2021 Texas Rangers Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
The Rangers immediately improved their system minutes into the 2021 draft by selecting Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter, who slides right in at the top of their organization and gives them a potential top-end starter. Beyond Leiter, the Rangers have seen great strides from righthander Cole Winn—who started the Futures Game for the American League—as well as several other minor leaguers at the lowest levels of the system.
In particular, outfielder Evan Carter, whose selection in the second round of the 2020 draft out of a high school in Tennessee, has opened eyes in the organization. Some internal evaluators believe he has the highest ceiling of any of the team’s position player prospects.
The Rangers’ system got a big boost on Wednesday of trade deadline week when the team acquired a quartet of players—three infielders and a righthander—from the Yankees in exchange for slugger Joey Gallo and lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez. They also added a young, controllable arm in Spencer Howard—along with a pair of low-level righties—from the Phillies in exchange for Ian Kennedy, Kyle Gibson and prospect Hans Crouse.
1. Jack Leiter, RHP
Age: 21. Team: None
NEW The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft immediately jumps to the head of the system. He boasts an elite, electric fastball at the front of an arsenal which also features three offspeed pitches—slider, curveball and changeup—which each flash plus. If everything goes the way the Rangers hope, Leiter should front their rotation for years.
2. Josh Jung, 3B
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Frisco
After a fractured foot delayed the open to his season, Jung has come back looking like every bit of the player the Rangers expected. He’s made adjustments to unlock more of his pull-side power, which has shown up in both in the box scores and metrics. He’s a solid if not spectacular defender with enough arm to stick at third base.
3. Cole Winn, RHP
Age: 21. Team: Double-A Frisco
Winn’s breakthrough can be directly attributed to his work done over the pandemic at the team’s alternate training site. There, he bought into the idea of using all of his pitches instead of relying heavily on his signature curveball. Winn has four pitches with above-average potential and has done an expert job pairing his lively fastball up in the zone with his downer curveball.
4. Justin Foscue, 2B
Age: 22. Team: High-A Hickory
Foscue dealt with a complicated injury around his rib cage after getting hit by a pitch, which put him on the IL for about six weeks. He caught fire immediately after returning, including a stretch of seven straight games with a home run. He has a keen understanding of the strike zone and his exit velocities are among the best in the system. The Rangers are pleasantly surprised with his mobility at second base, too.
5. Ezequiel Duran, 2B
Age: 22. Team: TBA
NEW Duran came over from the Yankees as part of the four-player package used to bring Joey Gallo to New York. From the early days of spring training, it was clear Duran had greatly improved his pitch recognition, which has allowed more of his offensive gifts, including natural raw power, to shine through. He’s most likely a second baseman but can fit at shortstop as well.
6. Josh Smith, SS
Age: 23. Team: TBA
NEW Smith entered pro ball with the pedigree that comes from playing at Louisiana State, and has spent two seasons showing that he can really hit. After a minor injury delayed the start of his season, Smith has bullied pitchers at both levels of Class A. Through July 21, Smith had produced the second-highest wRC+ in the organization, behind only Chris Gittens. He was part of the freight the Yankees paid to acquire slugger Joey Gallo.
7. Luisangel Acuña, SS
Age: 19. Team: Low-A Down East
Acuña, in his first test at a full-season affiliate, has been impressive. His electric hands have shown up at the plate and in the field. He’s a dynamic player who has answered the questions about his play at shortstop and now projects to stick at the position. He has a high upside and the potential for five above-average tools.
8. Evan Carter, OF
Age: 18. Team: Low-A Down East
Carter opened the season as the youngest player in all the minor leagues, and his performance before his injury cemented his spot among the system’s best prospects. Internally, the team believes he has the highest upside in the system among position players because of his gifts on both sides of the ball. He shows excellent raw power, has a keen eye for the strike zone and plays an above-average center field.
9. Sam Huff, C
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Frisco
Huff was sidelined in the first half of the season with a subluxation of his right knee, which required surgery. He’s back now, however, and showing the same massive power that put him on the map in 2019. Out of caution, the Rangers plan to keep Huff at first base and DH all year before easing back behind the plate at a later date.
10. Maximo Acosta, SS
Age: 18. Team: ACL Rangers
After a year of delay because of the pandemic, Acosta finally kicked off his pro career in 2021. He was dinged by minor injuries in extended spring training, but the Rangers still saw plenty of performance to match the tools and see him as a potential Gold Glove shortstop who can impact the game at the plate, too.
11. Aaron Zavala, OF
NEW Zavala was easily the biggest riser in the Pacific Northwest and had some of the most helium in the country. The Rangers saw one of the best lefthanded college bats available, with a solid approach, bat-to-ball skills and high makeup to boot.
12. Glenn Otto, RHP
NEW Otto is the rare pitcher whose results have skyrocketed while his velocity has taken a step back. His fastball now sits in the low 90s, but the addition of a slider has made all the difference in the world because it pairs with his curveball to give him weapons to hitters from both sides of the plate. Otto got a chance to work together in the 2019 Arizona Fall League with Rangers scout Mike Anderson, who served as the pitching coach for the Surprise Saguaros. Two years later, Otto was the only pitcher included in the return for Joey Gallo.
