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After signing for $580,000 in 2007, Perez rocketed through the Rangers system to reach Double-A Frisco as an 18-year-old two years later. Along the way, he was often compared to fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana and former Yankees ace Ron Guidry for his short stature, big stuff and competitiveness. But Perez tasted adversity for the first time when he made the jump from the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in 2009, to the Texas League for a cameo at the end of the season. He got nervous, overthrew and didn't repeat his delivery well, posting a 5.57 ERA in five starts. He returned to Frisco in 2010 and posted a 2.45 ERA in his first six starts. But Perez was erratic from May onward, and a lower back strain caused him to miss a few starts in July and August. He regained some of his old form in a dominant playoff start, then carried his momentum over to instructional league. There aren't many lefthanders who can match Perez's potential with three pitches, not even in the major leagues. His fastball velocity has increased from the mid-80s when he signed, to 91-95 mph with good sink when he's at his best. He did sit around 89-92 for much of last summer before regaining velocity toward the end of the season. His fastball command deserted him at times, playing a major role in his disappointing season. When he got in trouble, he would try to reach back and throw harder. That caused his head to jerk, his alignment to get out of whack, his release point to vary and his control to falter. Perez does have an easy arm action with minimal effort, and his smooth delivery has always been one of his greatest assets. Filling the strike zone shouldn't be an issue if he resists the temptation to overthrow. Perez's changeup was his best secondary pitch when he signed, and Texas had him focus on throwing it early in his career so he could refine it. The changeup was his go-to pitch in 2010, a plus offering with sink and fade. He throws it with good arm speed and deception. He also flashes a quality curveball with sharp 1-to-7 break, though he showed less feel for it last season than he did in 2009, when he could add and subtract from it at will, varying it from 68-81 mph. He worried about curveball velocity at the expense of command too often in 2010. He needs to do a better job throwing it for strikes early in counts and burying it once he gets ahead of hitters. Some scouts worry that his small frame won't lends itself to durability, but the Rangers aren't concerned. Texas believes that the speed bump Perez hit in 2010 will help him in the long run. He's still just 19 and is on his way to having three legitimate plus pitches and becoming a true ace. He figures to pitch at the Rangers' new Triple-A Round Rock affiliate in 2011. The Rangers still believe he has the stuff to pitch at the front of a big league rotation.
Profar led Curacao to the 2004 Little League World Series championship and attracted plenty of interest on the international market as a pitcher. The Rangers raised some eyebrows when they signed him as a shortstop for $1.55 million, a franchise record for an international signee, but he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League as a 17-year-old last summer. Still young and skinny, Profar projects as a true five-tool talent once he matures physically. A natural righthanded hitter, he has a nice linedrive stroke from both sides of the plate, though he fell off from the left side as he wore down late in 2010. He likes pitches on the outer half and tends to cut off his swing a bit, so he'll need to learn to pull the ball with more authority. He controls the strike zone well for his age, and should become a plus hitter with average power. Profar's instincts make his average speed play up on the bases and help him get friendly hops at short. His range, quickness, soft hands and strong hands give him a chance to be a plus defender at shortstop. As with his hero, Elvis Andrus, Profar's makeup sets him apart. Profar wants to get to the big leagues as quickly as Andrus did. While that's unlikely, he's moving quickly and will play at low Class A Hickory at age 18.
Shoulder problem caused Scheppers to miss Fresno State's 2008 College World Series championship run and knocked him from a projected top-10 choice to the second round of the draft. He resurfaced in independent ball in 2009, then signed for $1.25 million as a sandwich pick. He pitched mostly in relief last year because the Rangers wanted to limit his innings and needed bullpen reinforcements. Scheppers' four-seam fastball rarely drops below 95 mph and tops out at 98 when he pitches as a starter, and bumps triple digits when he comes out of the bullpen. Some scouts say his fastball is straight, but others say it has good riding life up in the zone. He dabbled late in the year with a low-90s sinker. Scheppers throws both an 11-to-5 curveball and a hard slider that are plus pitches at times. He has feel for a changeup but throws it too hard at 87-88 mph. He rushes his delivery when he works from the stretch, causing him to lose his release point and pitch up in the zone. Texas is committed to developing Scheppers as a starter. He has the stuff to pitch at the front of a rotation, if he can refine his command, or in the late innings as a reliever. He figures to open 2011 in Triple-A and get a taste of the big leagues at some point.
