Josh Morgan in the AZL.
Courtesy: Shaun P Kernahan
The Texas Rangers have a very strong farm system that made narrowing it down to 15 difficult. This is a team I have seen an awful lot of in person, so I have a good feel for their system. There were a few players I wanted to be able to include in the top-15, but they just didn’t quite cut it for me. Alec Asher is a solid pitcher, but finished just outside list, as did the youngest player in the Arizona Fall League, Michael De Leon, and a pair of very talented players in rookie ball, Yeyson Yrizarri and Jose Almonte.
Triple-A: Round Rock Express (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Frisco RoughRiders (Texas League)
High-A: High Desert Mavericks (California League)
Low-A: Hickory Crawdads (South Atlantic League)
Short Season A: Spokane Indians (Northwest League)
Rookie: AZL Rangers (Arizona Summer League)
Rookie: DSL Rangers1 (Dominican Summer League)
Rookie: DSL Rangers2 (Dominican Summer League)
Keone Kela – RHP
Date of Birth: April 16, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’1”/225 lbs.
Acquired: 12th round of the 2012 draft.
|2014||21||-3.1||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-A+||TEX||2||2||.500||2.02||44||0||31||0||0||10||49.0||31||17||11||1||31||0||68||2||0||7||210||1.265||5.7||0.2||5.7||12.5||2.19|
Analysis: A two pitch reliever that can hit triple digits, Kela makes the list as he could be an impact arm in the bullpen as early as next season. After an up and down 2013, Kela dominated in 2014. His 2.02 ERA was actually hurt by his eight appearances in High-A, as he had an ERA of 1.86 and K/9 of 12.8 in Double-A. He still walks far too many, 6.3/9 in Frisco this year, which is caused by a long stride and stiff front leg that caused the ball to sail on him some. He backs up his big fastball with a 12-6 curve that is in the low 80s but can throw either for a strike or use it as a chase pitch.
2015 Prognosis: Kela should start in Triple-A, but will have a chance to earn a spot with the big league club out of camp. Wherever he starts he should see some big league time in 2015 and could be a very good 7th or 8th inning guy.
Ronald Guzman – 1B
Date of Birth: October 20, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’5”/205 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agent, July 2, 2009
Analysis: Guzman had a terrible year in 2014, and there was not obvious reason as to why. There were no major injury issues or clear approach issues, he just plain struggled. One rough season does not kill his prospect status, although it does make him one to watch whether he climbs or falls even further. He is a very long bodied first baseman who is able to make up for his less than stellar glove work with his ability to stretch for throws that pull most first basemen off the bag. At the plate, his swing is fun to watch. It is a smooth, slight uppercut swing that leads to the ball really jumping off the bat, when he is hitting well. When he is not, like last season, the length of the swing gets exposed some and the power doesn’t translate.
2015 Prognosis: After repeating in Hickory last season, Guzman needs to move up to High-A where he will be thrown into the deep end and will either sink or swim. Based on natural ability, he should be able to make 2014 an anomaly.
Josh Morgan – 2B/SS
Date of Birth: November 16, 1995
Height/Weight: 5’11”/185 lbs.
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2014 draft.
|2014||18||-2.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A-||TEX||56||243||202||37||65||3||1||0||19||3||3||29||23||.322||.436||.347||.783||70||1||12||0||0||0|
Analysis: Morgan is not yet on a whole lot of prospect lists, but I just could not leave him off. After seeing him a bunch in the Arizona Summer League and talking to some of his teammates, he quickly became a personal favorite of mine to watch play. He has no carrying tools, but does everything just good enough. He is quite polished for a high school pick, and showed it by hitting .336 with an OBP of .468 in Arizona before getting a promotion to Spokane, where he continued to hit better than .300. He is a scrappy ballplayer, standing right on top of the plate wearing 12 hit by pitches in just 243 plate appearances. He could stick at short, but fits better at second base where he could turn into a taller poor man’s version of Dustin Pedroia.
2015 Prognosis: The lowest level for Morgan to kick off 2014 is Low-A, but once the full coaching staff spends an entire spring with him, he just might earn himself a jump straight to High-A.
Ti’Quan Forbes – 3B/SS
Date of Birth: August 26, 1996
Height/Weight: 6’3”/180 lbs.
