The addition of Leonys Martin dramatically improved the Rangers' talent level in center field.
Texas approaches the 2011 draft with improving positional talent but a lack of premium bats.
It sounds a little funny to say something like this, but the greatest weakness in the Rangers organization is ... offense. The major league team has a lot of it, but the best of those players - Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, etc. - are not locked up for another half decade. Below them, the organization is developing a lot of things, but it's not developing big bats. Mike Olt, a supplemental first rounder last summer, is the best offensive prospect in the system and is one of very promising few corner prospects, and even he shouldn't be classified as a "bopper." With that general organizational need stated, let's take a positional look at the farm system leading into next week's 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft with 0-10 ratings for potential impact talent and overall depth.
Impact Talent - 5
Depth - 4
We will see this for several positions, but the Texas organization features its best catching prospects at the lower levels, with slim pickings closer to the majors. Jorge Alfaro is one of the most exciting players in the organization and possesses a powerful arm and an even more powerful bat, but he'll want to show this summer in a short season league that he's made dramatic improvement since his .222/.278/.291 showing in the Dominican Summer League last summer. Fellow teen Tomas Telis has his feet on the ground in full season ball after missing most of last season to Tommy John surgery. He has caught the majority of his 48 games and has even flashed a little home run pop. Kellin Deglan was a first rounder last June and has struggled while being pushed in full season assignment to start this season. A step back to Spokane once the NW League season starts would not be a shocker. 2010 signee Fernando Vivili is with the DSL team and shows some promise as well.
Taylor Teagarden and Jose Felix man the primary receiver spots for Round Rock and Frisco, and both are adept defensively with little to no offensive upside. Vincent DiFazio and last year's sixth rounder Brett Nicholas have spent time in Myrtle Beach with underwhelming results.
Jon Daniels has said in the past that he looks to add catching in every draft, every trade and every international class. He looks to have had the most success with the last of those three, as his drafts have not yielded promising results. Blake Swihart, a high school catcher/bat from New Mexico, is ranked as a mid-first talent and would be enticing to Texas if he falls due to bonus demands. High schooler Austin Hedges and Oregon State's Andrw Susac could also be early considerations.
Impact Talent - 0
Depth - 1
This is by far the worst position in the system now that Mitch Moreland and Justin Smoak are starting in the majors. Chad Tracy was drafted two rounds ahead of Chris Davis in 2006 and has been a solid minor league hitter since 2008, but few regard him as a regular major leaguer. Davis is legitimate at first and third, but he's technically no longer a prospect and is on his last option. The Rangers pursued Jose Ruiz last spring after his defection from Cuba but were beaten out by the Rays. Tampa was so impressed by him that they allowed him to become a free agent once again over the winter. Texas signed him this time, and he's been better in Frisco than he was in Montgomery. He's still 26 and basically just holding his own in Double-A. Jared Bolden and Andrew Clark have been the primary guys for the two Class A clubs, and neither looks like a serious prospect.
With the success of Smoak and Moreland, this has been one of the more successful positions in Daniels' drafts. Big (6-4, 240) C.J. Cron out of Utah has a low first round grade and would give the system its only true 1B prospect. A little lower down, Ricky Oropesa and Aaron Westlake provide two more college options.
Impact Talent - 5
Depth - 4
While the Rangers have nothing but organizational players at the top levels here, things get interesting in the lower half of the system. The most advanced name worth mentioning is Santiago Chirino, Myrtle Beach's guy in his first full season assignment. He's a solid professional player but not a legit prospect. Odubel Herrera is Jurickson Profar's double-play partner in Hickory. He's a quality defender at 19 and a part of one of the youngest lineups in full season ball.
We haven't seen the best prospects in game action yet. Rougned Odor was signed over the winter and looks likely to feature for the AZL club when it begins play later this month. He looks like a true offensive second baseman in the (poor man's) mold of Robbie Cano. Hanser Alberto will probably be his middle infield partner, but popular opinion is that he slides over to second in time. He might be the best pure hitter in the entire organization. Drew Robinson has also played some shortstop, but last summer's fourth rounder also projects as a solid hitting 2B. Carlos Triunfel's little brother Alberto was among the latest group of international signees and will probably play all around the infield for the DSL club.
Kolten Wong from Hawaii is a pure 2B with a good, albeit somewhat light bat. He's an offensive player with some potential versatility defensively.
