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Originally signed by the Braves for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic, Feliz came to the Rangers in a five-prospect package for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay in July 2007. At the time, he hadn't pitched above Rookie ball, but Feliz since has made a name for himself as one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball. Texas also received Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones in one of the best trades in franchise history. Feliz reached Double-A Frisco at age 20 and led the minors with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full season in the Rangers system in 2008. He opened last season working as a starter at Triple-A Oklahoma, moving to the bullpen in late June to prepare him for a big league callup, which came in early August. Feliz electrified the home crowd in his major league debut, becoming the first Ranger ever to strike out four straight batters to start his career and touching 100 mph six times in 30 pitches over two perfect innings. He took the American League by storm over the next two months, dominating in 20 relief appearances. An exceptional athlete with a fluid arm action, Feliz generates premium velocity with minimal effort, and scouts constantly comment that it looks like he's playing catch from the mound. His fastball explodes on hitters, sitting at 93-98 mph and touching triple digits. His fastball also has good late life and he commands it well, making it a true 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. Feliz made great strides with his changeup in 2009, and it now ranks as his No. 2 pitch. He maintains his arm speed on his changeup, and it can be a plus offering though it's as hard as some pitchers' fastballs at 89-90 mph. His athletic, physical frame should help him hold up under a starter's workload. He has a confident, aggressive mound presence and doesn't get rattled easily. Feliz is still working on improving his feel for his breaking ball. In Triple-A, one of every three or four was a quality big league pitch, and he actually was more consistent and comfortable with it after his callup. At its best, the pitch is an 82-85 mph power curveball with 11-to-5 break, but it tends to flatten out at times and will probably turn into more of a slider. When he worked as a starter, Feliz had a tendency to work at 92-93 mph with his fastball in the early innings, then peak in the high 90s in the middle to late innings. In relief, he had to learn to dial up his stuff from the start of his outings. Feliz still is refining his command, particularly with his secondary stuff. Because of his ability to hold his exceptional fastball velocity deep into games, Feliz profiles as a potential No. 1 starter if he can improve his breaking ball. The Rangers plan to break him in as a starter in 2010, but if he struggles they could move him back into the bullpen, where he could be a shutdown closer.
A high school teammate of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in Goose Creek, S.C., Smoak mashed a school-record 62 career homers at South Carolina before signing for $3.5 million as the 11th overall pick. Smoak's first full pro season got off to a good start in Double-A before he missed a month at midseason with a ribcage injury. He struggled initially after a promotion to Triple-A, then made adjustments and finished on fire at IBAF World Cup, where he hit nine home runs in 14 games to capture MVP honors and help Team USA win the gold medal. The switch-hitting Smoak has plus-plus power potential from both sides of the plate. He has a mature, patient approach and the ability to use all fields. A potential plus defender at first base, he has good hands and digs balls out of the dirt well. Smoak isn't a finished product offensively yet, as he needs to stay back more consistently and get better extension out front. He also must improve his lateral range at first base, where his arm is merely adequate. Smoak figures to start 2010 back in Triple-A, but he could be ready for the big leagues sometime later in the year. He has a chance to be a switch-hitting slugger in the Mark Teixeira mold.
The Rangers saw enough feel for pitching and competitiveness in a 16-year-old Perez to sign him for a $580,000 bonus in 2007, when his fastball sat in the mid-80s. Since then his velocity has jumped, and he ranked as the South Atlantic League's No. 1 prospect in 2009. His dominance earned him a mid-August promotion to Double-A, where he was pounded in his debut before settling down in his last four starts. Dubbed "The Venezuelan Gator" shortly after signing for his similarity to undersized former all-star Ron Guidry, Perez is more often compared to Johan Santana nowadays for his size, delivery, moxie and electric arm. He attacks hitters with a 91-95 mph fastball, and he's still maturing physically. He has exceptional feel for his sharp 1-to-7 curveball, which he can add and subtract from at will, throwing it anywhere from 68-81 mph. The Rangers directed Perez to throw a preponderance of changeups in the first half of the season to help him refine the pitch. He still doesn't turn the pitch over well and needs more consistency with it, but he'll flash a plus 78-82 mph changeup with good arm speed. When he got to Double-A, he got nervous, overthrew and didn't repeat his delivery as well. Perez has top-of-the-rotation upside, and he might not be far from the majors. He'll likely start 2010 in Double-A, where the Rangers plan to let him pitch deeper into games for the first time in his career.
