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Signed for a then-franchise international record $1.55 million out of Curacao in 2009, Profar headlines the Rangers' deep crop of Latin American talent. He has been on the prospect radar since he was 11 and starred on the 2004 Little League World Series championship team from Curacao. He tossed six shutout innings while allowing one hit and striking out 12 against Mexico in the international finals, then went 2-for-3 with a homer in a 5-2 defeat of California in the championship contest. The following year, he led Curacao to a runner-up finish at the LLWS, again tossing six scoreless innings in the international final, this time against Japan. Profar attracted more interest as an amateur as a pitcher than a position player, as he showed a low 90s fastball and above-average breaking ball. Texas believed he could play shortstop and would have enough bat for the position, and now it's reaping the benefits. In 2011, Profar was named the low Class A South Atlantic League's MVP and smoked a pinch-hit triple off Twins farmhand Kyle Gibson in the Futures Game. At age 18, he was the youngest player in both settings. Still young and skinny, Profar offers a rare combination of present five-tool ability and additional projection. A natural righthanded hitter, he didn't start switch-hitting until after he signed, but he has a smooth swing and great bat speed from both sides. His swing has more leverage and loft from the right side, and scouts are split on his future power projection. Some see only gap power while others predict 20-plus homers annually once he fills out. He's the best pure hitter in the system and has exceptional strike-zone awareness for his age. Profar has average speed that plays up on the bases and in the field because of his elite instincts. He's electrifying defensively, with plus range and arm strength to go along with soft hands and a quick release. Sometimes he plays a little fast in the field and is overly aggressive, but that should be cured with experience. He's intelligent, mature for his age, has great aptitude and speaks four languages (Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento, a Portuguese-based creole). One scout compared him to Hanley Ramirez with Dustin Pedroia's makeup. He wants to reach the big leagues as quickly as his hero, Elvis Andrus, who debuted in Texas four months shy of his 21st birthday. That would Profar in the majors at the end of the 2013 season, which is ambitious but not impossible. He'll open 2012 at high Class A Myrtle Beach at age 19. With Andrus entrenched at shortstop, Profar probably won't break in with the Rangers at that position. Some club officials expected him to eventually wind up at third, but that won't happen either with Adrian Beltre signed through at least 2015. He could slide over to second base and push Ian Kinsler to another position, but Texas won't force a move before it's necessary. Profar has all the ingredients to be a future superstar no matter where he plays.
Since signing for $580,000 in 2007, Perez has rocketed through the system and developed into one of the game's premier lefthanded pitching prospects. He reached Double-A at age 18 and finally mastered that level in his third stint at Frisco last year, then was the youngest pitcher in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League when he was promoted there in mid-July. Scouts rave about Perez's picture-perfect delivery and arm action that evoke comparisons to fellow Venezuelan lefty Johan Santana. There aren't many pitchers who can match Perez's pure stuff, as he has the makings of three above-average pitches. His lively fastball sits at 90-96 mph with sink, though he needs to work on establishing it more early in counts. He also throws a plus-plus 80-82 mph fading changeup and a sharp 73-77 mph curveball with good depth. Wavering command and inconsistency with his secondary pitches have held Perez back slightly. The Rangers have discussed adding a slider to give him a breaking ball that he can better control. Despite his smallish frame, they aren't worried about his durability. For all the attention given to his struggles in his first two years in Double-A and in his 10 PCL starts, Perez got to Triple-A at age 20. He needs additional seasoning at Round Rock but should contribute in Texas at some point in 2012. Added to the 40-man roster in Nobember, he profiles as a No. 2 starter.
