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Profar served as the bellwether for the Rangers' renewed emphasis and success in Latin America. As an amateur in Curacao, he garnered attention more as a pitcher with low-90s heat and feel for a breaking ball, but Texas acquiesced to his desire to play shortstop after signing him for $1.55 million in 2009. Neither party has any regrets. No prospect this side of Mike Trout has a better minor league rÃ©sumÃ© than Profar. He ranked as the top prospect in the short-season Northwest League in his 2010 pro debut, then for an encore won MVP honors in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2011. He earned a promotion to Double-A Frisco for 2012, skipping over high Class A entirely, and ranked as not only the Texas League's youngest player (19) but also its No. 1 prospect. Profar's body of work in the Futures Game includes a triple against the Twins' Kyle Gibson in 2011 and a solo homer off the Royals' Jake Odorizzi in 2012. To paraphrase one Rangers instructor, Profar may not have the most power, the most speed or the strongest arm on the field, but typically he's the best player out there. A natural righthanded hitter, he learned to switch-hit after signing and now shows uncommon bat speed from both sides of the plate, lending him more power than his lean 6-foot frame suggests. Profar surprises some opponents with his pop--which is above-average for a middle infielder--but he may have to tone down his swing to maximize his overall production. He takes a disciplined approach to hitting, with strong knowledge of the strike zone that ought to make him a consistent .300 hitter in his prime. An above-average defender at shortstop, Profar has instincts that outstrip his plus range. His hands and arm are above-average as well. Some of his throws to first base tend to sail when he gets on the side of the ball, but that's just a matter of adjustment. He has solid speed and knows how to use it on the bases, stealing 16 bases in 20 tries in 2012. Observers rave about Profar's mental toughness, leadership skills and grace under pressure. When he signed, Profar told the Rangers he would reach the big leagues by the time he was 20. He actually completed his journey five months ahead of schedule last September. He played sporadically down the stretch but made the Rangers' playoff roster for their Wild Card Game against the Orioles. Even if he begins the 2013 season in Triple-A, Profar's talent probably will win out and result in a promotion to Texas during the season. He likely will move to second base in deference to Elvis Andrus, pushing Ian Kinsler to the outfield. Few prospects represent a safer bet to develop into a first-division regular and all-star than Profar.
The 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Olt raced to Texas in little more than two years despite missing half of the 2011 season after breaking his collarbone in a home-plate collision. He led the Double-A Texas League with 28 homers and a .579 slugging percentage in 2012 before being called up in August. Plantar fasciitis in his left foot kept him out of the lineup for most of September. With plus raw power and a strong hitting approach, Olt is a threat to go deep anytime he steps to the plate. He works deep counts and piles up both walks and strikeouts, so his average will settle in the .260-.270 range. Pitchers have had success exploiting the length in his swing by attacking him with high fastballs, and he continues to work to identify and stay back on breaking balls. Scouts say Olt is a joy to watch defensively, owing to his agility and ability to make throws from any angle. He's a well below-average runner. Like Profar, Olt has advanced rapidly thanks to his tools, work ethic and mental toughness. He's blocked in Texas by Adrian Beltre, so a shift to first base or an outfield corner could be in the works. A potential all-star, he could open 2013 in the big league lineup or get a couple of months in Triple-A.
Signed for $580,000, Perez sped to Double-A as an 18-year-old. His progress stalled in Triple-A the last two seasons, when he posted a 4.86 ERA over 176 innings with pedestrian strikeout (5.4) and walk (3.9) rates per nine innings. Called to Texas in late June as an injury fill-in, he struggled to locate his pitches and got hit hard. Despite Perez's lackluster results, scouts continue to give him positive evaluations for his above-average stuff, compact and repeatable delivery, clean arm action and youth. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph and tops out near 95, and his low-80s changeup gives him a second plus pitch at times. His curveball ranges from the low to high 70s and often features depth. Perez gets hit when he falls behind, so the Rangers introduced a two-seam fastball and slider to his repertoire. That gave him two weapons with horizontal action and a chance to induce groundouts early in counts. While expectations for Perez have downshifted from future ace to solid mid-rotation starter, he's a reasonable bet to get there. He seemed to respond to a consultation with Rangers special assistant Greg Maddux during the season, where the two reviewed pitch sequencing and game planning. Perez could be ready for an expanded role in Texas in 2013.