Scheppers projected as a top 10 pick in the 2008 draft before a shoulder injury caused him to miss Fresno State's improbable College World Series title run and dropped him to the Pirates at No. 48. Initially reported as a stress fracture, the injury was later described as significant wear and tear, so he opted for rehab over surgery. He turned down Pittsburgh and pitched for the independent St. Paul Saints in 2009, but he still lasted 44 picks because of concerns about his health. He signed for $1.25 million and posted a 5.73 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. Scheppers has an electric fastball that ranges from 93-99 mph and has excellent downhill angle. He complements it with a plus 82-84 mph curveball that could become plus-plus as he refines his command. He has an aggressive, competitive demeanor and a good work ethic. Scheppers can be wild with all his stuff and must do a better job getting ahead in counts. He has feel for a changeup but must develop the pitch to stick as a starter. He has a hitch in the back of his delivery, but his arm works well and the Rangers don't plan to mess much with his mechanics. They want him to add 10-15 pounds and continue strengthening his shoulder. Scheppers earns comparisons to Brandon Morrow, and as with Morrow, it could take some time to figure out if he fits best as a starter or closer. Scheppers is ticketed for a spot in the crowded Frisco rotation in 2010.
Profar made a name for himself in the Little League World Series, leading Curacao to the championship as an 11-year-old and back to the title game as a 12-year-old. With a fastball that touches 93 mph, he generated plenty of interest on the international market as a pitcher last summer, but Texas was the only organization that would accede to his wishes to be an everyday player. They signed him right after July 2 for $1.55 million, a franchise record for an international signee. Profar dazzled the Rangers with his savvy and presence during instructional league and at their Dominican academy later in the fall. His advanced instincts, keen field awareness, dogged work ethic and outgoing personality remind them of Elvis Andrus--whom Profar idolizes. He has a chance to be a plus defender at shortstop thanks to his sure hands, plus arm and average range. He also has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball from both sides of the plate, and his offensive approach is advanced for a 16-year-old. His average speed plays up on the basepaths because of his intelligence. More than anything, Profar just needs experience. As he fills out, he could develop fringe to solid-average power, but he needs to add strength to his thin, wiry frame. Many international scouts with other clubs aren't sold that he'll hit enough or stick at shortstop. The Rangers vehemently disagree. The precocious Profar could follow in Andrus' footsteps and start his first full pro season at low Class A Hickory as a 17-year-old.
Shoulder soreness hampered Kiker in 2008, but he stayed healthy last year and led Double-A Texas League starters in strikeouts per nine innings (8.5) while finishing second in opponent average (.219). His velocity and command faded late in the year, as he posted a 9.47 ERA in August, then issued 14 walks in 13 innings for Team USA in the World Cup. Kiker no longer flashes the 95-96 mph fastball that made him the 12th overall pick and earned him a $1.6 million bonus in 2006, but he attacks hitters with a 90-93 mph heater. The riding life on his fastball gets strikeouts up in the zone. His 79-80 mph changeup has blossomed into a plus pitch over the last two years. He's a fearless competitor who loves to work inside. Kiker's mid-70s curveball still has good shape and depth at times, but his command of the pitch has taken a step backward. He needs to throw it with tighter break more consistently. Durability will always be a question because of his size, and his fastball dropped to 85-89 mph late in the year. Some Rangers officials believe Kiker's stuff will play up in relief, and he could get some work in the bullpen in major league camp this spring. Ultimately, his future might be as a middle reliever or setup man, but he'll open 2010 in the Oklahoma City rotation.
