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More than any baseball draft, the 2000 edition was dictated more by signability than ability. Nine of the top 10 picks agreed to predraft deals, including Gonzalez, who received $3 million as the No. 1 pick from the Marlins. While he was regarded as the best pure high school hitter in the draft, he was projected as more of a mid-first-rounder. Gonzalez has outplayed most of 2000's first-rounders (save for Rocco Baldelli) and is a safer bet than the players who fell out of the first round because of signability (Xavier Nady, Dane Sardinha, Jason Young). He had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right wrist following the 2002 season, a problem that seemed to hinder his ability to drive the ball throughout last season. The Marlins decided Gonzalez was expendable as Jason Stokes, their second-round pick in 2000, packs more power potential at first base. So Florida made him the centerpiece of a three-prospect package to acquire closer Ugueth Urbina from the Rangers last July. Gonzalez comes from good baseball lineage. His father David was a star first baseman for the Mexican national team, while his older brother Edgar is a third baseman whom Texas plucked from Tampa Bay in the minor league Rule 5 draft in December. Gonzalez' pure hitting approach and sweet lefthanded stroke draw comparisons to Rafael Palmeiro. Gonzalez has great balance with a short, quick swing. He sprays line drives all over the field, hitting fastballs and offspeed pitches alike. Though he's geared to smoke balls into the gaps now, he projects to develop above-average longball power in time, much like Palmeiro did. Defensively, Gonzalez is a Gold Glover in the making. He has soft hands and demonstrates excellent footwork around the bag. He's already adept at making plays to his backhand and aggressive in making plays with his strong, accurate arm on relays or throws across the diamond. The lingering affects of his wrist surgery made it hard for Gonzalez to turn on pitches on the inner half of the plate. After consecutive 17-homer seasons, he tailed off to just five last year. Some scouts question just how much power he'll develop, though they say he'll be a doubles machine--maybe more along the lines of Mark Grace than Palmeiro. Gonzalez isn't a natural athlete and some scouts are concerned about his soft body. He's a 20 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He always had shown a fair amount of patience, but his walk rate dipped below an acceptable level in 2003. After getting his swing together toward the end of the season and in the Arizona Fall League, Gonzalez spent the offseason working with the Rangers' strength and conditioning coach Fernando Montes in Arizona. Texas believes it will get its first look at a fully healthy Gonzalez this season at Triple-A Oklahoma. The Rangers are crowded on the corners in the upper levels. When Gonzalez is ready to jump to Arlington in 2005, Mark Teixeira likely will move to the outfield.
Danks went 10-3, 1.61 with 173 strikeouts in 100 innings to lead Round Rock High to the nation's top prep ranking for much of last spring. His father John Sr. helped the University of Texas to the 1978 NIT basketball championship, and his younger brother Jordan is an outfielder at Round Rock and potential first-rounder in 2006. John signed for $2.1 million. He impresses scouts with his effortless and repeatable delivery, which allows him to work consistently around the strike zone with three pitches. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range and he touches 93-94 at times. He displays an advanced feel for his knee-buckling curveball. Danks put in extra work on his changeup in instructional league. He's learning to maintain his arm speed on the pitch and has the aptitude to develop it into an effective third offering. The Rangers prefer college prospects in the first round, but Danks' poise and polish made him irresistible. After a heavy workload last year, he'll be limited to 120 innings in 2004, starting in low Class A Clinton.
Formerly known as Ramon Martinez, Nivar took on his mother's maiden name. Unlike more than 30 other Rangers prospects, his age was unchanged. He switched positions at midseason last year, moving from second base to center field. Nivar grades as a top-of-the-scale runner, getting down the line in as fast as 3.9 seconds, and has garnered Rafael Furcal comparisons for his explosiveness. His speed prompted the move to center, and he displayed more than enough range to make up for his inexperience on routes. His arm strength is above-average. Nivar understands his role at the plate, and he can surprise pitchers with a little sock in his bat. He needs to develop his strikezone judgment and improve his bunting to become a complete leadoff hitter. Scouts love the energy Nivar brings, though he can get out of control at times. He hit .381 in the Arizona Fall League and has taken to center field so well that he could compete for the big league job in spring training. When he's ready, he'll push Laynce Nix to an outfield corner.