After signing him away from a Cal Poly commitment for $425,000 as a 2009 thirdround pick, the Rangers planned for Erlin to begin 2010 in extended spring training and then begin his professional career with short-season Spokane. Instead, Erlin forced his way to low Class A Hickory with a strong spring and led the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.12) and strikeout-walk ratio (7.4) as a 19-year-old. Erlin is polished beyond his years, with outstanding command of all three of his offerings. He keeps hitters off-balance by throwing any pitch in any count and can even mix a big leg kick with a slide step to disrupt their timing. Erlin attacks all four quadrants of the strike zone with an 89-91 mph fastball, an 11-to-7 curveball that's a plus pitch at times, and a quality changeup with fade and some turnover action. He can change speeds with his curveball and changeup, which is 12-15 mph slower than his fastball. He's a fierce competitor with the best delivery in the system. Despite his lack of size, Erlin profiles as a quality big league starter because of his off-the-charts feel for pitching and his competitiveness. He'll advance to Texas' new high Class A Myrtle Beach affiliate in 2011 and could race through the minors.
The centerpiece of the 2007 Eric Gagne trade with the Red Sox, Beltre struggled to slow the game down in his first taste of high Class A in 2009. He made big progress in his return last season, taking off after moving to the No. 3 slot in the Bakersfield lineup, where he hit .356/.402/.485. He started fast after a July promotion to Double-A, then cooled off. Beltre has an exciting package of tools, though there are varying opinions about his power potential. Some evaluators say he has plus raw power and envision him developing at least average game power, while others see him maxing out at 12-15 homers per year. He has a quick lefthanded swing and the ability to hit for average. Beltre made a concerted effort to be more patient last year, but at times he still tries to kill the ball, causing him to roll his front shoulder and not see the ball as well. Beltre has plus speed and is very aggressive on the basepaths--sometimes too aggressive. His range and instincts will make him a plus defender in center field, and his arm is both strong and accurate. The Rangers added Beltre to the 40-man roster and he will start 2011 back at Frisco as a 21-year-old. If he continues to refine his offensive approach, he could arrive in Texas sometime the following season.
Kirkman's mechanics and confidence deserted him after he hurt his hamstring in 2006, and for two years he barely could throw a ball above 80 mph--and nowhere near the plate. Pitching coordinator Keith Comstock got him back on track, and Kirkman earned Triple-A Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year honors in 2010 before contributing to the Rangers' World Series run as a reliever. Kirkman has good size and a strong arm that generates 91-94 mph fastballs with some sink. His plus 84-85 mph slider is an out pitch that he can bury on the back foot of righthanders and get lefties to chase out of the zone. He also mixes in a mid-70s curveball and a decent changeup, though he seldom used either in relief. He has a herky-jerky delivery with some length that makes it hard for hitters to pick up the ball but also impacts his command, which can be spotty. Texas still believes Kirkman can be a big league starter, but his lack of fine command might make him a better fit in the bullpen. He should make the Opening Day roster as a reliever unless the Rangers decide to move him back to the rotation, in which case he could return to Triple-A until an opportunity arises.
After setting Connecticut career records with 44 home runs and 177 RBIs and leading the Huskies to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1994, Olt was the fourth of Texas' four picks before the second round of the 2010 draft. He signed for $717,300 and had a strong debut in the Northwest League, where he ranked as the No. 4 prospect. Midway through last spring, Olt went to a narrower stance that he said helped him see the ball better, but he took to a wider, more balanced set-up last summer. He has good leverage and generates above-average raw power, but a hitch in his swing causes his timing to get out of whack at times. He can get pull-happy and still must improve against good breaking balls. Olt began his college career as a shortstop, and his athleticism plays very well at the hot corner. He excels at making plays on slow rollers, and he owns smooth actions, soft hands and a plus arm. He's a slightly below-average runner. Scouts and coaches constantly laud his makeup and work ethic. Olt may never be better than an average hitter, but his power potential and defensive ability give him a chance to be a valuable everyday player. He figures to start 2011 at Hickory but could reach Myrtle Beach quickly.
