Updated Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects
Major League Baseball’s 2014 Midsummer Classic is in the books, and it is time to update the list of the Texas Rangers' top 10 prospects.
The club from Arlington has struggled for most of the season, finishing the first half 19 games under .500 and 21 games back of the Oakland A’s in the AL West. Although it is turning into a season to forget, the organization's young stars are giving them hope for the future.
If you are just joining us, the original top 10 list was made at the beginning of MLB’s spring training. Each player was given a stock report throughout the season, which is part of their new ranking.
This updated ranking is based mostly off of each player’s individual statistics. The prospect’s projected debut year will also play a small part.
Each profile will include the player's season statistics, previous ranking and his projected call-up time from MLB.com.
No. 10: RHP Keone Kela, Double-A Frisco
Age: 21, HT: 6’1”, WT: 225
MLB.com ETA: 2016
27 G, 1-1, 33 IP, 1.64 ERA, 7 SV, 20 BB, 43 SO
Keone Kela is one of three new members to the ranking and has arguably the liveliest arm of any hurler in the organization.
MLB.com’s prospect profile says Kela has improved his fastball from the low-90s to the upper-90s and is also capable of hitting triple digits. That fastball, along with a hard slider, helped him earn a promotion to Double-A this season, and his 1.64 ERA is one of the best in the Texas League.
Kela is averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings between High-A and Double-A this season, and opponents are hitting just .185 off the California native.
The only knock on the right-hander is his control, which has resulted in a walk rate of 5.5 per nine innings. That number is far higher than the 3.5 walks he averaged during the 2013 season and will obviously need to be improved before making his debut.
His combination of pitches and high velocity give him a solid shot as the future closer. If not given that role, Kela would still be a good late-inning option for the Rangers.
No. 9: Alec Asher, Double-A Frisco
Age: 22, HT: 6’4”, WT: 225
MLB.com ETA: 2016
18 GS, 7-8, 101.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 21 BB, 83 K
Alec Asher makes his debut on the list even as he has started to cool down at this point in the season.
After holding a 2.89 ERA on his stock report on June 23, Asher has seen it rise considerably over his last four starts. He has given up at least four earned runs during that stretch and at least one long ball per contest.
In fact, the 22-year-old has allowed 14 homers this season, which is tied for the lead in the Texas League.
However, that is just one negative of Asher’s knack for pounding the strike zone. He has the fifth-lowest WHIP (1.15), and he has given up the fewest walks of any Texas League pitcher with at least 90 IP.
Of all of the top pitching prospects in the organization, Asher probably has the best arsenal. He doesn’t have a true plus pitch but has four that he can throw for strikes. MLB.com says his fastball can hit 96 MPH, and he projects to be a middle-rotation hurler.
The former Polk State player has an ETA that would see his debut in 2016. But with the Rangers most likely looking to fill a couple rotation spots next season, Asher should get a look during spring training.
No. 8: Travis Demeritte, Class-A Hickory
Age: 19, HT: 6’0”, WT: 178
MLB.com ETA: 2017
80 G, .231/.326/.491, 12 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 46 RBI, 57 R, 35 BB, 111 SO
Travis Demeritte is starting to become a familiar name after making his appearance on this ranking due to the absence of other prospects in the big leagues.
The 19-year-old is the result of Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels, becoming a first-round compensation choice for Texas in 2013. While he does strike out an awful lot, MLB.com says, “He has a quick bat and a relatively advanced approach, using the middle of the field and displaying patience.”
If you haven’t read his stock report, Demeritte is getting a look at second base this year after being drafted as a shortstop. He has limited range and an average arm that would fit better on the right side of the diamond.
With Rougned Odor losing his rookie status this season and Luis Sardinas not far behind, Demeritte has risen as one of the top prospects in the middle infield. He has far more power than the other options and also has the potential to play third base.
This is just his first full season as a pro, and he still has plenty of growing to do.
