Texas Rangers 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Sam Huff (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Jeff Wilson: Lots of questions already submitted. I’m going to get through as many as I can. Thanks for joining me/us. I had a great time deviating from my Star-Telegram duties to do this for Baseball America. I hope I’ve met their standards. Let’s go!

Doug (Chicago):

     What have you heard about Yonny Hernandez? I’d expect a guy who’s walked more than he’s struck out throughout the minor leagues AND as a 21 year-old at AA while stealing a ton of bases to at least get taken in the Rule 5 draft. I know there isn’t power in the profile, but is there something the stats aren’t telling me?

Jeff Wilson: Doug, thanks for the question on Yonny. I think you nailed a lot of it on the power. There’s next to none there, and it doesn’t look like there’s much more coming. He has a chance to be a useful player and the kind of player winning teams need. He can play up the middle and in the outfield, and you mentioned the base running. I just don’t see him as a full-time player, not with the depth the Rangers have at the positions he plays.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Thanks for taking our questions. Chris Young has already started making some interesting moves, including adding Nate Lowe as a 1B/DH on a trade from the Rays. Do you see him getting a chunk of playing time in TEX this year? Also wonder your thoughts on how the new GM (from Princeton, correct?) may or may not change how the Rangers operate on a going forward basis (i.e. who they may draft with the 2nd pick, what they look for in P given their new park, etc.)

Jeff Wilson: Yo, Bill! Chris Young is going to be an asset, no doubt. The Nate Lowe deal was already in the works when he hopped on board. The Rangers are going to give Lowe every chance to be the starting first baseman, which isn’t particularly good news for Ronald Guzman. Young is going to have his hands in a lot of pots, including as the center of all pick-up basketball games. As a former player, I think he’s going to help streamline how data is communicated to players. Everyone with a pulse will be involved in the draft.

Joe (Mi):

     Hey! Thanks for chatting today. This system I feel like has a few big chips (Jung maybe Huff or Acosta). Would u agree with that? What is your take on this system. To be honest I’m not very confident in it.

Jeff Wilson: Joe, I can see where you’re coming from. Right now the system’s strength is its depth. There are a lot of guys at the lower level who have a chance to develop into solid guys. You mentioned Jung and Acosta, but Sam Huff and Leody Taveras belong in that company. So does Justin Foscue, the 2020 first-rounder. The Rangers love him. Pitching, as always, isn’t as deep, but Dane Dunning helps, and the Rangers thought Cole Winn had a big year of development.

Joe (MI):

     Nice list as always! The Rangers are picking number two in this years draft. From the list you provided it seems to me the Ranger system is very pitching weak. If rocker goes #1, should the rangers go leiter or hill? Or do they go Lawlar? Feel like Lawlar is a absolutely stud but leiter could be awesome in this system. Thanks looking forward to hear what you have to say!

Jeff Wilson: Another from Joe. I like it. No doubt this is the biggest draft of the Jon Daniels Era. They picked No. 4 overall in 2015 and took Dillon Tate. Hey, he’s a big-leaguer, just for another team. I don’t know that pitching is a necessity at No. 2. The key is to not miss with the pick. Maybe it is Leiter if he has a big season. I would be shocked if they took a prep player, though Jordan Lawler from Dallas Jesuit will entice them.

Logan (Texas):

     Sweet list! I am a big fan of Jung. How many rangers do u think land on BA top 100 prospects? 2? Maybe 3 or 4? Also, would u say the Rangers would be happy if dunning is a #1 starter or should us fans be concerned that this pitching is really thin.

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Logan. As far as Top 100 guys go, the Rangers have a chance for four. The full-time Baseball America staffers, the ones who make it great, will make that call. Jung will be top 100. Dunning was in 2020. Huff and Taveras could/should be. I’m eager to see how that shakes out. I don’t think Dunning has the stuff to a No. 1 starter, but he’s going to be a serviceable starter.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Who are your favorites of the pitchers moving from the short season teams to Down East (Kinston) for the 2021 season?

Jeff Wilson: Karl with maybe the toughest question so far. The names aren’t going to be hard to figure out, but the volume of them at Down East should be heavy. Honestly, look for the 2018 draftees Owen Wilson and Mason Englert to either start the season there or get there quickly. Shoot, TK Roby might start there. Guys are going to be pushed this year after having no 2020 season and no short-season stops anymore.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Please pick some sleepers from the 2019 AZL Rangers and Spokane who will be in the Rangers system this year. By the way, I really like that you give a guess as to where a prospect will start next season in “the futures” part of your player evaluations.

