7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Slugger Gallo leads Rangers' updated Top 20 list
Texas power bat tops new rankings, jumps ahead of previous No. 1 Alfaro
By Jim Callis / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Joey Gallo, 3B
Preseason rank: 5
MLB Top 100 rank: 9 (Preseason: 92)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 80 | Run: 30 | Arm: 70 | Field: 40 | Overall: 65
Gallo set the Nevada high school career record for home runs and then broke the Arizona Rookie League's single-season mark in his professional debut in 2012 after signing for $2.25 million as a supplemental first-rounder. He followed that up by hitting 40 home runs in 2013 to top the Minor Leagues in his first full season and is challenging for the lead again in 2014. He put on a batting-practice show at the Futures Game, then won MVP honors when he hit the game-winning homer.
While Gallo has incredible power, the rest of his game is more of a mystery. His home runs come with a lot of strikeouts, leading to concerns about his ability to hit for average. He has a long swing and there will always be some swing-and-miss in his game, though he has started drawing walks with much more frequency this season.
Gallo is a below-average runner, limiting his range. He has an excellent arm, but he will need to improve defensively to stay at third base in the long run. Ultimately, Gallo will go as far as his bat will take him.
2. Jorge Alfaro, C/1B
Preaseason rank: 1
MLB Top 100 rank: 39 (Preseason: 34)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 45 | Arm: 75 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
After injuries limited him to just 29 games behind the plate in 2012, Alfaro returned to Class A Hickory in 2013. He performed well while repeating the level and then ended the year with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. He has cemented his status as one of the game's top catching prospects with a solid 2014.
A converted infielder, Alfaro has only been catching full-time for a few years and is still a little raw defensively. He may have the strongest arm of any Minor League catcher and is remarkably athletic.
Alfaro has solid raw power and began to tap into it more in 2013. His swing has a tendency to get long and he'll need to cut down on his strikeouts as he advances in the Minor Leagues. He has decent speed and is aggressive on the basepaths. If Alfaro can refine some of his more raw tools, he has tremendous upside.
3. Luke Jackson, RHP
Preseason rank: 8
MLB Top 100 rank: 77 (Preaseason: NA)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55
A 2010 supplemental first-rounder who signed for $1,545,000, Jackson has shown steady improvement in his three pro seasons. He has lowered his ERA and walk rate at each of his five stops, finishing 2013 with a 0.67 ERA in six appearances in Double-A.
Jackson's fastball ranges from 90-97 mph, and he can either bury it down in the strike zone or ride it by hitters at their letters. His go-to breaking ball is a hard curveball, though his slider reaches the mid-80s and could become equally effective if he throws it more. He also has some feel for a changeup.
Jackson has a fearless approach and has cleaned up his delivery, though he'll have to continue to refine his control and command. He has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter, but if he doesn't throw more strikes, he might become a late-inning reliever.
4.Nick Williams, OF
Preseason rank: 6)
MLB Top 100 rank: 91 (Preaseason: NA)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Williams was the most natural hitter on a low Class A Hickory roster loaded with high-ceiling prospects in 2013. In his first full pro season, he ranked third in the South Atlantic League in slugging (.543) and seventh in batting (.293) as a 19-year-old. He has posted similar numbers after jumping to high Class A this year.
Williams has a quick, easy stroke that allows him to repeatedly barrel balls and drive them to all fields. Though he needs to tighten his strike zone, he doesn't swing and miss excessively. He profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter who can produce for both power and average.
A solid runner with an average arm, he played mostly left field in Hickory. That was mainly because he was in the same outfield with Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara, and Williams could handle spot duty in center or right.
5. Alex Gonzalez, RHP
Preseason rank: 7
MLB Top 100 rank: 100 (Preaseason: NA)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 60 | Curveball: 40 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
The best prospect to come out of Oral Roberts since Mike Moore was the No. 1 overall pick in 1981, Gonzalez went 23rd overall last June and signed for $2,215,000. He has the stuff and command to develop rapidly, and he reached Double-A within a year of signing.
