2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Texas Rangers
The Rangers' 2019 class included one of the top outfielders in the Dominican Republic (Bayron Lora) and one of the top shortstops in Venezuela (Maximo Acosta). Their 2020 class included another talented Dominican outfielder and Venezuelan shortstop at the top, plus a mix of instinctive infielders to watch beyond them.
Top Of The Class
The Rangers' top signing was outfielder Yeison Morrobel, one of the better pure hitters in the Dominican Republic. Morrobel, who trained with Edgar Mercedes, is a lefty with a lean, athletic build (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) and innate barrel control. He has good bat speed and makes frequent contact against live pitching, squaring up good velocity with the ability to recognize spin well for his age. It's a high-contact approach geared to put the ball in play and spread the ball around the field. His gap power has started to trend up as he's gotten stronger and he has the physical projection to hit 20-plus home runs in the future, though right now it's more of a hit-over-power offensive game. Morrobel is athletic and a slightly above-average runner who could start in center field, though his body type suggests he will end up more physical and lose a step, which would shift him to a corner. He has at least a plus arm now that would fit in right field.
After picking up Maximo Acosta and Luisangel Acuna in their previous two classes, the Rangers this year signed Danyer Cueva, another promising Venezuelan shortstop. He's 6 feet, 175 pounds and a high-contact hitter with a compact, balanced swing from the left side. It's a smooth swing with good hand-eye coordination, producing line drives around the field with gap power. Early on, Cueva looked like a potential offensive second baseman, but he has gone from below-average speed to being a plus runner now, with a marked step up in his athleticism and defensive skills, giving him a significantly higher chance to be able to stay at shortstop now. Cueva trained with Kander Depablos.
Names To Know
Yeferson Tineo, SS, Dominican Republic: Tineo was expected to sign with the Braves until Major League Baseball changed its rules in the middle of the process to ban teams from being able to trade for additional bonus pool space. That allowed the Rangers to come in and sign Tineo, an instinctive player and advanced defender for his age. Even after adding weight since signing, Tineo has an extremely slender 6 foot frame and lacks much strength now, but his baseball IQ is among the best in the class, especially on the defensive side. Other shortstops are more explosive, but Tineo reads the ball well off the bat, has soft hands, smooth actions and a good internal clock. An average runner, Tineo has good body control with the ability to throw from all angles with a slightly above-average arm. He has solid bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate, but getting stronger will be critical for his offensive game. Tineo trained with Eddy Fontana.
Keiderson Pavon, SS, Venezuela: A diminutive 5-foot-6, 140-pound shortstop who for a long time was expected to sign with the Angels, Pavon ended up with the Rangers instead. Nicknamed "Altuvito" or "The Little Giant," Pavon is a savvy, instinctive player for his age with a high-energy style. He's a plus runner and a fundamentally sound defender in the middle infield who trained in the Dominican Republic with J.D. Ozuna.
Julio Pinto, SS, Venezuela: Pinto stood out early on for his defensive ability and secure hands at shortstop. While he's a plus runner now, he has a strong, heavy lower half and will likely slow down, with his range likely leading him to second or third base. He has solid bat-to-ball skills for his age with occasional doubles pop.
Gedionne Marlin, SS, Curacao: Marlin stood out playing in games in Curacao against significantly older players. He doesn't have a plus tool that sticks out in a workout look, but scouts highest on him liked his athleticism, body control and the way his skills translated in games.
Frandi Almonte, SS, Dominican Republic: Almonte is a little bigger than Keiderson Pavon, but he's another smaller-framed, high-IQ middle infielder with advanced instincts for his age. He has a nose for the ball in the infield and solid bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate, with a line-drive approach and gap power. Almonte trained in the same program as Yeison Morrobel with Edgar Mercedes.
Francisco Laya, OF, Venezuela: Laya missed time as an amateur with a broken foot and there's some stiffness to his game, but he's flashed above-average power, speed and arm strength at his best.
The Rangers signed a couple of familiar names in this class. One is Venezuelan shortstop Edgar Basabe, the younger brother of shortstop Osleivis Basabe, a 2017 Rangers signing they traded to the Rays in the Nate Lowe deal in December. Another is Dominican righthander Ivan Oviedo, the son of former major league reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo.
Gleider Figuereo, a Dominican shortstop the Rangers signed, is the son of Victor Figuereo, a righthander who pitched in the Rangers' farm system from 2002-04 up through the short-season Northwest League. Gleider has shown good feel to hit in games from the left side with the physical projection in his 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame to grow into more power, with second or third base his likely defensive home. Figuereo trained with Edinson Volquez.