09/06/12 6:57 PM ET
Profar debuts as baseball's highest-ranked prospect
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Building a great farm system loaded with the prospects is the goal of every organization. But the ultimate measure is how much impact those players have on the Major League team.The Rangers' top three prospects are in the Majors right now, and two of them could be on the postseason roster, even though they spent much of the season in Double-A Frisco. Shortstop Jurickson Profar is still the team's No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com's latest rankings, followed by third baseman Mike Olt and left-handed pitcher Martin Perez. Profar and Olt will likely serve as valuable bench players when the playoffs begin. Olt has been with the Rangers since the beginning of August, after hitting .288 with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs at Frisco. He can play third base, first base and the outfield, and has been used mainly against left-handed pitching despite dealing with inflammation in his right heel. Profar, 19, was called up for September after hitting .281 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs at Frisco. He can play both middle-infield positions. When Profar arrived with the Rangers, he became the first player in club history to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat. "The goal was getting them ready to help the Major League club," Minor League field coordinator Jayce Tingler said. "We were able to do that by moving then around to different positions and [getting] them a lot of at-bats. They're ready." Perez made it to Arlington before Olt and Profar, although he probably won't be on the Major League roster in the playoffs. But he did help the Rangers make it through June and July when their pitching staff was getting clobbered by injuries. He was 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts and three relief appearances. "He showed he can pitch up here," manager Ron Washington said. "He has the stuff, he just needs the experience."
When the season the season began, Robbie Ross was ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the organization. He is no longer ranked because he has spent the entire season in the Rangers' bullpen.Ross has pitched in 52 games and is 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA. He is on the disabled list with a strained left forearm, but is expected to be ready for the playoffs. Outfielder Leonys Martin, ranked No. 4 before the season, and reliever Tanner Scheppers, who was No. 10, have also graduated off the list. Scheppers is 1-0 with a 4.39 ERA in 30 Major League appearances, and with relievers Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara all eligible for free agency, he could be a critical piece to the Rangers' bullpen next season.
The Rangers had six players drop out of the Top 20, and four of them were pitchers. Matt West, who was ranked No. 19, was lost for the season with Tommy John surgery, and David Perez, a 6-foot-5 19-year-old with significant talent, is still dealing with a variety of issues.Left-hander Kevin Matthews -- the Rangers' top Draft pick in 2011 -- was 3-4 with a 4.38 ERA at Class A Hickory, and right-hander Will Lamb, who was 6-8 with a 4.15 ERA at Hickory, are healthy and still highly regarded. Making the Top 20 in the Rangers organization is a competitive business. Outfielders Engel Beltre and Zach Cone also fell out. But the Rangers were excited that Beltre was able to finish the season strong at Frisco. He hit .239 with a .381 slugging percentage before the All-Star break and .287 with a .469 slugging percentage afterwards. Cone -- the 37th overall pick in the 2011 Draft out of the University of Georgia -- is still showing power and defensive potential, but must cut down on 110 strikeouts in 432 at-bats at Hickory.
Of the nine new faces on the Top 20, four played on an Arizona Rookie League team that bashed its way to the league title. Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson were all part of that impressive young lineup, and all had an OPS over .800. Gallo was off the charts, hitting 18 home runs in 150 at-bats before the Rangers moved him up to Class A Spokane.
rangers' top prospects
Three pitchers rose significantly in value to the organization in 2012. Justin Grimm, who sits at No. 11 on the list, led the way by going 9-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 16 games at Frisco. Like Perez, he was needed at the big league level this summer to help the Rangers get through their injuries. He was 2-3 with a 4.59 ERA in nine games at Triple-A Round Rock, and is now back pitching for Frisco through the playoffs in a relief role that might be his future with the Rangers.Right-hander Wilmer Font, 22, missed all of 2011 because of Tommy John surgery, but he has reemerged at No. 6. He split time between Class A Myrtle Beach and Frisco, going 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA while striking out 138 batters in 98 1/3 innings. Right-hander Cody Buckel (No. 4) blew away the Carolina League by going 5-3 with a 1.31 ERA in 13 starts, and followed that up by going 5-5 with a 3.78 ERA at Frisco.
Top 100 representation
The Rangers have four players in the overall Top 100, and Profar leads the way at No. 1 on the list. Olt is No. 17, Perez is No. 50 and Buckel debuts at No. 96. Using a scoring system that awards 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on, the Rangers rank seventh, which is the same spot they held at the beginning of the season.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.