Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
As the younger brother of Rays minor leaguer Erold Andrus, Elvis was on the prospect landscape at an early age. The Rangers had a chance to sign him during international scouting director A.J. Preller's first week on the job in 2005, when the club had Andrus at its Dominican complex for a workout. But Andrus was hampered by a leg injury and Texas couldn't justify blowing 70 percent of their then-modest international budget on him. Instead, he signed with the Braves for nearly $600,000 and held his own against much older competition in his first three years in the United States. Last July, he and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the centerpieces of a five-prospect package Atlanta surrendered for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. After changing organizations, Andrus thrived in the hitter-friendly high Class A California League and then batted .353 as the youngest player in the Arizona Fall League. After his regular season ended, Andrus arrived early at instructional league and had dinner with Preller and farm director Scott Servais. He dazzled the pair with his desire to lead, telling them that his favorite shortstop is Derek Jeter because "he's a leader and a winner, and that's what I am." He also picked Sammy Sosa's brain about how to get other players to respect him as a leader. That makeup sets Andrus apart, not just off the field but on it, where he has a unique ability to slow the game down and always put himself in the right position to make plays. He long has been regarded as a naturally gifted defensive shortstop, with sure hands to go with plus range and plus arm strength, which is especially evident when he goes into the hole or on relay throws from the outfield. He's an above-average runner who's improving as a basestealer, and he shows the ability to make adjustments at the plate. A gap-to-gap hitter with a mature approach for his age, Andrus has a short, direct swing path and enough strength to project to hit 10-20 homers per year in the big leagues. Andrus remains somewhat raw offensively, but he has made progress with the Rangers, who wanted him to narrow his wide, spread-out stance to get more weight transfer and drive the ball better. His inconsistent stride causes him to get out of rhythm at times, but he showed improvement in the fall. Texas gave Andrus the green light to run whenever he wanted, and he's still refining his technique and picking up nuances such as when he can steal third base. Though he has an accurate arm and gets plenty of carry on his throws, he sometimes makes careless throwing errors. Andrus' all-around game draws comparisons to an in-his-prime Edgar Renteria's. As with Renteria, defense will always be Andrus' calling card, but he has a chance to be a solid No. 2 hitter in the big leagues if he's given more at-bats to develop. He figures to get a shot at playing at Double-A Frisco as a teenager in 2008.
A two-way star in high school who also pitched some after transferring from Texas to Navarro (Texas) JC, Davis has taken off as a power hitter in pro ball. He followed up his solid 2006 debut with a monstrous first full season, finishing second in the minors with 36 homers and 118 RBIs and setting a California League record with a 35-game hitting streak. Not only does Davis possess well above-average power, but he knows how to use it, thanks to a balanced approach and willingness to use the whole field. He has improved against lefthanders, shortened up his swing somewhat and showed an ability to make adjustments against more advanced pitching as he has moved through the minors. Despite a plus arm, Davis is a below-average defender at third base, with poor footwork and actions. He played right field in his pro debut but is a below-average runner who likely will be limited to first base down the road. Though he has a good feel for hitting, he swings and misses a lot. He tends to start his hands high then drop them down before the pitch, making him vulnerable against pitches above the belt. Davis could be an impact middle-of-the-lineup bat in the big leagues even if he is limited to first base. He needs another season in the minors to see more quality pitching, and he figures to split 2008 between Double-A and Triple-A Oklahoma.
At the lower levels of the minors, Hurley was often able to dominate hitters simply by overpowering them, but he has had to learn how to adjust to hitters at higher levels. When he began overmatching Double-A batters in the first half of 2007, the Rangers moved him up to Triple-A, where he wore down late and experienced his first real taste of adversity. Hurley has a pair of plus offerings in his sinking 92-95 mph fastball that runs down and in and his firm slider with good depth. He refined his command of both pitches in 2007, and Texas forced him to focus on developing his changeup in Triple-A. He made some progress with the changeup early, flashing some turnover fade. As Hurley ran out of gas down the stretch, his changeup wasn't as comfortable coming out of his hand and he struggled to locate it. He also got hit hard when he left his fastball up in the zone. It usually takes him a few innings to get his velocity up, as he works at 88-92 mph early in games. Hurley will likely get a chance to crack the big league rotation in spring training, but a return to Triple-A and a midseason callup seems more likely. He projects as a mid-rotation starter in the Kevin Millwood mold.