The fourth and final of Texas' selections in the 2010 draft, Olt was the lone college pick and viewed as a safer choice. Signed for $717,300, he quickly established himself as the best prospect of the bunch and might have won the high Class A Carolina League MVP award in his first full pro season if he hadn't broken his collarbone in a home-plate collision in June. He made up for lost time by hitting .349/.433/.764 in the Arizona Fall League. Olt offers the increasingly rare combination of plus righthanded power and plus defense at third base. Sturdy and physically mature, he has great bat speed and impressive raw thunder. He projects as an average hitter, as he occasionally gets out front and struggles with quality offspeed stuff. Despite his selective approach, he strikes out often, Initially a shortstop in college at Connecticut, Olt plays the hot corner with fluid actions and soft hands. He has a plus arm and while he's a below-average runner, he has good first-step quickness and average range. With Adrian Beltre signed through at least 2015, Olt likely won't break in with Texas at third base. He has the athleticism to play left field, and he could be used as a blue-chip trade commodity. He'll spend 2012 at Frisco, where he should post massive power numbers.
Martin backed up Yoennis Cespedes on Cuba's 2009 World Baseball Classic, then garnered attention by flashing five-tool ability in Cuban pro league games. After defecting at the 2010 FISU World Championships in Taiwan, he signed with the Rangers last May. His $15.6 million major league contract is the second-largest deal ever given to a Cuban defector. He was promoted to Texas when Nelson Cruz went on the disabled list in September and remained with the club for the American League Division Series. Martin profiles as a prototypical leadoff hitter. He's not a burner, but he has above-average speed that plays up because of his instincts. He's a plus hitter with lightning-quick bat speed and a sound approach at the plate. He shows above-average raw power in batting practice but has gap power during games. His swing can get long at times, so the Rangers worked to shorten his path to the ball. Martin is a quality defender in center field, with easy range and a plus-plus arm. He bulked up too much to impress scouts and is better served when his body is loose and athletic. Martin will have a chance to compete for the starting center-field job during spring training. If he wins it, Texas can save some wear and tear on Josh Hamilton by shifting the former MVP to left field.
Ramirez's stock dropped slightly after an up-and-down senior high school season in 2007, but he still went 44th overall in the draft and received a $1 million bonus. Inconsistency plagued him early in his pro career too, as he spent his first two full seasons at low Class A Hickory. After spending last offseason working out at the team's training facility, he spent most of a breakout 2011 season in Triple-A. Ramirez's fastball sits at 92- 94 mph and touches 96 with good angle, while his swing-and-miss curveball ranges from 74-78 mph. Scouts previously projected Ramirez as a back-end reliever, but the development of his changeup last year gives him No. 2 starter upside. His mid-80s changeup now gives him a potential third plus pitch. Drafted with a raw drop-and-drive delivery and a short arm circle, Ramirez now has a tall-and-fall approach and has lengthened his arm action, resulting a more consistent release point. His control and command still need improvement, however. There are some concerns about his high back elbow, but his prototypical frame and delivery lend themselves to durability. The Rangers say he's the system's hardest worker. Protected on the 40- man roster in November, Ramirez should be at least a mid-rotation innings eater. He'll likely open 2012 back at Round Rock but has the potential to contribute in the majors immediately, especially if Texas wants to use him in a late-inning relief role.
The Rangers haven't been afraid of taking undersized pitchers in recent drafts, including the 6-foot Buckel. He opted to forego a Pepperdine commitment to sign for $590,000 as a second-round pick in 2010. He opened his first full season in extended spring training and then the Hickory bullpen before going 7-2, 2.04 with a 104-19 K-BB ratio in 17 starts. Buckel's intelligence, mechanics and quirkiness are reminiscent of those of his best friend--Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall choice in the 2011 draft and his offseason workout partner. As with Bauer, Buckel's unorthodox and torque-heavy delivery creates deception. While he doesn't have overpowering stuff, he has a deep four-pitch mix, outstanding pitchability and a fiercely competitive nature. Buckel's fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94 with armside run. He also throws a plus changeup, an average curveball with big break that he learned from Barry Zito and a short cutter/slider that induces grounders. Some scouts still worry about his size and durability, though his athleticism should help him. Buckel doesn't have incredible upside, but he has a low floor and could become a solid No. 3 starter. He'll headline Myrtle Beach's 2012 rotation and may move quickly because of his advanced feel for pitching.
Alfaro didn't get much exposure as an infielder in his native Colombia, so he moved to the Dominican Republic and started catching. Though raw, he showed enough ability to handle the position to earn a Colombian-record $1.3 million bonus. He was the secondyoungest player in the short-season Northwest League last summer, behind teammate Rougned Odor. Athletic and strong, Alfaro stands out for his plus-plus raw power and his cannon arm. With impressive bat speed, hip rotation and extension, he puts on shows in batting practice. Like most young players, he can be overly aggressive and let his swing get long. There are concerns about his hitting ability and whether he'll make enough contact, but he shows pitch-recognition skills. His plate discipline still needs improvement after he walked four times in 45 games last year. Alfaro has top-of-the-scale raw arm strength and good accuracy, but he has a tendency to rush throws and get sloppy with his footwork. That's why he threw out just 22 percent of basestealers in 2011. With refinement, he projects as an above-average defender. Alfaro moves well laterally and is more athletic than most catchers, and he even has fringy speed. He's still learning to deal with success and failure. With the potential to be a middle-of-the-order, middle-of-the-diamond player, Alfaro has one of the highest ceilings in the system. He'll advance to low Class A in 2012.
Rangers international scouting director Mike Daly saw Villanueva star for Mexico at the 2008 Junior World Championships, and Texas signed him two weeks later. Coming from a family of baseball players, he always played shortstop as an amateur but moved to third base after injuring his knee in 2009 and starting to fill out. Villanueva has a short, compact swing with a balanced load and good bat control. He has an advanced approach at the plate, though he can get pull-happy at times. There are mixed opinions on his power, as he presently has line-drive sock but some scouts see at least average potential. He doesn't project as a basestealer, but he has sneaky quickness and instincts that allowed him to swipe 32 bases last year. Villanueva is equally as impressive at third base as Mike Olt. An easy plus defender, Villanueva has soft hands and easy actions. Despite average speed, he has a solid range thanks to his first-step quickness and instincts. He has above-average arm with good carry and accuracy. Scouts compare Villanueva to fellow countryman Vinny Castilla. With Adrian Beltre in Texas and Olt ahead of him in the system, Villanueva spent time during instructional league at second base, where there would be reduced pressure on his bat. He'll play in high Class A in 2012.
The nephew of Indians Double-A hitting coach Rouglas Odor, Rougned was a top international target for his sweet swing, but scouts initially were scared away by his smallish stature and speed. After he improved his speed and showed impressive polish in game action, the Rangers signed him for $425,000 in January. Five months later, he made his debut as the youngest player in the Northwest League, where he ranked as No. 7 prospect at age 17. Odor doesn't have elite-level tools, but what he has plays up because of his instincts, intelligence and swagger. He controls the bat head well and his incredibly quick hands allow him to make late adjustments. Though not big, he has gap power and gets good natural backspin on the ball that could lead to more pop. He hangs in against lefthanders and can bunt. Initially signed as a shortstop, Odor handled the switch to second base smoothly and has the arm to play on either side of the bag. He has smooth actions, good range and a nose for the ball. He's a solid runner. Depending on how much his power develops, Odor could develop into a solid regular or more. He has a chance to move quickly and may not be challenged until he reaches the higher minors. He'll spend 2012 in low Class A.
Drafted as a third baseman in the second round of the 2007 draft, West tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and was handed a 50-game suspension less than two months after signing for $400,000. He never put it together at the plate, hitting .241/.344/.364 over four seasons and topping out at low Class A. He quickly took to pitching in 2011, earning a spot on the 40-man roster and comparisons to fellow position player-turned-closer Jason Motte for his compact frame and power stuff. With perhaps better pure stuff than Motte, West profiles as a lockdown closer. Using his incredibly quick arm from a three-quarters arm slot, he pumps 94-96 mph fastballs with good life and touches triple digits. His heater can flatten out at higher velocities. Some scouts confuse his 82-84 mph wipeout slider for a power curveball because of its depth. He's also developing a changeup and shows some feel for it despite his inexperience. West has above-average command and control, walking just one batter in 26 innings at short-season Spokane. He has a completely different personality on the mound, as he's fearless in the way he goes after hitters. West will open 2012 in high Class A. If he continues to impress like he did in his pitching debut, his pair of plus-plus pitches could take him to Texas by September.