The Rangers bought Ross out of a Kentucky commitment with a $1.575 million bonus just hours before the 2008 signing deadline. They were mildly disappointed by his lack of arm speed and fastball life in instructional league that fall, but he dominated in his pro debut last year. He ranked second in strikeouts per nine innings (9.2) and fourth in ERA (2.66) in the short-season Northwest League. Ross makes up for his lack of size with his tenacity and quick arm. He pitches down in the zone to both sides of the plate with a 90-93 mph fastball that bumps 94. The pitch plays up because of its late life--he can cut it and sink it, though he doesn't always know how he's doing it. He hides the ball well and eats up lefthanders, holding them to a .228 average in 2009. He also flashes an above-average, late-breaking slider at 82-83 mph. Ross' changeup is a work in progress, though he does have some feel for it. Because of his size, he sometimes gets underneath the ball, which cause his pitches to rise in the zone. He still must add strength to improve his stamina. Ross will move on to low Class A in 2010. Texas will develop him as a starter, and some club officials envision him as a mid-rotation starter in the mold of former all-star Danny Jackson.
Moreland was a gritty two-way star for Mississippi State, hitting 10 homers and making 16 relief appearances for the Bulldogs' 2007 College World Series team. His plus lefthanded power helped him win the Cape Cod League home run derby in 2006 and finish as the runner-up in 2007, when the Rangers signed him late in the summer for $60,000. Thanks to his low-90s fastball and feel for a tight slider, they dabbled with the notion of using Moreland on the mound heading into 2009, but he mashed his way to Double-A and ended those plans. His .331/.391/.527 season was cut short in mid-August when he fouled a ball off his foot and broke a bone, but he recovered in time to post an .855 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. Moreland has above-average power, especially to left-center field. He's an intelligent hitter who makes adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, and he hangs in well against lefthanders. Club officials say he's the best natural leader in their system. Though he's better at first base, he showed solid instincts and a plus arm when he played right field in deference to Justin Smoak at Frisco last year. Moreland has a funky swing with some holes in it, but he has worked to shorten his stroke and pull the ball with more authority. He's a below-average runner whose range is lacking in the outfield. Given the organization's glut of first basemen, Moreland's best route to an everyday big league job is in right field. He figures there in Triple-A this year and could be a solid regular in the Brad Hawpe mold before too long.
After blossoming into one of the Royals' top pitching prospects, Gutierrez was held back in extended spring training last April while recovering from a minor shoulder injury. The club wound up sending him home over a disagreement about his rehab. It wasn't the first off-field issue for Gutierrez, who has had three brushes with the law in the last two years, including an assault charge last June. Fed up, Kansas City dealt him to Texas in September for catcher Manny Pina and outfielder Tim Smith. Gutierrez has an athletic frame and a live arm. He has excellent command of a 91-95 mph fastball, and his 71-75 mph overhand curveball rates as a second plus offering. He changes speeds well and has a good feel for pitching. Gutierrez flashes a quality changeup at times, but it's inconsistent. His fastball is rather straight and could make him susceptible to homers against advanced hitters. His makeup is a major concern, but the Rangers believe he's maturing and that a fresh start will do him good. Gutierrez will open the season in Double-A and looks on track to compete for a big league job at some point in 2011. His electric repertoire gives him a chance to be a frontline starter--one evaluator compares him Darryl Kile--if everything comes together.
After his solid U.S. debut in 2007, Font limited to four innings in 2008 by shoulder soreness and knee tendinitis in 2008. The Rangers closely monitored his workload last year--he pitched more than five innings just once in 29 outings--and he stayed healthy all season, making one of the biggest jumps in the system according to some club officials. The hulking Font always has had an explosive fastball and has touched 100 mph in the past, but he focused on improving his command of the pitch last year and worked mostly at 93-98 mph. His fastball has heavy life to go with its velocity. His changeup made considerable strides in 2009 and rates as an average pitch at times, with a chance to be plus in the future. He also matured considerably last year, demonstrating a better understanding of the importance of between-starts routines and workouts. Font has long struggled to harness his mechanics, and though he's making progress, he still must do a better job repeating his delivery. The Rangers are trying to keep him online and going downhill instead of spinning off too quickly and leaving his arm dragging behind. They hope his secondary stuff will improve as his mechanics do. He's still trying to improve his feel for his breaking ball, which is currently a hard curve but could wind up as a slider. Font has a chance to start because he can maintain his plus-plus fastball velocity deep into games, but he could wind up in the bullpen because of his questionable command and secondary stuff. He'll continue working as a starter at high Class A Bakersfield for now, but he also has upside as a closer.