After leading Texas to the College World Series and posting a solid pro debut in 2005, Teagarden ended his year with Tommy John surgery. He worked his way back as a DH late in 2006 and entered 2007 mostly healthy, but elbow fatigue in late April set him back. He wound up catching just two or three games per week the rest of the way and serving as a DH the rest of the time. Most Rangers officials regard Teagarden as a major league-ready defensive catcher already, thanks to his soft hands, solid footwork and feel for the game. His arm is slightly above average but plays up further thanks to his footwork, quick release and accuracy. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in 2007. Offensively, he entered pro ball with a rather flat swing path at times, but he since has improved his load and been able to generate more loft and backspin, giving him solid-average pull power and doubles pop to the opposite field. He has natural leadership skills. Teagarden still needs a little more work calling games, but his intelligence should expedite that process as he gets more work behind the plate. Because of his patient offensive approach, he takes his share of strikeouts. The Rangers took the reins off Teagarden in the fall, and he should be ready to catch nearly every day in 2008--likely back at Double-A to start the year. Texas may not need him thanks to Saltalamacchia, but Teagarden should be ready to be an everyday catcher by 2009.
Feliz lacked the name recognition of the other youngsters the Braves gave up in the Mark Teixeira trade last July, but he could wind up as the crown jewel of the haul. Rather than blowing hitters away with his fastball after the trade, he focused on developing his secondary stuff and still struck out 27 in just 15 innings. With some time to refine his command, Feliz' fastball could rate as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. With a smooth, effortless arm action, he pumps heaters that sit at 94-97 mph and touches 99, exploding on hitters. He stays on a good line to the plate and throws strikes. He has an athletic build and he's a hard worker. Feliz flashes a promising three-quarters breaking ball in the high 70s, but it's inconsistent. One day he'll show a plus curve with very good depth, and the next day he'll drop his arm, causing the pitch to flatten out and spin but not bite. He tends to throw his changeup too hard, right into hitters' bat speeds, but he has some feel for the pitch and made progress with it in instructional league. His command currently lags behind his control. Feliz has a chance to open 2008 as a 19-year-old at low Class A Clinton, but he's still a long way from the majors. If it all comes together for him, he has the potential to be a true No. 1 starter, though some scouts see him as a flamethrowing closer down the road.
Since he was named Baseball America's top 15-year-old prospect in 2004, Main has generated buzz for his lightning-quick arm and supreme athleticism. A number of clubs thought hard about drafting him as a center fielder, and the Rangers even let him DH for eight games in his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he batted .267. Main evokes Bret Saberhagen for his slight build, plus-plus arm strength, intelligence and determination. He pitches with minimal effort at 92-97 mph with a lively fastball, and he did a much better job keeping the pitch down in the zone in 2007 than he did in high school in 2006. Main's 75-78 mph downer curveball has tight rotation and good depth. It's an average pitch at times and could wind up better than that. He has good command for his age. He has plus-plus speed and the athleticism to field his position well. Main has the makings of an average changeup but needs to develop the pitch, which he used infrequently in high school. He also must get more consistent with his curveball. Added strength would improve his long-term durability. Main could wind up as a legitimate front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. He figures to follow Kasey Kiker's development plan and start 2008 in extended spring training before going to low Class A around mid-May.
