Rangers Prospect Reviews

Prospect Reviews
Following is MLB Pipeline’s early-season top-30 rankings of Texas’s prospects, new rankings, my opinion of how their status has changed (irrespective of rankings), and commentary. First, some general purpose comments to minimize repetition in the individual writeups. Nobody on this list is out of time to develop. The process is rarely linear, so some players with negative assessments could reverse that trend quickly. (For example, Cody Bradford carried a 6+ ERA into last August but was Frisco’s ace by season’s end). I prefer not to downgrade injured players much unless they’re clearly worse off. More players have negative assessments than positive, but that’s the nature of player development and not necessarily a knock on the system. Most players just don’t make it. Plus, a good number of prospects now in higher standing weren’t ranked entering the season. I’ve listed them at the end.

1 early season / 1 now. OF Evan Carter (Change: Slightly Up)
Carter has raised his floor and perhaps slightly lowered his ceiling. The concern is how much power he’ll eventually develop. On the whole, Carter has improved his status despite some relatively quiet periods and a nagging HBP injury that required some downtime in Arizona. No, I don’t think calling him up to replace Taveras now is a great idea. I wouldn’t say no to some time in Round Rock.

2/8. RHP Owen White (Change: Down)
A neck injury slowed White this spring and delayed his 2023 debut by a week. While his batted ball data is solid (outside of Las Vegas), his velocity is down, and he’s not missing nearly as many bats as in 2022. In AAA, the only pitch for which he has a better-than-team-average swinging strike rate is his slider, and that constitutes only 8% of his output.

3/traded. IF Luisangel Acuna (Change: Up)
As solid a season as anyone in the system. And now he’s a Met. That’s okay. Acuna has been auditioning for other clubs since the ’21-’22 offseason, and he was at or near peak value. Even if Scherzer is bland overall and Acuna a star, better for the club to act at the proper time than hold him well past his best-by date.

Interlude: In my opinion, it’s easy to conclude that Carter, Wyatt Langford, and Sebastian Walcott are Texas’s top three prospects. After that, the water gets murkier.

4/4. RHP Brock Porter (Change: Even)
Porter’s stuff is beyond the ability of most low-A hitters, but his control is not. He’s been handled very cautiously, averaging around 60-65 pitches per outing (excluding a couple of walk-heavy early exits). He hasn’t thrown quite as hard as advertised, but again, hitters haven’t much chance when forced to swing. He should begin 2024 in high-A.

5/5. RHP Jack Leiter (Change: Down)
Everybody’s saying the right things, and maybe it all turns out for the best, but the fact remains that the #2-overall pick in the 2021 draft isn’t pitching in real games. I’m concerned!

6/6. IF Justin Foscue (Change: Slightly Down)
Foscue has more walks than strikeouts, a rarity in this era. His contact was impressive earlier in the season, but he isn’t hitting as hard since a late-June injury and is slugging .364 during July and August. While he can play second and third, pretty much all of his value comes through the bat. He’ll be a 40 addition this fall.

7/10. 1B/OF Dustin Harris (Change: Slightly Down)
Harris’s lack of top-end exit velocity is strange and concerning. His median velo is actually above average, but toward the high end he’s the worst on the team with not a single ball in play exceeding 101.9 MPH. I’m gobsmacked, but I’m also cautiously hopeful that some sort of fine-tuning will unlock extra oomph that takes advantage of his solid launch attack. I tend to think of him more as a first baseman.

8/11. OF Aaron Zavala (Change: Down)
A year ago at this time, we could contemplate Zavala competing for some LF at-bats in Arlington. Instead, after brace surgery for his elbow, he carried into last weekend a batting average below .200, slugging percentage below .300, and a strikeout rate of 37% in AA. More than any hitter in the system, Zavala could stand for the season to be done, get some rest, and start fresh in 2024.

9/9. RHP Kumar Rocker (Change: Slightly Down)
Well, the good news is that he lorded over high-A, the fastball improved, and he largely cleaned up that seriously off-putting delivery from last fall. (No, I’m not a pitching expert and should probably stay silent, but that short, stiff step to catapult his hip forward made my skin crawl.) The bad news is he’ll be well into his third pro season and on the tail side of Age 24 before he returns to full-season ball.   

10/7. OF Anthony Gutierrez (Change: Even)
After a reset in Arizona, the 18-year-old Gutierrez has batted .276/.348/.372, good for a 115 OPS+. His walk and strikeout rates are acceptable, and he’s run well. He has some power and should gain more as he ages, but he’s hitting a ton of grounders. His three-spot climb in the rankings feels more about what others have and haven’t done than his performance.

11/traded. RHP TK Roby (Change: Up)
Roby struggled for six weeks in AA then began to dominate, allowing three runs and striking out 19 in his last three full starts before succumbing to a shoulder strain. He’s more control than command at present, but the latter is improving, and plain old control is increasingly hard to come by. Given who he was acquired for, I’m assuming no downgrade for the shoulder.

12/12. OF Yeison Morrobel (Change: Slightly Down)
Morrobel was limited to 37 games because of a shoulder injury. His batting eye was impressive, but the power was almost completely absent. Morrobel won’t turn 20 until December, and I could revise my grade to “even” by just by seeing some nice hacks form him next March.

13/28. RHP Cole Winn (Change: Down)
The troubles of 2022 have persisted. Since last May, Winn has walked or hit 153 batters in 187 innings. He’s genuinely improved in relief, but the walk/HBP rate is still worrisome, and he’s not the type who can prevent contact well enough to strand a bunch of free runners.

