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Texas Rangers Top 20 Prospects

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I really only started paying close attention to our minor league system about 5 years ago, so these are all guys I know. It's nice to know a good bit about a player when he makes his debut. Still, there are a couple guys on this list that are surprises to me.


I just pray Daniels hangs on to these guys and doesn't get any brainstorming ideas again. Luckily, Nolan is around to babysit, and he has to sign off on any deal.








Farm Crop: Rangers' Top 20 Prospects



08/21/2008 10:00 AM ET

Farm Crop: Rangers' Top 20 Prospects

By Jamey Newberg / Special to MLB.com



Not long ago, a list of the legitimate frontline prospects in the Texas Rangers' farm system only went about four or five deep.


Not so these days.


Few teams are as flush in minor league talent as the Rangers are today. The combination of improved drafting (including a willingness to pay above slot to get the right player), a huge resurgence in the international market, and a Herschel Walker-esque flurry of trades in the last week of July 2007 has produced a massive influx of talent into the club's farm system the last couple years. The player development program has executed as well, providing a franchise-record-tying 16 rookies to the big leagues in 2008, and there's more on the way. Lots more.


Each week in this space I'll rank the top 20 prospects in the Rangers system, with two criteria: (1) only players who still have rookie eligibility (fewer than 130 big league at-bats or 50 innings pitched) are candidates for the list, and (2) in order to go as deep into the system as possible, I'll leave off players currently with the big league club. So while Warner Madrigal isn't eligible for this list, for instance, Max Ramirez is.


One other thought before launching into this initial Top 20 list, which I'll adjust each week as players assert themselves even further: I could make a case that there are farm systems in baseball right now whose Top 10 lists aren't as strong as the number 11-20 entries on the list that follows.



The jump to AA may be the toughest in the minor leagues, but it hasn't tripped up the 20-year-old Feliz, who skipped High A altogether. He continues to strike out more than 10 batters per nine innings, has yet to allow a home run in eight AA starts, and punches up triple digits on the radar gun from time to time. Feliz threw five no-hit innings Tuesday night, improving his opponents' batting average for the year to .198.




The greatest breakthrough in the system this year, without question. In his first full season out of Wallace State Community College, Holland has lost one game in 24 starts between Low A, High A, and AA, sporting a 12-1, 2.40 record with 145 strikeouts and 36 walks in 138.2 innings. His power arsenal (featuring a fastball that sits 91-97) is playing up: Clinton opponents hit .228 off Holland, Bakersfield opponents hit .185, and Frisco opponents are hitting .156.




The youngest position player in the Texas League, Andrus hit .260 / .302 / .310 in April, .278/.343/.22 in May, .309/.385/.397 in June, and .330/.382/.423 in July. He's stolen 49 bases and makes every play defensively. Special player.


4. MICHAEL MAIN, RHP, Low A Clinton


Sidelined with a ribcage injury for the first half of the season, the 19-year-old Main has been dominant since returning, striking out more than a batter per inning and walking only a third as many. The Midwest League is hitting just .217 off the athletic righthander, who works in the mid-90s.




Teagarden's year at the plate (.217/.331/.378 in the minors) has been less productive than his 2007 season, but he's a brilliant defender and one of the top catcher prospects in baseball, as evidenced by his selection to the Futures Game in July and Team USA as it competes in Beijing.


6. MAX RAMIREZ, C, AAA Oklahoma


If Justin Smoak hits .315/.415/.520 as a minor leaguer, he'll be on every publication's list of the best prospects in baseball. That's what Ramirez has done offensively in his five pro seasons, and he has shown this year that he's a better catcher than his reputation suggested. Great future.


7. JUSTIN SMOAK, 1B, Clinton


Power from both sides of the plate, good size, outstanding defender at first base. He'll be higher on this list in the spring. Signed minutes before last week's deadline, Smoak should never have fallen to Texas at number 11 in the draft. Perceived signability issues didn't scare the Rangers off.