Previously known as Jose, Dominguez bolted through three levels and into the majors. He compiled a perfect minor league record along the way but was hammered in his two losses with the Rangers. His breakthrough season became less impressive when it turned out he's two years older than previously believed. Dominguez overmatched minor leaguers with command and two pitches: a lively 89-94 mph fastball and the best changeup in the system. His changeup acts like a splitter and grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Dominguez needs a better slider to make it as a big league starter. He tends to get under it, causing it to flatten out in the strike zone. He also needs to improve his mound presence and awareness of game situations. If his slider doesn't come around, Dominguez could make a good set-up man. The plan is to keep him in the rotation for now and have him start the year in Triple-A.
In two seasons at Rice after redshirting at Texas, Sinisi earned second-team All-America status in 2002 and a College World Series championship ring last season. Sinisi's signability was in doubt and prompted him slipping to the second round last June. He signed for $2.07 million, getting the 10th-highest draft bonus in 2003 as the 46th overall pick. Sinisi reminds scouting director Grady Fuson of Jason Giambi, who was drafted by the A's when Fuson was their national crosschecker in 1992, at the same stage. Sinisi has a balanced approach at the plate and uses quick hands to propel the ball into the gaps with a compact stroke. He recognizes pitches well and should respond quickly to the Rangers' plate- discipline program. Sinisi projects to develop above-average power but has yet to show it in games. He hit just 21 home runs in two seasons at Rice. He's an underrated athlete and possesses the instincts to help make a smooth transition from first base in college to left field as a pro. The Rangers were encouraged by Sinisi's instructional league performance and expect him to rake at Double-A Frisco this season.
Scouting director Grady Fuson held the same position with the Athletics when they signed Laird for $1 million as a draft-and-follow in 1999, then targeted him in a six-player deal after joining Texas in 2001. He got a surprising start over Joe Mauer for Team USA in the quarterfinal loss to Mexico during the Olympic qualifying tournament in November. While Laird has come along with the bat, he's more advanced as a defender. He erased a Pacific Coast League-best 39 percent of basestealers last year, combining plus arm strength with accuracy. At the plate, he shows raw power and the ability to drive the ball by getting good extension through his loose swing. Laird tends to be overaggressive and needs to lay off fastballs up in the strike zone. He's working to shorten his stroke. He runs like a catcher. Coming off a brief but impressive stint in the big leagues, Laird heads into spring training as the No. 2 catcher behind Einar Diaz. He should be the starter by no later than 2005.
Drafted by the Expos in the seventh round out of high school, Littleton was a potential first-rounder heading into 2003. His junior season was tarnished by a six-week suspension, after allegations that he took a teammate's parking permit. He wasn't as sharp upon his return, but did turn in a strong effort in the College World Series. Littleton's fastball ranks as the best in the organization, for its combination of velocity (89-94 mph) and vicious run and sink. He creates that outstanding life with a quick, whip-like arm action from a low three-quarters slot. He also throws a sweeping slider with late bite and a changeup that could become a plus pitch. He's an aggressive strike-thrower. While his low release point generates electric movement, finding a consistent weapon to against lefthanders will be a challenge. The sooner he hones his changeup, the quicker he'll move. Rangers scout Steve Flores has known Littleton since high school, and the organization has no concerns about his suspension. Texas expects him to move quickly after starting 2004 in high Class A, moving to Double-A in the second half and possibly the majors in September.
Bourgeois was among the top hitters in the high Class A California League when he was promoted to Double-A. He was sidelined briefly with a bruised hand, but that wasn't enough to prevent him posting career highs in most offensive categories. At 5-foot-9, Bourgeois draws comparisons to athletic sparkplugs such as Ray Durham and Eric Young. He packs surprising sock despite his stature and started finding the gaps more regularly last year. He turns in consistent quality at-bats and has improved his strike-zone judgment. He has the quickness and speed to steal bases with a high success rate. Drafted as a shortstop, Bourgeois made the full-time switch to second base last season. He shows good anticipation on grounders and has an average arm, but overall is just a fringe-average defender. After a strong Arizona Fall League performance, Bourgeois will return to Double-A to begin 2004. His profile mirrors Durham's through the same point of development, and Bourgeois has all the intangibles and passion to continue on the same path.
