Texas Rangers 2020 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat
Ben Badler: What’s up everybody? The Rangers have an interesting system—I think you can take their top 15 or so prospects and reasonably line them up very different ways depending on what you’re looking for—so I’ll try to touch on as many players as I can today.
- Thoughts on Osleivis Basabe? Still a potential diamond to watch in the lower levels? What are scouts saying about him?
Ben Badler: I like him. He definitely draws a split camp among scouts though, which stems from a disagreement on how good of a hitter he is. It’s a middle of the diamond profile and athlete, plus speed, plus arm. If you watch his swing, it’s not the prettiest swing mechanics, and he has chase tendencies, but even though the bat path isn’t what you want, he has bat speed and the hand-eye coordination to make it work (at least at this level) and he has a track record of performing well in games. Again, that’s only up to the rookie ball level, but it goes back two seasons now and even before then as an amateur in Venezuela. That’s where I think the split comes in—is he an unorthodox hitter who has the attributes to make it work? I think he might, but when he jumps to Low-A, that will be a big test for him.
- Acosta sounds fairly advanced for his age. Any chance the Rangers start him at Spokane?
Ben Badler: He should start in the US. I wouldn’t rule out Spokane if he is just annihilating everyone in spring training, but I think the AZL is a safer bet. They also need to get playing time in the infield for Basabe, Moss and Acuña, so I think it’s more likely you see Acosta and Acuña splitting time at SS in the AZL this year.
Ranger Danger (Texas):
- What are you hearing about Cole Winn?
Ben Badler: Still some things to like, but the reports from scouts were not as good last year as they were in 2018, both in terms of stuff and control. Fastball that sits in the low-90s, a curveball that was his bread-and-butter in high school backed up and got slurvy and would blend into his slider, and a changeup that made a lot of progress since he threw it more when his breaking stuff wasn’t working for him. He was better in the second half when he was able to keep his delivery under control more to throw more strikes. There’s no one pitch that grades out plus and he wasn’t as polished as expected coming out of the draft, but the athleticism and second-half improvement is still encouraging.
Jumpers (New York):
- Demarcus Evans has been dominant for a couple years now. Do you see him make the jump to the major leagues this year?
Ben Badler: Yes. He has to throw more strikes, but my goodness, if it turns into just 45-ish control, that's a brutal at-bat for opposing hitters. He throws an insiviball, but it's a power invisiball because of the mix of velocity and extreme riding life that jumps over barrels when he pitches up in the zone. And everyone talks about his fastball, but the curveball flashes above-average and it's something he started using more as the season went on. Definite late-inning, high-leverage relief potential.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Thoughts on hurler Ricky Vanasco? Does he start the season at Hickory or in the Carolina League?
Ben Badler: One of the biggest arrow-up guys in the system. Signed in 2017 as a late-round, projection bet up to 93 mph with a lanky build, packed on significant size and strength since then, now he's up to 99. He basically just chewed through Northwest League lineups with that pitch, but his curveball has the makings of another quality offering as well. Control and changeup are big developmental needs for him, but he could be a top 10 guy in the system by midseason. Probably a Hickory guy, but could easily be in the Carolina League pretty quickly.
Maximo Acosta (Coming over to the U.S.):
- How do I stack up to the other 19-20 international middle infielders that signed? Is the upside comparable to a player like Robert Puason? Do you have any fears of me losing my speed because I have such a thick lower half? Or issues with my range? I have heard some people compare my lower body to fellow rangers prospect Josh Morgan.
Ben Badler: I like Acosta more than Robert Puason. I love Puason's athleticism and raw tools, but Acosta has big tools, a better swing, better pure hitting ability and just better all-around instincts in all facets of the game. As he gets to his 20s, he might lose a step of speed—it is more of a thickly built shortstop like Gleyber Torres or Jean Segura—but the all-around package with a lot of strengths and not many holes in his game relative to his age is pretty exciting.
- Thoughts on Anderson Tejeda? Last year was a lost season but is he still highly regarded just need to see him on the field?
Ben Badler: Yeah, kinda of an incomplete grade on Tejeda, between the injury wiping out most of his year and him just learning how to be a switch-hitter against High-A pitching, not an easy ask. No questions about arm strength, bat speed or raw power, and his defense has come a long way from where it was a couple years ago, but I'm probably more of a Tejeda skeptic relative to the rest of our staff internally because of the swing-and-miss rate and strike-zone judgment, so missing most of the season and struggling with those red flag areas didn't help.