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2014 draft
Analysis: The high school shortstop played the majority of his games at third base in the Arizona Summer League, and he will probably stick there. He had a tougher time adjusting to pro ball than fellow 2014 infield draftee Josh Morgan, but he is more projectable. In 48 games, Forbes struck out 47 times often looked overmatched at the plate. Of his 42 hits, just 5 went for extra bases, although he did steal ten bags. He has work to do to get comfortable at third, but his plus arm and solid glove are more than enough to project him as an above-average defender. He is still rail thin and needs to add strength, but the body screams power potential. He has a leg kick that needs to be shortened a bit for his hit tool to play to its above-average potential. Forbes has plenty of work to do, but his ceiling is incredibly high.
2015 Prognosis: If Forbes does not have a good spring training, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land in extended spring, but he should be able to earn himself a spot on the Low-A roster. Forbes will probably be a slow mover to start off, as he has plenty of maturing to do before he realizes his potential.
Travis Demeritte – 2B/3B
Date of Birth: September 30, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’/178 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (30th overall) in 2013
Analysis: Demeritte is an interesting prospect that is still very raw. He was drafted as either a third baseman or shortstop, but transitioned to play primarily second base in 2014. Demeritte has a good arm that could play just fine at third, but his fluidity around the bag makes him a solid second base prospect. He struggled to hit for average in 2014, but he showed impressive power, launching 25 home runs for Low-A Hickory. He struck out more than 35% of his trips to the plate, so that is clearly a part of his game he must improve upon, even if it costs him some in the power department.
2015 Prognosis: Demeritte will probably start and finish in High-A in 2015. He has plenty of the raw tools, but he needs a lot of work to make them all play in game action.May 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Corey Knebel (49) pitches in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Luis Ortiz – RHP
Date of Birth: September 22, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’3”/230 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (30th overall) in 2014
|2014||18||-2.8||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk-A||TEX||1||1||.500||1.77||9||6||1||0||0||1||20.1||16||4||4||1||6||0||19||1||0||0||83||1.082||7.1||0.4||2.7||8.4||3.17|
Analysis: The first Rangers selection in the 2014 draft, Luis Ortiz looked every bit the part of a first round pick despite just over 20 professional innings under his belt. He fell in the draft due to forearm tightness in the spring, but he is as polished a high school arm as you will find. He has a plus slider and a fastball that can regularly touch 95 on the gun. Most scouting reports you find will say he has solid command, but he didn’t necessarily show that in the Arizona Summer League. Too often he figured he would simply overpower hitters with is strong fastball, and he was able to, but is beat hitters middle-up in the zone, a spot that will get hit hard if he keeps the ball there moving forward. His slider has the chance to be his best pitch, and it looks really good right now, but too often sat outside the zone when he needed a strike.
2015 Prognosis: He will not need the typical slow promotion schedule of most high school arms, but should move quickly thanks to his polish. While he may start back in Low-A where he finished 2014, I would like to see him start in High-A and potentially get a promotion to Double-A and let him be challenged this coming season. Sometimes you need to learn out of necessity, and for his command to tighten up he may need to get hit hard by advanced hitters, which a quick promotion schedule would provide.
Corey Knebel – RHP
Date of Birth: November 26, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3”/195 lbs.
Acquired: Trade with Detroit Tigers, 2014
2014 Minor League Stats:
|2014||22||-4.1||3 Teams||3 Lgs||AA-AAA||DET,TEX||5||1||.833||2.18||34||0||12||0||0||3||45.1||23||13||11||3||22||0||63||3||0||2||180||0.993||4.6||0.6||4.4||12.5||2.86|
2014 MLB Stats:
Analysis: There are few pure reliever prospects in baseball more exciting than Knebel. He can regularly touch 98 on the gun and has a curveball that can buckle knees. He struggled in his brief stint in the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers last year before being dealt to the Rangers. In the minor leagues, he has a 12.3 K/9 rate and an ERA of just 1.65. He has typical future closer control, in that his control is a question, but he should be able to reel it in some and improve to at least average command of his pitches. He does feature a change, but that is a pitch that is rarely used and could be scrapped in time. He has a high effort delivery, but all that does is make the ball look like it is jumping out of his hand even harder than it already does. He could definitely be a potential All-Star closer in time but he was shut down late in the year with a UCL sprain, so Tommy John Surgery is likely in his future.
2015 Prognosis: Knebel will have every opportunity to make the Rangers bullpen out of camp, and I wouldn’t bet against it. If Knebel allows his big fastball and curve to dominate as it has through the minors, he just might be able to put together a campaign that earns him a few Rookie of the Year votes in 2015 if his elbow holds up.
Nick Williams – OF
Date of Birth: September 8, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’3/195 lbs.