Texas invested seven-figure bonuses in two Latin American shortstops in 2009, landing Jurickson Profar and Sardinas ($1.2 million). Sardinas' 2010 pro debut was delayed when a pitch hit him on the hand in extended spring training, and he dislocated his shoulder on a swing and miss during instructional league. Sardinas is a quick-twitch athlete who reminds the Rangers of a young Tony Fernandez. He has louder raw tools than Profar but is less advanced in all phases of the game. Sardinas is a plus-plus runner with a lightningquick first step that gives him excellent range at shortstop and the potential to be an elite basestealer. He also has above-average arm strength, but he must become more consistent defensively and avoid concentration lapses. Sardinas currently lacks strength at the plate and tries to compensate--especially as a lefthanded hitter--with his upper body in a way that gets his lower half out of sync and causes him to swing uphill. The Rangers want him to stay on top of the ball and hit it on the ground to use his speed better. He'll never hit for power, but he has the hand-eye coordination to hit for average and use the gaps. Shoulder surgery will knock Sardinas out for most of 2011, but the Rangers can wait on his talent. If he adds strength and polish, he could be a dynamic shortstop.
The younger brother of Georgia Tech slugger Matt Skole, Jake committed to the Yellow Jackets to play football and baseball. His gridiron commitment and an ankle injury depressed his draft stock until he came on late last spring. Shortly after he got two hits off Angels first-rounder Kaleb Cowart in a Georgia high school playoff game, the Rangers drafted Skole 15th overall and signed him for $1.56 million. Physical and athletic, Skole has plenty of strength but needs to use his lower half better in his swing in order to drive the ball with more authority. He projects to have average to plus power, and he could be an average or slightly better hitter from the left side. As a multisport athlete, Skole has some rough edges to polish, but Texas was pleasantly surprised by his offensive approach and strike-zone discipline. His ankle continued to hamper him a bit during his pro debut, but he has slightly above-average speed when fully healthy. The Rangers believe he has a chance to play center field, though some scouts project him as a right fielder. He has a solidaverage arm. Skole will advance to low Class A to start 2011. With his football days in the rear-view mirror, he should begin to develop more quickly.
De los Santos' development was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2007 and visa issues that kept him in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2009, but he made a splash back in the United States last season. He averaged 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings while reaching low Class A for the first time, and he fanned eight of the 15 batters he faced in the South Atlantic League playoffs. De los Santos has an exciting three-pitch mix, highlighted by the best changeup in the system, a plus-plus pitch with screwball action and two-plane depth. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph range and tops out at 94, but his fastball command comes and goes. He tends to fall in love with his heater at the expense of his other pitches. He also throws a sharp overhand curveball that rates as at least a solid-average pitch. Whether de los Santos can repeat his delivery and refine his fastball command will determine if his future is in a starting or relieving role, but he has the pure stuff to be a quality No. 3 starter. The Rangers added him to the 40-man roster this offseason. He's already 22 and has pitched just 179 innings in five pro seasons, so the Rangers will start pushing him in 2011. He'll probably open the season in high Class A.
Perez's velocity was up and down as an amateur, and the Rangers signed him for $425,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 on the strength of his projectability. His stock soared during his dominating pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, as his riding fastball sat consistently at 88-93 mph and he pounded the strike zone with three pitches. He was one of the major stories of Texas' instructional league camp after running his fastball up to 95 mph in one-inning stints. Perez's mid-70s curveball has good spin, and though it's currently a below-average major league offering, it projects as a potential plus pitch once he adds some power to it. He also has good feel for a changeup, which could give him a third average-or-better offering. Perez has a loose, easy delivery and does a good job of throwing downhill. His command and feel for pitching are advanced for his age, and he emerged as a leader of the DSL Rangers staff. He needs to add 10-15 pounds to his lean frame, and when he does he could become an elite pitching prospect. The Rangers expect him to jump to Spokane in 2011, and some club officials expect to see him at Hickory by the end of the season.
