his fastball with a plus curveball that he can land in the strike zone or use as a chase pitch.
6. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP
Through the first two months with high Class A Carolina, Hernandez looked like a pitching prospect on the rise, with a 2.20 ERA and a 77-17 K-BB mark in 57.1 innings. Since his promotion to Double-A in early June, however, Hernandez’s control has escaped him. Hernandez has an explosive 92-97 mph fastball that’s his best pitch and sets up everything else. His slider took a step forward, flashing as an above-average pitch with quick, late tilt and playing well off his fastball, though it’s still inconsistent. The key for Hernandez is keeping his delivery connected, especially when it comes to repeating his release point when he aims to his glove side, which will allow him to throw more strikes and better harness his slider.
7. Joe Palumbo, LHP
High Class A Down East
All the arrows were pointing up on Palumbo in April 2017, until Tommy John surgery erased the rest of his season. He made his return this year in late June in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and he’s back on track with two starts so far for high Class A Down East. While Palumbo still has to prove his durability (he’s a former reliever whose career-high for innings in a season is 96.1), the early reports on his stuff have been positive, with a low-90s fastball up to 95 mph and flashing a good curveball.
8. Yohander Mendez, LHP
High Class A Down East
Mendez has big league experience and spent most of 2018 with Triple-A Round Rock, but the Rangers demoted him to the Carolina League in late June. It’s a troubling sign for Mendez, who is making a mechanical adjustment with his hands to try to locate his fastball better to his glove side. He’s still generally a strike-thrower with enough fastball from the left side to complement a plus changeup that disrupts hitters’ timing.
9. Anderson Tejeda, SS
High Class A Down East
Tejeda has buggy-whip bat speed and a lot of movement in his swing. When everything is in sync, the ball flies off his barrel for loud contact, but there is still a heavy dose of swing-and-miss to his game due to his swing and pitch recognition. Tejeda has a 70 arm, although a lot of scouts question whether he will remain at shortstop.
10. C.D. Pelham, LHP
As a reliever, Pelham’s ceiling is limited, but he has some of the best stuff in the Rangers’ system. Pelham is a strong, powerful lefty (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) who pumps 96-99 mph fastballs, then backs it up with a swing-and-miss slider. Pelham has to throw more strikes, but he’s an excellent athlete, which should help him make adjustments. He earned a promotion to Double-A Frisco in mid-June.
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- RHP Edgar Arredondo, promoted to Double-A Frisco last month, has advanced pitchability that sticks out more than his pure stuff, pounding an 88-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate with a changeup that flashes average and is ahead of his slider.
- As a 23-year-old with high Class A Down East, RHP Emerson Martinez doesn’t have numbers that jump out, but he’s added a few ticks to his fastball, reaching 97 mph with that pitch and mixing in a good slider.
- Pelham has gone from relative obscurity to legitimate prospect, representing the Rangers at the Futures Game.
- The Rangers long held 23-year-old LHP Brett Martin in high esteem, but it’s been a disastrous season for Martin, who has an ERA that starts with a seven in Double-A Frisco. He moved to the bullpen in June.
- OF Bubba Thompson was the No. 26 overall pick last year, but even as an older high school pick (he’s 20 now), Thompson’s offensive performance has been modest with low Class A Hickory, with a lot of strikeouts and not much game power.
- C Matt Whatley, a third-round pick last year, has struggled badly at the plate with high Class A Down East.
- LHP Cole Ragans will miss the entire 2018 season following Tommy John surgery. He could be back in action next June.
- SS Chris Seise, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 draft, will miss the entire 2018 season due to shoulder surgery.
- RHP Kyle Cody, trending up a year ago, tried to rehab an elbow injury but experienced a setback and will have Tommy John surgery. Cody pitched just five innings this year, so the injury will essentially wipe out two seasons, with a full return expected in 2020.