Acquired: 2nd round in the 2012 draft
|2014||20||-3.0||3 Teams||3 Lgs||A+-AA-Rk||TEX||112||486||452||68||128||30||6||13||74||6||8||22||140||.283||.331||.462||.794||209||9||11||0||1||2|
Analysis: Nick Williams got to play in the Arizona Fall League this season, where he stepped to the plate 113 times. Of those 113 plate appearances, he walked a grand total of once. Yes, his walk rate in the AFL was 0.88%. Williams has plenty of tools, but his approach at the plate is painful to watch at times. He is far too aggressive and seemingly incapable of recognizing an off-speed pitch. When he makes contact, the ball does jump off the bat, and he has shown just as much, if not more, power to the opposite field gap than his pull side. He has good speed once he gets going, but his first couple steps take a bit of time to get going, so he will never be a true stolen base threat. In the field, his reads in the outfield are just about average, and his arm is below-average, basically resigning him to left field. There are certainly tools there that could turn into a very good ballplayer, but he still needs plenty of seasoning.
2015 Prognosis: Williams needs to be in Double-A and needs to struggle to start 2015. If he is challenged and beaten by solid pitching, maybe he finally makes the adjustments needed for him to realize his potential.
Lewis Brinson – OF
Date of Birth: May 8, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3”/170 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (29th overall) in the 2012 draft
|2014||20||-2.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-A||TEX||89||385||347||53||100||16||2||13||50||12||9||33||96||.288||.354||.458||.812||159||5||3||1||1||0|
Analysis: Brinson is probably the most athletic outfielder in the Rangers system, and one of the best defensive center fielders they have. He is long and lean, but has impressive raw power which he has not yet tapped into in game action. He hit for a good average while in Low-A this season, but really struggled after his promotion to High-A. He strikes out far too often which can mostly be attributed to his struggle recognizing and adjusting to off-speed stuff. He is a plus fielder with plus speed and a solid arm that is strong enough to play in right field, but his defense will allow him to stay in center without much concern. There is still a lot of risk in Brinson, as he could put it all together and become a star, or he could simply be overpowered by upper minors pitching and never get past Double-A.
2015 Prognosis: Brinson should spend most the season in High-A for the 2015 season with a potential of a late season promotion. He really needs to prove he can hit for a better average, lay off the bad off-speed stuff, and turn some of his raw power into game power.
Nomar Mazara – OF
Date of Birth: April 26, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’4”/195 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agent, July 3, 2011
|2014||19||-3.0||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-AA||TEX||130||558||483||78||131||28||3||22||89||4||3||66||121||.271||.362||.478||.840||231||12||5||0||4||2|
Analysis: Over two levels Mazara put up 22 home runs and an average of .271 with an advanced approach at the plate in 2014, while still a teenager. He played 24 games in Double-A this season at the age of 19, and will still be a teenager for a couple week into the 2015 season. In his first full season, there was some real concern over his big leg kick at the plate, but that has been lessened some and he began striking out less, walking more, and showing more in-game power. He has legit raw power that could result in 30+ home runs in the big leagues if he lives up to his potential there. His arm is strong, making him a good fit in right despite his below average running and fielding ability.
2015 Prognosis: Mazara should start back in Double-A but could be in Triple-A by mid-season. A 20-year old at the highest level of the minor leagues with improving contact rates and slowly turning his raw power into game power should be fun to watch.Aug 7, 2014; Frisco, TX, USA; Frisco Rough Riders right fielder Nomar Mazara (9), third baseman Joey Gallo (24) and designated hitter Jorge Alfaro (8) on the field before the game against the Springfield Cardinals at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Springfield beat Frisco 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Thompson – RHP
Date of Birth: January 31, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’4”/235 lbs.
Acquired: Trade with Detroit Tigers, 2014
|2014||20||-3.6||3 Teams||3 Lgs||A+-AA||TEX,DET||10||5||.667||3.12||25||24||0||0||0||0||129.2||113||47||45||6||47||0||130||9||1||7||537||1.234||7.8||0.4||3.3||9.0||2.77|
Analysis: Thompson came over with Corey Knebel from the Detroit Tigers in the Joakim Soria trade. After being a second round pick out of a Texas high school in 2012, Thompson has put up solid numbers throughout the minor leagues. He has a career ERA of 2.98 and K/9 of 9.4 which has remained consistent throughout his journey through the minors. In two different Double-A stops, the Eastern League with the Tigers and the Texas League with the Rangers, his ERA was 3.09 with a slight uptick in strikeout, with 9.8 every 9 innings pitched. He has a solid four pitch mix that includes a plus fastball and a slider that can be dominant at times. In rare relief outings, his stuff played even better than as a starter, so it will be interesting where he fits in for the Rangers long term.