A backup to Yoenis Cespedes on Cuba's 2009 World Baseball Classic squad, Martin defected the following year and signed a five-year, $15.6 million major league deal in May 2011. Among Triple-A Pacific Coast League players with at least 250 plate appearances, he ranked second in hitting (.359) and third in on-base percentage (.422) and slugging (.610) in 2012. He missed five weeks after tearing a ligament in his left thumb in May. The Rangers say Martin has more power than he gets credit for, and he hits home runs with ease during batting practice. They would like him to tone down his swing and focus more on lining balls to the gaps, however, in order to take advantage of his plus speed. That attribute also boosts his average via bunts and infield hits as well as providing him with solid range in center field. Martin knows the strike zone and has the bat path to hit for average, so he profiles as a top-of-the-order threat capable of providing 20 steals and strong defense. He also has an above-average arm. Despite hitting .324/.390/.502 in the high minors, Martin has struggled during brief stints with the Rangers. His injury and inactivity in the big leagues cut into his development time in 2012, but at worst he figures to be a platoon option for Texas in 2013.
Grimm adapted quickly to the routine of pro ball following a wildly erratic college career at Georgia, where he ran up a 5.80 ERA in three seasons. He beat the Astros in his June 16 debut, little more than a year and a half after making his pro debut in low Class A. Grimm decimated Double-A competition with a strong three-pitch mix and plus control. He found the going tougher in Triple-A and the big leagues when batters tended not to chase his 12-to-6 curveball. He pitches at 91-94 mph while commanding his fastball to both sides of the plate. That helps him work ahead of batters and set up his curve, changeup and slider/cutter hybrid. His changeup has come the farthest since turning pro, helping him hold minor league lefties to a .231 average while sporting a 4-1 K-BB ratio against them in 2012. Adding the slider gives Grimm the ability to change the speed and shape on his breaking ball, while also helping him stay in the zone more frequently. Texas bypassed Martin Perez, who already was on the 40-man roster, when it called on Grimm in June. Both could earn larger roles with the Rangers in 2013, whether starting or relieving. Most scouts see Grimm as a potential mid-rotation starter.
Jackson offered perhaps the best combination of present velocity and future projection among Florida high school arms in the 2010 draft when the Rangers snagged him with the 45th pick and paid him $1.545 million. His stuff has been more impressive than his results in pro ball, though Texas says none of its pitching prospects made more progress in 2012. Jackson can touch 97 mph and works steadily at 93-94 with his fastball, holding that velocity deep into starts and delivering the ball on a steep downhill plane. His curveball frequently features tight rotation and power, grading as a potential well above-average pitch if he learns to locate it. The changeup is a relatively new addition to his arsenal and needs further refinement. A lengthy arm action and busy delivery affect Jackson's fastball command and contribute to his curve squirting out of his hand when he holds the ball too long in an effort to generate spin. He leans backward at his balance point and often fails to transfer his weight up front, blocking off the extension in his delivery. Jackson could grow into a No. 2 starter or shutdown reliever, and he ought to get his first taste of Double-A at some point in 2013.