If he were a few inches taller or in a system that had less middle-of-the-diamond talent, Garcia would get more attention because few shortstop prospects can match his three plus-plus tools: speed, range, and arm strength. He spent 2011 in the high Class A Carolina League, where some scouts said he showed better defensive ability than more heralded Manny Machado (Orioles) and Andrelton Simmons (Braves). Small and compact, Garcia makes more than his share of plays with incredible side-to-side range and impressive arm strength, though he also plays the game too fast and occasionally loses focus. Defensive consistency would assure him an everyday big league role despite questions about his bat. Garcia would benefit from being more vanilla at the plate, hitting the ball on the ground and working counts. He has a flat swing and won't ever have power, but he should hit enough to hold his own. His top-of-the-scale speed makes him a huge basestealing threat. Garcia could play a variety of positions and break into the big leagues as a super-utility player. He hasn't had a breakout season yet but keeps making consistent strides. His next step is Double-A.
Akins spurned a football scholarship from Georgia for the chance to play two sports at Central Florida, but he turned that down to sign with the Rangers for $350,000 as a third-round pick in 2010. A premium fast-twitch athlete, he was an explosive quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner who didn't play much baseball. He struggled in his pro debut, then made strides last summer and was the star of instructional league in the fall. Though raw, Akins shows flashes of five plus tools that he's just starting to translate into baseball skills. He has light-tower raw power, drawing crowds during batting practice, but his swing can flatten out and he needs to be more consistent keeping the bat head in the zone. He has a quick path to the ball and a smooth stroke, though he needs to improve his pitch recognition. With plus-plus speed, Akins has good range in center field and takes proper routes to the ball. He also has an above-average arm. He should be able to stick in center field, where he spent most of last year, but he could end up in right field as he fills out. Though he's not as big, he reminds some scouts of Mike Stanton for his football background, elite athleticism and raw power. The Rangers hope Akins can handle a promotion to low Class A to open 2012.
Guzman was part of the Rangers' costly 2011 international class, and most scouts considered him the amateur market's top hitter. He signed for $3.45 million last July and the industry consensus is that he's a better hitter and player than fellow Dominican Nomar Mazara, who got $4.95 million. While he doesn't have the same raw power as Mazara, Guzman makes more contact and has a better approach. Guzman led his Dominican team to a championship at the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities tournament in 2010, then played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field that summer. He projects to have above-average raw power, though his pop doesn't yet show in game action. He has a fluid, easy swing with good balance, though he has a deep load with his hands. Despite average bat speed, he has a good bat path and keeps the head in the zone for a long time. Guzman is below-average runner, though the Rangers hope he'll get faster as he adds strength to his lanky frame. International reports suggested he had good instincts in left field, but during instructional league he worked out primarily at first base and looked raw there. His arm strength is below average. Guzman graduated from high school before signing and earns rave reviews for his makeup and aptitude. He'll likely make his pro debut in the Arizona League next summer, though Texas could be aggressive and send him to Spokane.
Ross catapulted his draft stock in 2008 by outdueling Brett DeVall, who went on to be a Braves sandwich-round pick. The Rangers took Ross in the second round and signed him for $1.575 million. After a tough second half in the California League in 2010, he benefited when Texas moved its high Class A affiliate to the more pitcher-friendly Carolina League last year. He led the circuit in ERA (2.26) and opponent average (.227), earning a promotion to Double-A after Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland were traded. Ross racks up his share of strikeouts and generates plenty of weak contact. He attacks the zone with an 88-93 mph fastball, and he can cut it or run it. His slider can flatten out when he gets under it but flashes above-average potential. He throws an average changeup that's inconsistent. Scouts don't love the effort in Ross' delivery, as he employs a high leg kick and throws across his body, but it does create deception. He has good control but needs to work on refining command, specifically locating his fastball on the outside corner against righthanders. Some scouts think Ross is best suited for the bullpen, but he'll get an extended look as a starter. He'll return to Frisco in 2012.
Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg was the team's national crosschecker when he first saw Grimm pitch as a high schooler, and he always liked Grimm's athleticism, frame and the way the ball exploded out of his hand. The Red Sox drafted Grimm in the 13th round out of high school, but he opted to attend Georgia, where he showed flashes of brilliance but went 6-12, 5.80 in three college seasons. Fagg never doubted Grimm's upside and met with him twice before the 2010 draft, finally getting his man with a fifth-round pick and an above-slot $825,000 bonus. A long-toss advocate, Grimm works his fastball at 92-96 mph with late sinking life. His power curveball gives him a second plus offering. The development of his circle changeup last year was a key to his success and gives him a chance to remain a starter. Texas has worked with Grimm to refine and repeat his delivery, which contains considerable effort. He has mid-rotation potential, though he could also fill a late-inning relief role with his velocity playing up out of the bullpen. He'll advance to Double-A in 2012.
Scheppers missed Fresno State's 2008 College World Series championship run and dropped to the second round of that year's draft because of shoulder issues. He declined to sign with the Pirates and resurfaced in independent ball in 2009, then signed with the Rangers for $1.25 million as a sandwich-rounder. After he pitched exclusively in relief to limit his innings in 2010, Texas hoped to develop him as a starter last year. Instead, a herniated disk in his back pushed him back into the bullpen. Scheppers has lost some of his shine, but he still has value as a late-inning reliever. He has a 95-98 mph fastball that can touch triple digits, though it's often described as soft because it's straight and hitters see it well. His downer curveball with two-plane break gives him a second plus pitch. He also has a fringy slider and a below-average changeup. Scheppers has a herkyjerky delivery that he rushes through, affecting the consistency of his release point. He needs to make mechanical adjustments to help his control and his deception. With his electric fastball/curve combination, Scheppers could be a future closer or set-up man. He figures to open 2012 with his third stint in Triple-A.
Texas signed two Latin American shortstops for seven figures in 2009, Jurickson Profar ($1.55 million) and Sardinas ($1.2 million). While Profar has generated more attention and ranks No. 1 on this list, Sardinas may have better raw tools. But he hasn't been able to stay healthy and doesn't have the same polish. A broken finger delayed his 2010 pro debut, and a dislocated shoulder on a swing and miss during instructional league that fall led to surgery and limited him to just 14 games last year. While scouts don't necessarily think of Sardinas as injury-prone, they do question his durability and slight frame. A quick-twitch athlete, he reminds the Rangers of a young Tony Fernandez. Sardinas is a plus-plus runner with first-step quickness and lateral agility, giving him better speed and range than Profar. Sardinas has above-average arm strength and smooth actions in the field. As a switch-hitter with impressive hand-eye coordination, he offers a similar offensive package to Profar. Sardinas is skinny but not weak, and he has some whip in his swing that produces gap power, though he occasionally tries too hard to muscle up in his swing. His bat takes a good path to the ball, though it's better from the right side, and he would benefit from staying on top of the ball more often. Texas would like to see Sardinas advance to low Class A in 2012 and stay healthy for the entire season.
Jackson didn't get the same attention as fellow Sunshine State prep products Karsten Whitson and A.J. Cole, but he offered better pure velocity and arguably more projection than any Florida high schooler in the 2010 draft class. Jackson didn't start pitching seriously until he was a high school freshman. Rangers scouts liked his athleticism and big arm, so they took him with a supplemental first-rounder and signed him for $1.545 million. After beginning 2011 in extended spring training, he made his pro debut in low Class A, where his performance was inconsistent but his stuff was steady. Jackson's fastball sits at 91-94 mph and touches 97, and his quick arm action produces late jump. His curveball is a plus pitch at times, especially when he stays on top of it and tightens its rotation. He also has a changeup with solid potential. With a high leg kick and hand break, Jackson has a rocking delivery that creates some deception, though he needs to repeat it better and not slow down while throwing his secondary pitches. He has a lot of work to do with his control and command. Jackson could profile as a No. 2 starter if everything breaks right. He'll advance to high Class A this year.
The Rangers saw plenty of Mendez as an amateur free agent, as he grew up in San Pedro de Marcoris, not far from their complex in the Dominican Republic. Their scouts liked his wiry-strong frame and whippy arm, but he signed with the Red Sox for $125,000 in 2007. Texas targeted Mendez in several trade discussions with Boston and eventually got him as the main piece in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade in July 2010. First baseman Chris McGuiness and since-released catcher Michael Thomas also came to the Rangers in the deal. Mendez's fastball ranges from 92-98 mph and sits around 94-95 when he's on. He can add boring, running and cutting action with his quick arm action. He has a slider with good tilt that flashes as a plus pitch, and he mixes in a solid changeup. He has worked on a splitter that shows good bite, but he doesn't often use it in games. Mendez throws across his body and slings the ball from a three-quarters arm slot, which leads to varying release points and some control issues. He did cut his walk rate from 4.8 per nine innings in 2010 to 3.5 last year. The development of his secondary stuff and command will determine his future role, as some scouts see Mendez as a mid-rotation starter and others view him as a late-inning reliever. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, he should start 2012 in high Class A.
Considered a supplemental-round talent in the 2010 draft, Loux went sixth overall to the Diamondbacks in part because he agreed to a below-slot $2 million bonus. Things got complicated when he failed Arizona's physical, prompting the team to back out of the deal. Major League Baseball decided to grant Arizona a compensation pick in the 2011 draft and make Loux a free agent to settle the situation. Despite medical concerns about his shoulder and elbow that dated back to high school, the Rangers had thought highly of Loux all along and signed him in November 2010 for $312,000, roughly third-round money. In his first year as a pro, Loux threw 109 innings in high Class A before being shut down for precautionary reasons in August. He has a big, sturdy frame and an easy low-90s fastball that touches 96 mph, though it's somewhat straight. The development of Loux's secondary stuff will determine his future role, as some scouts see him as a mid-rotation starter and others project him as a middle reliever. He shows feel for a fading changeup that's a plus pitch at times, and he throws two breaking balls that are both inconsistent. His curveball was his best pitch in high school but hasn't been as sharp since he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow at Texas A&M, and his slider has some power to it at 82-84 mph. He'll open 2012 in Double-A and could move quickly if shifted to a relief role.
Lamb was a two-way player at Clemson, hitting .348/.389/.471 and posting a 1-1, 5.11 line (mostly in relief ) as a junior in 2011. While some scouts thought he could stick in center field because of his above-average speed and defensive chops, Texas thought he could utilize his long levers and athleticism on the mound. Chris Kemp, who had coached at nearby Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC before becoming a Rangers area scout, had seen Lamb pitch as much as anyone and liked him. Texas popped him in the second round and signed him for $430,200. Lamb has a live, loose arm that generates fastballs that sit at 92-95 mph and touch 98. He also shows a low-80s slider with bite and power that's an above-average pitch at its best. He didn't use his changeup much at Clemson, but it could be a solid offering with time. Lamb uses his size to his advantage and gets good downward plane on the ball. He has a tall, skinny frame and needs to bulk up. He also throws significantly across his body, and once he tones that down, it should help the consistency of his secondary stuff. The Rangers like Lamb's makeup and competitiveness, and they'll develop him as a starter. He'll begin his first full pro season in high Class A.
The Rangers have dipped into the Southeast frequently in recent drafts and went back again in 2011, making Matthews their first-round pick and signing him away from a Virginia commitment for $936,000. Small but athletic and strong, Matthews impressed club officials who watched him throw down a 360-dunk before the draft despite his 5-foot-11 frame. Some scouts compared him to Texas 2006 first-rounder Kasey Kiker in terms of size and stuff, but Matthews is much more athletic, has better makeup and played against tougher high school competition. He has a quick arm and runs his fastball up to 95 mph, though he usually sits at 88-92. He has a tight curveball that already grades as a solid pitch and a changeup that's advanced for his age. As Matthews logged innings during his pro debut and instructional league, his arm slot started to creep down, and it will be important for him to stay on top of the ball to generate downward plane. To help in that regard, the Rangers had had him work with a full windup in instructional league, which also helped him stay in a straight line to the plate. There's some effort in his delivery, so he may be destined for the bullpen, but he'll remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Texas hopes Matthews can advance to low Class A after opening his first full pro season in extended spring training.