8. ENGEL BELTRE, CF, Low A Clinton


The youngest position player in the Midwest League, Beltre is built like a middle infielder but throws like Josh Hamilton. Some view him as a leadoff hitter with game-changing speed (though he has alarmingly low walk rates), others think he will hit with middle-of-the-order power. A .208 hitter when Texas insisted that Boston include him with David Murphy and Kason Gabbard in the Eric Gagné trade, Beltre has hit .286 since joining the Rangers.


9. BLAKE BEAVAN, RHP, Low A Clinton


Pitching at age 19 in a league full of hitters three years older, Beaven is 9-6, 2.50 in 21 starts, walking only 1.5 batters per nine innings. Outstanding pro debut for the Irving product, whose ERA in his last nine starts is a sparkling 1.47.


10. KASEY KIKER, LHP, High A Bakersfield


Kiker, still just 20, is unfairly overlooked because of the massive influx of new talent since he arrived in 2006. Pitching against older competition in the hitter-friendly California League, the southpaw is 5-4, 4.18 with a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, posting a 2.39 ERA in the second half.


11. WILMER FONT, RHP, Rookie-Level Arizona League


The Rangers are exercising understandable caution with the 18-year-old, who stands a sturdy 6'4" and touches 98 on the radar gun. The club held him back in extended spring training with shoulder fatigue, and then a knee issue delayed his season until this week, when he showed up in the AZL. Font debuted in that league last year, racking up 61 strikeouts in 45.2 innings.




A plus defender in center field, the Rangers envision Borbon as a leadoff hitter with gap power. So far, so good: one year into his pro career, he's hit over .300 and reached base at a .350 clip between High A and AA, stealing 49 bases in 65 tries.


13. MARTIN PEREZ, LHP, Short-Season A Spokane


Huge upside for the 17-year-old from Venezuela, whom Texas signed for nearly $600,000 last summer. Pitching against competition four to five years older this season, Perez has held his own in the Northwest League, striking out seven batters per nine innings and posting a 4.26 ERA.


14. NEIL RAMIREZ, RHP, Short-Season A Spokane


The 19-year-old, taken by Texas in the supplemental first round last summer, has 37 strikeouts in 32 innings this season, holding the Northwest League to a .164 batting average. Ramirez has electric stuff, featuring a mid-90s fastball-power curve combination that has elicited John Smoltz and A.J. Burnett comparisons.


15. WILFREDO BOSCAN, RHP, Short-Season A Spokane


Phenomenal season for the 18-year-old Venezuelan, who is 8-0, 3.02 with 59 strikeouts and an unfathomable eight walks in 56.2 innings, not to mention one of the best groundball rates of any starter in the system.


16. JOSE VALLEJO, 2B, AA Frisco


A standout defender with eye-opening range, good hands, and a strong arm, the 21-year-old is having his best year at the plate. A .253 hitter with five career home runs in four seasons coming into 2008, he's hitting .293 with 11 homers this year between High A and AA, to go along with 37 steals in 41 tries.




His big league debut was shaky, but in what would otherwise be his junior season in college, Hunter has had a phenomenal year, going 12-8, 3.68 at the High A, AA, and AAA levels, getting into the seventh inning on average, issuing fewer than two walks per nine innings, and flashing a solid breaking ball.


18. GERMAN DURAN, IF, AAA Oklahoma


Don't be discouraged by the .225/.279/.363 line he put up in sporadic work for the Rangers this spring. The 24-year-old was impressive defensively and showed some pop at the plate. Suffering a season-ending thumb injury in July, he's a candidate for a big league utility role going into 2009.




The former catcher has had a difficult season, striking out more than a third of the time and hitting just .223/.288/.392. There's still plenty of time for the 19-year-old, who has 15 home runs in 422 pro at-bats, but he'll be expected to take a step forward in 2009.


20. ROBBIE ROSS, LHP, Unassigned


Signed for mid-first-round money last week, the 2008 second-rounder won't make his pro debut until 2009. A short but athletic fastball-slider-change pitcher, Ross will report to the Rangers' fall instructional league program next month and give Texas its first chance to work with the newest member of its growing stable of promising lefthanders.






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