Sardinas and Jurickson Profar both signed seven-figure deals with the Rangers as 16-year-old shortstops on July 2, 2009. While Profar has rocketed to the big leagues, Sardinas has made slower progress while contending with injures since signing for $1.2 million. A broken finger delayed his 2010 pro debut, and a dislocated shoulder that required surgery limited him to 14 games the following year. He was mostly healthy in 2012, missing time here and there with shoulder soreness. Sardinas has some of the most intriguing tools in the system. His speed, arm strength and defensive potential all grade as double-plus. He has a knack for hitting and shows looseness from both sides of the plate. Because he's skinny, he likes to use an exaggerated load, but Texas has stressed that proper hitting position and a balanced, direct swing will translate to some natural power. Sardinas is an effective basestealer who succeeded on 32 of 41 tries in 2012. With quick feet and plenty of agility, he can make all the plays at shortstop. Sardinas hit .326/.366/.436 in 181 second-half at-bats and gained further experience in the Arizona Fall League, readying him for the jump to high Class A in 2013.
Like sub-6-foot Rangers prospects Robbie Erlin and Robbie Ross before him, Buckel combines short stature, swing-and-miss stuff and results. An offseason workout routine with Diamondbacks prospect Trevor Bauer prior to the 2012 season provided Buckel with ammunition for his long-toss regimen, mechanics and repertoire. Buckel claims tweaks to his delivery--which scouts compare to Tim Lincecum's--allowed him to maintain his velocity deeper into starts as he climbed to Double-A at age 20 in late June. He sits at 90-91 mph and touches 94 with running life, though his fastball plane tends to be flat. As a result, he leans on a repertoire of secondary pitches that grade as average or better. Buckel likes to pitch up in the strike zone with his fastball, then change eye levels with a plus curveball. He'll work to his glove side with a tight slider or slow bats with a solid changeup. He got in trouble at Frisco when he pitched backward, but improved as his fastball location got better. Buckel's repertoire and polish could be attractive in a back-of-the-rotation role to the Rangers or a club that trades for him. He could be ready for a big league audition in late 2013 or early 2014.
Going unsigned during the 2009 international signing period prompted Alfaro to shift from third base to catcher and move his home base from Colombia to the Dominican Republic, broadening his appeal. He signed for $1.3 million in January 2010, establishing a record for a Colombian amateur. He wowed observers with his raw tools while making his full-season debut in 2012, but he caught just 29 games as he dealt with a hamstring injury and shoulder inflammation. Alfaro's mature frame and wicked bat speed produce plus raw power, but he'll need to tone down his aggressiveness to tap into it. Texas widened his hitting base to cut down on his lunging, and in order to enhance his discipline they encouraged him to trust his hands and not go outside his preferred hitting zone. With plus-plus arm strength and a live body, Alfaro engenders confidence that he can develop into an asset on defense. At this stage, however, his blocking and receiving skills are raw and his arm a bit scattershot. He threw out just 15 percent of basestealers in 2012. Exceptionally athletic for a catcher, he has close to average speed. Alfaro headed to the Puerto Rican League to continue to work with Rangers catching instructor Hector Ortiz, who manages at Ponce. If he can learn to slow the game down, Alfaro could be an all-star.
Gallo established a pair of home run records in 2012, a year in which he signed for a well above-slot $2.25 million as the draft's 39th overall selection. He set a Nevada high school record with 65 career homers, then blasted 18 in the Rookie-level Arizona League to establish its single-season standard and win the circuit's MVP award. Top-of-the-scale raw power is Gallo's calling card, as he uses his quick hands to drive the ball to all fields. The question is how much he can tap into it because he swings and misses a lot. He expanded his strike zone in pro ball and piled up strikeouts after oppponents began pitching him backward. He works deep counts and takes his walks, and the Rangers think he can reduce his strikeouts and streakiness if he continues to shorten his path to the ball. Gallo has sure hands but subpar range at third base, so Texas has put him through agility drills to improve his first-step quickness. He sat in the mid-90s as a pitcher in high school and has a plus arm, but he made 17 errors in 56 pro games because he has trouble setting his feet on throws. If Gallo can improve his feel for hitting and prove himself at third base, he could make a relatively quick climb.