- Hi Ben, it was nice to see Leody Taveras start to turn his loud tools into production in 2019. Do you see him as a potential post hype breakout guy and get himself back into the top 100 mix in 2020? Still being 21, it feels like he's on the edge of putting everything together if the power develops more.
Ben Badler: A lot of his future depends on that power development. It's premium defense at a premium position, so that gives Taveras a safety cushion to develop into an everyday player even if he hits at the bottom of a lineup. It's solid bat-to-ball skills, especially for someone who was 20 in Double-A last year, but he just doesn't hit the ball with any impact yet. Power is a tool that can develop later, but right now it's a lot of light contact and that's the reservation a lot of scouts have with him at the moment. I do think he has the potential to jump back into the Top 100, but he's probably going to have to show that power in games before he makes that leap.
- Baseball teams need stars to win championships. From that angle, your review of the Rangers system was underwhelming. Do the Rangers have any prospects who have the chance to develop into stars?
Ben Badler: They do, but what hurts is the lack of those players in the upper levels of the system. They have a really deep group of prospects who I think are potential Top 100 guys at the low levels of the system, but I can tell you right now, they're not going to have any of the top 50 prospects in our Top 100 this year. That's a tough spot to be in given how the major league has performed the last few years.
Skyler M. (Austin, TX):
- A few years back we signed a 3B from Cuba named Yanio Perez. I haven’t heard much about him since. Has he been injured?
Ben Badler: Healthy, but struggling. Not a ton of tools or performance from a guy who turned 24 in High-A by the end of the season.
- It’s disappointing to hear that Crouse’s stuff backed up last year since that lowers the chances that his reliever fallback position is as an elite closer. I guess fans will just have to wait and see, but are Rangers officials confident that it was just the bone spurs and that his stuff will bounce back?
Ben Badler: That’s at least the hope. And it’s reasonable one, where it makes sense that if he was pitching through elbow issues, that would affect his slider, and if he comes back fully healthy in 2020, the nastier slider he showed in 2018 that wasn’t there last year could return, he’ll be back to missing more bats and return to being a Top 100 guy. But until we see that happen, the elbow issues add more medical risk, and there’s a chance his stuff doesn’t return to the level he showed in 2018.
- Very intrigued by Acuna’s write up. I know comps are never perfect because while some players have similar attributes each is unique. That said I’d Ozzie Albies a reasonable comp at this stage?
Ben Badler: They're both shorter middle infielders with great contact skills, hand-eye and high baseball IQ/instincts types. Luisangel Acuña has a stronger body type than Albies did at the time (I saw Albies before he signed when he weighed around 135 lbs) and hits the ball with more impact than Albies did at that age (obviously Albies added significant strength a few years later), while Albies was a more natural defender at shortstop when he was 17 compared to Acuña. So some similar attributes with important differences, but I was big pushing Albies early on and I'm the same way now with Acuña.
- Hey Ben thanks for chatting! Do you expect Jung and Huff to make the top 100? Thank you! Also, when do you expect the top 100 to be out! Very excited for it!!
Ben Badler: Yes. We have some folks internally who prefer Jung to Huff and some who have them flipped the other way around, but I anticipate both being in the back of our Top 100. Don't have an exact date for our Top 100 release yet, but I know we have that and a couple other deep rankings and reports coming out soon that I think you're going to get a lot of value from if you're a BA member.
Brad (Valrico, FL):
- What are your thoughts on Julio Pablo Martinez? I know he is a "older" prospect that has fallen pretty deep on the Texas prospect lists.
Ben Badler: His stock is down, but he was much better in the second half (.293/.362/.467) than he was in the first half (.191/.263/.365). With Cuban players, I tend to be more patient when they're coming over to the US and coming off a competitive layoff to get their timing back, which is an approach that worked out well with players like Luis Robert, Lorudes Gurriel and Yoan Moncada. Julio Pablo isn't in that group though, and while I do like what he did in the second half with the improvements in performance and pitch recognition, there's still swing length/path issues that lead to a swing-and-miss rate that's in red flag territory. This year's a huge one for him.
- Is Andy Ibanez a AAAA player? He never gets a mention.
Ben Badler: That seems like the scouting consensus. Would like to see him get a chance for some major league at-bats with a tanking team somewhere, otherwise I could see him carving out a career in the KBO.
- Which starter with no MLB experience has the best chance to jump to the big leagues this year?
Ben Badler: That's a tough one... Joe Palumbo is their best pitching prospect who could help their rotation in 2020, but he has some MLB time. I'll cheat and go Taylor Hearn, who has 1/3 of an inning in the big leagues, but even with him, there's a lot of reliever risk and there wasn't a lot happening beyond the fastball when he was on the mound last year.