No. 7: OF Nomar Mazara, Class-A Hickory
Age: 19, HT: 6’4”, WT: 195
MLB.com ETA: 2016
91 G, .251/.339/.444, 18 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 54 R, 45 BB, 88 SO
MLB.com says Nomar Mazara signed for a record $4.95 million out of the Dominican Republic, and it looks like money well spent so far.
The 19-year-old has been showing off his power since his debut with Hickory in 2013, hitting 13 homers that year and backing it up with another 15 this season. That number is tied for second-most in the South Atlantic.
One thing that separates Mazara from most top position players in the organization is that he does draw more walks than most. He is aggressive at the plate but also shows good pitch recognition, resulting in the fourth-most walks in the league.
He lacks speed, which MLB.com says will keep him in right field. That shouldn’t be an issue for Mazara, who has a good arm and 24 assists since the beginning of the 2013 season.
Like Demeritte, Mazara is only 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop. He should be getting his shot with the parent club in the next two years considering this system lacks MLB-ready outfielders.
No. 6: RHP Alex Gonzalez, Double-A Frisco
Age: 22, HT: 6’2”, WT: 195
MLB.com ETA: 2015
18 GS, 8-5, 95.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 23 BB, 73 SO
Alex Gonzalez and one other pitcher ranked higher provide this organization with a bright spot in the future of the rotation.
After the club shipped off highly touted prospects C.J. Edwards and Neil Ramirez to the Cubs for Matt Garza, Texas was running low on young pitching. Gonzalez was drafted just one month before and has been running through the system since.
Now with Double-A Frisco, the 22-year-old continues to be effective. Gonzalez has given up five or fewer hits in five of his seven starts with the RoughRiders and has allowed two or fewer runs in six of those starts. Unlike his teammate Asher, Gonzalez has given up just three dingers in 2014 and zero since his promotion.
The Oral Roberts product has a good fastball that runs in the low-90s and a slider that hits the mid-80s. MLB.com says he is refining his changeup and will throw a curveball to give hitters a different look. The profile also says that his repertoire and ability to fill the strike zone should make him a No. 2 starter down the road.
Considering the shortage of quality arms and a parent club out of the playoff picture, leaving Gonzalez in the minors another year is an option. However, the right-hander could see a spot start in September and an invite to spring training.
No. 5: OF Lewis Brinson, High-A Myrtle Beach
Age: 20, HT: 6’3”, WT: 170
MLB.com ETA: 2016
50 G, .323/.387/.549, 9 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 39 R, 19 BB, 52 K
Lewis Brinson has been playing well when healthy, but his limited action dropped him one spot in the rankings.
The Florida native has 11 dingers in just 50 games, just more than half his tally from all of 2013. In fact, he is more than halfway to most of last season’s offensive totals in less than half the time. His strikeouts are a far cry from the 191 he tallied in 122 games last season, too.
Leg injuries could be to blame for his stolen-base and caught-stealing totals. He was caught just seven times last year in 31 chances and has already been caught five times in 12 attempts.
Baseball America has tabbed Brinson as the best athlete and best defensive outfielder in the Rangers system. His speed allows him to run down just about any ball in the outfield, and MLB.com says his arm continues to improve.
The future of the outfield is bright for the Rangers, and Brinson is a large part of that.
No. 4: OF Nick Williams, High-A Myrtle Beach
Age: 20, HT: 6’3”, WT: 195
MLB.com ETA: 2016
75 G, .321/.372/.526, 24 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 55 R, 16 BB, 89 SO
At the beginning of spring training, Nick Williams was rated as the second best outfielder in the system, but he has earned the top spot here.
He still isn’t taking very many pitches and has just 16 walks to 89 strikeouts. MLB.com says he doesn’t swing and miss excessively but needs to tighten his strike zone. It hasn’t hurt him in High-A but is something he will need to work on.
Other than that, Williams is having the best year of his young career. He already has five more doubles and is one RBI shy of his mark from last season. And while he only has 16 walks, that is one more than he tallied in 2013.