The Rangers have been careful with the undersized Kiker, first keeping him on a strict pitch count in his pro debut after his standout career as a workhorse at national powerhouse Russell County High (Seale, Ala.), then holding him back in extended spring training to start his first full pro season. The idea was to keep him to 20 starts in 2007, and Texas preferred to have him peaking at the end of the season rather than in July. It worked perfectly, as he repeatedly dialed his fastball up to 97 mph in a Midwest League playoff game. A bulldog who wants the ball in big spots, Kiker has the stuff and competitiveness to make up for his slight build. With a clean arm action from a high three-quarters slot, he pitches comfortably at 91-93 mph and has the ability to elevate the ball in the zone to get strikeouts when needed. He has a plus changeup with some tail to it. He always has thrown the changeup with good arm speed and commanded it much better in 2007, even using it when he was behind in the count. Kiker's 75-78 mph curveball has tight downward rotation and is a plus pitch at times, but it remains inconsistent. Though he has a strong lower half and keeps himself in great shape, his size raises questions about his ability to shoulder a starter's heavy workload over the long term. Kiker will start 2008 in the hitter-friendly California League, which will be a major test for him as a flyball pitcher. His three-pitch mix gives him a shot to be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues by 2010.
Beavan was Baseball America's 2006 Youth Player of the Year after serving as the ace for the U.S. junior national team, which included striking out 11 in a shutout against Cuba on Cuban soil. He followed his standout summer with a dominating senior season, which included an 18-strikeout perfect game, and bypassed a commitment to Oklahoma to sign with the Rangers for $1,497,500 right before the Aug. 15 signing deadline. Beavan has an imposing, workhorse frame and a swagger on the mound. He pounds the strike zone with an above-average heavy fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and reaches 96 when he needs it. His mid-80s slider can be a plus pitch at times as well. Beavan tends to use a lower arm slot with his slider than he does with his fastball, causing it to flatten out. He should be able to tighten the pitch by cleaning up his delivery, and his velocity could climb if he learns to finish pitches instead of cutting himself off. He'll need to develop his nascent changeup to stick as a starter. He can be too brash at times, and he got a taste of humble pie in instructional league. Some scouts think Beavan profiles best as a two-pitch bullpen ace with a nasty streak, but the Rangers will give him every chance to start. He figures to make his pro debut at short-season Spokane in June.
Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico discovered Borbon almost by accident while recruiting another player in the Dominican Republic, and Borbon helped lead the Volunteers to the College World Series as a freshman before exploding onto the prospect landscape with a standout summer for Team USA in 2006. He missed the first eight weeks of his junior year after fracturing his ankle while sliding awkwardly during an intrasquad game, and though he never fully got on track during the season, the Rangers signed him to a major league contract worth $1.3 million, including an $800,000 signing bonus. Borbon garners comparisons to Johnny Damon for his prototypical center-field tools. His 70 speed on the 20-80 scale and his good instincts make him a plus defender in center. He has a strong, physical frame with gap-to-gap power, and he projects to hit 10-20 homers annually in the big leagues. He makes consistent, line-drive contact, is a good bunter and isn't afraid to work the count. He's also a natural leader. Like Damon, Borbon has a below-average arm, though Texas thinks it could become average if he can improve his exchange from his glove and retrain his muscle memory. Offensively, the Rangers want him to narrow his stance to get more weight transfer. He also needs to use the opposite field more and work on getting better jumps on the basepaths. He'll have to be more patient as a pro than he was as an amateur (37 walks in 155 games) to be a leadoff hitter. Borbon has the tool set to be an everyday center fielder in the big leagues. He should open 2008 in low Class A and could move fairly quickly.
The Red Sox signed Beltre for $600,000 in 2006 and traded him to Texas along with Kason Gabbard and David Murphy for Eric Gagne last July. After shining in his Rangers debut, Beltre reported early to instructional league, where the gifted athlete further impressed by bowling a strike in the first roll of his life during the club's bowling tournament. Scouts drooled over Beltre's legitimate five-tool potential after he signed with Boston, with one even comparing him to a young Barry Bonds. The Rangers liken his wiry-strong frame to that of a young Kenny Lofton, and like Lofton he's an above-average runner who gets good jumps and reads in center field to go along with a plus arm. Beltre has a loose swing and quick wrists and projects to hit for above-average power as he fills out. Though Beltre has good bat control and isn't afraid to work the count, he tends to get jumpy with runners on base. His swing can get too big and he's prone to chasing pitches in the dirt. He's raw in every phase of the game and hasn't yet figured out how to use his speed on the basepaths. Given time and at-bats, Beltre could blossom into a true five-tool superstar, but he's a long way off. He'll likely start 2008 in extended spring training before heading back to Spokane.