Jeff Wilson: Another from Karl, possibly a big South Atlantic League guy. Roby isn’t necessarily a sleeper as a third-rounder, but it might surprise people to see him making his pro debut there at 19. Same for White and Englert, both coming off Tommy John. There are guys like Justin Slaten, who didn’t have a 2020 season, who could get revved up there before going on to Hickory. And don’t forget about Cole Ragans, who is healthy again. (By the way, it’s going to take me a while to get used to the Down East/Hickory switcheroo.)

Leody Taveras (Post Hype Prospect?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today Jeff! I have been hyped ever since coming stateside as a 17 year old in 2016. As I was fast tracked, my offense never caught up to my defense and projection and eventually slid out of the top 100. Still only 22 for all of the 2021 season, am I now seen a potential big post hype prospect that can really break out? Is a switch hitting Lorenzo Cain a realistic comp if my offense continues to develop?

Jeff Wilson: Wow! A fake Leody Taveras! Good question on your future. Personally, I think you’re going to be a really good player for a long time. Lorenzo Cain was a really good player for a long time. The similarities now are on defense. You should win a Gold Glove. The bat needs to continue to develop, but you know that. You made huge strides in 2020 with power and your approach. Yeah, you struck out too much, but some of that was because the Rangers wanted to see if expanding your zone would produce more pop. Keep up the good work.

Alejandeo (Dallas):

     I was surprised the Rangers played Leody Taveras as much as they did and even more pleasantly surprised that he held his own offensively whole showing that he make hard contact in the majors never having played a game in AAA. With him still only 22 all of this coming season, do the Rangers see future strength gains coming? He was seen as a potential 20/20 guy that would be an elite defensive CF early on. Are the Rangers dreaming on that again now seeing how he fared in his first taste of the majors?

Jeff Wilson: You’re right about the Rangers’ hopes, Alejandro. They see Taveras’ ceiling as a multiple All-Star center fielder and his floor as a defensive-minded everyday center fielder. That’s seems like a big ask based on 2018 and 2019, but he made an impression in 2020 and showed them the foundation to be a good offensive player. I think 20/20 might be high, but I’d take 12/30.

Matt (Tx):

     If Leody Taveras’ hit/power grades were closer to his run/fielding/arm, we’d be talking about a top 25 prospect as he once was. Do the Rangers think his offense could tick up to where he’s an above average hitting with fringe average power? A .275 15/20 HR elite defensive CF would be incredibly valuable.

Jeff Wilson: Matt, I think I answered your question with Alejandro’s answer. I’ll say a little more about the defense: It’s terrific. Did anyone worry about center field after Taveras took over? No. No offense to Nick Solak, who should be the second baseman in 2021, but that was hard to watch. Leody is just graceful. It’s fun to watch him out there.

A-Dub (New Braunfels, TX):

     The Rangers do not a good track record in developing pitching. What changes if any have they made in their developmental program that can offer any hope for the future?

Jeff Wilson: You’re right, A-Dub, but the Rangers aren’t the only team around that can’t seem to develop starting pitchers. They have implemented the analytics piece into the minors, deep into the minors, and have borrowed some Driveline stuff for arm strength and arm care. I’m curious to see how the young guys face challenges like they’ve never seen. That might actually make some of them better.

Zak (RI):

     As always, thanks for taking questions today. Was Kohei Arihara considered for the top 10? How do you think he’ll perform in the majors?

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Zak. The Arihara signing came after deadline. Personally, I don’t think he would have been a top 10. Also personally, I don’t like players with long Japanese careers should be considered rookies. I’m not sure how he’s going to do. Kikuchi, for instance, struggled with the Mariners but was more hyped. Does that translate? Not sure. The Rangers think Arihara’s command will help him greatly and perhaps strike out more guys than he did in Japan with all his off-speed pitches around the zone.

Zak (RI):

     I read somewhere that Avery Weems “stuff” has improved in the past year. I see he’s performed very well in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but was curious to see if you’ve heard anything specific about him improving

Jeff Wilson: Zak with another, and a good one. Weems was a reliever at Arizona, and he told the Rangers he was constantly looking over his shoulder if he surrendered a hit or put a couple guys on. He knew he would get a quick hook. He got in trouble in his first pro start, but the White Sox didn’t come and get him. That boosted his confidence, and he’s taken off. Really interesting, and not at all unusual, to hear how a shot of confidence will change a player’s course.