Villanueva played in just eight games in the Dominican Summer League before a knee injury cut short his 2009 pro debut. He worked hard on his rehabilitation in the offseason and posted a breakout 2010 campaign in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Villanueva stands out most for his above-average defensive ability at third base. He has excellent body control, first-step quickness, good hands and instincts, and a plus arm. An average runner, he might be athletic enough to handle second base, but the Rangers see him growing into a Vinny Castilla-type player at third, though without as much power. Villanueva is a line-drive hitter with an up-the-middle approach and a nice, compact swing. He uses his lower half well and squares balls up consistently, and the Rangers think he'll develop average power as he matures physically. He does need to add strength and learn to drive the ball with more authority, particularly to the pull side. Villanueva has a natural feel for hitting and defending, so if his power comes as Texas hopes, he could be a solid everyday big leaguer. He's intelligent and a hard worker who could move fairly quickly. His next step is low Class A.
The Rangers saw Mendez throw 87-88 mph in tryouts before he signed with the Red Sox for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. His velocity jumped over the course of two dominant seasons in Rookie ball, and Boston skipped him to low Class A to start 2010. He was hit hard but recovered in the short-season New York-Penn League before the Red Sox traded him and two other minor leaguers, first baseman Chris McGuiness and righthander Michael Thomas, to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia last July. Mendez showed electric stuff in three appearances in Spokane before tweaking his forearm throwing to first base on a bunt play. He returned to action in the Rangers' Dominican instructional league program and generated buzz with a fastball that reached 98 mph. His heater sits around 94-96 mph with explosive life. He flashed a plus slider that reached 87 mph with the Red Sox, but Texas took away that pitch and his changeup for the time being, instead getting him to focus on developing a promising hard curveball. Mendez has a tendency to break his hands late and deep and collapse prematurely on his back side in his delivery. When he's fresh, he has the arm speed to catch up, but when he starts to get fatigued he tends to miss armside and high. If he can maintain his alignment and learn to repeat his arm slot and release point, his command should improve. If it does, Mendez has frontline-starter upside--but he has a ways to go. He should get another crack at low Class A to start 2011.
Font made his high Class A debut four days before turning 20 in May, and he showed overpowering stuff in nine starts before the Rangers shut him down with elbow soreness. He tried to rehab and started throwing again in instructional league, but the pain persisted and he wound up having Tommy John surgery. Though he'll miss the entire 2011 season, Texas protected him on its 40-man roster. When healthy, Font regularly runs his fastball up to 97-98 mph, and he holds his velocity deep into games. The pitch also has heavy life, giving it a chance to be a true 80 pitch on the 20-80 scale scouting if he can refine his command of it. His No. 2 pitch is an average changeup that has come a long way in the last year and a half, but his breaking ball remains well-below-average. He throws a curveball but lacks feel for the pitch, and he may need to scrap it in favor of a slider in the future. Font has a long, complicated delivery that could prevent him from developing the necessary command to stick as a starter. He does work around the strike zone, but he needs to do a better job getting into pitcher's counts and locating within the zone. When he returns to action--perhaps in the fall of 2011--the Rangers figure to continue developing him as a starter. He's still ahead of most pitchers his age, and his upside is tantalizing.
Garcia was rushed to low Class A as an 18-year-old in 2009 because the Rangers needed to fill a hole, and he made progress offensively and mentally in his second stint at Hickory in 2010. A shoulder injury cost him six weeks in the middle of the summer, but he still finished 10th in the minor leagues with 51 steals in 62 attempts. Garcia is at least a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he sometimes shows 80 speed. He's very aggressive on the basepaths and has become a better bunter, giving him another way to make use of his wheels. He also has plus-plus arm strength and range--on groundballs as well as pop-ups--giving him the ability to make spectacular plays that most shortstops can't make. He also has very good hands, but he still loses focus at times and must do a better job making routine plays. A switch-hitter, Garcia has just enough strength to get himself into trouble at the plate. He too often tries to muscle up, causing him to get out on his front foot, especially from the left side. Texas wants him to stay on top of the ball better and hit the ball in the air less. Like many young hitters, he chases breaking balls out of the zone too often. If he learns to control the strike zone and stay within himself, Garcia has the tools to be an impact big leaguer. Even if he never becomes an average hitter, he could be a quality defensive shortstop in the Cesar Izturis mold, with the added value of game-changing speed. Garcia should start 2011 at the Rangers' new high Class A Myrtle Beach affiliate.
