The Texas Rangers have one deep farm system. So who are there best prospects? Jamey Newberg tells us:
This week’s Top 20:
1. NEFTALI FELIZ, RHP, AA Frisco (number 1 last week) The 20-year-old finished the regular season with a 10-6, 2.69 mark in 17 Clinton starts and 10 Frisco starts, limiting opponents to a .201 batting average, striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings — the best starting pitcher rate in all of the minors — inducing more groundouts than flyouts, and surrendering only three home runs all season. He’s going to be on every publication’s list of the top prospects in baseball this off-season .
2. DEREK HOLLAND, LHP, AA Frisco (2) . . . As will Holland, whose explosion onto the scene may have been as stunning as that of any pitching prospect in the game. His three-level record in his first full season was 13-1, 2.27 — not counting his two-hit, one-run victory in 7.1 innings in last night’s Texas League playoff opener — with more strikeouts than innings pitched, just over two walks per nine innings, three home runs allowed, and a .209 opponents’ average. He was more dominant in Class AA than at his two Class A stops, and he’s only 21. Exciting.
3. ELVIS ANDRUS, SS, AA Frisco (3) Andrus broke a finger late in May and missed two weeks of action. At that point, he was a .268/.322/.316 hitter. After returning, he went on to hit .312/.367/.401. And he was a teenager until last week. He may not profile as a leadoff hitter, but he has terrific bat control, bunts well, and stole 54 bases in 70 tries this season. Defensively advanced, he could be ready for Arlington sometime in 2009.
4. MICHAEL MAIN, RHP, Low A Clinton (4) In 13 starts over what amounted to half a season (due to a ribcage issue that cost him the first half), Main never gave up more than three earned runs. The ceiling is high, and there’s no reason the 19-year-old can’t rocket to the top of this list in 2009.
5. JUSTIN SMOAK, 1B, Clinton (7) The 2008 first-rounder finished with a .304 average and .873 OPS in his 14-game debut and heads into the Midwest League playoffs as one of Clinton’s hottest hitters. Six of his 17 hits went for extra bases.
6. MAX RAMIREZ, C, AAA Oklahoma (6) His future in this organization is less clear than it might otherwise be because there are crowds at catcher, first base, and possibly DH over the next few years, but Ramirez (.347/.439/.628 in 285 minor league at-bats this season) is an offensive machine. Texas will either make room for him or have a tremendous trade chip in the 23-year-old.
7. BLAKE BEAVAN, RHP, Low A Clinton (8)
The 19-year-old’s strikeout rate stands to increase as he develops (he was at his best in that respect in the final month of the season), but even if it doesn’t, he still sported a 3.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his debut season, issuing only 20 free passes in 121.2 innings. Great year for the big righthander, who finished the regular season with a 10-6, 2.37 record in 23 starts. Beavan took the loss in last night’s playoff opener but threw a quality start, yielding three runs (two earned) over 6.1 innings.
8. JULIO BORBON, CF, AA Frisco (10) While the decision to give Borbon a major league contract out of college has taken up a spot on the 40-man roster, options aren’t going to be a problem for the 22-year-old. He used the first of four in 2008, and probably won’t exhaust all three that remain. The fleet center fielder was even better in AA than he was in High A, finishing the regular season with a collective .322/.363/.427 line and nearly as many stolen bases (53) as strikeouts (62).
9. KASEY KIKER, LHP, High A Bakersfield (9) As a result of an organizational effort to keep Kiker’s workload in check, he didn’t exceed five innings in any of his final eight appearances. The 5-5, 4.73 record doesn’t leap off the page, but Kiker struck out three times as many Cal Leaguers as he walked, and had one eight-appearance run late in the year in which he posted a 2.39 ERA.
The rest are right here.