Bayron Lora (#11?):

     I have been heavily hyped but don’t see myself in the top 10. Am I #11 or close to it? My scouting report noted my massive frame which generates massive power with it but with swing and miss concerns. Was I at the alternate site in 2020? If so, how did I look?

Jeff Wilson: I tell you what, Bayron: I almost always misspell your name. You would have been No. 10 if not for the Dunning acquisition, though some I talked to had you a little lower. The main reason is you haven’t displayed all that power in actual games yet, and you were limited in instructs because of a wrist deal. I don’t remember you being at the alternate site. Do you? The one thing you did to impress the Rangers was finding a gym in the D.R. to continue training during the pandemic and to keep your body in shape.

Maximo Acosta (Future top 100?):

     With average to plus grades above the board, am I seen as a future top 100 prospect? My current hit/power is 55/50 but do the Rangers think both of those can tick up after how I looked at instructionals as a 17/18 year old?

Jeff Wilson: Max, you always seem to leave an impression despite your young age and having never played, never, professionally. The best bit I received on you in doing this for BA was a comp to Jurickson Profar. You’re smart and have instincts at a young at that others don’t have. While still a work-in-progress, you do a lot well and should keep getting better. I don’t think a spot in the Top 100 is out of the question at some point. You just have to go play.

Alex (MI):

     What’s the latest on Bubba Thompson? Seems to have dropped off quite a bit, is there still hope?

Jeff Wilson: Here’s what I hear on Bubba Thompson: He wants to be a great baseball player. Also: There seems to be a question as to whether he is a baseball player trapped in a football player’s body who might never escape. There are some flaws, which we all saw in 2019. Injuries limited him and he was better in the Arizona Fall League, but he needs to find a consistent swing. The good news is he doesn’t mind working to get there.

Jonathan (OH):

     How high of a ceiling does Jung have? Is he a future star in the Rangers organization? I read good reports on him towards the end of the summer

Jeff Wilson: Jonathan with a question about the No. 1 prospect. Jung has All-Star potential. He understands how to control the barrel better than anyone in the system, and his strike zone judgment is also elite. He started to develop some pull-side power, which he didn’t show consistently at Texas Tech. He’s the most complete hitter the Rangers have in their system. There’s a chance he could pop 30 homers, but 20 and a bunch of doubles ain’t bad.

Steven (Cranford, NJ):

     Why have the Rangers had such a difficult time developing starting pitching and what are they doing beyond sabremeteics to address it?

Jeff Wilson: Steven, I touched on your question earlier. A lot of it is analytics, though. They could also use some luck. They’ve had more than their fair share of injuries to pitching prospects. It would be nice to see some of these guys get through a full season (or even a full spring training!).

Warren (New London):

     How optimistic are you about IKF at SS? I’m a big Anderson Tejeda fan, and while I agree that he needs more time in the minor leagues, he seems to me to have a lot more upside.

Jeff Wilson: We see eye to eye on this one, Warren. Kiner-Falefa is going to be an upgrade defensively at shortstop, and that should be overlooked. I’m not sure how much more he has offensively, though Michael Young told me to not sell Isiah short. He has come a long way in the past two years, and there’s more there. Tejeda has the upside offensively, but, man, that approach is still pretty raw.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Sam Huff had a great 2020 MLB debut. With a 40 Hit tool, what is reasonable batting average to expect? I assume it’s not .355!

Jeff Wilson: Hahaha, Mike. No, Huff is not going to hit .355 as he did over a handful of games in 2020. If he can get a better idea of the strike zone and how pitchers will attempt to attack him, .270 might not be unrealistic. There was a pretty good split between him and Jung as being the top prospect. If Huff approaches his ceiling, you might be looking at an All-Star.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Can you go over the Rangers catching depth? Will Sam Huff displace Jose Trevino or Aramis Garcia on the MLB catching staff? Are there other catchers in the system of note? Randy Florentino? David Garcia? Heriberto Hernandez???