The nephew of Indians Double-A hitting coach Rouglas Odor, Rougned signed out of Venezuela for $425,000 in January 2011 and has been the youngest player in the Northwest and South Atlantic leagues in successive seasons. He teamed with catcher Jorge Alfaro and shortstop Luis Sardinas with Hickory last year to form one of the most prospect-centric middle configurations in the minors. Like them, he also spent time on the disabled list, in his case with a separated shoulder. Odor batted .293/.357/.482 in 49 first-half games but tired badly down the stretch and hit just .232/.277/.336 after the all-star break. One of the toughest players in the system and lauded for having plus instincts, he has the classic lefty swing and hand-eye coordination to hit .280 or better in the big leagues. He has the strength to drive the ball despite a smaller frame, and scouts who like him peg him for 12-15 homers annually. The Rangers believe Odor can improve his hitting consistency by toning down a leg kick that can throw off his timing and by implementing the mental discipline to lay off pitches outside his preferred hitting zones. Signed as a shortstop, Odor is a fringy runner who has all the requisites to play a big league second base, including strong range and arm strength, a quick exchange and the fortitude to hang in on double plays. While Jose Altuve is the only Latin second-base regular in the big leagues today who spent his entire minor league career at the keystone, the Rangers believe Odor is another player who breaks the mold.
Brinson cemented his prospect status as an amateur by winning the Under Armour All-America Game home run derby at Wrigley Field in 2011 and by performing well at the World Wood Bat Association tournament that fall. Though he had a disappointing high school senior year, the Rangers stayed on him, took him with the 29th pick in June and signed him for $1.625 million. He topped the Arizona League in runs (54), doubles (22), extra-base hits (36) and strikeouts (74) in his pro debut. Brinson draws comparisons to Cameron Maybin and Dexter Fowler for his tall, lean, long-limbed physique and outstanding bat speed. The ball carries off Brinson's bat, and with a more consistent approach he could hit 15-20 homers. Getting to that power could be a challenge if he doesn't refine his swing mechanics to cut down on strikeouts. Texas is working with him to reduce his stride and keep his hands back on breaking pitches in order to take some of the loop out of his swing path. Scouts expect Brinson to develop into a plus defender in center field, with above-average arm strength and speed. If he improves his lower-half strength and explosiveness he could become a basestealing threat. Texas may have him take the minors one level at a time, but the ultimate payout could be a five-tool center fielder.
Mendez joined the Rangers in the July 2010 trade that sent Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Red Sox and also yielded first baseman Chris McGuiness. Mendez hadn't thrown a pitch above the low Class A level when Texas added him to its 40-man roster in November 2011. Despite his obvious arm strength and quickness, he struggles to locate his pitches because of an inconsistent arm slot brought on in part by a hooking arm action. So after Mendez missed time in June with arm tightness, the Rangers converted him to the bullpen in high Class A and he proceeded to experience his first run of sustained success. In 11 relief appearances there and in Double-A, he struck out 24, walked six and allowed just 13 hits in 24 innings. Mendez pitches at 94-96 mph and approaches triple digits with his fastball as a reliever. He deceives batters with the torque and upper-half rotation in his pitching motion. His average mid-80s slider runs away from righthanders, who hit a mere .227 against him in 211 at-bats last season. Mendez's fair splitter/changeup leads some to believe he can return to starting at some point, though he'd have to improve his command drastically to find success. He could get a refresher with Frisco to begin 2013, then surface in the Texas bullpen at some point during the season. He has closer upside.
