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At the ripe old age of 20, Jurickson Profar is ready for an everyday job in the big leagues.
Reports of the Rangers' demise have been greatly exaggerated. This team is still stacked with talent throughout the system. They are deeper than either Oakland or Los Angeles in the American League West, and have more impact talent to bring up from the minors than their biggest division rivals.
Everything starts with Jurickson Profar, baseball's top prospect entering the season, but he is just the tip of a very deep iceberg.
Jurickson Profar, SS
If Profar played with almost any other team, he would at least start the season in the big leagues at 20 years old. But because the Rangers have Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Ian Kinsler at second base, there isn't room for him right now.
Even though he could handle second base, moving Profar off shortstop—even for a season—diminishes the value and impact he can have. He has an approach at the plate of a seasoned veteran, incredible bat control, instincts, plus arm and range at shortstop.
Don't be shocked if the Rangers try some maneuvering to get Profar in their lineup every day this year, even though some time at Triple-A wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. It's not like age is working against him right now.
Mike Olt, 3B
When the Rangers called up Mike Olt last August, they didn't really have a plan for him. He played sporadically, struggled when he was in the lineup (.152/.250/.182 in 33 at-bats) and then battled inflammation in his heel.
Like Profar, Olt just doesn't seem to have a spot with the Rangers at the start of the season. Adrian Beltre isn't going anywhere at third base. Moving Olt to first base diminishes his value, because he is a plus defender at the hot corner and his bat isn't worth as much on the other side of the diamond.
Given Beltre's injury history—he has missed at least 38 games in two of the last three seasons—Olt will get another shot in Texas this season. As long as Ron Washington lets him play, he should hit for power with a lot of strikeouts right away.
Martin Perez, SP
Perez looked like the front-runner for the No. 5 spot in the Rangers' rotation this spring before suffering a broken arm when he was hit by a comebacker in a game against Seattle. He has been on the radar for a big-league job since 2009 after making it to Double-A as an 18-year-old.
His stock has fallen in the three years since, as his stuff hasn't looked as sharp and the control didn't develop as expected, but he doesn't turn 22 until April 4 and is learning to pitch without dominating stuff.
The Rangers will need rotation depth as the season goes along—who doesn't?—so when Perez is healthy, expect him to get another crack at earning a starting job before the end of the year.
Justin Grimm, SP
Grimm's ability to start or relieve makes him a strong candidate for a call-up this season. He struggled last season, giving up 14 runs in 14 innings, and has been a mess this spring, allowing 15 hits and six walks in 9.1 innings, so more time in the minors seems to be in order.
But he uses two different fastballs and a curveball to miss enough bats. His changeup is still developing and will determine what his ultimate role is.
Cody Buckel, SP
Buckel's stock continued to rise last season after moving to Double-A as a 20-year-old. Across two levels last season, he posted a 2.49 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. He doesn't have the highest ceiling because the stuff isn't overpowering, but he mixes pitches well and has an easy, repeatable delivery.
Engel Beltre, OF
Beltre is one of the best pure athletes in the minors–he just hasn't been able to translate his tools into success on the baseball field. He has an overaggressive approach at the plate that will prevent him from getting on base enough to be a star, but his speed and glove in the outfield should get him a cup of coffee later this season.
Luery Garcia, SS/OF
Garcia is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the system (Luis Sardinas also has a claim to the Iron Throne), with a tremendous arm, elite range and great footwork. He understands his limitations at the plate, using a compact swing to make contact and let his plus speed take over.
His biggest problem, which isn't really his fault, is the Rangers have so much depth at shortstop, there might not be room for him in the big leagues this season.