2B Rougned Odor posted an .839 OPS with 58 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases last season as a 19-year-old.
Despite graduating former top prospects Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez to the major leagues in 2013, the Texas Rangers’ farm system remains stacked with young, high-ceiling talent at premium positions.
In fact, half of the team’s top 10 prospects—all of them currently 20 years old or younger—have a realistic chance to play an up-the-middle position at the major league level.
Replacing Profar at the top of the list is second baseman Rougned Odor, who posted an .839 OPS with 58 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases last year and reached Double-A as a 19-year-old. He’s one of the more advanced and underrated pure hitters in the minors, and he could conceivably make an impact with the Rangers next season in the event of an injury to shortstop Elvis Andrus or Profar.
Meanwhile, Jorge Alfaro emerged as one of the most exciting catching prospects in the game last season thanks to a breakout performance at Low-A Hickory. The 20-year-old has the potential to be an absolute monster at maturity, as he possesses the above-average speed and offensive upside to emerge as a legitimate dual-threat backstop.
Beyond Odor and Alfaro, 2013 first-rounder Alex Gonzalez ranks as the Rangers’ top pitching prospect, and it might not take the right-hander long to reach his realistic ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. Former A’s first-rounder and recent acquisition Michael Choice should see considerable time in the major leagues next season, and he could conceivably carve out a role as corner outfielder/designated hitter. Switch-hitting shortstop Luis Sardinas, 20, lacks the lofty ceiling of the team’s other middle infielders, but his strong defense could get him to the majors in 2014 in a reserve role.
A slew of high-risk, high-reward prospects rounds out the Rangers’ rankings, including prodigious slugger Joey Gallo (40 home runs, 172 strikeouts in 2013) and toolsy outfielders Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara. While all four players have All-Star-level ceilings, they each will require significant refinement in the minors and are likely several years away from reaching the major leagues.
Here’s a look at the Texas Rangers’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
DOB: 04/26/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 195
Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Nomar Mazara is the definition of projectable at 6’4”, 195 pounds with plenty of room to add strength; 18-year-old showcased collection of high-end tools during full-season debut this past season; left-handed hitter features plus bat speed, whipping the barrel through the zone with controlled force; huge, plus-plus raw pop; the fact that it’s already present in games at such a young age is very encouraging.
Overall hitting ability is better than statistics suggest; hit tool has potential to be average; swing has unnecessary movement and, at times, lacks fluidity; struggled mightily against same-side arms this past season (which isn’t surprising in the context of his stateside experience); game features too much swing-and-miss at the present but should improve with refined pitch recognition.
Mazara’s combination of average speed, plus arm strength and huge raw power make him a clean fit in right field at the highest level; considerable potential as a platoon corner outfielder given the ability to mash right-handers; another year at Hickory could be beneficial to his overall offensive development.
Ceiling: First-division player
DOB: 05/08/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 170
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Coral Springs HS, Fla.)
Physical specimen at 6’3”, 170 pounds with electrifying athleticism; easy plus speed lends to his above-average range in center field; exhibits enough arm strength for right field if he’s ever forced to move from center; takes aggressive routes and plays the position with high intensity.
Right-handed hitter with plus raw power; speed should help him to pile up doubles and triples; exceptionally strong wrists and forearms create premium bat speed; ball jumps off his bat with loud contact to all fields.
Significant amount of swing-and-miss to his game (191 strikeouts in 503 plate appearances); high-maintenance swing with minimal body control inhibits ability to make adjustments over the course of an at-bat; ultimately lowered hands from chin-level to mid-torso towards end of season, which allows him to stay close with front side and drive the ball up the middle and to the opposite field.
Struggles against advanced and consistent breaking balls; development and utility of hit tool will dictate his impact at the highest level; it may take him a few extra years to ascend the Rangers’ system, but the payoff could be huge.
Ceiling: Major league regular; potential All-Star
DOB: 8/24/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
Drafted: First round, 2010 (Calvary Christian HS, Fla.)
The 6’2” right-hander works shoulders and release point to consistently throw on downhill plane; too much wasted movement in delivery and long arm on the back side hinders overall command; struggles to demonstrate balance throughout delivery and fails to finish pitches with consistency; somehow came to make it all work this past season against more advanced hitters.
Fastball sits 93-95 mph and is thrown with weight on steep downhill plane; can scrape 96-98 mph and holds velocity deep into starts; curveball is a hammer when he’s not spiking it or losing his release point to the arm side; changeup remains an ongoing work in progress but should represent at least a third average pitch; showed more confidence his changeup this past season, throwing it against both right- and left-handed hitters.
Ceiling: No. 4 starter; setup man/closer
DOB: 11/19/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 205
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Bishop Gorman HS, Nev.)
Physical specimen at 6’5”, 205 pounds; prodigious, 80-grade power; quick wrists and explosive bat speed give him effortless raw power; already capable of jumping the yard with ease to all fields; streaky hitter whose swing can get long at times; doesn’t keep bat head in zone for extended period of time; swing features a ton of lift, which creates big-time backspin carry; comfortable working counts and taking walks; will always have considerable swing-and-miss to his game; anything but a base-clogger, despite size; sneaky base stealer who demonstrates a knowledge for picking spots.
Defense has noticeably improved at the hot corner but needs refinement; range is average and should play up once he gains experience and develops better instincts; plus arm strength is ideal for the position; received consideration as a right-handed pitcher as a high school senior; footwork is still inconsistent and results in unnecessary throwing errors; struggles to find balance between setting feet when throwing and gaining momentum toward target; body control has been a pleasant surprise.