The story of Edwards' signing will sound like an apocryphal tale if he one day makes the big leagues. Lightly scouted in high school because he didn't play in high-profile showcases, he fell to the 48th round of the 2011 draft. The Rangers selected him based on the recommendation of area scout Chris Kemp, who had recruited him to play for Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC while he served as an assistant coach there. Edwards elected to turn pro for $50,000 at the Aug. 15 signing deadline despite a lack of instruction or feel for pitching. Texas remedied those issues during instructional league and in extended spring training the following year, teaching him to long-toss and to repeat his delivery. The lanky righthander then promptly breezed through the Arizona League in his 2012 pro debut, allowing just six hits and no runs in 20 innings on his way to a promotion to short-season Spokane. In the span of one year, the quick-armed Edwards increased his velocity from the mid-80s to 90-94 mph with a high of 98. He also has developed feel for two secondary pitches. He imparts natural cutting action on the ball because his fingers are offset slightly to the right. Edwards can spin a mid-70s breaking ball and throw an effective changeup with fading action, but he needs to stay on top of all his pitches to get the most out of them. The Rangers rave about his makeup and projection--he could add 25 pounds easily, they say--and they intend to give him every opportunity to win a spot in the Hickory rotation.
Alberto hit .358 to win the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League batting title during his 2010 pro debut, but he didn't gain prospect helium until he reached full-season ball two years later. He made the South Atlantic League all-star team during the first half of 2012, then moved on to high Class A and served as the Carolina League's second-youngest regular. Alberto doesn't have standout tools, but he does have quick hands and a knack for squaring up the ball, which should enable him to hit for a solid average. He doesn't swing and miss much but he doesn't walk much either, and he offers just gap power potential. Alberto runs well underway, but he grades more as solid in that regard and isn't as explosive on the bases or in the field as Leury Garcia or Luis Sardinas, the shortstops one level ahead of and one level behind him. Alberto plays to his strengths better than they do, however, giving him a higher floor. He flashes a plus arm and has steady range, hands and actions at shortstop. A stint in the Arizona Fall League could prepare Alberto for an assignment to Double-A, which would keep the organization's shortstops in the same lock-step pattern as 2012.
The Rangers committed a combined $8.4 million to sign lefty-hitting Dominican outfielders Mazara and Ronald Guzman during the 2011 international signing period. Mazara's international-record $4.95 million bonus may never be surpassed with the spending limits established in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Both Dominicans made their pro debuts as 17-year-olds in the Arizona League last summer and ranked among the circuit's brightest prospects. Rangers officials rave about not only Mazara's tools but also his makeup, maturity and ability to take things in stride. He has taken to a number of routines--weightlifting, long-tossing, power-shagging--that made him one of the system's most improved players. Despite his youth and easy plus raw power, Mazara already shows plate discipline and ranked second in the AZL with 37 walks. The ball jumps off his bat, though he'll need to make more contact to hit for average. Reducing his leg kick would help, as would a more-refined two-strike approach and ability to spoil quality pitches. Mazara has prototype right-field tools with solid range and plus arm strength. While he has fringy speed, he's a solid baserunner. Mazara could patrol right field in Arlington one day, but he may need at least four years to develop his feel for hitting.
Guzman signed for $3.45 million on the same day that fellow Dominican outfielder Nomar Mazara got $4.95 million, and they were Arizona League teammates for their pro debuts in 2012. Many international scouts favored Guzman to Mazara because he showed a more advanced feel to hit and had a track record in the United States, having participated in a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities tournament and the Under Armour All-America Game in 2010. Guzman has leverage in his swing and can juice the ball in batting practice. He focuses on driving the ball from line to line in games, and it shows--he batted .321 and led the AZL with 68 hits. As his body matures, he could produce gaudier home run totals because his ball ought to carry. Signed as an outfielder, Guzman has below-average speed and played first base almost exclusively last summer. His arm strength and instincts are lacking, so he'll require a lot of work to become even average defensively. He figures to advance with Mazara to low Class A in 2013, and their bats will determine how far they climb.