Despite attending a secondary school that didn't have a baseball team, Deglan faced quality amateur competition as a member of Canada's junior national team. Strong performances against pro players during extended spring training exhibitions in 2010 boosted his draft stock, and the Rangers signed him for $1 million after taking him 22nd overall that June. Deglan met expectations in 2011 by keeping his head above water in low Class A. While his numbers weren't impressive, the defensive strides he made have the Rangers optimistic about his future. Deglan has a strong, accurate arm and quick release capable of producing 1.8-second pop times, though he threw out just 21 percent of basestealers last year. He must improve his blocking and receiving, but he could develop into an above-average defender. Texas raves about his makeup, aptitude and feel for the game, and he did a nice job handling the Hickory pitching staff. Deglan's bat will determine whether he's an everyday player or a backup. He has a nice lefthanded swing and above-average raw power, though it plays as alley power during games. He needs to do a better job of staying back on pitches, as he's too often fooled by offspeed stuff. He's not afraid to work a walk, but his long arms add length to his swing and diminish his ability to make consistent contact. Deglan likely will return to low Class A this year in an attempt to jump-start his bat.
The younger brother of 2011 Nationals fifth-round pick Matt Skole, a slugging third baseman out of Georgia Tech, Jake turned down a two-sport commitment to the Yellow Jackets to turn pro the year before. He signed for $1.56 million as the 15th overall pick in 2010. After focusing on football in high school, Skole started to better understand his swing in his first full pro season. He has shown more power than initially expected, and some scouts now think he could hit 20 or more homers on an annual basis in the big leagues. He projects as a solid hitter who can take the ball to all fields, but he works a lot of deep counts and will chase offspeed stuff, leading to 138 whiffs in 2011. An ankle injury he sustained playing football hurt his speed, which was once considered plus but hasn't fully come back. He's a smart and aggressive baserunner. Though Skole gets good jumps and takes fine routes in center field, his body has thickened and he likely won't have the closing speed to play up the middle in the future. A move to an outfield corner would put more pressure on his bat. His throwing ticked up a notch last year, from solid to above-average. He's ready for high Class A.
Telis initially attracted scouting interest as a middle infielder, but the Rangers moved him behind the plate immediately after signing him for $130,000 in 2007 because of his thick torso and strong lower half. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010 that kept him out for most of the season, and Texas kept his throwing workload down last year by having him split time behind the plate with Kellin Deglan at Hickory. Telis' arm has bounced back well, though it's just fringy and he detracts from it with inconsistent mechanics. He erased just 19 percent of basestealers in low Class A. He still has a lot of work to do behind the plate, as he struggles receiving velocity and movement, and he doesn't block balls in the dirt well. With short arms and a stocky build, Telis doesn't necessarily look the part, but he can rake and rivals Jurickson Profar as the system's pure hitter. A switch-hitter, Telis is significantly better from the left side. Though he's ultra-aggressive, Telis' has strong handeye coordination that allows him to consistently barrel the ball. He has a line-drive swing and projects to have more gap than over-the-fence power. Telis could be a bat-first backstop, though scouts wonder if he'll be able to stay behind the plate full-time, so he might end up splitting time between catcher and DH. He'll get more playing time at catcher in 2012, when he advances to high Class A and Deglan returns to Hickory.
After signing for $425,000 in 2009, Perez starred in the Dominican Summer League the following year. He then dominated during extended spring training in 2011, so Texas decided to push him to the Northwest League. He was the circuit's youngest pitcher, an 18-year-old facing predominantly collegeaged hitters. He recorded eight swinging strikeouts in the first three innings of his U.S. debut but couldn't retire another batter in that appearance. The problems in that start continued for the remainder of the season, as he lost his release point, his control and his confidence as he struggled to repeat his delivery. Despite his struggles, Perez has a lofty ceiling with a projectable 6-foot-5 frame and a live arm. His fastball ranges from 90-96 mph, touching 98 on occasion. His long limbs and impressive extension make his heater explode on hitters. His curveball has risen from 69-72 mph to 75-78, and the harder offering has good depth and bite, though he falls in love with it at times. His changeup regressed last year, but that was the least of his problems. Perez did a better job of harnessing his stuff in instructional league, so he could make a jump to low Class A with a strong spring training.