Ramirez, who was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman in 2006 and shipped to Texas for Kenny Lofton in 2007, almost got dealt for the third time in December. The Rangers and Red Sox reached an agreement to swap Ramirez for Mike Lowell, but Texas cancelled the deal after discovering Lowell needed surgery on his right thumb. Against the Rangers' wishes, Ramirez opened 2009 by playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, where he got little playing time. His season was hampered by tendinitis in his left wrist and soreness in his right wrist. When completely healthy, Ramirez is a plus hitter who works the count and drives the ball to all fields. He has shown some of his above-average power potential in the Venezuela League over the last two winters, but he's still working to unlock his power. He has a big leg kick and a lot of hand movement in his setup, which can hinder his timing. He tended to be late on fastballs and out in front of breaking balls in 2009. He's a below-average defensive catcher with below-average arm strength. Though he's a fairly accurate thrower, he erased just 23 percent of basestealers last season. He's a well below-average runner. Texas wants Ramirez to take his defense more seriously and work harder on staying in shape. He has a chance to be an offensive catcher/first baseman/DH and his bat is ready for a big league role in 2010, though he may not get that opportunity with the Rangers.
The athletic Wieland committed to San Diego State as a two-way player but chose instead to sign with the Rangers for $263,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2008. He opened his first full pro season throwing once a week in extended spring training so the Rangers could keep his innings down--an approach they also used with Kasey Kiker two years earlier. He reported to low Class A in late May, getting off to a strong start before tiring down the stretch. At his best, Wieland pitches with a 91-93 mph fastball with boring life, but his velocity dipped to 87-91 over the course of the season. He's projectable and should add velocity as he gets stronger. His sharp overhand curveball is a power pitch at 82-83 mph, giving him two above-average offerings at times. Wieland worked hard in extended spring to develop his changeup, and the pitch has become much more consistent. He also is improving his fastball location against lefties, as he has a tendency to open up in his delivery, causing his heater to run over the middle of the plate. As Wieland matures physically, his stamina should improve and he could develop into a workhorse with three average or better pitches. He's likely to return to Hickory to start 2010, with a midseason promotion to high Class A likely.
The Rangers believe Jurickson Profar and Sardinas are two of the best shortstop prospects that have appeared on the international market in the last five years, and they signed both for seven-figure bonuses in 2009. Sardinas showed a propensity for hitting better in games than in batting practice as an amateur, and he appeared in the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June before signing with Texas for $1.2 million. Sardinas is a true shortstop with a wiry, athletic frame that evokes that of former all-star Tony Fernandez. He has smooth infield actions, sure hands, excellent range and above-average arm strength at shortstop. He projects as an above-average defender as he gains experience. Sardinas ran a 6.83-second 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game showcase and has been clocked as low as 6.6 seconds, making him an above-average runner. Offensively, he has a loose, wristy swing and a slap approach from both sides of the plate. He has decent plate discipline for his age and has shown an ability to work the count and take walks. He has started gain weight and strength since signing, and the Rangers envision him as a solid line-drive hitter in time. He'll always have below-average power, however. Sardinas will start 2010 in extended spring training before making his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He has a chance to be a slick-fielding everyday shortstop with speed and the ability to get on base.
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 at the 2007 trade deadline. Beltre led the Midwest League in runs and hits in 2008, but he hit .227/.281.317 as a 19-year-old in high Class A last year. He's a premium athlete with the most exciting all-around tools package in the system, but his bat is a question mark. Beltre has yet to unlock the raw power potential in his wiry frame, partly because he's a free swinger who struggles to make consistent contact. The Rangers instructed him to focus on seeing more pitches in 2009, and the adjustment seemed to help, but every time he experienced success he would revert to hacking away early in counts. Beltre's above-average speed makes him a basestealing threat and translates into good range in center field, where he plays shallow and has the ability to track down balls over his head. He has a strong, accurate arm and good instincts, and he could be an elite defender as he matures. Beltre is a high-energy player who wants to be great, and he needs to do a better job slowing the game down. Still, he has progressed further than most players his age and has plenty of time to develop into the five-tool star he shows glimpses of now and then. Beltre will return to Bakersfield to start 2010.