Jeff Wilson: Sticking with Mike and Rangers catchers here. Huff should start the season in the minors, but eventually he and Trevino should be the two catchers. That might be this year and almost certainly next. The Rangers could still look for a veteran catcher, which would send Garcia to Triple A. David Garcia was protected from the Rule 5 and is on the 40-man. He’s the best defensive catcher but is short on offense. Florentino is behind Huff. Hernandez was traded to Tampa in the Nate Lowe deal.

Mike (Honolulu):

     What grade/risk would you place on Kohei Arihara? Since he’s technically a rookie, what rank order range would you put him #11-#15? #16-#20? Can you tell us more about your expectations for him?

Jeff Wilson: I answered the Arihara question a bit earlier. I have him outside the top 10, and I honestly don’t know what to expect except we should see a lot of him. The Rangers need starters who can log innings, and Arihara had more (130-something) in 2020 in Japan than any MLB pitcher had.

Mike (Honolulu):

     What insights can you give us from the alternate sight and instructs? Any prospects with particularly notable performances?

Jeff Wilson: Mike on a roll. Jung and Tejeda were the stars of alternate camp, and then Jung went on and impressed again during instructs. Davis Wendzel, the Rangers’ second overall pick in 2019, is an intriguing guy who can play all over the place and can hit to all fields. He’ll play shortstop, yes shortstop, at Frisco in 2021.

Mike (Ontario):

     2nd rounder Evan Carter wasn’t a top 500 draft prospect. Any update on where he is now? Is he close to the top 10? Whats his future projections?

Jeff Wilson: Another Mike, though from Canada. I felt really bad for Evan Carter on draft night. No one had heard of him, and all the analysts ripping the Rangers’ draft were, in essence, ripping him. However, the Rangers expect him to be one of their top 10 prospects as early as next year. He impressed them at instructs by drawing as many walks (17) has he has strikeouts. They stand by their contention that had there been prep season in 2020, all teams would have known of Carter.

Warren (New London):

     With the middle infield in flux, do you think there might be a role for Yonny Hernandez at some point?

Jeff Wilson: A follow-up from Warren here, and Yonny’s second appearance in the chat. I’m not sure he will ever be much more than a bench player. The Rangers have Odor (ugh) and Solak (no complaints), but they also have Foscue. He’s the next long-term second baseman, in my opinion. Keithron Moss is another second baseman who could make things hard on Yonny.

Nolan P (Lubbock):

     How far off was Yerry Rodriguez from the top 10? He seems a much safer than some of the Rangers other pitching prospects.

Jeff Wilson: What’s up, Nolan? I have Yerry in the 20s, and the reason why is because there is some question whether he will be a starter in the majors. While his fastball is plus (92-96 mph, elite spin), his off-speed pitches need work. The curve is more of a slurve, and the changeup needs work. He also has some injury concerns, an elbow in 2020 that didn’t require Tommy John but gave some pause.

Orlando (TX):

     How well did chris seisse do in instructional league? and is he close to being a top 10 prospect again?

Jeff Wilson: Thanks for the question Seise, Orlando. He was arguably the instructs MVP. He showed power, a hit tool, speed, defense and, most important, health! He has the body of big-leaguer, but it needs to stay healthy. Consider how many reps he’s missed since getting draft. There’s a chance for him to be exploited this season as he plays and learns, but he’s oozing with tools. I have in in the low 20s.

Lydia (California):

     When the minor league season finally starts do you think there will be alignment amongst the 30 teams on what level to assign players given a missing 2020 season? Looking for the teams to be competitive but wondering if they start the players where they finished in 2019 or assume a year of advancement and raise them to the next level.

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Lydia. You’re asking a million-dollar question. Teams are going to be all over the map, in my opinion, on how they dole out assignments. The Rangers, as always, are going to be aggressive with most of their prospect. I think the will tap the brakes on Acosta and maybe Lora, based on their inexperience in the states, but others are going to be pushed. Frisco should be fun to watch with Jung, Wendzel and Foscue in the infield.

Stringer Bell (221):

     Is Josh Jung, Kiner-Falefa, Wendzel, and Carter a comparable package to what the Mets traded today? Is it a move you would have made?

Jeff Wilson: Stringer, you survived! I think that deal would be too much for the Rangers to part with at this point. The Mets, though, parted with an MLB shortstop and their 2019 second-rounder, among others. It was big haul, but look at what they got back.

