- C – Max Morales – 18 yo
- 3.49/.862 – PAG/APPA – (Dominican Summer League)
- 2016 stats: .239/.372/.438; .810 OPS; 9 doubles, 9 home runs; 7 stolen bases
From the time UTRMinors adopted the American League into our work, the Rangers have always been an organization we look forward to breaking down. On my side of the ball, they possess one of the most hitter-rich lineup of prospects each and every year with catcher always being a strength. It didn’t come as a surprise when the Rangers dealt uber prospect Jorge Alfaro to the Phillies for pitching ace Cole Hamels on the July 31st trade deadline back in 2015. Even with Alfaro gone, catching was still strong headlined by former UTR OAS (from 2014) Jose Trevino. With the current catching landscape, there’s a bit more of a gap between the majors and Trevino with Alfaro now gone. All-Star Jonathan Lucroy won’t have to worry about Trevino or 2010 – 6th rounder Brett Nichols cutting into his time. However, one difference is the bigger logjam of catchers in the minors. According to my numbers, it was a banner year fronted by 18-year-old Max Morales. Looking at his batting average, you might wonder how 2016 was a great year. I look at the law of averages. Over 40% of his hits went for extra bases, he led all catchers HiA and below in walks (40), ranked second in the DSL in home runs and caught 32 percent of would-be base stealers. All for a kid who’s been catching for less than a year. I expect the former third baseman to get much better and possibly push for Texas’ top catching prospect title in the near future.
- 1B – Curtis Terry – 19 yo
- 2.98/.769 combined – PAG/APPA – (Arizona League – 2.86/.741; Short Season Spokane – 1.89/.541)
- 2016 stats: .285/.333/.488; .822 OPS; 18 doubles, 5 home runs
Much like with catcher, the Texas first base vector may offer up different names, but it carries the same incredible depth. 2011 international free-agent signee out of the Dominican Republic Ronald Guzman is rightfully assumed as the future at the position. According to MiLB.com, in his (2012) debut season, Guzman led the AZL with 68 hits and in 2015 led all Ranger prospects with 87 RBi’s. In UTR fashion though, digging what’s underneath is our forte. HiA and below offered an interesting array of prospects. If the OAS choice was based on fundamental stats alone, 2015 – 7th rounder (Central Florida) Dylan Moore got the job done here. But if I’m looking at only PAG/APPA averages, then you have to throw 19-year-old Dominican Andretty Cordero into the mix; leading all first basemen with a 3.87 Despite the statistical tug of war we place upon ourselves when using our metrics, we also have to look at age, overall UTR ranking and projection. Jim sorts out whether a pitcher is destined to start or relieve. I assess position players and all those tools they possess. This brings me to 2015 – 13th rounder Curtis Terry, and the one tool that helped him make this year’s list: power. Some scouts say that the Archer HS (Lawrenceville, GA) draftee has the most power in the system behind only Joey Gallo. In only 39 Arizona League games, the 6’2″ – 255 lb. righty posted a slugging percentage of .525 and led the league with 17 doubles. Terry also led all UTR first basemen with a .490 extra-base percentage and carries a (short) career mark of .475. Terry has a way to go to make his mark as a true prospect. I expect he’ll spend all of 2017 with Short Season Spokane. But boy, if he could continue to become a hitter while tapping into his already massive power, the sky is the limit for this kid.
- 2B – Yonny Hernandez – 18 yo
- 3.85/.864 – PAG/APPA – (DSL Rangers 1)
- 2016 stats: .293/.402/.367; .769 OPS; 4 doubles, 6 triples; 32 stolen bases; 37:22 BB:K
It was clear why the Rangers traded top second base prospect Travis Demeritte to the Atlanta Braves for starter Lucas Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez last July. It’s because Andy Ibanez is a force at second base. He can do it all on both sides of the ball. He’s a gold glove caliber fielder, has power, speed and according to MLB Pipeline, has drawn comparisons to (now) Phillies outfielder (and former second baseman) Howie Kendrick. If you’re in a league that houses minor leaguers, pick up the young Cuban immediately. This leaves me with a clean UTR slate and my OAS focus zeroes right in on Venezuelan teenager Yonny Hernandez. The rail-thin Dominican signed with Texas in 2014 and began his pro career in 2015 with the DSL1 Rangers posting a .233/.366/.273/.639 slash line and 2.68/.634 PAG/APPA. This season the 5’9″ – 150 lb. switch hitter repeated the DSL and boosted his game ranking fourth in the league in walks, third in the league in triples and second in stolen bases and runs scored (55). Hernandez has a long, long way to go to become a prominent prospect in the system. This past season is a great springboard to a possible assignment to either the Arizona League, or maybe even an aggressive assignment to Short Season Spokane of the Northwest League.