Gonzalez can give hitters fits with two different pitches. He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate with cut and sink, usually operating around 90-94 mph. His mid-80s slider was one of the best available in the 2013 Draft.
Gonzalez is working on refining his changeup and he'll throw an occasional curveball just to give batters a different look. He repeats his sound delivery well, enabling him to fill the strike zone with ease. Add it all up, and he has the look of a possible No. 2 starter.
6. Jake Thompson, RHO
Preseason rank: 4
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Thompson was Detroit's top pick in the 2012 Draft, a second-rounder out of Rockwall-Heath High (Heath, Texas). While his right-handed power made him a legitimate prospect as a first baseman, his future definitely lies on the mound. He developed quicker than expected, reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old in July -- two weeks before the Tigers traded him and Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria.
Thompson could have three solid or better pitches when all is said and done. He usually works at 90-93 mph with good sink and tail on his fastball. When his curveball is on, it features power and depth and gives him a second plus offering. He also has nice feel for his changeup.
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Thompson has the build to be a durable starter, and he also has possesses the stuff to pitch near the front of a rotation. His delivery can get out of sync at times, but that's typical for a young pitcher and he should develop reasonable command down the road.
7. Corey Knebel, RHP
Preaseason rank: 6
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 65 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Like Huston Street had done a decade earlier, Knebel went from an unheralded Texas prepster to an instant star as University of Texas closer to a supplemental first-round pick to a big leaguer less than a year after the Draft. Signed for $1,433,400 by the Tigers as the 39th overall choice in 2013, he became the second player from that draft -- behind only Kyle Crockett of the Indians -- when he made his debut on May 24. Two months later, Detroit traded him to the Rangers along with prospect Jake Thompson in exchange for Joakim Soria.
Knebel definitely has the weapons and competitive makeup with which to close games. His fastball ranges from 91-98 mph with tailing action, and he uses his height to throw it on a downhill plane. When he stays on top of his curveball, it can be just as nasty as his heater, arriving in the low 80s with sharp downward break.
There's some funkiness to Knebel's delivery, but it adds more deception than it detracts from his ability to throw strikes. He flashes a decent changeup, which had the Tigers initially considering trying him as a starter, but his future definitely is as a reliever.
8. Lewis Brinson, OF
Preseason rank: 9
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
Brinson exemplifies the high-risk, high-reward talent that dominated the low Class A Hickory roster in 2013. He finished second in the Minors with 191 strikeouts, but he also was one of just six players to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals. He beat Byron Buxton in the home run derby at the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field, then went 29th overall in the Draft and signed for $1,625,000 the next year.
Brinson has three plus tools in his power, speed and center-field defense, and his arm isn't far behind. How much of his power he'll tap into at higher levels remains a question, however, because he must prove he can make consistent contact.
Brinson has plenty of bat speed and a sound swing. His biggest issue at the plate is a lack of pitch recognition, which can leave him helpless against breaking pitches. If he can improve as a hitter, he has everything else he'll need to become an All-Star center fielder.
9. Travis Demeritte, 2B/3B
Preseason rank: 15
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
The 30th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Demeritte was a compensation choice for the loss of free agent Josh Hamilton. A natural athlete who also pitched in high school, Demeritte signed for $1.9 million and homered in his first professional at-bat.
Demeritte has the tools to produce for both power and average, though his pop has stood out more than his hitting ability during his first full pro season. He has a quick bat and a relatively advanced approach, using the middle of the field and displaying patience. Like most of the Rangers' top position prospects, he'll need to cut down on his strikeouts as he advances.
Scouts were mixed on Demeritte's ability to remain at shortstop because he has just average speed. His arm and his bat would profile well at third base, where he spent time in his pro debut, but will stand out even more at second base, where the Rangers have played him for most of 2014.
10. Nomar Mazara, OF
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
The Rangers shocked other teams when they gave Mazara $4.95 million to sign out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, a record that should stand for a while thanks to bonus limitations established in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Rangers saw him as a prospect with a tremendous body and power potential, and they believe he's on the verge of a breakthrough.
