Martin Perez is the Rangers' best pitching prospect (Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images via AP Images).
Tuesday, Feb 14 at 5:05 PM
The good times keep on rolling for the Texas Rangers' front office.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, a well-known prospect maven, released his annual list of baseball's Top 101 prospects today. You can find the entire list here
. As expected, the Rangers are well represented. The organization placed five of its players on the list and one of them cracked the top five. While the list is a fascinating one, and a must-read for any baseball fan, this is Ranger territory. So without further ado, here's where the little Rangers stacked up on the list:
#4. Jurickson Profar(SS): Only topped by Tampa Bay's newest pitching phenom Matt Moore, Nationals super stud outfielder Bryce Harper, and future superstar Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Profar has climbed the rankings with a fury. This 18 year old's ceiling is absolutely insane. His offensive production at high single-A Hickory was quite impressive (a .286/.390/.493 slash and the league MVP title). He's a very instinctive player with a strong arm, andis projected to be at laest an average defensive shortstop.
As I noted in my blog on Elvis Andrus' and Profar's futures with the club, Profar is projected to wield a better bat than Andrus. The fact that he is so highly ranked while so young is a testament to how well the Rangers' scouts in Latin America are doing in finding gold nuggets of talent.
#36. Martin Perez(LHP): The previous top prospect in the Rangers system before Profar exploded onto the scene, the 20 year old southpaw starter takes a bit of a fall for the second straight year. In 2010, Goldstein ranked Perez as the #15 prospect in all of baseball. In 2011, he dropped all the way to #33 on the list. Now in 2012 he settles down at #36, which is not altogether shocking.
Perez spent last year between AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock, notching a 4.33 ERA between the two. That would not normally be concerning, but his ERA at Frisco was 3.16. At the higher level, it jumped to 6.43. Even in 2010, his full season Frisco ERA was a scary 5.96. Even though Perez is still well regarded in the Rangers organization, his upward tick in numbers is starting to become a worry. And rightfully so.
#45. Mike Olt(3B): The second infielder Texas places on the list is Olt, the 23-year old 2010 first rounder. He spent his initial year in the Rangers organization at Spokane, the low single A club, and tore it a new one, batting .293/.390/.464 that initial year. He held form in Myrtle Beach in 2011, lowing his batting average by about 30 points while increasing his slugging percentage by almost 40 points. The real breakout for Olt was in this year's Arizona Fall League, where he demolished the league with a .349/.433/.764 slash to go along with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs.
Olt also plays a mean third base, with scouts grading him among the very best hot corner-defenders in all of the minors. But with Adrian Beltre blocking Olt at third, the discussion has now shifted to whether the organization will move him to first base, where there is not much depth. Regardless of the position, Olt should be a solid bat at the next level.
#77 Neil Ramirez(RHP): Another first round selection (class of 2007), Ramirez has been an underrated and, to some, unknown quantity buried under names like Perez, Profar and Tanner Scheppers. 2011 was a tumultuous year for Ramirez, who pitched on three different levels(Myrtle Beach, Frisco, and Round Rock) and posted a 3.12 ERA across the trio. He started one game as a Pelican, six with Frisco, and 18 in Round Rock.
His strikeouts per nine innings was an impressive 10.4, and he allowed 0.7 home runs per nine. At 22, he's matured quickly and if he can continue his success for another season at Round Rock a promotion could come his way sometime in the summer. While Perez is more highly ranked and more visible, Ramirez is certainly someone to keep your eye on through Spring Training.
#101 Jorge Alfaro(C): The last Ranger on the list, as well as the last player on the list in general is Alfaro. Another 18 year old prospect, he spent last year in Spokane and posted a slash of .300/.345/.481. For any hitter, that's very solid. For a catcher, it's extremely impressive. For an organization that has harbored prospects like Taylor Teagarden in recent years, a well-hitting catcher is a welcome sight.
Defensively, he is unpolished and need a lot of work. But that's expected of 18-year olds. Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks (who manages a Rangers-specific site which you should absolutely check out
) graded Alfaro's arm as a 70 (on the scouting scale, which only reaches 80) calling it his "best weapon" while also citing the potential for growth as he gets older and gains strength. Alfaro is another name gaining a lot of momentum, and with the catching situation somewhat hazy up and down the system it looks like 'All systems go' to make Alfaro the catcher of the future if he continues his success.
Those are the five that Texas proper placed on the list. However, the team can take credit for two other names on this list. #53 Robbie Erlin and #74 Joe Wieland also made the list as members of the San Diego Padres organization. The pair of pitchers were the cost of acquiring reliever Mike Adams at the trade deadline last season. While they are no longer Rangers, the fact that Texas found these two and grew them into assets is a testament to the good work the team is doing in player development.
They've achieved one of the wonderful things in baseball: developing prospects that not only can play for the big club, but which other teams value enough that they want to acquire them. Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder when it comes to prospects, but acquiring high-level major league talent for two kids who haven't been above double A yet makes it clear that Texas prospects are in high demand. The Rangers are built to win now, and have the budding stars still growing in the minors to win in the future. That's a welcome sight for fans, and a frightening one for the rest of baseball.