The 2012 second-round pick is hitting well against both right-handed and left-handed pitching, posting .309 and .326 batting averages, respectively.
His biggest edge over Brinson is his ability to play all outfield spots. MLB.com says he is a solid runner with an average arm. He has spent most of his time in left field when Brinson is his teammate.
Williams got some at-bats with the Rangers during spring training and had good results. He still has at least another year before a full-time job with the parent club but is probably next in line in terms of outfielders.
No. 3: 3B Joey Gallo, Double-A Frisco
Age: 20, HT: 6’5”, WT: 205
MLB.com ETA: 2016
87 G, .302/.427/.688, 16 2B, 3 3B, 31 HR, 73 RBI, 73 R, 65 BB, 117 SO
Joey Gallo didn’t need the Futures Game on July 13 to showcase his power, but it did attract a lot of new followers.
The 20-year-old from Las Vegas is known for hitting the long ball, as he led the minors with 40 last season and is currently tied for the lead with 31 this season. However, he is starting to become more of a complete hitter compared to a year ago.
Although his batting average has dipped since joining Frisco, Gallo is hitting for average as well as for power. He is just 13 hits shy of his total from last season in 113 fewer at-bats.
Gallo’s bat could have jolted him to the top of the ranking, but as MLB.com says, the rest of his game is a mystery.
Baseball America tabs the Bishop Gorman graduate as having the best infield arm. However, Gallo is still struggling in the hot corner and holds a career .921 fielding percentage at the position. With his limited range, the club could give him more than just one game at first base.
Even with lots of work to do defensively, Gallo’s value is mostly in his bat. He could end up as a designated hitter or get a trial at first base, but his career in the bigs will come soon.
No. 2: RHP Luke Jackson, Triple-A Round Rock
Age: 22, HT: 6’2”, WT: 205
MLB.com ETA: 2015
18 G, 17 GS, 8-2, 1 SV, 95.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 29 BB, 100 SO
Luke Jackson made the biggest move in this list, moving eight spots up from No. 10.
Despite a recent struggle with his new promotion to Round Rock, Jackson has been dominant at every level thus far. He has 17 strikeouts in just 12 innings with the Express but has a 1.50 WHIP for the first time since pitching for Myrtle Beach in 2012.
He has a hard fastball that ranges in the mid-to-upper 90s and mixes in a curveball, slider and a changeup in the mid-80s. MLB.com says his go-to breaking ball is a hard curveball and his slider could become equally effective if he throws it more.
What separates Jackson from Gonzalez and Asher is he has a shot at the rotation and the bullpen. Although good as a starter, the 22-year-old also has the stuff of a late-inning reliever and even potentially a closer. The only game he didn’t start this season ended with him earning a save.
Jackson has been moving right through the system, and his debut should be in the near future. The injury-riddled Rangers will be providing opportunities for their young arms, and the Florida native should be one of them.
No. 1: C Jorge Alfaro, High-A Myrtle Beach
Age: 21, HT: 6’2”, WT: 185
MLB.com ETA: 2016
85 G, .257/.316/.419, 18 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 52 R, 21 BB, 89 SO
With Rougned Odor spending the better part of the season with the parent club, Jorge Alfaro moves into the top spot of this list.
Alfaro still has a lot of work to do behind the plate, as he has only been catching for a few years now. MLB.com says he might have the best arm of any minor league catcher but has 10 errors and 18 passed balls to his credit this season.
Moving to the box, the Colombian backstop has plenty of upside. He has 31 extra-base hits this season, 10 of which are homers. He leads all Carolina League catchers in homers, RBI, runs and hits.
A plus is his athleticism, which has allowed him to leg out 18 doubles and three triples. His stolen-base total is well below his tally with Hickory last season, but he still does swipe an occasional bag.
Of all the prospects in the top 10, Alfaro may have the longest road. He still has lots of development to do behind the plate before his debut comes, but he has great power potential and a bright future.
All stats courtesy of MiLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.
All player profiles can be viewed at MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline.
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