After holding his own in the Midwest League as an 18-year-old in his 2006 U.S. debut, Poveda returned to the MWL and mastered it in '07 before earning a late promotion. Though he's still officially listed at 200 pounds, the Rangers say Poveda is finally starting to fill out his angular frame and is now closer to a more durable 215 pounds. That build evokes fellow Venezuelan Freddy Garcia and Yankees righty Carl Pavano, and like those former No. 3 starters, Poveda is a strike-thrower with a good work ethic and solid mound presence. His solidaverage fastball sits at 89-92 mph and occasionally touches 93, and he might have a touch more projection left. His straight changeup is a plus offering that can sometimes be plus-plus, and he throws it in any count to righties as well as lefties. He has developed his downer curveball into an average offering that he can sometimes get hitters to chase in the dirt. He still needs to continue refining the pitch and learn how to attack advanced hitters, but he figures to continue his rapid climb through the system in 2008, starting back at high Class A Bakersfield. He could reach Double-A by midseason and could be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues by 2010.
Harrison did not pitch for the Rangers after being acquired as part of last July's Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves because he had developed a nasty case of turf toe that affected his delivery, leading to shoulder irritation. He changed from a no-windup delivery to a full windup in an effort to add velocity, but the Rangers decided to shut him down until the Arizona Fall League, where a healthy Harrison went 5-0, 2.00 in 27 innings. Harrison's biggest strength is his excellent feel for pitching and ability to work all quadrants of the strike zone. His four-pitch mix includes an average 88-93 mph fastball and an average changeup that he throws in any count. He also throws two breaking balls: a slurve with darting three-quarters break and a big, slow 71-75 curveball that is more of a show pitch. Harrison has a big, physical frame and pitches downhill from a three-quarters arm slot. He's not a great athlete and his body is maxed out, so his ceiling is probably as a No. 3 starter, though he's more likely a No. 4 or No. 5. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he figures to advance to Triple-A to start the season and could see the big leagues sometime in 2008.
In the summer of 2006, Ramirez held his own against players up to three years older than him in the Cal Ripken Sr. League, a summer college wood-bat league where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect. An up-anddown senior season caused him to slip to the Rangers at No. 44 overall in the draft, and he passed up a scholarship at Georgia Tech to sign for a $1 million bonus right before the Aug. 15 signing deadline. He was still working his way into game shape in instructional league, but he flashed the electric stuff that has garnered comparisons to John Smoltz and A.J. Burnett. Ramirez oozes projection, but he already pitches at 92-94 mph with his high-riding four-seam fastball, which he ran up to 96 in instructs. His short, tight, low-to-mid-80s power curveball projects as a potential plus-plus offering, but he's still learning to command it consistently. Ramirez is just starting to develop his changeup, and he still struggles to repeat his delivery, often opening his front side and changing his release point, causing the ball to go all over the place. He's got plenty of time to smooth all of that out, and if it comes together for him, he could be a bona fide top-of-the-rotation starter. He figures to open 2008 in extended spring training before heading to the Arizona League.
Castillo had thrown just three innings in the U.S. before heading to Spokane in 2007, and though he took his lumps against much older competition, he still ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the league. During instructional league in 2006 and in extended spring last year, Castillo showed three quality pitches, highlighted by a plus fastball that parks at 92-95 mph and touches 97. His breaking ball was a true power curveball at 81-82 mph, and his 78-80 mph changeup had some split-finger action. But while Castillo still showed that lively, sinking fastball and promising changeup in Spokane, he struggled to get around his breaking ball, causing it to flatten out and look like a slider that spun but lacked action. He worked on correcting the problem in instructs after the season, but he'll need to focus on the curveball and becoming more consistent with his changeup in the spring. Though Castillo has some feel for pitching, he needs to improve his command. He has the potential to be a No. 2 starter or a closer in the big leagues down the road, but he'll likely get a shot at low Class A Clinton in 2008.
