Two weeks ago, we took a look at the top hitters in the Rangers organization, and this week we'll look at the non-hitting tools: the best runners, the best arms, and the best defenders.
The fastest runner in the Rangers' organization is unequivocally Myrtle Beach outfielder Chris Garia. Regularly turning in times from home to first around 3.8 to 4.0 seconds, the Curacao native leads the farm system in triples, with 11, and stolen bases, with 34. Though Garia has primarily played center field, he still looks fairly raw there, but grades on his defense have improved throughout the 2014 season. If he can figure out the positional demands, his 80-grade speed coupled with a potential uptick in offensive performance could make Garia one of the Rangers' more interesting prospects.
Although there's not anyone reportedly as fast as Garia, several Rangers prospects will routinely hit first in around or a little above four seconds, including Frisco's Jake Skole and Hickory's Evan Van Hoosier and Ryan Cordell. Myrtle Beach's Jorge Alfaro also has some speed, if usually averaging 4.3 seconds to first as a catcher can be called 'some.'
The Rangers also have a couple of incredible arms floating around the system, including the cannons belonging to Preston Beck, Joey Gallo, and obviously, Alfaro. Unlike, say, speed or hitting, arm strength is a little harder to quantify, especially if the owner of a large arm spends a great deal of his time at first base.
Despite his marooning at the least arm-necessary position for a good deal of this season, Texas-native Beck regularly impressed scouts with his arm from the outfield in 2013, tallying 13 assists from right last season. Gallo reportedly hit 95 off the mound in his senior year of high school, giving him an 80-grade arm as a pitcher, something that translates to third base. Though he won't unleash the arm often, the few times he's shown it off have been impressive, and if he eventually makes a move to the outfield, imagining him and Leonys Martin throwing out runners could make Rangers fans a little giddy. Alfaro's arm is just one of the many tools the heralded prospect possesses, but it might be his best, as far as raw strength. Despite the fact that he still needs work on the technical aspects of catching in order to utilize the full potential of his arm, if he can put everything together the package could be terrifying to opposing runners.
Finally, 'glove,' or defensive ability. The best defenders are those who make their task look easy, quietly doing their job better than anyone else. The Rangers have a reputation for hoarding up-the-middle talent, and with good reason, as two shortstops and a center fielder make up the top-reviewed gloves in the system.
Lewis Brinson's defense in center field has been described as 'gliding,' 'smooth,' or 'easy,' and though you're not likely to see him make a diving catch, it's only because he can get there standing up. Another one of the Rangers' speedsters, the 20-year-old's grace and instincts make him one of the best defensive center field prospects the system has seen in a while, and his bat isn't going to hold him back either.
At only 17, Michael De Leon isn't just hitting above .200 in full-season ball, but has regularly shown the kind of glove that could develop into something quite special. De Leon demonstrated his potential in his one game with Double-A Frisco this season, capping his first-ever professional appearance by turning the second half of a difficult double-play with ease. Like all young shortstops, De Leon has had his share of errors, especially trying to make plays probably best left un-attempted, but that sort of mistake is corrected through experience and repetition at the position.
Formerly of Hickory, and currently in Spokane, Hawaiian shortstop Isaiah Kiner-Falefa has four fewer errors than De Leon between short and second base, as one would expect from someone over a year older. Though Kiner-Falefa's batting dropped him down to the short-season league, his glove is another example of a young advanced defender with good range, reportedly making nice plays deep in the hole with the desired smooth actions.
As far as defense at the catcher position, Frisco's Pat Cantwell outstrips the farm. Not only is the former Stony Brook and College World Series backstop able to call a good game, and handle all of the pitchers he's responsible for receiving, he's also throwing out 33 percent of attempted base thieves this season. Cantwell has additionally shown the kind of disregard for his own personal safety that leads to highlight-reel plays, including one up against a camera well.
Though hitting remains one of the top concerns for any prospect, these additional tools could mean the difference between Triple A and the majors.