The Rangers have signed many of the organization's top prospects as international amateurs, yet as of March 2011 the most they had committed to any one of them was $1.55 million to Jurickson Profar in 2009. Anticipating changes to the signing protocol, Texas drastically altered its operating procedure in 2011, doling out three of the four largest bonuses ever for international amateurs in the span of eight months. They spent a combined $8.4 million to sign Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman in July 2011, and $4.5 million (a sum eclipsed only by Mazara) in February 2012 to sign Beras. Following an investigation, Major League Baseball determined that he had presented two different birthdates to clubs and suspended him for one year. By claiming to be 17 instead of 16, he effectively circumvented the new budgetary restrictions that kicked in when the international signing period started on July 2. MLB approved his contract, however, and allowed him to participate in instructional league and extended spring training. Like Mazara and Guzman, Beras is both immense and immensely talented. He's a 6-foot-6 right fielder who projects to hit for prototype corner power and possibly for average. Texas hasn't done much at this stage to alter his hitting mechanics. He doesn't project to offer much in the way of speed or project as much more than an average defender, though he does have a strong arm. Beras probably will follow Mazara and Guzman's path and make his U.S. debut in the Arizona League once he's reinstated on July 1.
Tepesch floated a seven-figure bonus demand coming out of high school in 2007, which pushed him to the 28th round of the draft. He declined to sign with the Red Sox and instead attended Missouri, where he was supposed to be the next in line following Tigers first-round pitchers Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson. Tepesch didn't live up to that standard, though he did get an over-slot $400,000 bonus after sliding to the 14th round of the 2010 draft. His solid performance in Double-A during the second half of 2012 leads some club officials to believe that he could make an impact on the big league pitching staff in 2013. Because he doesn't throw 95 mph, however, he flies under the radar. Tepesch's strengths include durability and a knack for throwing four pitches for strikes, reading swings and locating the ball down in the zone consistently. He sits at 91-92 mph and muscles up to 94 on occasion, though he typically allows the late sinking action on his fastball to do the heavy lifting. Tepesch's high-70s curveball and high-80s cutter continue to improve each season--they're borderline plus pitches--and have come a long way in his two pro seasons. His diving changeup and two-plane slider are average pitches more often than not. Tepesch has mid-rotation upside and could be next in line to get a look in the Rangers rotation.
Garcia continues to attract attention in a system overflowing with talented young middle infielders. He's the fastest runner--a borderline 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale--and has the best infield arm among Rangers farmhands. He's also a flashy defender at shortstop who ranges well to both sides and makes plays in the hole with ease because of his elite arm strength. Garcia spent most of his time at second base with Double-A Frisco in 2012, however, in deference to shortstop Jurickson Profar, though he did return to short later in the season and also gained brief exposure to center field. Wiry strong and 5-foot-7, Garcia has the power to drive the ball into the gaps but his swing tends to get too big. As one Rangers instructor put it, the hitter Garcia should be is not the hitter he wants to be. Texas would like to see him focus more on bunting, hitting the ball on the ground and working walks to take maximum advantage of his terrific speed. He's a switch-hitter whose swing is a bit long from the left side, and he batted a modest .282/.330/.370 against righthanders in 2012. Garcia continues to make careless mistakes in the field and on the bases, but he still has time on his side. The Rangers added him to their 40-man roster in November. He ultimately fits best in their plans as a super-utility player who can play short, second and center.
Excluding Bryce Harper, scouts liked Robinson more than any hitter in the Four Corners area leading up to the 2010 draft. He did little to justify that faith by face-planting in the Northwest League the following year, when he hit .163/.266/.265 in 45 games. Playing on a talent-laden Hickory team in 2012 reduced the pressure on Robinson and he recovered his feel to hit, ranking third in the South Atlantic League in walks (86) and fifth in on-base percentage (.409). He also racked up 123 strikeouts, the product of working deep counts, pulling off the ball and timing issues when his hips drifted too far forward. With a sweet lefty swing, Robinson hits for average first and power second, and he continues to show the same gap-to-gap approach he did as an amateur. A below-average runner, he played shortstop in high school but hasn't settled into a defensive home in pro ball. He landed at third base with Hickory and also spent 15 games at second, but his feet and hands are just OK, so he might make his way to an outfield corner before all is said and done. He has a tick above-average arm. Robinson will graduate to high Class A in 2013.