After earning second-team freshman All-America honors as a starter in 2006, Hunter thrived in the bullpen for Team USA, then split 2007 between the closer role and Friday starter spot for the Crimson Tide. The Rangers popped the draft-eligible sophomore with their third supplemental first-round pick (No. 54 overall) and signed him for a $585,000 bonus, and he excelled out of the bullpen for Spokane, where he ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the short-season Northwest League. Hunter's hulking, rather soft frame belies his athleticism--he was a two-time junior Olympic judo champion, and he's surprisingly quick off the mound. A leader off the field, Hunter took Rangers top pick Blake Beavan under his wing in instructional league, and his commanding presence carries over to the mound. Hunter pounds the strike zone with a solid-average 90-94 mph fastball, the centerpiece of his quality four-pitch mix. His short, tight, late-breaking curveball is his better breaking ball, a plus pitch at 82-84 mph, but his slider and changeup with split-finger action are usually average offerings, though he sometimes gets around his slider, causing it to flatten out. Some scouts see Hunter as a tenacious late-innings bulldog in the Jonathan Broxton mold, but others envision him as an innings-eating workhorse along the lines of Joe Blanton. In either case, he was one of the most polished pitchers in the 2007 draft class and figures to move very quickly, starting with a likely assignment to high Class A in 2008.
Like Chris Davis in 2006, Duran went into the Rangers' predraft workout in 2005 and really impressed the club, convincing them to take him in the sixth round and award him a $90,000 bonus. He flew under the radar despite solid outputs in his first two pro seasons, but he exploded in 2007 in the Double-A Texas League, where he ranked as the No. 14 prospect after finishing among the leaders in most offensive categories. He held his own in the Arizona Fall League after the season, batting .281/.385/.422 despite spending his mornings in Arizona working with Rangers outfield coordinator Wayne Kirby on learning left field. Versatility figures to be Duran's best ticket to the majors--he's an average defensive second baseman with adequate range and a strong arm that allows him to fill in at third base and shortstop. Offensively, Duran packs some punch into his compact frame, and his short, quick, smooth stroke produces consistent, hard line-drive contact and average pull power. He's a very aggressive hitter who loves to hit early in the count, though a little more patience could do him some good. He used to be a dead pull hitter but has gotten better at knocking pitches on the outer half to the opposite field. Duran profiles as a Placido Polanco type who can play multiple positions but is a good enough hitter to eventually settle in as an everyday second baseman. He could get to the big leagues in 2008.
During his college career at Stanford, Mayberry played mostly first base like his father, two-time major league all-star John Mayberry. The Rangers drafted him in the first round in 2005 knowing that it would take time to refine his impressive but raw set of tools, and the progress has been slow but steady. He showed power but struggled to make consistent contact while hitting in the three-hole in the first half of the year at Bakersfield, but he was able to relax after a promotion to a more competitive Frisco team, where he batted lower in the lineup. Mayberry has well-above-average raw power that he is still learning to tap into--he's made progress shortening his swing, but he's still vulnerable on the inner half and struggles to authoritatively pull the ball with consistency. He has above-average arm strength but a slow release because of his long levers. Accordingly, he's a long strider and a fringe-average runner underway, but he lacks first-step quickness, making him a fringe-average defender in right field. He's always going to strike out a lot and never will hit for a high average, but he could be an everyday big league right fielder who hits 35 home runs. He'll likely head back to Double-A in 2008.