- 3B – Juremi Profar – 20 yo
- 3.29/.798 – PAG/APPA – (HiA High Desert)
- 2016 stats: .300/.355/.473; .827 OPS; 23 doubles, 13 home runs
One of the funniest things to see during the major league baseball season is watching Ranger teammates doing their best to try to touch veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre‘s head. It’s widely known through MLB that Beltre despises having his head touched. Bleacherreport.com writer Dan Carson wrote a telling piece about Beltre’s repulsion that you can read here. Despite not liking his head touched, one thing the 37-year-old might have to start doing however is look over his shoulder because there are several young prospects near ready to break through. Top prospect Josh Morgan is one. Morgan batted .300 with 19 doubles and 7 home runs for HiA High Desert this year. Another is my choice for Ranger’s OAS third baseman, Juremi Profar. The younger brother of fellow Texas Ranger Jurickson, Juremi finally tapped into the power scouts said he possessed since signing a free-agent contract out of Curacao back in 2013. Sure, did playing in the California League help? I’m certain that played a part. However, it shouldn’t diminish the fact that the 20-year-old Profar still has room to grow, contains enough power (you don’t hit 38 extra-base hits by accident) and plus defense at both corner infield spots to give you hope that he will develop into yet another top infield prospect in the Rangers system. I expect Profar to be challenged with an assignment to Double A Frisco in 2017.
- SS – Anderson Tejeda – 18 yo
- 3.91/.896 combined – PAG/APPA – (DSL1 – 4.36/1.021; AZL – 3.69/.831; Short Season Spokane – 4.00/.929)
- 2016 stats combined: .283/.326/.520; .847 OPS; 14 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs
Sometimes Jim and I get the question, “Do you look at top prospect lists before you compile each UTR OAS list?” The answer is no. One thing we’ve learned over the years is trust and discipline with our work. We trust our metrics and we’re disciplined enough that what we do will produce good results. So, one thing I didn’t have to do is look at any Ranger top prospect lists to determine that Texas is absolutely loaded at the middle infield position. And after scanning all the shortstops, another thing was clear. The top shortstop prospect discussion (for me) begins and ends with Anderson Tejeda. At 18 years old, the 5’11” – 160 lb. Dominican was one of only 9 minor leaguers to hit double digit home runs, triples and doubles. Tejeda is one of those prospects that fits the mold of his position and then some, as scouts rave about his raw power. He began his career in 2015 with the DSL1 squad, and after 14 games was promoted to DSL2. He hit a combined .312 with 19 doubles, six triples and four home runs; posting a 3.95/.923 PAG/APPA. This season he started again with DSL1 and after 11 games, finally came state side to the Arizona League and exploded registering 19 extra-bases including a league leading six triples in only 32 games. Tejeda ended the season with Short Season Spokane. In 23 games, he logged only 9 extra-base hits, but eight of them were home runs. The only knock on the lefty Tejeda is his plate discipline (43:122 BB:K in 121 games) and his need to tighten up his his defense (37 errors at SS in two seasons) Regardless of his few flaws, Tejeda is a star in the making and should be the target of any and every fantasy player looking for a future impact middle infielder. Tejeda could start 2017 at LoA Hickory and a mid-season promotion to HiA isn’t out of the question.
- LF – Scott Heineman – 23 yo
- 3.96/.869 – PAG/APPA – (HiA High Desert)
- 2016 stats: .303/.386/.505; .891 OPS; 39 doubles, 17 home runs; 30 stolen bases.