Deglan faced his share of quality competition as the catcher for Canada's junior national team, so the Rangers challenged him after drafting him 22nd overall and signing him for a below-slot $1 million last June. After a 10-game tuneup in the Arizona League, they sent him to Spokane, where he struggled mightily with the bat. Deglan has average or better lefthanded power potential down the road, but he must get stronger. He tended to get overly rigid at the plate last summer, and he must do a better job staying back on pitches, though he made progress in that regard during instructional league. Deglan's troubles came in part because he was worn down after a long year, but he still impressed with his defense and makeup. He has a strong, accurate arm that consistently generates 1.92- to 1.98-second pop times, helping him throw out 36 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. He's still learning how to handle pitchers, but he has a good idea how to call a game and he's a quick study. As he fine-tunes his setup and footwork behind the plate, he has a chance to become an above-average receiver. Deglan needs plenty of work at the plate, but he has the tools and leadership skills to be an everyday big league catcher. He could get a crack at low Class A at some point in 2011.
The Rangers signed Alfaro as a 16-year-old last January for a $1.3 million bonus, the most ever given to a Colombian player. His first exposure to pro ball came in spring training, where he put too much pressure on himself and was overmatched by the level of competition. The first taste of failure was a shock to Alfaro, who went to the Rangers' Dominican complex and got off to a miserable start in the Dominican Summer League, though he hit a more respectable .254 in August. He gained some momentum with a strong showing in the Dominican instructional league. Alfaro has two premium tools in his arm strength and his raw power, and some evaluators rate both as well-above-average. A converted infielder, he had very little catching experience before signing with Texas, so he has a long way to go defensively, but his receiving and blocking skills already have made progress in his first year of pro ball. Like most 17-year-olds, he needs to get stronger, but he has flashed provocative power. Alfaro has to prove himself at the plate, but the Rangers say he hangs in there against breaking balls and insist he does have feel for hitting. He's a good athlete with average speed. Alfaro will arrive in the United States for good in 2011, and there is some talk about skipping him a level to Spokane. His ceiling is that of an all-star catcher, but it's too early to tell if he'll ever tap into his potential.
An unsigned 13th-round pick by the Red Sox out of a Virginia high school in 2007, Grimm had a disappointing college career at Georgia, posting a 5.84 career ERA in three seasons. Nevertheless, the Rangers signed him for a well-over-slot bonus of $825,000 as a fifth-round pick last summer, and he showed off one of the liveliest arms in the system during instructional league. Grimm pitches at 92-96 mph with his fastball, and his sharp overhand curveball arrives at 82-83 and gives him a second potential plus offerings. His changeup still lags behind his power pitches, but he's working on it. Grimm has an electric arm and a prototype pitcher's frame, and Texas believes he could take off with a couple of mechanical tweaks. He tended to rush through his delivery in college, often causing him to miss armside and up. He also had a head jerk in his delivery that affected his command, and the Rangers had some success calming that down in instructional league. He also did a much better job repeating his mechanics in the fall. Grimm has the arm strength, size and stuff to be at least a midrotation big league starter if his delivery and command continue to improve. He'll likely make his pro debut as a starter in low Class A.
Ross signed for $1.575 million as a second-round pick just before the 2008 signing deadline, then made his pro debut the following summer, when he led the Northwest League in strikeouts per nine innings (9.2). He made a successful leap to full-season ball in 2010, earning South Atlantic League all-star honors and reaching high Class A. Ross' best pitch is an 89-90 mph fastball that reaches 93 with serious life. He can cut it and sink it, but he doesn't know which way it's going, which makes him hard to catch. He flashes a good slider, but it tends to flatten out and needs some tightening. He also must become more comfortable with his changeup. His delivery is effectively funky, giving him good deception. Ross is still maturing on and off the field, but he demonstrated more focus in his bullpens and in games last season. His command made some progress as well, though it needs to improve. He also has to do a better job of keeping his body in shape. The Rangers will continue to develop him as a starter, but his frame, command and repertoire might be better suited for the bullpen. Texas has a logjam of talented arms in the lower levels of its system, so it figures to push Ross to Double-A to start 2011.