Gregory House (Princeton, NJ):

     What makes Cole Winn special? Anybody who has seen him pitch has come away calling him a JAR

Jeff Wilson: Not a lot of House references. Excellent. I’ll start with Winn being from my home state of Colorado. That counts for a lot in my book. He’s competitor who throws a lot of strikes, is smart and knows how to pitch. He has a four-pitch mix and a clean, smooth delivery. And he’s from Colorado.

Phillip (Greenville):

     We saw Hans Crouse pitch in 2019 and he was clearly avoiding breaking balls because of his elbow and working on his changeup. Should we be concerned that he missed 2020 due to “personal reasons?”

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Phillip. The Rangers say no, but I have some doubts. He didn’t do anything team-related, outside of a few weeks in spring training. He is healthy, which is most important, and the Rangers saw him throw on the side multiple times during the quarantine. The “personal issues” … I know what they are way off the record. They aren’t anything negative.

Bill (Dallas):

     A bit surprised by the very low ranking of Tejeda. Given his youth, defensive chops, and offensive upside he showed at the Major League level….why so down on him?

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Bill. I’m not down on Tejeda at all. A few others at his position have a better upside, his position is loaded with depth, and he does have questions at the plate. The decision to put Kiner-Falefa at shortstop also factors in. It says something about how ready the Rangers think he is.

Lydia (CA):

     Of the Prospects currently residing on the 40-man (i.e A.J. Alexy, Brett de Geus, Yerry Rodriguez, David Garcia, Anderson Tejeda, Tyler Phillips) who do you think will see a spot on the 26-man roster out of Spring Training?

Jeff Wilson: Give me Brett de Geus, the Rule 5 pick. A lot of that is because of Rule 5 rules, but I think he could give the Rangers multiple innings out of the bullpen. They’ll need that with starters lacking innings.

Josh (Spokane, WA):

     Where do you think Sherten Apostel starts after his first taste of the bigs and how far out was he from making the Top 10? Thanks!

Jeff Wilson: I think Apostel will start at Triple A and at third base. The Nate Lowe trade and the Josh Jung fast track could really affect Apostel. One note on him: He has started slow at all previous levels but then takes off.

Matt (LuisAngel Acuna):

     Surprised there hasnt been any Acuna questions. He looked great at the DSL in 2019 and I was really looking forward to see how he’d look stateside. Your write up noted he looked really good, which is great to hear. You mentioned he’s thin which is surprising if he’s already 5’8″ and 181 lb. I would think that’s a pretty solid build and any strength gains would make him pretty strong for his height. Does he have the Jose Altuve starter kit? Seems like you can dream on 69+ hit / 55 power if he continues to improve the way he’s done already. Too rich?

Jeff Wilson: A few LuisAngel questions in the queue, so I’ll try to answer them all here. He can hit and he hits the ball hard. Unable to return to Venezuela during the quarantine, he split his time between Arizona and Atlanta with his brother. If he grows as Ronald did in his late teens, the Rangers could have a real star on their hands. If things continue as they are now, you’re projections aren’t unrealistic.

Jake (TX):

     I realize there may be some important privacy issues with Crouse’s absence during the summer and fall, but do you think they are the type of things that may hold back his career? Do the Rangers feel he made appropriate developmental progress working on his own? Is he expected in camp?

Jeff Wilson: Hey, Jake. I answered your question above. I guess the good news is that almost all minor-leaguers missed a year, so not too many people have passed Crouse by. Look, he’s still a top-10 prospect with really good stuff. The Rangers would have preferred to see him at instructs and the alternate camp, but life happens. He’s still only 22. He could, could, open the season at Frisco. That says a lot about the Rangers’ thinking on him.

Bill (MI):

     Saw earlier you said you’d be surprised if the Rangers went prep with the second pick. If Lawlar is the best player available would we take him or go a different route? Intrigued on this. Lawlar has awesome tools!

Jeff Wilson: Well, Bill, taking a prep player at No. 2 isn’t crazy. The Royals did it with Bobby Witt Jr. in 2019. A groomed college player would be the safe pick and could help in the rebuild sooner. Plus, the Rangers have gone with college players with their past two first-round picks. We’ll see. All right, gang, we’re going to wrap it up here. Thanks for you questions. If I didn’t answer your question, look through the transcript to see if I touched on it elsewhere. If not, email me at jwilson@star-telegram.com. Thanks again. Everyone stay safe.

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