Let’s cut right to it. I’m not sure there’s a prospect in the entire system who, 1) logged a season like the 6’1″ – 215 lb. righty; and 2) ever had this enormous a debut. Heineman was drafted in the 11th round in 2015 out of Oregon, but didn’t make his pro debut until this year and what a debut it was. Not only did Heineman lead the HiA High Desert squad in hits (159), runs scored (96), triples (8), stolen bases, but led the entire organization (including the major league roster) in doubles. It’s obvious Heineman can hit for power, but his 30 steals ranked fifth among all minor league Ranger prospects. The former Duck is also a superior defender. Back in 2013 while playing for Brewster of the Cape Cod League, Heineman played all 9 positions on the field. Fast forward to his time at Oregon, Heineman was once considered to be the Ducks future closer, as he was originally recruited as a pitcher who could dial up his fastball into the mid 90’s. I think the Rangers plan to keep the plus-defender in left field and take his bat to Double-A Frisco in 2017. If Heineman logs another season like he did in 2016, he could crash most Rangers top prospect lists the following season.
- CF – Jose Cardona – 22 yo
- 3.64/.812 – PAG/APPA – (HiA High Desert)
- 2016 stats: .300/.371/.463; .835 OPS; 23 doubles, 14 home runs; 13 stolen bases.
Unlike the no-brainer decision in choosing Scott Heineman as my left field OAS choice, center field offered quite the opposite. Despite PAG/APPA creating a number based solely on production, I cannot use it as my one and only criteria. I’ve said before, I use it primarily, but the Texas CF OAS race is the exact reason why Jim and I declared years ago that our metrics are an anomoly; and cannot stand alone in predicting future success. Take for example Rangers DSL1 centerfielder Franklin Rollin. In 61 games this season, he posted a 4.87/1.061 PAG/APPA. But Rollin is a 20 year old who’s three-peated the Dominican Summer League. I could’ve chosen 17-year-old Venezuelan Miguel Aparicio. In looking at his 2016 stat line, there are strong similarities between he (3.24/.755) and fellow 17-year-old Leody Taveras (3.15/.691). But Aparicio stayed parked in the DSL all season while Taveras ascended all the way to Spokane of the Northwest League. This left me with top center field prospect Eric Jenkins and 2011 – free agent signee out of Mexico Jose Cardona. So, not only did I figure in PAG/APPA, but looked at the overall season both Jenkins and Cardona had. And when I view the offensive calling card of a center fielder, I don’t envision Jenkins .221 batting average, a near 4:1 K:BB ratio, despite his 51 stolen bases. Jenkins still posted a respectable 2.94/.657 PAG/APPA, but Cardona’s production this season was very much more centerfield-like than what Jenkins provided. But remember folks, this is an all-star list, not a prospect ranking.
- RF – Luke Tendler – 24 yo
- 3.97/.885 – PAG/APPA – (HiA High Desert)
- 2016 stats: .297/.384/.524; .908 OPS; 38 doubles, 23 home runs
I’m a big fan of the classic rock n’ roll from the 70’s and the title of one of my favorite Aerosmith songs reminded me of Luke Tendler. The fact that the 2014 – 29th rounder Tendler has been ignored by major prospect publications for the third consecutive season is just the “Same Old Song and Dance.” We here don’t under or overlook age. I look at the 5’11” – 190 lb. lefty’s career minor league production and I’m left scratching my head once again. Tendler was my UTR OAS choice in 2014 and he was a 2015 “One to Watch” selection. He carries a career 3.68/.855 PAG/APPA and not only ranked as a top statistical performer in the Rangers organization this season, but overall in the minors, ranking sixth in runs scored (92) seventh in hits (151) and total bases (266) and eighth in doubles and RBi’s (97). And the lack of attention is all because Tendler’s age doesn’t fall within the age/level argument. Sadly, Tendler will most likely be assigned to Double-A Frisco next season and UTRMinors will stop tracking him. But I’ve been on the Tendler bandwagon since his debut and his ascent reminds me a lot of former organizational mate Ryan Cordell, who also fell victim to the “age/level” curse. But listen Luke, keep on hitting, and I’ll keep on rooting because it’s production that gets you to the majors, not projection. Prove them wrong.