A Dodgers second-round pick in 1999, Meyer led South Carolina to the College World Series and topped the Southeastern Conference in hits (120) and steals (39) in 2002. Though the Rangers needed pitching and already had Alex Rodriguez, they drafted Meyer 10th overall and drew plenty of criticism. He started slowly last year while trying to adapt to Texas' plate-discipline program but earned a promotion to Double-A in July. A good athlete, Meyer's tools play up because of his superior instincts. He has a strong, accurate arm and solid middle-of-the-diamond range. He possesses the first-step quickness to steal bases and has dangerous speed once he gets under way. In addition to reworking his approach, Meyer also has toying with adjusting his stroke. He has an unorthodox style-- similar to Ichiro, moving out of the box as he swings--with a flat plane to his swing path. He manages to make hard contact but is overaggressive and strikes out too often. Meyer's athleticism and versatility provide all kinds of defensive options, including the possibility of moving him to center field, where he played last spring and in instructional league, or catcher. He'll probably open this year as a Double-A shortstop.
The Rangers were allowed to choose three prospects from a pool of eight when they traded Carl Everett to the White Sox last summer, but Rupe was atop their list all along. Chicago brought him along slowly and didn't moved him into its low Class A rotation until mid-June. Rupe works with four pitches and a loose, live arm. His fastball sits at 91 mph and tops out at 95 with outstanding sink. His slider ranks among the best breaking balls in the organization. He also throws a good downward-breaking curveball. The Rangers were pleasantly surprised with Rupe's changeup, but he needs to build confidence in the pitch by throwing it more often. He wore down at the end of the season and has to improve his endurance. Armed with four pitches, command and projectability, Rupe has all the ingredients to develop into a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. He'll move up to high Class A this season.
Jimenez never has been dominant, but the Rangers say he's on the verge of a breakout season. He aged two years after the crackdown on fraudulent birth certificates and is growing into his lean, athletic frame and adding velocity to his plus fastball. He pitches in the 89-93 mph neighborhood and will flash a 95 occasionally. Those readings could become more frequent as he continues to fill out. Jimenez already shows good, tight rotation on a plus slider, another good sign of pure arm strength. He throws strikes with both pitches. His changeup needs refinement. His future as a starter or reliever could be predicated on his ability to develop a third pitch. Coming out of the bullpen, Jimenez would be a quality eighth-inning setup man with two plus pitches, and he'd likely consistently fire his fastball in the mid-90s. Though he went 0-2 in the California League playoffs, he pitched well enough to win both games and impressed the Rangers with his composure. He'll move up to Double-A in 2004.
Webster was part of the payment for Carl Everett. An all-Tennessee running back in high school, he was recruited by Southeastern Conference football programs. The resulting signability concerns dropped him in the 2001 draft. After he hit .330 in two years of Rookie ball, his production dropped in his first full season but he still held his own. Webster has a good idea at the plate and puts the ball in play consistently. Rangers hitting instructors are working with him to improve his hand position and his pre-swing load to help him drive the ball more often. Webster is a 60 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, with an above-average arm and solid instincts for center field. He's scheduled to play in high Class A this year.
Kozlowski and C.J. Wilson entered last season as the top southpaws in the system. Kozlowski blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in June, and Wilson had the same operation two months later. The Rangers hope to get Kozlowski back on the mound in May, while Wilson will miss the 2004 season. The Rangers picked up Kozlowski after the 2002 season, when they needed to find a home for Andy Pratt to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. Kozlowski was expected to contend for a rotation spot last season, but his velocity and ability to locate his pitches were absent last spring. When he's healthy, he's a workhorse in the Andy Pettitte mold. Kozlowski's fastball sits in the low 90s with solid movement, while his curveball has hard downward bite. Though he shows a feel for his changeup and maintains fastball arm speed with it, he was working on commanding the pitch more effectively before he broke down. The Rangers have been encouraged by his work ethic during rehab.