Though he doesn't look the part with thick legs and a barrel chest, Herrera was a star volleyball player in Venezuela and has a 40-inch vertical jump. He knew his future was on the diamond, though, and he signed with the Rangers for $160,000 in 2008. Herrera moved from shortstop to second base when he made his U.S. debut in 2010. Last year, he ranked fifth in the South Atlantic League in hitting at age 19, and he batted .339 over the final three months. Herrera doesn't have loud tools, but he's a gritty gamer who has the fastest bat in the system. He has a short, compact swing with great hip rotation and a knack for making hard contact. He presently has gap power but might grow into more as he adds strength, though home runs won't ever be a significant part of his game. Herrera has the athleticism, instincts and arm strength to handle shortstop in a pinch, though he fits best at second base, where he's a solid defender with soft hands and good movements around the bag. He could end up being a utility player down the line. Herrera has above-average speed and runs the bases well. He'll continue as Jurickson Profar's double-play partner in high Class A this year.
Kirkman hardly looked like a prospect five years ago, when he couldn't get the ball over the plate and his fastball dropped below 80 mph at times. He rehabbed a hamstring injury that slowed his progress and worked closely with pitching coordinator Keith Comstock to turn his career around. He reached the big leagues in 2010 and contributed to the Rangers' World Series run, but he spent most of 2011 in Triple-A. He opened last season in the Round Rock rotation before moving back to the bullpen in May. Though he has the durability and the assortment of secondary pitches needed to start, Kirkman profiles best as a reliever. That's because he doesn't have enough command to make up for his lack of a dominant pitch and he doesn't control the running game well. Kirkman's arm generates 91-94 mph fastballs that are a tick higher in short stints, and his slider gives him a second plus offering. He also throws a changeup and a curveball that are average. His long, herky-jerky delivery creates some deception, especially against lefthanders, but it also can cause his command to falter. Kirkman will compete for a spot in the Texas bullpen in spring training.
Though de los Santos has been in the Rangers system for six seasons, he has logged just 274 innings in pro ball and only 28 above Class A. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and visa issues kept him in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2009. Last year, he came down with biceps tendinitis during spring training and a shoulder strain in May. De los Santos made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, but he still has a lot of work to do. His fastball sits at 89-92 mph and touches 94, but he doesn't command it consistently. He's most effective when he can pitch down in the zone with his fastball, which plays off his Bugs Bunny changeup with tornado action and two-plane depth. He has a tendency to use his devastating changeup too much, though. His sharp curveball was his best secondary offering when he signed, but it's now more of an 11-to-5 breaker than a true downer. De los Santos has the stuff to start, but he projects as a late-inning reliever because of command issues and funky mechanics. He'll get another shot at Double-A in 2012.
The subject of many big-ticket rumors prior to the July 2 international signing frenzy in 2011, Mazara signed for $4.95 million. That set a new record for an international amateur, surpassing the $4.25 million the Athletics spent on Michael Ynoa in 2008. The Rangers thought Mazara offered as much power potential as any Latin American prospect in recent years. He put on epic batting-practice displays that left scouts in awe in the months leading up to his signing. Mazara was showcased judiciously in the Dominican Republic and often didn't face live pitching, so many teams had concerns about his bat and ability to make consistent contact. He employed a massive leg kick reminiscent of Juan Gonzalez as an amateur. The Rangers tried to tame it during instructional league and the change should help Mazara free up his lower half, though it inhibits his ability to track pitches. He has a projectable body with lanky limbs and a strong frame, helping him generate natural loft and backspin. His arm is presently average but could improve as he adds strength to his frame. Texas sees him playing right field, though he's still raw defensively. He's a fringy runner. Club officials laud his makeup. Mazara isn't as advanced as fellow Dominican bonus baby Ronald Guzman and will take longer to develop, but the raw power is exciting. He'll debut in the Arizona League in June.
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