SURPRISE, Ariz. – Coming off an impressive debut summer that included 22 home runs in 59 games at…
Rangers Top Prospects, Top Tools
As we do before each season, Lone Star Dugout profiles the top pitching, offensive, and defensive tools in the Texas Rangers' system. But there's a new twist this year, as we turn to the scouts for their opinions. With each top tool, you'll find a scout quote commenting on that player's specific tool in addition to three "honorable mention" players. Please note that the honorable mentions are not ranked––they are listed in alphabetical order. Offensive Honors Best Hit Tool: Jurickson Profar – "From both sides of the plate, he shows the ability to square up the baseball on a consistent basis. He shows an advanced hit tool for a 19-year-old with future projection to be one of the better-hitting middle infielders in the game." Honorable Mention: Hanser Alberto, Ronald Guzman, Rougned Odor Best Raw Power: Joey Gallo – "I think there's always going to be swing and miss with that guy. I really do. But when you're looking at it, you've got a chance to be a 45-ish bat but a chance to hit 30-plus home runs. My comp is Adam Dunn-ish. I think you can't take away from what he did last year, even with the swing and miss. That kind of premium tool––you could literally hang an 8 on the raw power. There aren't many guys that young with that type of leverage and knock in their swing." Honorable Mention: Jairo Beras, Nomar Mazara, Mike Olt Best Plate Discipline: Jurickson Profar – "For such a young age, he has an innate ability to pick out pitches he can drive early in the count. He doesn't really chase out of the zone. It's a passive-aggressive approach that's pretty damn good." Honorable Mention: Ronald Guzman, Mike Olt, Drew Robinson Profar has excellent instincts. Best Base Runner: Jurickson Profar – Profar wins the honor in this category, but one scout was particularly eager to talk about Leury Garcia's potential base running skills: "The speed is obvious. But he looks to use his speed in all situations, and that's something you want to see out of guys with that tool; he's aggressive and learning when he can and can't run." Honorable Mention: Leury Garcia, Chris Grayson, Luis Sardinas Best Raw Speed: Chris Garia – "It's just some of the easiest top-end speed I've ever seen. He really looked like he was running on top of the dirt––not into it. It definitely plays better when it's underway than it does out of the box right now. It just depends on how committed he is to staying within his approach. For me, the biggest part of his speed is that it's going to be there three years from now, and it's going to be there seven years from now." Honorable Mention: Leury Garcia, Luis Sardinas, Nick Williams Pitching Honors Best Fastball for Starting Pitcher: Luke Jackson – "Everything he throws plays off the angle; the fastball flashes plus run and sink with plus velocity." Honorable Mention: Justin Grimm, Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez Best Fastball for Relief Pitcher: Wilmer Font – "The strikeout numbers are the proof that his fastball has a chance to play very well in the late innings at the major league level. Currently speaking, that's his only pitch, and he doesn't command it very well. But to get that many swings and misses with that combination speaks very strongly to that pitch." Honorable Mention: Keone Kela, Roman Mendez, Connor Sadzeck Best Curveball: Justin Grimm – "It's a downer curveball with good feel to both sides of the plate. He was able to get outs both in and out of the zone with the pitch, and to me, that's the key to the next level; you need to be able to get outs in the zone with your pitch mix." Honorable Mention: Cody Buckel, C.J. Edwards, Luke Jackson Brigham's slider is a definite plus pitch. Best Cutter/Slider: Jake Brigham – "Brigham's slider is a wipeout. It's a put-away pitch with very late, hard depth and a little whip. For me, it's not a strike-zone type, but it's one that hitters don't see until late." In a vacuum, Brigham's slider is probably the best in the Rangers' system. But one National League pro scout argued that Nick Tepesch's hard cut-slider plays better in games: "I think Tepesch's slider is better because of the way it works off his pitch mix––off his other stuff. I think Brigham's slider is very good, but I don't think it's as effective when you combine it with his other stuff as Tepesch's is. It works off his fastball and changeup extremely well. The plane, release point match up extremely well. It's premium velocity for a slider and an out pitch." Honorable Mention: Randy Henry, Joe Ortiz, Nick Tepesch Best Changeup: Martin Perez – "When Perez is locating his fastball, the changeup is a devastating out pitch. It's about a 40 when he's not locating. But it's about a 65 when he's able to do that and set it up." Honorable Mention: Cody Buckel, Yohander Mendez, Justin Grimm Best Control: Cody Buckel – "You've got a guy that has