A run-in with the law torpedoed Velazquez's draft stock out of high school. He was projected to go in the top three rounds before he was involved in a shooting with his brother in March 2006. His brother shot and seriously injured their neighbor, whom they say was trying to harm their sister. After investigating the incident, the Rangers took him in the 19th round and signed him for $72,000. Velazquez had a strong pro debut but missed all of 2008 when he had to spend the year in Puerto Rico as part of three years of probation. He picked up where he left off after returning and played well at two Class A stops last season. Velazquez has average-or-better tools across the board, and when he shows up ready to play he can look like one of Texas' best prospects. But he still needs to mature, and he'll have to buy into the mechanical changes he'll have to make at the plate. Loaded with righthanded power potential, he has gotten by on his strength so far in his career. But his bat doesn't stay in the zone long enough, his timing is inconsistent and he struggles against breaking balls. An average runner, Velazquez can play all three outfield positions. He's an aggressive defender who gets good reads and does a nice job of cutting balls off in the gaps. His above-average arm is one of the best in the system. Velazquez has the physical toolset to be an everyday big league right fielder, but his makeup remains a question mark. He must show more maturity in 2011, when he figures to reach Double-A at some point.
The athletic Jackson didn't start pitching seriously until his freshman year in high school, and his fastball sat at 87-91 mph when he was a junior. His velocity jumped last spring, and the Rangers saw him at 93-96 at his best. They bought him out of a commitment to Miami with a $1.545 million bonus in the supplemental first round. Jackson flashed 93-94 mph heat in instructional league while usually working at 91-92. Jackson's electric fastball is his best pitch, and his hard breaking ball is promising, though still a work in progress. He also has some feel for a nascent changeup. Jackson still is learning to harness his pitches, and he'll need to add strength in order to improve his durability. He has the makings of a good delivery, but his mechanics can be inconsistent. Jackson is a strong competitor with plenty of intelligence and aptitude. He has loads of upside and projection but a ways to go. Texas typically holds back its high school pitchers in extended spring training and sends them to Spokane in their first full pro season, and Jackson figures to follow that model.
Wieland got off to a strong start in low Class A for the second straight season in 2010, and this time he earned a midseason promotion. He was brilliant at times in the high Class A California League--on Aug. 3, he struck out 14 without issuing a walk over seven shutout innings against Visalia--but at other times he struggled to command his secondary stuff and got lit up. Wieland's quality three-pitch mix is highlighted by his hard, latebreaking overhand curveball, which is a plus pitch when it's on. He also owns an 88-92 mph fastball that bores in on lefthanders, along with an average changeup. He's polished for his age, with the ability to add and subtract velocity, to sink his fastball or elevate it, to pitch in or work away. Wieland is hungry for knowledge, works hard at his craft and is a dogged competitor on the mound. He lacks overpowering stuff and big-time projection, but he's a fairly safe bet to become a back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, with a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. Wieland likely will return to high Class A at the Rangers new Myrtle Beach affiliate to open 2011, with another midseason promotion possible.
Castillo burst onto the prospect landscape as an 18-year-old in 2007, when he threw 92-97 mph during his first extended action in the United States. Struggles with his mechanics, breaking ball and maturity caused his stock to drop over the next two years, and the Rangers gave up on the idea of making him a starter, converting him to the bullpen full-time in 2008. He turned a corner at Bakersfield last year, earning a late-season promotion in Frisco. Castillo's bread and butter is still his fastball, which routinely reaches 96-97 mph in relief. Texas had him scrap the curveball he once threw in favor of a high-80s slider. The pitch usually has quick, late lateral action, similar to a cutter, and when he's locked in the pitch drops straight down, the way Robb Nen's slider used to. Castillo also can throw a solid changeup, but he very seldom uses it. For years, the Rangers have been trying to get him to stay closed in his delivery, because he gets into trouble when his front leg opens up prematurely and his arm slot drops. Last year, they altered his mechanics to keep him from flying open and give him some deceptive, crossfire action. It's still not the cleanest delivery, but it works. Castillo needs to refine his secondary stuff and get a better feel for the finer points of pitching, such as fielding his position and holding runners. He'll open 2011 as a 22-year-old in Double-A, so he has time to smooth out the rough edges. The Rangers added him to their 40-man roster in November.