Moreno's velocity has made it hard for him to garner attention, and he was left unprotected through two Rule 5 drafts and missed much of 2002 with a foot injury. He returned in Double-A last season but didn't get a shot at the rotation until the end of May. Moreno flourished as a starter, going 5-4, 2.86 with a .231 opponent average. He throws four pitches for strikes to both sides of the plate, working on a nice downhill plane thanks to his over-the-top delivery. Moreno's fastball is solid-average at 90-91 mph and features occasional sinking action. His sharp, 80-85 mph slider and changeup are plus pitches, and he mixes in a decent curveball. There's not a lot of deception to his delivery, which is why he doesn't miss a lot of bats. He has to rely on location and changing speeds. Moreno is his own pitching coach on the mound. When he loses his arm slot, he can make the correction on his own. Moreno was fatigued in August and was shut down the last two weeks of the season with a sore shoulder. The Rangers don't count it as a significant setback. They expect him to join the Triple-A rotation this spring and contribute in Texas later in the year.
Drafted in the 43rd round out of high school by the Rangers in 2000, Thompson passed on his commitment to Florida to spend two years at Pensacola Junior College. His freshman season was wiped out by Tommy John surgery. He recovered in time to get drafted by the Rangers again in 2002, and shows no ill effects from the operation. Despite his lack of size, Thompson has a power arm. As a high school sophomore, he once recorded all 21 outs in a seven-inning complete game by strikeout. He fills the zone with three pitches, including a 90-95 mph sinking fastball. His slider is a solid pitch when he stays on top of it, but he drops his arm slot, costing the pitch depth and bite. He's working on improving his changeup as well. If there's a knock on Thompson's stuff, it's that it often arrives on a flat plane, making it more hittable. He finished his first full season with 13 scoreless frames and 16 strikeouts in the California League playoffs. Thompson's command and control are so good, that his pitches should improve with experience. He's slated to join the Double-A rotation.
Wilson likely won't log any meaningful time on a mound until the spring of 2005 thanks to Tommy John surgery last August, but he should regain his status as one of the Rangers' top lefthanders. Wilson is a good athlete with an outstanding work ethic. He went from a 5-foot-2, 103-pound high school freshman to Orange Empire Conference co-player of the year in 2000 at national junior college powerhouse Santa Ana (Calif.). When he's on, he works aggressively with an 88-92 mph fastball that has good natural movement. He battled elbow soreness for much of 2003, costing him velocity and effectiveness at times. Wilson tightened the rotation on his curveball, which shows the makings of a plus pitch, and also improved his control last year. His changeup can be a weapon. A student of the game, he studies hitters' weaknesses and has a natural feel for exploiting them. The Rangers have been pleased with his rehab work, so it's possible he could return sooner than expected.
Six-foot-8 pitchers with a track record of success pitching at a high-profile NCAA Division I program usually aren't overlooked in the draft, but Loe's below-average velocity was hardly enough for area scouts to give him a second look in the spring of 2002. His low three-quarters arm slot didn't help him attract attention, either. His knack for pitching is tailor-made for the Rangers, however, and they were able to wait until the 20th round for him. His 1.67 ERA in his first full season ranked second in the minors behind only Detroit's Jon Connolly (1.41) in 2003. Loe, who hit 90 mph more consistently in high school, dropped his arm slot at Cal State Northridge and traded velocity for movement. He works with a deceptive delivery that makes his 85-90 mph sinker appear harder than it is. He pounds the ball down in the strike zone and induces lots of groundballs. Loe has an effective changeup with good late action. He's working to tighten the spin on his big, sweeping breaking ball. He consistently repeats his delivery and his arm works tension-free, leading the Rangers to believe there's more velocity in his future. Power never will be his forte, so he'll be challenged by more advanced hitters as he moves up the ladder. Loe's makeup is outstanding, which along with his plus command and movement will aid him as he tries to make the move to Double-A.