Font and Fabio Castillo were the jewels of the Rangers' 2006 international haul, and Font held his own in his stateside debut as a 17-year-old in 2007. Despite his youth, Font already has a strong, physical frame, and the Rangers say he finished the year at 237 pounds after starting it at 210. Though he's pigeon-toed when he walks around, he's more athletic than he looks. His arm strength is his best asset, as he runs his fastball up to 97-98 mph and sits at 93-96, though he has a long arm action and some effort in his delivery. He still needs to develop his fastball command, but it's not bad for his age. Font's secondary stuff is a work in progress. He has good feel for a changeup, which is his No. 2 pitch right now, but he's still experimenting with a mid-70s curveball. Some in the Rangers system think his arm action is more suited to a slider, but for now he just needs to learn how to maintain his arm speed when throwing a pitch that spins. Font remains very green, but he has front-of-the-rotation upside. He figures to get a crack at Spokane in 2008.
Diamond has been one of the Rangers' top prospects ever since they drafted him 10th overall in 2004, and he earned postseason all-star honors in 2005 in the California League and 2006 in the Texas League. But Diamond began feeling elbow discomfort off and on in the Rangers' mini-camp last January, and it flared up after a spring training appearance against the Mariners in early March. He had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2007, but his recovery was on schedule, and he began throwing off a mound in November. The Rangers expect him to throw simulated games in spring training, but he likely won't return to game action until June 1. When healthy, Diamond attacked hitters with a 91-94 mph fastball that reached 95-96. His plus changeup has always been his No. 2 pitch, and his long arm action caused him to abandon his overhand curveball in favor of a promising 82-83 mph slider in 2006. He needs to get better at putting hitters away. Diamond closed in college and could eventually wind up as a power bullpen arm, but the Rangers protected him on their 40-man roster and will give him every chance to start. Expect him to get a shot at Triple-A by season's end barring any setbacks.
Santana anchored the Rangers' strong 2005 international haul, signing with the Rangers for a $325,000 bonus. He had cleanup surgery in his shoulder that caused him to miss all of 2006, but he finally made his debut in the Arizona League in 2007, though he missed a month after breaking a bone in his thumb on a foul tip. Santana is a premium athlete who drew interest as a center fielder from other clubs, and one Rangers official described him as "Raul Mondesi, if you put him behind the plate." He has a strong, square-shouldered frame and quick hands that give him a short path to the ball. He has yet to tap into his plus raw power, but he demonstrated a maturing offensive approach last summer, hitting with confidence in two-strike counts and using the whole field. Santana is a plus runner, not just for a catcher. He receives well, has good footwork and does a good job blocking balls in the dirt. He has some arm strength, but his arm action is actually too short and could use some more arm swing. If he can straighten out his throwing, he has the ability to be a special catcher in the big leagues, and enough offensive potential that he could still be an impact player at another position. He could get a shot at the Midwest League in '08, but a return to Spokane (where he finished 2007) might do him some good.
After struggling mightily in his first crack at the Midwest League in 2006, Whittleman returned to the circuit with a vengeance in 2007, hitting .343 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in the first two months of the season. That performance earned him a spot in the Futures Game, where he walked and homered against Mets flamethrower Deolis Guerra in two plate appearances. The Rangers hoped that performance would spark a hot second half, but pitchers began approaching him more cautiously and he started pressing and chasing balls down out of the zone. Whittleman batted just .162 after the MWL all-star break and .240 after Texas gave him a change of scenery with a promotion to high Class A. Whittleman's fall in the instructional league was cut short by a viral infection in his spleen, but the Rangers expect him to be fine by spring training. Whittleman has a smooth lefthanded stroke with average power. He has a patient approach and can spray hard line drives from line to line, although the Rangers would like to see him get more aggressive and pull the ball a little more. Whittleman has improved somewhat at third base, where his strong arm and decent instincts give him a shot, but he committed 34 errors for the second year in a row and needs to become more consistent. He tends to put too much pressure on himself and is still learning to cope with failure. Whittleman should return to Bakersfield in 2008 and could still become an everyday corner bat in the big leagues.