a feel for all of his pitches, and for manipulating all of his pitches. He can run them on and off the edges of the plate. He definitely projects for plus command. Overall, he has feel for everything he does. I think that's the most important thing; there's still a little projection there." Honorable Mention: Alec Asher, Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch Best Overall Potential: Martin Perez – "The package that everyone fell in love with a few years ago is still there. He still shows flashes of that future potential. The lack of command has tempered some of the excitement on Perez. But when it's all said and done, it's a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher who can flash three average-to-above average pitches every time he touches the mound; there aren't many players out there like that right now." Honorable Mention: Cody Buckel, Justin Grimm, Luke Jackson Defensive Honors Best Defensive Outfielder: Engel Beltre – "He's an above-average major league defender in center field with the ability to go get the ball in all directions. He's an aggressive thrower who looks for outs on the bases. As his game has matured, so has the consistency in center field, allowing him to be an elite defender on a nightly basis." Honorable Mention: Lewis Brinson, Leonys Martin, Ryan Strausborger Best Defensive Middle Infielder: Luis Sardinas – "Of all the shortstops that I saw last year, I think he's got the best range––the first-step quickness and the ability to read the ball off the bat. The actions are easy with the same kind of natural instincts that Profar shows. It's easy, it's loose, and it's natural for the position. He's got good arm strength and quickness. The (defensive) tools grade out to be higher than anyone in their system." Honorable Mention: Leury Garcia, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar Olt is excellent at third base – but what about first? Best Defensive Corner Infielder: Mike Olt – "I think he has a chance to be an elite defender at third base. I'm not saying that he's Adrian Beltre or is going to take Beltre's job. But he could be in that same kind of class. The do-or-die play is something he does as well as anyone. He's more athletic than he looks. He moves well and maintains balance on his throws to both sides. He throws with accuracy and a quick release. You look at him and think, ‘That's not what an elite defender looks like.' It's not a twitchy athlete and it's not an 8 arm, but his ability to play that position––he just has a knack for it. He'll make plays to both sides and going back on balls. "I don't think first base would be a question for me. I think he could play there––I don't see why not. He has good hands and he's a good athlete. He wouldn't be above-average size for a first baseman, but he's certainly not too small for a first baseman." Best Defensive Catcher: Kellin Deglan – "He's a strong target and a strong presence behind the plate with receiving skills. You can still project a little bit. It's plus arm strength. The transfer, he's still working on, but it's workable and should get better. He's going to be a true catch-and-throw guy at the big league level." Honorable Mention: Jorge Alfaro, Pat Cantwell, David Lyon Best Arm Behind the Plate: Jorge Alfaro – "The arm––I don't think it's ever going to play as it reads when he stands up and throws. With that being said, his athleticism and the impact he can bring to that profile offensively, I think some of the catching deficiencies can be overlooked. I put his arm strength as a 65." Honorable Mention: Kellin Deglan, Jose Felix, Joe Maloney Best Outfield Range: Engel Beltre – See above quote on Beltre's overall outfield defense. Honorable Mention: Lewis Brinson, Leonys Martin, Ryan Strausborger Best Outfield Arm: Preston Beck – "I saw him in the spring as an amateur, and he showed me at 7 arm at times. Sometimes I don't think it plays as a 7 because he can wind up and takes the extra step. I think it'll be able to play at 7, but he's going to need to refine his footwork." Honorable Mention: Royce Bolinger, Engel Beltre, Lewis Brinson Best Infield Range: Leury Garcia – "It's just natural. He's an 8 runner with extremely quick feet and quick reactions. He plays to the ball well; he plays angles well. He comes in on balls well. It's just that the game gets a little fast for him at times, though that doesn't have anything to do with the pure range." Honorable Mention: Luis Marte, Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas Best Infield Arm: Joey Gallo – "Gallo's got a 65-70 arm. It doesn't play that way because it's a longer throwing stroke. His feet are bad. He's never in a really good position to use it. There's some shoulder restriction. He's been up to 97 mph on the mound. But at third base, it plays down due to slow exchange, feet, and below-average accuracy." Honorable Mention: Leury Garcia, Luis Marte, Mike Olt
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