Loux turned down $800,000 as a Tigers 27th-round pick out of high school to attend Texas A&M, and he showed up on campus as a flamethrower with underdeveloped secondary stuff. Bone chips in his elbow limited him to 48 innings as a sophomore, but he rebounded to go 11-2, 2.83 with 136 strikeouts in 105 innings to earn first-team All-America honors as a junior. The Diamondbacks drafted him sixth overall in 2010, in part because he agreed to a below-slot bonus of $2 million, but he failed a postdraft physical because Arizona didn't like the wear and tear on his shoulder and elbow. Declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, he started working out for clubs in September and signed with the Rangers in November for $312,000. Loux has run his fastball up to 95 mph in the past, but he worked mostly at 90-92 mph last spring and he sat at 89-91 in workouts in the fall. Texas doesn't expect him to ever regain his premium velocity, but he has the tenacity and polish to succeed with an average fastball. Throwing breaking balls hurt his elbow during his sophomore year, so he relied heavily on his changeup, which became his No. 2 pitch. He also throws a curveball and a slider, both of which are serviceable. Loux is a polished strike-thrower, so the Rangers will move him quickly and he could start his pro career in high Class A. His health remains a huge question mark. Some doctors think he'll need elbow or shoulder surgery in the near future, while Loux told Texas in the fall that he feels as good as he ever has. If he stays healthy, he could become an innings-eating workhorse in the big leagues.
Hoying hit 34 homers in three seasons at Toledo, but he ran hot and cold, posting a .284 career average with metal bats. The Rangers signed him for $85,000 as a 10th-round pick and assigned him to the Northwest League, where he won MVP honors. A mechanical adjustment proved critical to Hoying's success in his debut. In college, his swing featured no stride or even a pivot of his back foot, so he relied entirely on his lightning-quick wrists and strong upper half. He also hooked everything and had no ability to use the opposite field. Texas got him to start using his lower half, which allowed him to start using the whole field. Lanky and athletic, Hoying has plus raw power, and though his hitting mechanics will never be completely orthodox, he has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to hit for average, too. A shortstop for most of his college career, Hoying played mostly left field at Spokane. His solid speed and slightly above-average arm give him a chance to play all three outfield spots, but he profiles best in a corner. He's still learning to play the outfield, but he has good aptitude and should be at least an average defender with more experience. Hoying's all-around ability gives him a chance be an everyday big leaguer, assuming he continues to improve his hitting mechanics. He figures to start 2011 at Hickory but could reach Myrtle Beach quickly.
The Rangers have raved about Felix's makeup and defense since signing him out of the Mexican League in 2008. He's an outstanding receiver who has improved his footwork and throwing accuracy to the point that he erased 55 percent of basestealers last year despite just average arm strength. A high-energy player, he excels at running the game and handling pitchers. When Felix arrived in the system, he had a bad habit of double-tapping his front foot in his setup. He has worked hard to eliminate that timing mechanicsm, and it's nearly imperceptible now. He probably won't be an average hitter and he'll never hit for power, but he does hit some line drives and he can bunt well. He makes contact but doesn't walk very much. Felix made progress at the plate in 2010, which he capped by hitting .347/.360/.429 in 49 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. He offers little speed and clogs up the bases. Most club officials see Felix as a backup catcher and occasional starter along the lines of Yorvit Torrealba or Henry Blanco, but he has an outside chance to become a regular. His defense and leadership skills make him a safe bet to become a big leaguer even if he doesn't hit, perhaps as soon as the second half of 2011. A promotion to Triple-A at least seems likely at some point this year.