Impact Talent - 8
Depth - 6
This is your other spot with fillers at the upper levels and serious talent below. Profar and Luis Sardinas look right now like the real studs, though Sardinas was set back by a shoulder injury late last year and has not played in 2011. Profar is arguably the best position prospect in the organization at age 18 and has stepped up to the full season level beautifully. The Rangers have one of the desperately few high end shortstop prospects in baseball, which puts them in a strong position as they negotiate extensions with Elvis Andrus and trades for impact major leaguers. Leury Garcia is another toolsy guy a level higher at Myrtle Beach, but his bat hasn't come yet.
Lower level shortstop prospects have to prove their worthiness at the position, but the Rangers like 2010 signees Nick Urbanus (Netherlands) and Luis Marte (Dominican).
Shortstop is a real possibility for the Rangers with those top two picks. HS talents Javier Baez and Trevor Story (of Irving) and Levi Michael of North Carolina all have grades in their range. Story in particular has been projected to the Rangers at No. 33 in several mock drafts.
Impact Talent - 7
Depth - 5
Olt leads the way here at a position a little more balanced across levels. His full season debut at Myrtle Beach has only confirmed the Rangers' feeling that he is a legit major league 3B. Tommy Mendonca was jumped to Frisco despite a mediocre 2010 to give him playing time. He has turned in a solid season so far, but 60 strikeouts (and just ten walks) in 48 games means he still has to make more contact. He, like Olt, is a solid defender. Christian Villanueva has quietly established himself as one of the best position prospects in the system. He has more than held his own offensively at Hickory.
The Rangers have used high picks on this position in Daniels' tenure, to mixed results. Tracy and Davis were their 3rd and 5th rounders in 2006, and both have spent time at the hot corner. Matt West was the 2nd rounder in 2007, picked after the five first rounders. He washed out there, but he's now showing promise on the mound. Mendonca was the second rounder in 2009, and Olt the 1s in '10. Cory Spangenberg, a JC player from Florida, is the one true 3B expected to be picked around Texas' top picks. He is a pure hitter from the left side and surprisingly fast for a third baseman.
Impact Talent - 7
Depth - 5
This position received a huge boost when the Rangers signed Cuban Leonys Martin a little over a month ago. Since reporting to Frisco, Martin has been everything the Rangers could have hoped, jumping right into U.S. ball at age 23 and dominating the strike zone while showing a little pop and potential in center field. His arm and approach at the plate set him apart from Julio Borbon, though he doesn't quite have Borbon's speed. Martin's arrival has nudged Engel Beltre to the side literally and figuratively. Martin plays center most nights, while Beltre typically slides to right field. His third stab at Double-A has gone poorly offensively, as Beltre has shown little progress in approach or results. He's still a five-tool talent, though, and is still just 21.
Ryan Strausborger, last year's 16th rounder out of Indiana State, has been a pleasant surprise for Myrtle Beach, hitting .291/.355/.483 for the Pelicans and stealing 16 bases through 52 games. He'll have to continue to prove himself, but he's placed himself on the map. Teodoro Martinez has moved steadily from DSL to rookie ball in the U.S. to making his full season debut just after his 19th birthday. He's held his own in the South Atlantic League, but he has adjustments to make all over the field. Last June's 3rd rounder Jordan Akins has not made his 2011 debut, and he may well wind up in a corner. But his tools match up with anyone in the organization.
Jackie Bradley and Brandon Nimmo are among the most likely possibilities for the Rangers with their top two picks. Bradley may scream a little too much Drew Meyer for Rangers fans, but Nimmo fits the toolsy profile for a premium Texas pick.
Impact Talent - 3
Depth - 2
The Rangers added quite a bit of corner outfield talent in last year's draft in top pick Jake Skole and midrounders Jared Hoying and Josh Richmond. Hoying was one of the best players in the NWL last summer but is still adjusting to the CL in his first full season. Skole has improved his control of the strike zone at Hickory but has not seen his power potential appear in games. He has just 7 XBH in 45 games. Richmond is off to a nice start once again at Hickory. Mike Bianucci and Joey Butler are nice players at the upper levels but don't project as regulars.
Alex Dickerson, Dwight Smith and Brian Goodwin all offer quality left-handed bats and are projected as supplemental round talents.
Next up: Pitchers