Adrian Gonzalez drew most of the attention in the Ugueth Urbina deal, but Smith gave the Rangers a second potent bat. He set the Arizona high school record for homers and has shown a consistent ability to drive the ball as a pro. Some scouts question his power potential, however. That may be because of his slight build or his unorthodox wide-open hitting stance. He was bothered by a wrist injury early last season, though he still managed to hit .313 in April before finally requiring surgery. The operation kept him out for two months and affected him upon his return. Smith didn't endear himself to his new organization with his work habits. His power output would benefit from a more consistent conditioning program, and the Rangers want him to put more time into extra hitting. Smith has to learn to take pitches the other way and buy into Texas' plate-discipline philosophy. He also has room for improvement as a left fielder, though his arm is solid-average. He'll return to Double-A and could be a pleasant surprise after a disappointing start in the Rangers system.
Thanks to the Rangers' depth on the corners and the addition of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez at midseason, Botts has bounced between first base, his natural position, and left and right field. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he's an Adonis in a baseball uniform. Even at his size he doesn't sacrifice any athleticism and he ran the best 60-yard dash (6.55 seconds) in the organization two years ago. Botts has a patient approach and is an on-base machine, though at times he is too selective. The Rangers asked him to be more aggressive in trying to target pitches he could attack last season. He's more comfortable from the right side of the plate and temporarily gave up switch-hitting in junior college. There's length and often too much strength to his swing, creating problems getting the bat head to the ball on a direct path, especially with inside pitches. He won't tap into his big-time raw power until he makes adjustments. Botts hasn't taken to the outfield as expected, looking tentative and showing a well-below-average arm. He often is asked about in trade talks, by organizations who covet tools and athleticism as well as by those who emphasize plate discipline. However, he wasn't added to the 40-man roster last winter and was available in the Rule 5 draft. Botts will return to Double-A and try to find a defensive home, most likely in left field.
Snare came to the Rangers in the Ugueth Urbina trade last year, making it the second straight summer he switched organizations. The Rangers coveted Snare's piching instincts and greeted him with a promotion to Triple-A after acquiring him. He commands three solid pitches for strikes. His fastball consistently sits between 88-92 mph with average movement, and his big, knee-buckling curveball is one of the top breaking balls in the system. He's still trying to hone his changeup. At just 6 feet tall, he pitches uphill at times, but he's also able to correct that flaw when he stays tall through his delivery. Some scouts project Snare as a quality set-up man, though it was surprising to see lefties rip him for a .295 average last year. He struggled to maintain the sharpness on his curve against lefties and didn't throw his changeup to them. Snare is aggressive with his fastball on the inner half against righties. He's slated to begin the year in the Triple-A rotation, though the bullpen hasn't been ruled out. He could be among the first prospects summoned to Arlington in 2004.
Scouting director Grady Fuson selected Hudgins in the 20th round out of high school in 2000, when he held the same position in Oakland. The 2003 Pacific-10 Conference pitcher of the year, Hudgins was at his best in the College World Series. Though Rice won the national title, Hudgins dealt the Owls their only loss in the three-game finals and was named Most Outstanding Player after going 3-0, 1.88 in 24 innings. His workload, however, became a controversial topic. Hudgins piled up an NCAA Division I-high 165 innings and threw 350 pitches in 10 days at the CWS. While it's impossible to know how directly it was related to his use at Stanford, Hudgins reported shoulder soreness and worked just two innings after signing for $490,000. Doctors discovered that he has thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that causes circulation problems in his right arm. Hudgins opted for a conservative rehabilitation program as opposed to surgery. The operation is a relatively minor procedure that Kenny Rogers recovered from in 2001, and he discussed it with Hudgins. When healthy, Hudgins can carve up the plate with command of four average pitches. His fastball, which topped out at 93 mph in high school, is regularly clocked at 88-89 mph. His changeup is his most advanced pitch and has plus potential, while his curveball and slider both have tight rotation and depth. Hudgins is intelligent and knows how to go after hitters. He took a risk by avoiding surgery, and the concern is that his condition won't heal on its own and will set him back further in 2004. He was throwing twice a week during the offseason in preparation for spring training and a potential assignment to high Class A.