Mazara still is growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and is raw at the plate, yet he managed to hit 13 homers as an 18-year-old in low Class A last year. He has the bat speed and loft to provide plenty of home runs, though like many of Texas' top position prospects, he'll need to tone down his aggressiveness.
With his power and solid arm strength, Mazara profiles easily in right field. He's a below-average runner but has improved his reads in the outfield and gets the job done defensively.
11. Luis Ortiz, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 60 | Curveball: 40 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
By performing well on the summer showcase circuit and winning MVP honors at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September, Ortiz positioned himself as one of the top high school pitchers available in the 2014 Draft. Forearm tightness that sidelined him for three weeks during the spring clouded his status, but he rebounded in time to go 30th overall to the Rangers and sign for $1.75 million.
Ortiz has a pair of swing-and-miss pitches in his 92-97 mph fastball and his low-80s slider. His changeup has the potential to become an average third offering, and he also mixes in a curveball to give hitters a different look.
Ortiz throws with little effort in his high-three-quarters delivery, which enables him to deliver strikes repeatedly. He's more physically mature and has less projection remaining than the typical prep pitcher, but that's not a concern because his present stuff already gives him the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.
12. Ti'Quan Forbes, 3B/SS
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
After 50 Drafts, Bill Hall and Charlie Hayes are the only Mississippi high school position players to become significant big leaguers. But the Magnolia State consistently produces intriguing prep hitters, including five who have gone in the top two rounds in the last six years, most notably Billy Hamilton (Reds, second round in 2009). The Rangers hope to buck history with Forbes, whom they took in the second round in June and signed for $1.2 million.
Forbes is an extremely projectable athlete with offensive potential. He has held his own against showcase competition and projects as a solid hitter. He has the bat speed for at least average power once he adds strength to his lanky frame, as well as the quickness to steal bases.
Forbes' plus arm and speed fit well at shortstop, though he figures to outgrow the position once he fills out. Texas already has started playing him at third base, where his offensive potential and his arm profile well. Center field could be another possibility.
13. Alec Asher, RHP
Preseason rank: 11
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Asher nearly signed with the Giants for $80,000 as a 23rd-round pick out of high school in 2010, but the deal died when a physical revealed a bone chip in his elbow. He spent a year each at Santa Fe (Fla.) JC and Polk County (Fla.) JC before turning pro as a fourth-rounder in 2012. He spent his pro debut as a reliever, then skipped a level, became a starter and led the Class A Advanced Carolina League with 139 strikeouts and 9.4 whiffs per nine innings last year.
With his four-pitch repertoire, Asher should be able to remain in the rotation. He throws 90-93 mph on a downhill plane and can reach 96. He has improved his secondary pitches since signing, as his hard slider and sinking changeup can be solid at times, and he also can mix in a decent curveball.
Asher lacks a true plus pitch but still has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter. There may be a little more projection remaining in his 6-foot-4 frame, and his clean delivery is easy to repeat and allows him to throw lots of strikes.
14. Keon Kela, RHP
Preseason rank: 17
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 80 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Kela's fastball has taken off in the last couple of years. He pitched at 89-91 mph when the turned down the Mariners as a 29th-round pick out of a Seattle high school in 2011, then sat at 91-93 as a freshman at Everett (Wash.) CC the next spring. He has refined his delivery since signing for $100,000 as a 12th-rounder in 2012, and his heater now has climbed into the upper 90s and topped triple digits.
Kela backs up his fastball with a hard slider and even shows some feel for a changeup. He still needs to improve his control and command, though he does a good job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
After reaching low Class A in his first full year as a pro, Kela could be ready to move quickly after dominant showings in the Arizona Fall and Venezuelan Winter leagues during the offseason. He's strictly a reliever but could develop into a late-inning option.
15. Jairo Beras, OF
Preseason rank: 12
Scouting Grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 55 | Run: 45 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Beras signed for a lot of money ($4.5 million) and amid a lot of controversy in February 2012. He presented a different birthdate than he had previously, a move that some clubs believed was designed to free him from the international bonus restrictions arising from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. MLB eventually decided that it couldn't determine his birthdate, allowing the Rangers to keep him but also suspending him until July 2013.
