As is right and proper, with the various minor league leagues either coming up on or having already played their All-Star games, it is time for a re-ranking of the top 15 prospects in the Rangers organization.
15. Jose Leclerc
14. Ronald Guzman
13. Ryan Rua
12. Wilmer Font
11. Nick Martinez
Though I did say that Nick Martinez could possibly contribute to the major league club “soon,” before the season, I couldn’t have predicted that he would be a major league starter the first turn through the rotation. Wilmer Font has completely disappointed, losing velocity and not finding command to make up for it. Ryan Rua’s showed that he can indeed hit Double A pitching and handle playing third base, and now he’s working up some first base for his troubles. Ronald Guzman started slow, and has yet to heat up: The first baseman is actually hitting worse through more games than he did in Hickory last season, despite more walks.
These first five in the mid-season rankings are probably the most interchangeable of any, resulting in more of a 11 (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), rather than a true 11-15.
11. Jose Leclerc, RHP, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
One of the more electric relieving arms in the system so far this season, Jose Leclerc has only allowed two runs on three hits in his last ten games, and has a 1.82 ERA in total through 24.2 innings with High-A Myrtle Beach. Leclerc has three pitches: a 93-96 mph fastball and a fantastic 74-76 mph curveball, along with a mid-80s changeup that he mainly uses to throw hitters off balance. Leclerc seems poised to become a closer, as both his arsenal and mound temperament make him suited for the atmosphere around the end of a game.
12. Frank (Aliangel) Lopez, LHP, Hickory Crawdads
Though Frank Lopez didn’t have much to recommend him after his age-19 season in Hickory last year, the now 20-year-old has taken major steps forward and now has a 2.09 ERA in 38.2 innings with the Crawdads. A short, high-arm slot lefty, Lopez has been steadily 89-91 with the fastball this season, but makes up for the seemingly mediocre velocity with extremely advanced command, spotting not only the fastball but the changeup and the curveball exactly where he wants them. Lopez has struck out 42 batters while only walking 10 in his eight games, and though he hasn’t pitched since May 16th, he should hopefully re-enter the Hickory rotation soon.
13. Andrew Faulkner, LHP, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Two current or future relievers make this bottom end of the top-15 list, between Jose Leclerc and 21-year-old lefty Andrew Faulkner. Faulkner currently has a starting role with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, where he has a 2.13 ERA in 63.1 innings, and 63 strikeouts to 22 walks. Faulkner was a 2011 draft pick, and pitched solidly, if not exceptionally, with Hickory in 2012 and 2013, before finding the mix of pitches and consistency that worked for him this season. Despite his current role, many project Faulkner as a reliever long-term due to his delivery and pitch repertoire, which includes a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a high-70s slider, and a developing splitter that could be even more of a weapon pitch in coming years.
14. Christopher Bostick, 2B, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Acquired as a part of the Craig Gentry trade, Christopher Bostick left Oakland’s system as one of their top 10 prospects, a toolsy second baseman with a good feel for hitting. So far as a member of the Rangers’ system, Bostick has re-applied the “topher” to “Chris,” and is hitting .254/.333/.418 with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, not stunning numbers, but the second baseman isn’t drowning in high-A either. His defense has received average grades, with his arm and reflexes likely keeping him at second for the foreseeable future. If Bostick can improve his feel for hitting, and mature into a solid defender, his stock could rise.
15. Ronald Guzman, 1B, Hickory Crawdads
Guzman was part of that impressive group of prospects that went through Arizona in 2012, tearing up the rookie league down there. He had a slightly less impressive campaign in full-season Hickory last season, but still hit well for an 18-year-old in his introduction to long bus trips, though he only played 49 games with the 2013 squad after a knee injury in Spring Training limited his time. This year, Guzman has played 51 games, and is batting .246/.322/.380, all below his numbers last season, despite an additional nine walks. A worrying trend is Guzman’s increased strikeout numbers: Last season, Guzman only struck out 27 times in 49 games, and has already nearly doubled that number in only three more games so far this year, striking out 43 times in 51 games. While it’s far from time to declare the teenager a “bust,” he’ll need to show some major improvements in the second half to keep his top prospect status.