Murray represents the Rangers' pitching blueprint. He has moved quickly since signing as a draft-and-follow in 2001, and spent last year as the second-youngest regular starter in the Texas League. He turned in the league's seventh-best ERA and was even better (0.77 ERA) in two playoff starts. Nicknamed "Pirate" because his given name is Arlington and his teammates took to calling him "Arrr" in 2001, he's similar to C.J. Wilson and Ryan Snare. Murray may rely even more on touch and feel than those fellow lefties. He borders on the soft-tosser ledge with a fastball that sits from 86-88 mph and ranges from 84-90. He has a solid four-pitch mix, though, and locates his stuff to both sides of the plate. Murray's changeup is his best pitch, and he throws a big-breaking though inconsistent curveball. He has a good shot at joining the Triple-A rotation this year and profiles as a fifth starter in the majors.
Cleveland wasn't a classic premium prospect, but with the greater emphasis on performance and on-base ability these days, it's surprising he lasted until the eighth round of the 2003 draft. Cleveland led the Atlantic Coast Conference with a .410 average and 103 hits while posting a .512 OBP and 37-34 walk-strikeout ratio. He continued to rake after signing for $85,000, finishing second in the short-season Northwest League batting race to Spokane teammate Dane Bubela. While Cleveland hit 19 home runs last spring for North Carolina, most scouts write that off as aluminum-bat pop and don't project him to have better than average power. He does everything else right at the plate, though. Cleveland has a level swing with solid bat speed, similar to 2002 ACC batting champ Khalil Greene. Cleveland keeps his hands back and demonstrates advanced pitch recognition. Primarily a first baseman for the Tar Heels, Cleveland has below-average speed and arm strength. There are questions about where he can play defensively, but the Rangers are hoping he'll take to left field and continue to produce. He's advanced enough at the plate to skip a level and handle a jump to high Class A in 2004.
Boyd made an immediate impact in Clemson's outfield after spurning the Mariners as a second-round pick out of high school in 1998. He emerged as a second-team All-American as a sophomore, when he hit .390-17-70 with 20 steals. But as a junior he was hampered by a thumb injury and hit a career-low .293 in 2000. The Pirates drafted him in the fourth round but didn't come close to signing him. As a senior, Boyd cracked a vertebra and was limited to two at-bats. He nearly returned to Clemson as a redshirt senior before signing with the Rangers as a seventh-rounder for $600,000--the second-highest bonus ever given to a player in that round. Injuries dogged him during his 2002 pro debut before Boyd finally played pain-free for the first time in four years in 2003. He's the best defensive outfielder in the system, with plus range to cover the gaps and above-average arm strength. He gets outstanding jumps by reacting to pitches as they cross the plate. Boyd might reach the big leagues for his defensive tools and athleticism alone, but to become anything more than a reserve he needs to make offensive adjustments. He's a line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate, though he shows more power as a righty. He recognizes pitches better from that side and looks for fastballs to hammer, but scouts like his lefthanded stroke more. He doesn't have tremendous bat speed and has holes on the inner half of the plate. Boyd will be an everyday center fielder in Double-A this year.
After going 4-0, 2.82 as a Georgia Tech freshman in 2001, Lorenzo transferred closer to home to Kent State, which had recruited him out of an Ohio high school. His stock improved as his velocity increased, and he turned in one of his best performances against Ohio ace Marc Cornell with a host of scouts and crosscheckers on hand last spring. Lorenzo led the Mid-American Conference by limiting opposing hitters to a .203 average. Strong and durable, Lorenzo is equipped with a power arm and a polished delivery. He touched 95 mph in college and sat between 88-92 last summer after signing for $210,000. Lorenzo has a feel for four offerings, and his curveball could become his put-away pitch. It shows good, late downward action out of his high three-quarters release point. His slider and changeup are less consistent but have the potential to at least be effective. Lorenzo probably will start 2004 in low Class A, where he'll work on adding movement to his fastball and improving his command.