Garcia made his debut in 2008 as one of the youngest players in the Arizona League. The Rangers planned to start him at short-season Spokane last year but wound up jumping him to low Class A to fill a hole. As an 18-year-old facing much older competition, he held his own for a month and a half before batting .215 in the second half. Garcia is short but his raw tools are loud, earning him the nickname "Furcalito" (little Furcal) from teammates in 2008. He can be spectacular at shortstop, as his lightning-quick first step leads to exceptional range. His athleticism helps him make acrobatic plays from deep in the hole or up the middle. He has plus-plus arm strength, though he must be more consistent with his throws, especially on routine plays. He made 42 errors last year, and the Rangers estimate that about two-thirds were throwing miscues. Garcia has well above-average speed and good instincts on the basepaths. He's a switch-hitter who fares similarly against righties and lefties. Garcia is a spray hitter with well below-average power, though the Rangers say he will be strong enough as he matures to hit the ball into the gaps and keep defenses honest. He could become a serviceable bottom-of-the-order hitter if he can learn the strike zone better, and that would be enough to make him an everyday player thanks to his defensive wizardry and speed. Garcia is likely to repeat low Class A in 2010, though he could earn a promotion if he shows progress.
Baseball America rated Kirkman as the No. 3 prep pitching prospect in Florida for the 2005 draft, behind Marlins first-rounder Chris Volstad and Cardinals sandwich-rounder Tyler Herron, but his career has taken twists and turns since then. After a strong pro debut, Kirkman pulled his hamstring early in 2006, and it took him two years to get his mechanics back together. He lost the ability to throw strikes and saw his velocity drop into the low 80s. He showed dramatically improved mechanics, command and stuff in 2008, then truly re-established himself as a prospect last season, dominating the hitter-friendly California League and holding his own after a promotion to Double-A. He posted a 2.51 ERA over his last seven starts at Frisco, capped by seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in his last outing. Kirkman's quality four-pitch repertoire is highlighted by a 90-94 mph fastball. He has the ability to throw strikes with a solid-average slider, an average change and a promising overhand curveball that he rediscovered last season. Kirkman's big, durable frame, solid delivery and repertoire remind some Rangers officials of Jeremy Affeldt. He's still refining his feel for pitching and must prove that he's mentally tough enough to handle pressure situations, but he has all the ingredients to become a workhorse starter or a quality big league reliever, perhaps by 2011. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he's slated to start this season back in the Frisco rotation.
Pitching just once a week in high school, Beavan routinely ran his fastball up to 95-96 mph, helping him capture Baseball America's 2006 Youth Player of the Year award as he anchored the U.S. junior national team's pitching staff. But after signing for $1,497,500 as the 17th overall pick in the 2007 draft, his velocity was down to 89-91 for much of his pro debut in 2008. He learned how to succeed without his best stuff and ranked fourth in the Midwest League with a 2.37 ERA. He regained a bit of his velocity last year, touching 93 while pitching his way to Frisco, which is 30 miles from his hometown of Irving, Texas. Beavan has a mammoth, durable frame and a tenacious demeanor to match. He pounds the bottom of the strike zone without fear of contact. His four-seam fastball has good run, and he mixes in a two-seamer with decent sink. He has developed an average changeup, but his slider lacks depth and lateness, making it a fringy offering at best. The Rangers still hope Beavan will throw harder, and even if he doesn't he can be a strike-throwing innings-eater at the back of a big league rotation. He is scheduled to open 2010 in Double-A.