Font flashed a 98-mph fastball as a 17-year-old during his 2007 pro debut, but he missed almost all of the next season with injuries. He worked his way to high Class A in 2010, only to experience elbow soreness that eventually required Tommy John surgery, which erased his entire 2011 season. Texas added him to its 40-man roster in November 2010 even knowing he wouldn't get back on a mound for more than a year. When Font returned to action in 2012, the Rangers assigned him to high Class A with the goal of getting him 100 or so innings, and he actually finished the year with a three-game trial in the big leagues. Font shows the same wicked arm strength he showed pre-surgery, sitting at 94 mph and touching 99, but also the same lengthy arm action that inhibits his feel for a slider. His high-70s changeup has its moments, but without more precise fastball command he won't find himself in many counts where he can use the changeup as a chase pitch. Font's heater alone might be enough for a low-leverage relief role, but he has the potential for more because he's hard to hit when he's around the plate. Look for him to spend time in Triple-A and the majors in 2013.
Ramirez has made halting progress after signing for $1 million as the 2007 draft's 44th pick. He took two cracks at low Class A before rocketing up the minor league ladder and this list (all the way to No. 5) following a 2011 season that he finished in the Round Rock rotation. His success vanished as quickly as it had arrived during a rocky 2012 campaign, during which he dealt with shoulder fatigue and earned a late-June demotion to Double-A. He made his final appearance of the season out of the bullpen and showed a consistent 95-97 mph fastball after settling in at 90-94 as a starter. The Rangers believe relieving better suits his personality because Ramirez tends to overthink things as a starter. He has cleaned up his arm circle in recent years, reducing the severity of a high-elbow backswing, but an inconsistent release point still affects the quality of his secondary pitches when he doesn't stay on top of them. He sells a high-80s changeup with natural deception, and it's a plus pitch at times. He started throwing a slider in 2012, and it flashes promising tilt. He hangs his curveball too much for it to be viable at higher levels. If he stays in the bullpen, Ramirez could vie with fellow 40-man roster members Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez for relief innings in Arlington this year.
One of the top high school athletes available in the 2008 draft, Cone couldn't agree to terms with the Angels as a supplemental third-round pick. He hit .363 as a sophomore at Georgia but regressed badly as a junior in 2011--the year the NCAA instituted less-potent bats--but the Rangers still loved his athleticism, work ethic and physicality, and they signed him for $873,000 as a sandwich pick in 2011. While questions remain as to whether Cone will hit for average, his other tools are stout. He has above-average power, speed and range. He led a loaded Hickory squad with 17 homers and a .461 slugging percentage last season. Texas thinks Cone developed too many bad habits as an amateur. He's so strong that he relied on upper-body strength and neglected his lower half. The Rangers have worked to get Cone to stop overstriding to his front side, and to keep his head centered and his hands back and in position to hit offspeed pitches. He's a solid defender at any outfield position thanks to his range and average arm strength.
Area scouts zeroed in on Williams and Courtney Hawkins, a pair of Texas Gulf Coast area high school outfielders, as potential 2012 first-round picks when they were sophomores. While Hawkins went No. 13 overall to the White Sox in June, Williams had an uneven senior year and slipped to Texas in the second round. After signing for $500,000, he hit .313 in his pro debut while showcasing excellent bat speed, hitting instincts and a knack for barreling the ball. The Rangers said he had the quickest hands in their instructional league camp. By contrast, amateur scouts thought he was too spread out at the plate and had trouble picking up spin on breaking balls. Williams has been clocked at 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash, but he turns in fringy running times during games. He lacks the instincts to handle center field on an everyday basis, and his substandard arm mandates that he spend most of his time in left, particularly if paired with 2012 first-rounder Lewis Brinson.