RAH RAH (MD):
- The Rangers seemed to move Sherten Apostel pretty aggressively last year. Do you think he starts in Double-A nethis spring? With Jung in Hi-A?
Ben Badler: I think they're still sorting through that. Ideally, I think Apostel would get more time in High-A, but Jung really doesn't need any more time in Low-A, so I suspect Apostel gets an aggressive push to Double-A and Jung goes to High-A to start the year.
Tyler (New York):
- What kind of ceiling do you think Josh Jung has?
Ben Badler: Above-average regular at third base. Whether he's able to hit for enough power to develop into that role is the biggest question around him right now, but the pure hitting ability and strike-zone control are advanced and he has the tools to be a solid defender at third.
- J. Hernandez couldn't throw strikes in his MLB cup of coffee, but his BB rate over 600 minor league innings is not atrocious. What is his current stock among those in the know?
Ben Badler: Huge velocity, which we saw jump in 2019 when he was throwing in short-burst outings, but hitters in the first half were barreling it because it was flat. Then his fastball command, which has been an issue at times throughout his career, just escaped him, so his problems compounded. Whether he's a starter or reliever long term, fastball command needs to improve, but I'd be intrigued by using him as a multi-inning reliever where he can blow it out for a couple innings with a fastball/slider look without having to go through the order multiple lines.
Joe Fragano (Fort Worth, TX):
- How protectable is Barron Lora as only a 16-year-old? Best-case big league comparisons?
Ben Badler: In terms of physical projection, it's there right now. He's a 6-5, 230-pound manchild. Will still get stronger, but it's more about watching his weight and staying agile enough for the outfield. It's already 70 raw power, so you don't have to project on that, other than the possibility that he might reasonably get to 80 raw eventually. The upside is obvious.... a potential 40+ HR monster in the middle of a lineup, while the swing-and-miss risk is just as apparent too. I don't think he's quite the hitter Julio Rodriguez was at the same age, but I think he's more advanced than Jhailyn Ortiz was.
- Have read good things about Nick Solak as far back as when he was with the Yankees. Does he have the arm for 3rd base and do you see him as a regular in the infield?
Ben Badler: It's around an average arm. Issue is more with his footwork and defensive actions. Ideally, I'd like to keep him in the infield, because if he's a playable defender there, there's more upside than throwing him in left field, but I know a lot of scouts aren't buying him as an infielder.
Ben Badler: But there's a lot to like with his bat. I like the swing, the approach, and there's more power and speed than he seems to get credit for.
- It is surprising not to see Heriberto Hernandez in the Rangers top ten,given his outstanding performance in the minors with excellent hitting skills, power and an ops at 1.085. Is it his fielding that puts him behind Max Acosta who hasn't even hit yet in the minors?
Ben Badler: People definitely like Hernandez, at least offensively. Plus raw power, big exit velos to match, all the bat speed, strength and leverage to do extra-base damage in games. The risks are in the elevated strikeouts (he can punish fastballs, more vulnerabilities against soft stuff), the lack of a position (he does a little bit of catching, but he's most likely a corner OF/1B) and still being a 19-year-old in the AZL. There's a lot to like and it's obviously a great sign for $10K, definitely someone with a chance to pop if he keeps it up once he gets to Hickory.
Patton (Berwyn, IL):
- How is it possible that Cole Wynn does not make the top ten ahead of Ronny Henriquez. I thought the Rangers were encouraged by the progress he made in his last few Hickory starts.
Ben Badler: You can definitely find scouts who would put Winn ahead of Henriquez, and Winn did make progress in the second half. But for me, Henriquez has a better fastball, throws more strikes, misses more bats and he's a little bit younger than Winn. One of the knocks on Henriquez is his height, but that's not something I put a lot of value in with pitchers once they're this age and this far along in pro ball.
- Wasn't familiar with Acosta before BA's coverage, and the buzz seems to keep growing. Is there a perfect-world projection that would position him as a high impact (top 50) prospect in the next couple years?
Ben Badler: Yes. Acosta was one of the 10 best international prospects in the 2019 class. In the previous two years, we had Marco Luciano, Wander Franco and Julio Rodriguez all in that group. Those are all going to be top 50 prospects for us. Obviously there's a lot of risk with all these players when they first sign, but I do think that level of upside is in there.
Ben Badler: Thanks everyone for all the questions. 28 teams up, 2 more coming next week and we've got some more prospect content coming on the site soon that I think you're going to like. Have a great weekend!