2015 Prognosis: Thompson only pitched 46.2 innings at Double-A in 2014, to a trip back to Frisco is certainly not out of the question. 2015 will be his age 21 season, so there is no need to rush him, with a 2016 ETA a realistic expectation for his arrival in the big leagues.
Luke Jackson – RHP
Date of Birth: August 24, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2”/205 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (45th overall) in the 2010 draft
|2014||22||-3.2||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||TEX||9||5||.643||5.40||26||24||1||0||0||1||123.1||114||77||74||14||52||0||126||6||1||10||536||1.346||8.3||1.0||3.8||9.2||2.42|
Analysis: Jackson has the shove it attitude you want from a closer with the pitch mix you want from a front of the rotation starter, but that pitch mix is far too inconsistent. His fastball can reach 98 mph, and he was able to overpower batters throughout the low-minors. In his first full season in the upper-minors, he was still able to be successful with his fastball first, fastball second approach at first, but that cost him once he was promoted to Triple-A. He has a curveball, slider, and changeup, all of which look good at times, but none keep solid command or consistency. 2015 will be a pivotal season for the future role of Jackson with the Rangers.
2015 Prognosis: Look for Jackson to spend the entire season in Triple-A where he must prove he has made the necessary improvements with his secondary stuff to stick in the rotation.
Alex Gonzalez – RHP
Date of Birth: January 15, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (23rd overall) in the 2013 draft
|2014||22||-1.6||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-A+||TEX||12||6||.667||2.66||26||25||1||0||0||0||138.2||123||52||41||6||41||0||113||10||0||8||585||1.183||8.0||0.4||2.7||7.3||2.76|
Analysis: The former first round pick out of Oral Roberts University had an excellent first full season of pro ball that saw him make it all the way to Double-A. “Chi Chi” Gonzalez features three pitches that flash plus along with a curveball that is more of a show-me pitch than anything. His ¾ arm slot with a fastball that can touch 95 mph to go with the plus change and slider allowed him to strike out more than seven per nine innings and strike out nearly three times the number of hitter he granted free passes to. His numbers maintained pretty similar after his promotion to Double-A, and he has the stuff to be a solid number two or three starter in time.
2015 Prognosis: There is an outside chance Gonzalez moves to Triple-A to start the season, but opening the season in Double-A is more likely. Either way, he will pitch in Triple-A in 2015 and could work his way into the big leagues next season.
Joey Gallo – 3B
Date of Birth: November 19, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’5”/205 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (39th overall) in the 2012 draft
|2014||20||-3.6||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-A+||TEX||126||537||439||97||119||19||3||42||106||7||3||87||179||.271||.394||.615||1.009||270||3||5||1||5||7|
Analysis: Joey Gallo had a monster 2013 campaign, launching 42 home runs between High-A and Double-A. There is little question about his power, as he has about as much as anyone in baseball, but there are real questions about his approach at the plate. While still in the Carolina League, Gallo hit .323 and struck out just 64 times in 58 games, while walking 51 times. When he moved up to Double-A, he continued launching home runs, but his strikeouts skyrocketed, striking out 115 times in 68 games and walking just 36 times. His average also dropped over 90 points after the promotion and his slugging was down over 200 points.
2015 Prognosis: Gallo will certainly be sent back to Double-A, where he will have to prove he has can cut down the strikeouts and improve his batting average. He should be able to stick at third base, but his consistency at the plate will determine how aggressive they are in terms of promotion in 2015.
Jorge Alfaro – C
Date of Birth: June 11, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2”/185 lbs.
Acquired: International Free Agent, January 19, 2010
|2014||21||-2.1||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||TEX||121||536||486||75||127||26||5||17||87||6||5||29||123||.261||.323||.440||.763||214||10||17||0||4||1|
Analysis: Alfaro still has work to do in his receiving skills behind the dish, but there are few catchers in baseball with a better arm. He can absolutely gun it, and shows solid footwork to go with it. Alfaro hit 17 home runs in 2014, one fewer than 2013, but it shows he has the raw power to put up solid home run numbers at the next level, but the concern is contact rate. He was nothing if not consistent across two levels when it comes to batting average hitting .261 at High-A and .261 at Double-A this past season. He averaged about a strikeout per game, which is more than ideal, but that is a part of his game he is working on. He is a converted infielder and has only been catching full time for a few years, so he is still raw, but there is nobody with a higher combination of ceiling and floor in the system than Alfaro.
2015 Prognosis: Alfaro will be heading back to Double-A in 2015 and likely need to stay there the entire season. Look for him to reduce the strikeouts and increase the walks, even if that comes at the expense of power. The power is there, he just needs to focus on refining his skills.