The Mariners made Kela a 29th-round pick in 2011 but failed to sign him out of a Seattle high school, so he headed to Everett (Wash.) CC. The Rangers had better luck getting him under contract as a 12th-rounder in 2012, signing him for $100,000. Kela's velocity has increased exponentially in two years, jumping from 89-91 mph in high school to 96-98 with a peak of 100 in short stints. His athleticism allowed him to clean up his delivery after signing and get more extension out front, which did wonders for his overall control. Texas believes his mid-80s slider has above-average potential. He's only now working on a changeup that he'll need as he attempts to transition from reliever to starter in 2013. Kela's fastball features plenty of late life, so he'll profile as a relief prospect if starting doesn't work out. He could open his first full pro season in low Class A.
Martinez had pitched all of 26 relief innings in three years at Fordham when the Rangers made him an 18th-round pick in 2011. He spent most of his time as the Rams' shortstop and No. 3 hitter, but Texas scouts correctly gauged that Martinez had the type of pitchability that would enable him to start in pro ball. He impressed club officials by precisely locating his 90-94 mph fastball in his pro debut, and he worked his way into the Hickory rotation during his first full pro season in 2012. Martinez's quick-twitch athleticism, fast arm and clean, repeatable pitching motion serve him well. He sits steadily at 92-93 mph and shows an average curveball at times. His breaking ball has made the most progress of any of his pitches since he signed, and he's still gaining confidence in his fringy changeup. Martinez's secondary pitches play up because he sets them up well by commanding his fastball to both sides of the plate. Other young Rangers pitching prospects may have higher ceilings, but Martinez won't have to improve much to profile as a safe No. 4 starter.
West built serious prospect momentum in 2011 by notching a 35-1 K-BB ratio in his first year on the mound after spending four seasons as a light-hitting third baseman. After pitching his way onto the 40-man roster, he probably couldn't have imagined a worse encore season than the one he endured. West sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during spring training but recovered in time to take the mound in high Class A in mid-June. He struggled through 17 appearances before having Tommy John surgery in late August. Before he got hurt, he drew comparisons to Jason Motte as a converted position player with a squat build and true power stuff. A healthy West showcased a 94-96 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph slider with serious two-plane tilt. If he makes a full recovery, he could ride a fast track to big leagues when he returns in 2014.
The Rangers and Orioles consummated three trades in 2011. Baltimore acquired Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Taylor Teagarden, all of whom contributed to their stunning wild-card run in 2012. Texas acquired big league relievers Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara, minor league infielder Greg Miclat and Henry. A fourth-round pick in 2009, Henry pitched sparingly at South Mountain (Ariz.) CC as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Now that he's healthy, he may be coming into his own. He pitched so well out of the Myrtle Beach bullpen last season (0.98 ERA, 25-9 K-BB ratio) that the Rangers moved him to the rotation for the second half. He went just 1-7, 4.53 in 11 starts, so his future probably lies in the bullpen. That's OK because Henry has firm stuff. He works fast, throws strikes and sits at 91-93 mph with natural cutting action on his fastball. His tight mid-80s slider and solid changeup also generate swings and misses. He could be a solid middle-relief option--and maybe more--for Texas in the near future. His next step will be Double-A.
The Rangers left Ortiz unprotected in both the 2010 and 2011 Rule 5 drafts, but they elected not to risk exposing him a third time, so they added him to their 40-man roster in November. The diminutive reliever turned a corner in 2012, so much so that Texas contemplated calling him up when it needed an extra bullpen lefty. The Rangers love Ortiz's aggressive approach and willingness to throw his plus slider in any count. His low-80s breaking ball makes him a prime candidate for a matchup reliever role in the big leagues. He struck out 25 and walked only one of the 100 lefthanders he faced in 2012, holding them to a .214/.222/.398 line. Thanks to a quick arm, Ortiz throws a 91-92 mph fastball with armside run, keeping hitters from sitting on his slider. However, the list of successful pitchers standing 5-foot-8 and shorter is, well, short. In the past decade, Tim Collins and Danny Ray Herrera are the only two hurlers that short who have worked 100 innings in the majors. Ortiz will try to buck those odds and should get his first callup at some point in 2013.