Beras has barely played as a pro, breaking the hamate bone in his left hand 17 games into his debut last summer. He'll need plenty of polish and time to develop, but he also possesses the two tools every team looks for in a right fielder. He has above-average power, thanks to his bat speed and the leverage in his swing, and a cannon for an arm.
Beras will need to make some adjustments at the plate, where his long swing and pull-happy approach hamper his abilty to make consistent contact. He runs well for a big man and should be at least an average defender.
16. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS
Preseason rank: 14
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
The Rangers long have been one of the most aggressive teams on the foreign market, and 2013 was no exception. They topped all teams by handing out $8.42 million in bonuses, and the consensus is that Yrizarri is the best prospect from their foreign crop.
Yrizarri burst onto the prospect scene with a strong performance at MLB's International Showcase in January. He has a promising offensive profile, with the sound swing and approach to hit for average as well as the bat speed and projectable strength to have more power than most middle infielders.
That said, Yrizarri's cannon arm is his best tool. It helps mitigate some concerns about his average speed and range at shortstop, and Texas believes he'll be able to remain at the position. He could become a player along the lines of his uncle Deivi Cruz, who spent nine years in the Major Leagues as a shortstop.
17. Ronald Guzman, 1B
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 30 | Arm: 45 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
Guzman is an imposing physical presence in the batter's box and has the body of work to back it up. While injuries derailed his first year in full-season ball, his bat has earned him a place in the Rangers' next wave of young prospects.
Guzman has a smooth swing that is geared to hitting line drives from gap to gap. He has a good feel for hitting and solid raw power to go with it. As he matures, he may grow into even more power. Originally signed as an outfielder, his below-average arm and speed forced him to move to first base. He's a work in progress there, but has the tools to become an average defender in time.
Guzman earns praise for his makeup and work ethic. He'll need to hit to keep advancing, but that shouldn't be a problem.
18. Ryan Rua, 3B
Preseason rank: None
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 35 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
The only player ever drafted out of Lake Erie, an NCAA Division II college in Ohio, Rua signed for $40,000 as a 17th-round pick in 2011. He broke out in 2013 by swatting 32 homers to rank fifth in the Minors, though he didn't hit for much average and struggled after a late promotion to Double-A.
Rua has addressed both of those concerns in 2014 while progressing from late-round/small-school curiosity to a more legitimate prospect. He has done a better job of using the whole field and keeping his swing from getting too long without sacrificing his considerable power.
After playing primarily at second base in 2013, Rua has returned to his more natural position of third base. His strong arm fits well at the hot corner, and his lack of quickness is less of a liability.
19. Jose Almonte, OF
Preseason rank: 19None
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
In the Rangers' MLB-high $8.42 million international spending spree last summer, the biggest bonus went to Almonte. He signed for $1.8 million, then moved from third base to right field.
Almonte has one of the better swings in the system, a pure right-handed stroke that's compact and quick. He's already strong and has room to add more muscle on his large frame, and his above-average power should be his best tool once he's fully developed. He drives the ball to all fields and can put on a show in batting practice, though he hasn't been as impressive during game action.
Almonte's below-average speed and quickness led to his move from the hot corner. He has the tools to be an effective defender in right field, most notably a solid arm.
20. Marcos Diplan, RHP
Preseason rank: None
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Small right-handers usually don't command $1.3 million bonuses on the international market. But Diplan did exactly that last July as part of the Rangers' aggressive international push, because he combined stuff and polish like few 16-year-olds. The Dominican was the consensus top pitching prospect in the 2013 July 2 class.
Diplan has a loose quick arm that can deliver fastballs as hot as 96 mph, and he usually pitches around 90-91 mph at this point. Though he's not big, he has room to add strength and should have a consistently above-average heater once he fills out.
Diplan has a pair of promising secondary pitches, with his curveball showing more upside than his changeup. Though there's some effort in his delivery, he does a good job of throwing strikes. While he'll have to show he has the durability to remain a starter, he has the repertoire to succeed in that role.