Since signing for $1 million as a sandwich pick in 2007, Ramirez has developed slowly over his first three pro seasons, but things started to click for him in 2010. A short-armer when he entered the system, he worked very hard to lengthen his arm action. That allowed him to be more consistent last year, though his timing was still off at times. He also showed more dedication to improving his conditioning, which also helped. Ramirez's fastball sits around 92-94 mph and touches 95. His overhand curveball once rated among the best in the system, but he lost some of his confidence in the pitch in 2009, partly because he was constantly falling behind in counts and was unable to use it as a chase pitch. He did a better job getting ahead of hitters last year, and his curveball benefited. At its best, it's a plus power pitch with tight 1-to-7 break, generating plenty of swings and misses. He also flashes an average changeup that he's learning to use more effectively. Long and athletic, Ramirez still has a chance to be a starter in the big leagues if he can continue to improve his command and repeat his delivery. The Rangers stress that he would have just finished his junior year at Georgia Tech if he'd gone to college, and they emphasize patience. He'll advance to high Class A in 2011 and Texas would like him to reach Double-A quickly to help replenish the upper levels of the system, which were depleted in trades last year.
The colorful Buckel was a fledgling singer and actor before forgoing a Pepperdine commitment to sign with the Rangers for $590,000 as a second-round pick in 2010. He made four scoreless relief appearances in the Arizona League before a pulled ribcage ended his pro debut. A bit undersized, Buckel idolizes another offbeat, smallish righthander: Tim Lincecum. He doesn't have that kind of electric stuff, but his long arm action and high-effort, self-made delivery are somewhat similar to Lincecum's. For a high school draftee, Buckel has a fairly polished four-pitch mix. His fastball sits around 88-92 mph but bumps 94 at times. He also has the makings of three average or better secondary pitches in his curveball, changeup and cutter. The cerebral Buckel likes asking questions and soaking up knowledge from older pitchers. His makeup, size and repertoire remind Texas of a righthanded Robbie Erlin, though he does not have Erlin's command and feel at this stage. Durability is also a concern, as Buckel tended to lose 3-4 mph on his fastball as games progressed in high school. He profiles as a back-end starter or a middle reliever down the road. Buckel will pitch at Spokane or Hickory in 2011.
Richmond might have been drafted as high as the third round if injuries hadn't short-circuited his college career at Louisville. He injured his left hand when he was hit by a pitch as a junior in 2009, and he eventually had surgery the following winter. A circulation problem kept his hand from healing property, and he re-injured it diving for a ball last February, causing him to miss 41 games. After signing with the Rangers for an above-slot $195,000 bonus as a 12th-rounder, Richmond had a solid pro debut but then hurt his left thumb in instructional league. He's often banged up because he plays with reckless abandon. One club official said Richmond "plays like a chicken with his head cut off, running into walls all the time." However, his tools are tantalizing. He has good size and athleticism, though he needs to use his lower half better in order to unlock his above-average righthanded power potential. He struggles to recognize breaking balls at times, and he doesn't figure to be better than an average hitter, but he could be a physical, run-producing corner outfielder. Richmond has slightly above-average speed and a strong arm that plays very well in right field, and he can also play center. He plays hard and works hard, but he sometimes tries to do too much. Richmond will try to put together a full healthy season in 2011, starting in low Class A.
Brigham's 2010 was a tale of two seasons. He started the year in high Class A Bakersfield and struggled, especially with the command of his overhand curveball. The Rangers sent him down to low Class A, where he turned his season around after abandoning his curveball in favor of a hard slider. Brigham's mid-80s slider acts almost like a cutter, and he showed the ability to throw it in the strike zone. His best pitch is his fastball, which ranges from 94-97 mph. He also dabbles with a splitter as a changeup but doesn't throw it often. Brigham has one of the best power arms in the organization, but he's still maturing on and off the field. Now that he's three full years removed from Tommy John surgery, Texas hopes he can turn the corner with his command and become more consistent in all facets of the game. Most club officials envision him as a late-inning reliever, but the Rangers will continue to develop him as a starter for now. They plan to challenge him with an assignment to Double-A to start 2011.
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