Mendonca's dazzling glovework and record-tying four home runs earned him Most Outstanding Player honors at the 2008 College World Series as a sophomore, as he led longshot Fresno State to the national title. He finished that year with 19 home runs, though he also set a Division I record with 99 strikeouts, illustrating his feast-or-famine approach. Mendonca slugged 27 home runs as a junior in 2009 and cut his strikeouts to 64, albeit in 15 fewer games. He signed for a $587,700 bonus after Texas drafted him in the second round, giving him time to make adjustments in his pro debut at Spokane. Scouts questioned Mendonca's bat in college because he would over-rotate his upper half, bury his hands and bar his front arm, giving him a long path to the ball and making him vulnerable to pitches above the knees. He was hitting just .200 after 15 games at Spokane before he started working with Rangers coaches to revamp his hitting mechanics. He made progress with shortening his swing and improving his timing, and he finished with an .898 OPS at Spokane. Mendonca's power projects as above average, so he could be a solid offensive player even if he's a below-average hitter. He's an aggressive hitter who must become more patient. Defensively, he has excellent hands and instincts at third base, and he excels at coming in on slow rollers. He'll be a plus defender with a plus arm if he can improve his lateral range and agility by getting in better shape. He's a below-average runner. Mendonca is a down-and-dirty baseball rat who works hard at his craft. The Rangers envision him as a solid everyday third baseman in the Graig Nettles mold. He'll likely open 2010 in low Class A but figures to finish the season in Bakersfield, where he spent 11 games at the end of his pro debut.
Moscoso's path through the minor leagues has been interrupted twice by shoulder issues. He had shoulder surgery in 2005 and missed the first six weeks in 2008 with soreness. He has shown flashes of brilliance when healthy, including a perfect game in 2007 at short-season Oneonta. The Rangers got him from the Tigers when they traded catcher Gerald Laird in December 2008, and Moscoso had a strong first season in his new organization, excelling in Triple-A as a starter and reaching the majors in a relief role. His best asset is his ability to pound the bottom of the strike zone with a low-90s fastball. He throws across his body a bit, giving him deception and adding to the excellent late life on his heater. His No. 2 pitch is an average changeup, but his slurvy breaking ball is fringe-average at best. He needs to tighten it and learn to throw it harder. At 26, Moscoso is ready for a big league role, either as a back-of-the-rotation starter, a long reliever or a swingman. His lively fastball and aggressive, confident mentality might be all he needs to carve out a living in a big league bullpen, but he must hone his secondary stuff if he wants to be a starter.
Poveda has climbed steadily through the system since signing in 2004. He missed time with a shoulder injury in 2008 and with a hand injury last year, but he held his own as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Poveda isn't a glamorous prospect, but he has a quality three-pitch repertoire, good command, a clean delivery and a strong, durable frame. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 93. He pitches with a good downward angle and has integrated a solid two-seamer with a bit more movement into his arsenal. His best pitch has long been his changeup, an above-average offering that he throws in any count against lefties or righties. He has also developed an average downer curveball. Poveda doesn't overpower hitters, but he throws strikes and gives his defense a chance. The Rangers would like to see him do a better job pitching out of trouble in the middle innings. He'll advance to Triple-A in 2010 and could earn some spot starts in the big leagues. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Rated as the top 15-year-old player in the nation in 2004 by Baseball America, Main has established a reputation as an instructional league superstar who can't stay healthy during the season. Even before he was drafted, Main missed most of his junior year of high school with a rotator-cuff injury. He signed for $1,237,500 as the 24th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and a cracked rib derailed his first full pro season in 2008. He missed two months last year with mononucleosis that resulted in significant weight loss. He returned to Bakersfield in September and regained his weight by instructional league, when he showed a 92-94 mph fastball. In the past he has touched 96-97 mph and flashed a plus curveball and average changeup, but his breaking ball hasn't developed as hoped. It has morphed into more of a slider, and his command of it is inconsistent. Main has struggled to throw quality strikes with all his pitches, and he too frequently works from behind in the count. He's still a premium athlete with a quick arm and good makeup, but he needs to get stronger and stay healthy for a full season. He'll return to high Class A as a 21-year-old in 2010, and the Rangers hope he pitches his way to Frisco during the season.
Velazquez was projected as a top-three-rounds pick out of high school in Puerto Rico, but his stock plummeted when he was involved in a shooting with his brother in March 2006. Velazquez has told reporters that he was with his brother when his brother shot and seriously injured their neighbor, who they say was trying to kill their sister. The Rangers looked into the case and decided to take Velazquez in the 19th round that June, signing him for $72,000. He made a strong pro debut in 2007 but missed all of 2008 because of a parole violation that required him to spend time in a juvenile detention center. He returned to action last summer and picked up where he left off, showing true five-tool potential. Texas compares him to Nelson Cruz for his plus power potential, plus arm and average speed. Velazquez has a quick bat that produces hard line drives to all fields, and he could be an average or better hitter if he improves against breaking balls and refines his setup. The Rangers are working with Velazquez to lower his hands and quiet down his big leg kick. He also must improve his jumps on the bases and in right field. He has matured off the field, but he's still learning to be a good teammate. Velazquez will advance to low Class A in 2010.