Murphy's development has been slow and deliberate since the Red Sox drafted him 17th overall in 2003, but he finally broke through to the big leagues for a brief stint in 2006 and was traded to Texas along with Kason Gabbard and Engel Beltre in July's Eric Gagne deal. The Rangers gave him a longer look in the majors after the trade, and he was one of the team's hottest hitters down the stretch. Murphy has plus raw power, but his smooth, easy swing is more tailored to making contact and finding the gaps in games. He has a mature, patient approach and does not strike out often. Defensively, Murphy is adequate in all three outfield positions, thanks to average speed, good instincts and a solid arm. He's not a burner on the basepaths, and he doesn't hit for enough power to hold down a corner outfield spot, but he's a versatile enough defender with enough offensive ability to fit in as a quality fourth outfielder for the Rangers in 2008. Unless he taps into his raw power in his late 20s, Murphy doesn't figure to profile as an everyday outfielder.
Ramirez has been moved prior to the trade deadline two years in a row, first going from the Braves to the Indians for Bob Wickman in 2006, then getting shipped to Texas for Kenny Lofton in 2007. He has hit since his first professional season in 2003, and he continued to do so in high Class A, along the way being voted by managers as the Carolina League player with the best plate discipline. Ramirez is a mature, gifted hitter who maintains his balance and bat control through his swing despite a high leg kick and a lot of hand movement in his trigger. He has good power to the gaps and occasional home run pop, and he could hit enough to play first base or left field if he has to move from behind the plate. He was signed as a third baseman and is still working to shore up his footwork and receiving behind the plate, but he has enough athleticism and arm strength to at least have a chance to catch in the majors. Texas put him on its 40-man roster in the offseason, and he figures to do the bulk of the catching at Double-A in 2008.
Rangers scout Russ Ardelina recommended Mendoza after seeing him pitch in the Red Sox system, and Texas acquired him in a deal for Bryan Corey in July, 2006. Boston had released him in 2005 and picked him back up off waivers after just two starts in the Padres system. He spent most of 2007 in Double-A, leading the Texas League in complete games and finishing second in wins before earning a September callup to the majors, where he earned his first win with five innings of one-run ball against the Orioles in his second start. Mendoza relies heavily upon his low-90s sinker, which tops out at 93-94 and induces plenty of ground balls when he's right. He has a rubber arm and a durable frame with a barrel chest and long limbs. Mendoza also throws strikes with a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup, but neither is a swing-and-miss pitch, and he does not get many strikeouts, making him very reliant on strong infield defense. His ceiling is limited, but he has a shot to crack the Rangers' Opening Day roster as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a swingman.
As a hitter, the powerful Madrigal drew comparisons to Albert Belle for his thick body and swing mechanics, and the Angels signed him as an outfielder for a $150,000 bonus. After he batted just .235/.273/.348 in his third straight season in the low Class A Midwest League in 2006, the Angels decided to convert him to the mound, and he had a breakout season back at Cedar Rapids in '07. But when the Angels inadvertently failed to place him on the 40-man roster before the end of the World Series, Madrigal became a minor league free agent, and the Rangers scooped him up. Madrigal has a strong, durable frame, a good arm action and a repeatable delivery. He mostly overpowered MWL hitters by pounding the strike zone with his plus fastball at 93-96 mph, but he'll flash an average slider at 83-86 in warmups. Madrigal won't be able to get by solely on his fastball in the upper levels, so he'll need to tighten the slider and develop more confidence in the pitch. The Rangers expect him to move quickly and will give him a look in big league camp, though he's more likely to close in Double-A this year.
Arias had advanced steadily through the Rangers system since being acquired from the Yankees in the 2004 Alex Rodriguez trade, but 2007 proved to be a lost season for him. With Michael Young entrenched at shortstop in the big leagues, Texas tried Arias out in center field during spring training, but he developed shoulder soreness trying to make outfield throws and was sidelined until late June. After a brief comeback attempt, Arias had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and was shut down for the season. He did not have any structural damage, however, and should be ready to compete for a utility job in the majors in spring training. When healthy, Arias is a plus-plus runner with good range and excellent arm strength at shortstop. He has an aggressive, line-drive approach at the plate but needs to improve his selectivity. He's shown little or no power over the course of his minor league career, posting a slugging percentage above .400 only once. Arias has a thin, fragile frame, and some in the organization questioned his toughness in 2007. He'll need to increase his defensive versatility if he's to have any value to the Rangers. As a gifted athlete with multiple standout tools, Arias could still emerge as a valuable everyday shortstop, but it seems unlikely that will happen with the Rangers.