The perfect game Regilio threw for in the high Class A Florida State League in 2001 should have been a blessing, but he seemingly has been cursed since. He was bothered in the second half of that season by a ribcage injury and missed time in 2002 with biceps tendinitis. That was a prelude to rotator-cuff surgery last spring, all but wiping out his 2003 season. Regilio rebounded rather quickly from an injury of such magnitude and made good use of his Arizona Fall League assignment last year. He regained his 91-93 mph fastball, touched 94-95 on several occasions in Arizona and didn't sacrifice any of his sinking movement. Regilio's fastball command is average at best right now and is hindered by his tendency to overthrow, which causes him to get offline to the plate. Overall, he has a compact delivery with good arm speed and a clean arm action. Regilio's curveball has hard downward bite, as does his slider, though he needs to do a better job of distinguishing between the two pitches. His changeup is solid-average. He needs more experience in the upper levels, but if he stays healthy he could make a push for the majors by the second half of 2004.
Gold led NCAA Division I with 33 homers and was the West Coast Conference player of the year in 2002. He has carried the label of a one-dimensional slugger dating since his days at Treasure Valley (Ore.) Community College, but he has one other quality the Rangers covet: plate discipline. He draws comparisons to Jason Botts and Triple-A first baseman Jason Hart for his approach at the plate. Gold has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale, but has produced more doubles than homers since he turned pro. He's working on becoming less pull-conscious and driving the ball up the middle. In college, he was easy prey for pitchers who worked him away, but he has learned to lay off those pitches or take them to the opposite field. In the field, Gold is average at first base and got sporadic work at third base in the second half of 2003. He has an average arm, good feet and decent instincts for the hot corner, though it remains to be seen if he can handle the position on a daily basis. Gold will play primarily first base and see some time at third in high Class A this year.
Francisco ranked as the No. 10 prospect in a weak Red Sox system following his breakthrough 2001 season. Since then he has gone through a few changes, switching organizations twice through trades and having his age revised upward nine months. He also switched from relieving to starting in mid-2002. Part of the Carl Everett trade with the White Sox, Francisco continues to attract attention and tease scouts with his power arsenal. His inconsistency prompts scouts to compare his plus fastball/slider combination to Octavio Dotel's one day and turn him in as a fringe prospect the next. When Francisco is on he can be electric, lighting up radar guns with 93-96 mph readings while also showing a plus slider and an occasional good changeup. But too often he struggles with his fastball location, and his velocity will dip to 90 mph because he's unable to repeat his delivery and release point. He was wildly inconsistent after joining the Rangers, but his flaws are correctable and he has two big league pitches. He'll return to the bullpen this year in Double-A, where he has a career 7.54 ERA.
The Rangers don't have many power arms capable of blowing up radar guns, but they're rich in pitchers with a feel for their craft, and Echols fits that mold. He repeated high Class A to begin 2003, taking part in Stockton's eight-man tandem starter program. After a slow start in April, he heated up to earn a promotion to Double-A. Echols continued to miss bats at the next level, though his control eluded him when he walked 14 in back-to-back starts. He needs to improve the command of his fringe-average 87-90 mph fastball to set hitters up for his secondary pitches. He has the ability to put them away with a tight 76-80 mph curveball, and his decent splitter as an effective alternative to a changeup. Echols is a good athlete who repeats his delivery well, but he's not projectable and will have to live with his present velocity. He profiles as a back-end starter or middle reliever and could compete for a Triple-A job this year.
The Cardinals picked LaMacchia one slot ahead of Kyle Sleeth in the 18th round of the 2000 draft. They both opted for college and established themselves as high-profile prospects by the end of their sophomore seasons. Sleeth was drafted third overall by the Tigers in 2003, while LaMacchia's draft stock plummeted after he had Tommy John surgery last May. He made two early season starts before blowing out his elbow, allowing just one hit and fanning 11 in nine innings. Tabbed as a second- or third-rounder before the injury, he fell to the 21st round. He appeared to be heading back to Florida State and didn't sign until the day classes started. The Rangers say he's similar to John Hudgins but with more natural arm strength. LaMacchia's fastball was impressive for its 91-92 mph velocity and heavy sinking movement, and he also was armed with an above-average curveball. He had good command and understands how to set up hitters. He should regain his previous form, though he's not expected to start pitching again before May at the earliest. The Rangers would like to get him on the mound in low Class A before the end of 2004.
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