13. Bayron Lora, OF
14. Trevor Hauver, 2B
NEW Hauver was selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2020 draft, part of a supremely talented infield at Arizona State which also included first-rounder Spencer Torkelson (Tigers), supplemental first-rounder Alika Williams (Rays) and fourth-rounder Gage Workman (Tigers). He’s a bat-first player who’s played mostly at second base this year but dabbled in the outfield in college. No matter where he winds up on the diamond, his bat will carry him.
15. Tekoah Roby, RHP
NEW Roby was the Rangers’ 2020 third-round pick, chosen out of a Florida high school. His signature pitch is a high-spin, big-breaking curveball, which he pairs with a fastball that features plus velocity but plays a tick lower because of a lack of deception in his delivery. His changeup has further to go but the team believes it could get to plus thanks to Roby’s commitment to improvement and understanding of analytics. He’s an extremely confident pitcher but is currently on the injured list with a right elbow sprain.
16. Ricky Vanasco, RHP
17. Cole Ragans, LHP
NEW After three lost seasons because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic, Ragans is back. His signature changeup has returned intact, and it still plays nicely off of his fastball. His slider is ahead of his curveball, with the former used for swings and misses while the latter plays better for called strikes. He was also one of the Rangers’ two reps at this year’s Futures Game.
18. Cody Bradford, LHP
NEW The Rangers’ sixth-rounder in 2019 out of Baylor missed most of the last two seasons. He was limited to three starts in 2019 because of thoracic outlet syndrome, then lost the 2020 season because of the pandemic. This year, he’s made strides thanks to a new slider in his arsenal. The result was 79 strikeouts through his first 57 innings with High-A Hickory.
19. Dustin Harris, 1B
NEW Harris was acquired as one half of the return from the A’s in exchange for Mike Minor in 2020. He’s surprised internal evaluators with his ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball and make hard contact. The team believes that gift, combined with his advanced approach and sound understanding of the strike zone will one day lead to power befitting of a first baseman.
20. Avery Weems, LHP
NEW The second half of the package received for Lance Lynn, Weems’ was coveted for his mix of a high octane fastball and a potentially plus slider, which helped him rack up 61 strikeouts through his first 39 innings.
21. Owen White, RHP
22. Cameron Cauley, SS
NEW Cauley was a shortstop in high school but has an array of options in pro ball. His average arm will work on the left side but might be better utilized at second base. He’s got excellent bat-to-ball skills but questions about his projection naturally tie into his future power output.
23. Sherten Apostel, 1B
24. Yeison Morrobel, OF
25. Davis Wendzel, SS
26. David Garcia, C
27. Steele Walker, OF
28. Justin Slaten, RHP
NEW Slowly but surely, the Rangers have seen Slaten round into the form they expected when they selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft. When he’s right, his fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and is complemented by one of the breaking balls from a righthander in the system. His changeup needs further development, but he found success in July with 34 strikeouts and just four walks in 20.1 innings.
29. Ronny Henriquez, RHP
30. A.J. Alexy, RHP
Spring Training Notebook: Righthanders Jack Leiter And Owen White Give Rangers Rotation Options
As Texas continues to point itself toward October, who will it turn to in the rotation behind Jon Gray? Two of those potential answers took the hill on consecutive days at the team’s spring training complex.
Along with the White Sox’s Jake Burger, lefty Cole Ragans has been one of the minor leagues’ best comeback stories. He returned after two Tommy John surgeries and gave up a home run on his first pitch of the season but slowly rounded into the form the Rangers hoped they were getting when they drafted him in 2017.
First baseman Dustin Harris qualifies as one of the organization’s biggest surprises. He was one half of the return from the A’s in the Mike Minor deal but has lit up the competition at Low-A Down East after wowing his coaches with his knack for finding the barrel.
Shortstop Anderson Tejeda, who entered the year among the top tier of Texas’ prospects, has struggled mightily in both the big leagues and Triple-A. He still can be a big league defender, but he still needs to show much more consistency in his lefthanded swing.
Lefthander John King, on the shelf with shoulder inflammation, has settled into a left-on-left, low-leverage reliever role.
Righthander Ricky Vanasco had Tommy John surgery before the season but could get into games at instructional league and possibly the Arizona Fall League. Despite the injury, the Rangers still believe he has one of the highest ceilings in the system.
Righthander Tekoah Roby, the team’s third-rounder from the 2020 draft, has been on the IL since mid-June with a right elbow sprain.
Outfielder Evan Carter, one of the system’s brightest young players, is dealing with a fracture in his lower back and is likely shelved for much of the rest of the regular season.
Righthander Kyle Cody is on the 60-day injured list with an impingement in his right shoulder. He made seven appearances in the big leagues, where he struggled to a 7.59 ERA.
Shortstop Davis Wendzel is dealing with a hamate injury as well as a separate, lingering issue in his hand, which cropped up after his return to Double-A Frisco.
Righthander Owen White broke his hand after slamming it on the ground after his first start of the season.