Ceiling: First-division regular
DOB: 09/08/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted: Second round, 2012 (Ball HS, Texas)
6’3”, 195-pounder is a premium athlete with a slew of loud and potentially impact tools; right-handed hitter flat-out rakes; ability to barrel and drive the ball is almost unparalleled among his peers; outstanding bat-to-ball ability and hand-eye coordination; potential for a legitimate plus hit and power tools at maturity; impact, plus bat speed allows him to turn around high-end velocity with ease; decent secondary recognition; overaggressive hitter who attacks the ball and doesn’t attempt to coax walks; will need to refine baseball skills moving forward.
Williams is a 70-grade runner with long strides that cater to his overall range in center field; played left field for most of 2013 season in deference in Lewis Brinson; should continue to see time at both positions moving forward; arm is below-average and a down tool; inconsistent reads and routes reflect his overall rawness but also leaves significant room for improvement.
Ceiling: First-division player/All-Star potential
DOB: 11/10/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 215
Drafted: First round, 2010 by Oakland (Texas-Arlington)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013 with Oakland)
Physically strong right-handed hitter with plus-plus raw power; showcases plus bat speed; employs a high-maintenance, max-effort swing; efficient weight transfer in swing but still features too many moving parts; needs to continue simplifying his swing and approach; timing is easily thrown off against quality secondary pitches; strikes out more often than desired but countered the swing-and-miss by improving his approach and walk rate; strong track record against left-handed pitching.
Average speed has allowed him to play center field in the minor leagues; doesn’t profile as an everyday player at the position at the highest level; adept at getting consistent reads; takes aggressive routes; arm strength is average and best suited for left field.
Ceiling: Second-division player
DOB: 5/16/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 150
Signed: July 2009 (Venezuela)
Luis Sardinas has come along slightly behind schedule due to various injuries and the presence of Jurickson Profar ahead of him on the depth chart; still offers plenty of upside at only 20 years old; sound, balanced swing from both sides of the plate; loose wrists yield above-average bat speed; limited power potential but hit tool is promising; advanced plate discipline for his age and already showcases above-average pitch recognition; excellent base stealer who understands how to read pitchers and pick spots; potential top-of-the-order talent given ability as switch-hitter and baserunner.
6’1” switch-hitter has impressive overall set of tools and should have no problem remaining at shortstop; advanced defensive skill set with plus speed, range and arm strength; quick feet and premium athleticism; ongoing concern about his makeup and attitude; gets knocked for not giving 100 percent effort at times, especially in regards to his hustle out of the box and down the line.
Ceiling: Second-division middle infielder
DOB: 01/15/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Oral Roberts)
Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez has a good pitcher's frame at 6’2” and 195 pounds; clean, quiet delivery with no unnecessary movement; stride to plate is shorter than expected; demonstrates good balance and really utilizes strong lower half to drive toward the plate; clean finish and athleticism puts him in good fielding position.
Present feel for arsenal; consistent strike thrower with good movement on everything; has already shown improvement since turning pro and will continue to get better with confidence and ability to pitch off fastball.
Plus fastball registers in the 91-93 mph range; will touch mid-90s but pitch tends to flatten out when he does; adept at cutting fastball to create above-average slice to the glove side; in general, the right-hander’s fastball is rarely straight; stays on top of ball well to keep it down in the zone; heater sets up secondary arsenal; very aggressive approach, attacks in the zone; does an excellent job of working down in the zone.
Slider represents the best pitch in arsenal; throws it hard at 84-87 mph; good tilt and late break; already demonstrates a mature feel for the pitch that will only improve with experience; serves as an out pitch; throws slider in the zone or can get ugly swings out of the zone; future plus offering; still developing feel and confidence for changeup, which is a potential above-average offering; should help keep opposing hitters off fastball-slider combo, even if only serviceable; further development of pitch could push him up to a No. 2 starter projection.
Ceiling: No. 3 starter
DOB: 6/11/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
Signed: Jan. 2010 (Colombia)
Jorge Alfaro has always possessed robust natural ability, and his baseball skills are starting to catch up in a hurry; incredibly agile and aggressive behind the plate; boasts legitimate plus-plus arm strength; has an absolute cannon that ranks among the best in the game; would seemingly benefit from streamlining more throws rather than relying on sheer arm strength; ability to uncork pills to second base is reminiscent of a young Pudge Rodriguez; threw out a career-best 36 percent of attempted base-stealers in 2013.
He’s still raw in terms of both blocking and receiving (26 passed balls last season) but has continued to improve with experience; above-average speed is a major weapon and makes him the top dual-threat catching prospect in minor leagues; aggressive baserunner with good instincts and forward vision.
Right-handed hitter employs an aggressive approach; hit tool flashes average-or-better potential; gets out on his front side too often, especially when chasing breaking balls; plus bat speed has translated into above-average power as he’s moved up the ladder; impressive power to right-center field; advanced bat-to-ball ability; should continue to establish a more consistent approach as he gains experience; will always have an element of swing-and-miss to his game.
Ceiling: First-division player/potential All-Star
DOB: 2/3/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 170
Signed: January 2011 (Venezuela)
The 19-year-old possesses much more physical strength than his 5’11”, 170-pound frame suggests; has continually thrived as a younger player in advanced leagues; hugely underrated combination of hit tool potential and plus speed; left-handed hitter has above-average power for his size and position; impressive power frequency; extra-base machine; drives the ball with authority to all fields; knack for hard contact; compact stroke; demonstrates excellent hand-eye coordination and advanced pitch recognition.
Above-average range at second base; soft hands and strong arm are a clean fit at the position; has athleticism and tools to handle shortstop in a pinch; hard-nosed ballplayer who does everything with max intensity; excellent instincts; makes things happen on both sides of the ball.
Ceiling: First-division player; potential All-Star