14/3. IF Sebastian Walcott (Change: Up)
Walcott is generally regarded as the most exciting professional 17-year-old after San Diego’s Ethan Salas. Walcott is an already muscular 6’4”, joined the complex league in late June, and batted .388/.425/.791 with 13 extra-base hits in 16 games. Since then, he’s struggled, badly: .179/.253/.299 with a 39% strikeout rate. A good reminder that he’s facing pitchers averaging 21.3 years of age, and he’s a project.

15/traded. IF Thomas Saggese (Change: Up)
21-year-olds who hit like him in AA reach the Majors, period. Many become solid role players, many become starters. Not many settle for a cup of coffee. His defense is a limiting factor.

16/17. LHP Mitch Bratt (Change: Even) – Bratt lacks above-average velocity and ranks well toward the low end of Sally League pitchers in swinging strike rate, but he still fans plenty of batters and possesses some of the best control in the system. A lat injury has shelved him for a month.

17/21. IF Jonathan Ornelas (Change: Slightly Down)
Ornelas is an up-and-down player today, and his defense is fine. Gaining a larger role on this or another team will require some offensive adjustment. While he’s held up adequately against AAA pitching, a predilection for grounders has dampened his production, and although he’s walking more, he’s also watching more strikes than anyone on the team.

18/18. IF Gleider Figuereo (Change: Slightly Down)
Figuereo’s offensive production has cratered the last two months. In fairness, he’s 19 and well past his previous career-high in games in a season.  Sometimes, players run out of gas.

19/19. RHP Marc Church (Change: Slightly Down)
Church’s cutter is fearsome. In AAA, plate appearances that conclude with his cutter have resulted in an opposing line of .159/.260/.227 and a 40% strikeout rate. Two problems. First, his fastball hasn’t been nearly as effective (.313/.476/.479, 14% K), and his walk rate has decayed considerably as he’s climbed the ladder. His strike rate in AAA is lower than Alex Speas, which is saying something. Still a very strong 40 candidate.

20/22. RHP Emiliano Teodo (Change: Slightly Down, maybe even)
Teodo’s ERA has jumped 1.56 between 2022 and 2023. Some of the difference is probably luck plus some slight degradation in walks, strikeouts, and grounder rate. He hasn’t been bad and is still missing a ton of bats, but after his intermittently amazing 2022, this season feels more of a holding pattern.

21/off. RHP Zak Kent (Change: Even)
Kent returned recently from an oblique injury that sidelined him for over three months. The absence delayed his development, of course, but so far he’s looked close to the same as before, so I see no reason to grade him lower.

22/off. RHP Dane Acker (Change: Slightly Down)
Fully back from Tommy John surgery, Acker has been fine in AA (3.00 ERA, .216/.328/.360 oppo line) but a little walk-happy, and I’m doubtful he’s added to the 40 this fall.

23/25. LHP Antoine Kelly (Change: Up)
Kelly pitched himself out of a probable 40-man spot last summer. Now, he’s pitching himself back into one. Kelly’s 11% BB/HBP rate is league-average, a vast improvement over 2021-2022, and he’s been tough to hit.

24/29. OF Alejandro Osuna (Change: Even)
Out since the beginning of July, Osuna has improved on his already-solid walk rate and reduced his caught-stealing frequency. His stats didn’t amaze, but he was hitting pretty well for a 20-year-old in high-A.

25/off. IF Max Acosta (Change: Slightly Down)
The same age as Osuna, Acosta stormed out of the gate but has batted .228/.270/.341 the last three months and change. His power has improved, but the strikeouts and walks are trending backwards.

26/graduated. LHP Cody Bradford (Change: Up)
Bradford isn’t as good as his display early in the season in AAA, but he’s pitched well enough to reach the Majors and been quite effective at times. In a perfect world, he would fill the back of the 2024 rotation. Maybe that also entails sliding into a lesser role late in the summer depending on the situation, but 15-20 starts within shouting distance of league-average ERA would be swell.

27/30. IF Danyer Cueva (Change: Slightly Down)
I’d written Cueva’s blurb early in this process, but Gleider Figuereo’s season is so similar I moved my Cueva writeup to Figuereo’s spot word-for-word except for the name. One difference: Cueva has an exceptionally high 21% swinging strike rate.

28/15. RHP Josh Stephan (Change: Up)
Superior control and three double-digit strikeout games in Hickory pushed the undrafted 21-year-old to AA, but he’s missed several weeks since his Frisco debut. Still, a strong and promising season.

29/27. RHP Winston Santos (Change: Slightly Down)
A little underwhelming given the buzz around him in March. Many Rangers experience a leap in homers moving from Down East to Hickory (tougher hitters, more generous home park), and Santos is no exception. He’s allowed 16 in 87.2 innings, and his strikeout and swinging strike rates have dropped significantly.

30/off. IF Chandler Pollard (Change: Even)
Pollard has struck out at an unnerving 36% rate in rookie ball, but otherwise he’s been fine at the plate. I guess we could have hoped for a promotion to Down East, but he’ll be there next April.

Biggest Upward Movers
OF Wyatt Langford — new at 2
SS Sebastian Walcott — 14 to 3
IF Cam Cauley — off-30 to 13
1/O Abi Ortiz — off-30 to 14
RHP Josh Stephan — 28 to 15
RHP Aidan Curry — off-30 to 16
IF Echedry Vargas — off-30 to 20
RHP Jose Corniell — off-30 to 23
1/O Marcos Torres — off-30 to 24
C Jesus Lopez — off-30 to 25

Biggest Downward Movers
RHP Owen White — 2 to 8
RHP Cole Winn — 12 to 28
IF Jonathan Ornelas — 17 to 21
LHP Zak Kent — 21 to off-30
RHP Dane Acker — 22 to off-30
OF Alejandro Osuna — 24 to 29
IF Max Acosta — 25 to off-30
IF Chandler Pollard — 30 to off-30