Strop originally signed with the Rockies as a shortstop, but they moved him to the mound after he hit just .212 with 231 strikeouts in 221 games over four pro seasons. He averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full year as a pitcher at high Class A Modesto in 2007, though his season was cut short by elbow tendinitis. His violent delivery puts stress on his arm, and he was limited to just seven innings in 2008 because of a stress fracture in his elbow. The Rockies designated him for assignment that fall, and the Rangers signed him to a minor league deal. He had a rough April in Triple-A last year, so Texas sent him down to Frisco to work on throwing more strikes. He improved each month and eventually earned a late-season cup of coffee in the majors, where four of his seven one-inning outings were perfect. Strop's three-pitch arsenal is explosive. His fastball sits at 94-96 mph and touches 98. He has developed an 87-mph splitter that can be unhittable when it's on, and he throws a power slider in the mid-80s. Strop is a gifted athlete who fields his position well. He still needs to fine-tune his command, and his mechanics make him an injury risk and make it more difficult for him to throw strikes, but his progress in 2009 was encouraging. He'll compete for a big league bullpen job this spring.
The Rangers knew Ramirez would a long-term project when they signed him for $1 million as a sandwich pick in 2007, and they continue to stress patience as he slowly develops. He made his full-season debut at Hickory last June, getting his feet wet with four relief outings before sliding into a starting role. He settled in as the season progressed, peaking in August, when he posted a 2.86 ERA and a 28-13 K-BB ratio in 22 innings. Ramirez has a lightning-quick arm and the makings of an overpowering repertoire. He works at 92-96 mph with his fastball, and his overhand power curveball can be a swing-and-miss pitch at times. He's also making progress with his changeup, though it still has a long way to go. Ramirez did a much better job harnessing his emotions in 2009. But he still struggles from serious lapses in his command, often because he has trouble repeating his delivery and staying in rhythm. He tends to throw across his body and often fights to throw the ball to his glove side. Ramirez flashes frontline-starter stuff, but he's far from a safe bet to reach the majors. The Rangers might send him back to Hickory to work with pitching coach Brad Holman, who has earned praise for his patient approach with young pitchers like Martin Perez, Joe Wieland, Wilmer Font and Jake Brigham.
Brigham looked like a potential top-two-rounds pick heading into his senior year of high school, but he took a big step backward in the spring, and the Rangers signed him for a $200,000 bonus as a sixth-round pick in 2006. His velocity jumped in instructional league in 2007, when he touched 97 mph in short stints, but he had Tommy John surgery that fall and missed all of 2008. He started throwing bullpen sessions again that August and spent the next four months working on calming down his delivery and using his lower half better. By the time he got to spring training last year, he was comfortable with his new delivery, and the Rangers used him in tandem starts with Martin Perez at Hickory. Brigham has serious arm strength, and he sat at 92-96 mph touched 97 in 2009. He also flashes a plus downer curveball, a power pitch in the low 80s. His command is inconsistent, and sometimes he takes his hand out of his glove too late, throwing off his timing. His nascent changeup has a long way to go, but he might not need it if he winds up in the bullpen, where some club officials believe his power two-pitch repertoire and attacking mentality would be a good fit. For now he'll continue to work as a starter, and Texas likely will send him back to low Class A to work on his control and learn how to win games.
Telis signed for $130,000 in July 2007, and the Rangers wasted no time converting him from shortstop to catcher because of his stocky build. He had a solid pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2008, winning the league's all-star game MVP award. He turned 18 just three days before making his U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League last June, and hit well enough against older competition to earn a late-season taste of Spokane. Telis is a pure line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate--he hit .313 against lefties and .325 against righties in the AZL. He makes consistent contact and has average raw power, though he has yet to tap into it in games. He has a chance to be an above-average hitter if he can learn to command the strike zone better. Telis is raw behind the plate, however. He has a fringe-average arm and a quick release, but he threw out just 19 percent of AZL basestealers last year. He must improve his footwork, receiving skills and transfer. He has below-average speed but isn't bad for a catcher. In time, Telis could be an offensive catcher with fringy defensive skills, which would make him a solid big league regular. He'll likely open 2010 at Spokane but could earn a promotion to low Class A at some point.
The Rangers signed Boscan for a bargain-basement $15,000 when he was a skinny 17-year-old with a low- 80s fastball. His velocity jumped to 86-92 mph during his breakout 2008, and he followed up with a solid season as a 19-year-old in low Class A. Boscan pitched at 88-92 mph last year, and his loose, clean arm action suggests he could add another tick or two as he matures. He has started to fill out his wiry frame and improve his stamina. Boscan's best assets are his control and feel for pitching. He can attack hitters' weaknesses with two-seam and four-seam fastballs, an above-average changeup and a curveball that projects as an average pitch. He still struggles to throw his curve for strikes at times, but it did start to become more consistent at Hickory. Boscan is a younger, less physical version of Omar Poveda, and he projects similarly as a command-and-control starter at the back of a big league rotation. He's likely to start 2010 back in low Class A, with a promotion to Bakersfield likely by midseason.
After spending the first two years of his college career at Arkansas-Fort Smith JC, Gentry transferred to Arkansas. He wasn't drafted after his junior year, mostly because he had Tommy John surgery, but he worked his way back in time for his senior season and signed with the Rangers for $10,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2006. He put together a career season in Double-A last year to earn a September callup to Texas. Gentry's game is built around his speed, which rates as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's an exceptional defensive center fielder thanks to his speed, jumps, routes and above-average arm. He also has good baserunning instincts, with 128 career stolen bases in 158 tries, and he was 49-for-55 in the minors last year. Offensively, Gentry does a good job working counts and making contact, and he's a good bunter. He has a bit of strength in his swing, too, but he has below-average power. Gentry's speed, defense and baserunning will make him a valuable extra outfielder in the big leagues, and he has an outside chance to be an everyday center fielder if his bat continues to improve. He figures to compete for a fourth outfielder job in spring training, but he'll likely start the season in Triple-A.
After spending his freshman year at Oklahoma in the bullpen, Doyle spent the next two seasons in the weekend rotation, emerging as the staff ace by the end of his sophomore year. He went 17-8 in two seasons as a starter and climbed into the fourth round of the draft, signing for $234,000. He cruised through the Northwest League in a relief role in his pro debut, but fatigue took a toll on him after he was promoted to Hickory at the end of the season. A physical sinkerballer with an easy delivery, Doyle makes his living by pounding the bottom corners of the strike zone with an 89-91 mph two-seam fastball that features plus life. He can run his four-seamer up to 93-94 mph when he needs to, and he mixes in an average changeup with good sink. His slider was a below-average pitch that lacked depth in his pro debut, but he had some success using it to keep hitters off balance and induce groundouts in college. Though the Rangers used Doyle in relief during his debut like they did with Tommy Hunter in 2007, he profiles as an innings-eating starter like Hunter. He's likely to start 2010 in high Class A and could move quickly.
The Rangers say Alvarez's early development has followed the track of another precocious Venezuelan, Martin Perez. Like Perez, Alvarez showed below-average fastball velocity but a very advanced feel for pitching and a loose arm action when he signed with the Rangers in 2008. He spent most of his 2009 pro debut as a 16-year-old facing much older competition in the Arizona League, where he demonstrated impressive polish despite posting lackluster numbers. He pitched at 86-87 mph and topped out at 88, but Texas believes he'll add velocity as he matures, just as Perez did. Alvarez's three-pitch arsenal is highlighted by a plus changeup with good arm speed, deception and fade. He flashes an average curveball and does a good job mixing speeds and locations will all his stuff. For a young pitcher, he also does a good job fielding his position and controlling the running game. Alvarez has a clean arm action and a good delivery that he repeats well. He has already added 15-20 pounds since he first signed, and he could become an elite prospect if his stuff improves as he gets stronger. His command and feel for pitching could be enough to get him to the big leagues if he can develop just a fringe-average fastball.
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