The Rangers drafted Phillips out of Galt (Calif.) High in 2004 and signed him as a draft-and-follow in 2005. After getting off to a 1-0, 1.19 start in April during his full-season debut in 2006, Phillips struggled with his confidence for three months before getting back on track in August and carrying his progress over to instructional league. He went back to the Midwest League in 2007 and finished third in the league in ERA and second in strikeouts. Phillips is a quick-twitch athlete who got in trouble in the past when he rushed himself, but he made a lot of progress controlling his tempo and delivery in '07. His feel for pitching and command are his best assets, while his stuff is solid if not overwhelming. He works at 87-91 mph with his fringe-average fastball, and his second pitch is a solid-average changeup. He flashes a quick, downer curveball with tight rotation, but it can get slurvy at times. Phillips' upside is limited, but the Rangers feel confident that he will eventually be a back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. He'll advance to high Class A in 2008.
Vallejo is a model of perseverance. He overcame the deaths of both of his parents, and he rebounded from a rough debut in the Midwest League with a solid performance in his second crack at the circuit in 2007. In just his second season since former Rangers special assistant Terry Shumpert taught him to switchhit, Vallejo improved his batting average against righthanders from .240 to .260, but he made even more progress against lefties, jumping from .220 to .294. He has more strength from the right side than the left and slugged 85 points higher against lefties, but he profiles as a slasher from both sides of the plate. Vallejo is a well-above-average runner who made huge progress as a basestealer last year, swiping 47 bases in 50 attempts. He's a plus defender at second with excellent range, a strong arm and sure hands. Vallejo is still learning to control the zone and cut down his strikeouts, and he improved his bunting but still has work to do. He'll never hit for power and projects as a speedy, slick-fielding second baseman who could hit in the No. 9 hole or lead off in the majors. There's been talk of skipping Vallejo to Double-A in 2008, but the Rangers want to continue to build up his confidence and will likely send him to high Class A.
Garr spent most of his collegiate career at Northern Colorado as a third baseman, and he led the Bears in batting in his sophomore and junior years while smacking eight homers each year. He also served as Northern Colorado's closer his last two years, registering 12 career saves, though he logged just 35 collegiate innings and had erratic command. Still, he flashed a 93-mph fastball, and the Rangers signed him for a $65,000 bonus as a ninth-round pick. He succeeded as a reliever at three levels during his first full season in 2007, and his heater has climbed to 92-96 mph with heavy life that induces plenty of groundballs. He has a short-arm delivery that provides good deception, and he has a bulldog mentality. He's still developing his secondary stuff, but he has flashed an average slider and average change with split-finger action. He's still learning how to attack hitters, and he seemed to get a little gun-shy against Double-A hitters at the end of the season. Garr will return to Double-A in 2008 and could find his way to the big leagues by season's end. He projects as a solid setup man.
After missing most of 2002 and 2003 with Tommy John surgery, Galarraga's workload increased dramatically in his next two seasons in the Nationals organization, and he was worn out when the Rangers acquired him as part of the Alfonso Soriano trade in December 2005. As a result, he pitched just 70 innings in 2006 while battling shoulder fatigue, but he bounced back with a 160-inning campaign in 2007, culminating in three big league appearances in September. Galarraga works at 89-94 mph with a fastball that he keeps down in the strike zone. His slider is an above-average pitch, and his changeup is an adequate third pitch. He made some adjustments last year to get more downhill plane on his fastball, as he gets into trouble when he leaves the pitch up. Galarraga's stuff is decent but not special, and he profiles as a No. 5 starter and swingman in the majors, though he'll likely head to the Triple-A rotation in 2008.