by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
A system once loaded with high-upside, promising prospects, things have gone downhill in recent years. That’s not to say that there aren’t some intriguing players with the potential to make an impact, but the high-end options just don’t seem to be there. Let’s take a look at what’s left, and where the value could come from:
1) Yohander Mendez – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B/B+
Mendez pitched across three levels of the minors, and even got 3.0 innings of work coming out of the Rangers bullpen. While he did pitch well overall, the skills appeared to regress as he moved up levels:
That is a bit of a concern, especially as he owns an 8.6 K/9 overall coming up through the minors. The big question facing him is going to be whether or not he can add a third pitch, which would allow him to fully realize his potential. At 21-years old he still has time, though more seasoning at Triple-A is needed to further his development. Time will tell, but the upside is there.
2) Ariel Jurado – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2018
Grade – B/B+
The placement of Jurado towards the top of these rankings shows you just where things stand at the moment. That’s not to say that he lacks upside, after posting a 2.5 BB/9 and 1.98 GO/AO between High-A and Double-A last season. If he were to bring more in the way of strikeout upside (7.8 K/9 in ’16, including a 7.2 mark at Double-A), he’d be viewed as a significantly better prospect with the potential to rise to an A- grade.
While we don’t see that happening, he’s a “safe” prospect who should definitely reach the Majors and make an impact as a starter. Maybe he settles in at the back of the rotation, but he should arrive and with a strong start at Double-A it wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach Texas late in 2017 (though 2018 is more likely).
3) Leody Taveras – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
You can argue that his upside is the greatest of anyone in the system, though at 18-years old he’s still raw and has significant development to do. That said, playing at Low-A at his age a 19.5% strikeout rate is impressive. His speed will be his best tool, and he should learn to utilize it even more (18 SB in 306 AB across three levels last season). A switch-hitter, he also should be able to add power as he grows into his 6’1” frame, with 12-18 HR annually potentially there. With the upside of a 15/30 type player, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
4) Eric Jenkins – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2019
His .221 average will cause many to be down on Jenkins, but he’s an intriguing prospect with the potential to be a significant asset in short order. He clearly needs to improve his contact rate, as he struck out 27.4% of the time at Single-A last season. That said he swiped 51 bases in 66 attempts, while also showing that he could deliver a bit more power than your prototypical speedster (13 doubles, 9 triples, 8 home runs). This season will tell us a lot about his ultimate development, and if he can cut down the strikeouts his prospect value will quickly soar.
5) Cole Ragans – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2019
The team’s first round pick in 2016, he only tossed 7.2 innings of professional baseball last season. He’s not necessarily an overpowering pitcher, though at 6’4” he has the potential to add a little bit more and reports have him with three strong offerings already. Time will tell, but the upside is there (as you’d expect from a first round selection).
6) Andy Ibanez – Second Baseman (Grade – B-)
7) Ronald Guzman – First Baseman (Grade – B-)
8) Alex Speas – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
9) Brett Martin – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Joe Palumbo – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Note – He spent time as a starter and reliever in ’16, but with 39 K vs. 10 BB over 38.0 IP as a starter in the second half he showed the type of upside we look for. Control has always been the biggest issue (3.7 BB/9), but if he can maintain the improved mark to go along with strikeouts (9.8 K/9) and groundballs (1.65 GO/AO), there is ample upside. He could make a big move up these rankings in ’17.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: