Can you name the last Rangers prospect who exceeded expectations?

Sorry to cut to the quick, but it feels like something of an unreported secret that Texas is trouble for top prospects. 

Can go with Gallo, if you want to give your brain a break. I think he’s more or less lined up with expectations, for what it’s Weurtz. 

Elvis Andrus came from Atlanta in the Teixeira trade, and I guess he counts. Kind of. 

I know they’ve had environmental issues, but can you recall the last time they developed a fantasy-relevant starting pitcher? 

Remember when Martin Perez was a top ten prospect? 

I went digging through 40-man rosters year over year for the past decade or so as I was composing this piece, and it’s not inspiring, especially through the lens of internal development. 

Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman, Tanner Scheppers, Jorge Alfaro, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar (injury exception), Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Keone Kela, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Mike Olt

I think it’s Ian Kinsler, by the way: a Rangers prospect who exceeded expectations. Michael Young. They had a good run. 

But it’s a new dawn, kind of. Chris Young has been hired because he is a former player who is extremely tall and probably possesses other traits that make him a good face for the organization’s transactions. I say such only because his first trade occurred within 12 hours of his hiring: Lance Lynn for Avery Weems and Dane Dunning. Hard to imagine he did much more than agree with the guy who’d just hired him, Jon Daniels, President of Baseball Operations. 

Anyway, I feel good about the talent in this system but have reason to doubt the development team. If Young is being hired to re-imagine that aspect of the organization, I can lean in and hope for the best. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA

1. 3B Josh Jung | 22 | A | 2021

The best Texas prospect since Gallo, Josh Jung brings full-field power, plate discipline, and a plus hit tool along with functional defense at the hot corner. I’m trying to acquire him in my 20-team OBP league and suggest anyone seeking potentially affordable third base help consider the same in their leagues.

 

2. OF Leody Taveras | 22 | MLB | 2020

Okay so the thing about Taveras is that you have to look past certain things, like strikeout rates and slash lines. Because he was 21 years old jumping from AA for just 33 games, that’s not hard for me to do. I tend to focus on the eight steals in eight attempts. He’s not likely to steal 40 bases in 2021 because nobody does that anymore, but he’s among a handful of guys in a situation where that could happen, and just one more time for the people in back, his 33-game sample as a 21-year-old trying to tread water on an awful team after a jump from AA put him on pace for a 20 HR 40 SB season. Numbers beyond that are somewhat irrelevant for a player who has something like a limitless leash on that centerfield job. 

 

3. RHP Dane Dunning | 26 | MLB | 2020

Given what followed on the starting pitcher market this off-season, new Rangers GM Chris Young did well to get Dunning in return for one season of Lance Lynn. “Well” might be an understatement. That trade could look amazing in a few short months. The new ball park looks like a Sam’s Club from the outside and plays like a national park on the inside. Pitching values will be found on these shelves the next few seasons, and Dunning looks like one of them. He’s a unique looking pitcher these days. According to fangraphs, he threw his sinker 39.8 percent of the time, four-seamer 20.8%, change 10.8%, slider 21.7%, curve 6.8%. 

His 2020 consisted of just 34 innings across seven starts, but he was looking great before his final two turns. (Let’s shrink that small sample!) Through five starts, he had a 0.93 WHIP, 2.33 ERA, and a .161 batting average against partly thanks to a 5.7 percent barrel rate. That last piece will be key. He looks like he’ll provide about a strikeout an inning, a 25 percent K rate, 50 percent ground ball rate with pretty good control. Sinker slider guys who drift up in the zone when they’re off can get smashed around for a while. Dunning so far looks like a guy who misses low when he misses. Being a closer in a high-pressure college setting at Florida might have helped him pick that up. One issue with sinker ballers is the spin. If a hitter figures out how to identify the sinker, which spins more slowly, he lays off it and feasts when the pitcher has to enter the middle zone. Pitchers have to tunnel location and spin type to obfuscate the sinker. I think Dunning’s changeup can do this, and I think it helps tremendously that he’s willing to attack in the zone with his four-seamer. His 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate isn’t elite but looks excellent when paired with his other run-preventing traits. Pretty strong buy for me. I figure the price won’t be so extreme that it hurts much to punch a ticket or two even if the Rangers mess him up. 

PS: I received a promotional email from Sam’s club about an hour after writing this bit. Have never gotten an email from that corporation before. Subject line said “Welcome to Sams club Shoppers.” Made me think I’m including an apostrophe that’s not in the actual name. Or just that this is a scam email service monitoring as I write about prospects. Or that Google is somehow selling live access to my Google Drive. To everyone’s Google Drive. Truly one of those thoughts one struggles to talk back into the recesses of the mind. Ours is the weirdest dystopia. 

 

4. SS Luisangel Acuña | 19 | R: DSL | 2023

Younger brothers are hard to rank for dynasty purposes. Little and middle brother Acuña put up an impressive slash line in the 2019 Dominican Summer League, even if pretty much everybody who’s anybody produces pretty well there, as evidenced by Luisangel’s wRC+ of 151 despite a .438 on base percentage. He also stole 17 bases in 23 attempts. He’s listed at 5’10” 155 lbs but almost certainly weighs a bit more than that now. Might even be a hair taller. Or shorter, I suppose. I think he’s a buy as the dynasty leagues I’m in have treated him like a back of the top hundred piece, maybe even less, and I think he’ll hold name value for a long time even if he struggles in his first taste of stateside spin. If, however, he posts a big first half in the low minors and gets promoted midseason, he’ll be pushing for top 25 type prospect value on the market. Has a real case to be the top prospect on this list, in my opinion. 

 

5. SS Maximo Acosta | 18 | NA | 2025

A hot-air balloon rising the ranks after showing up last Spring a few inches taller and significantly more athletic than his early J2 video, Acosta finally has his chance to put a statline on his profile page this summer. I had a hard time placing him here because I think Foscue is a solid fantasy prospect in a world without trades, but there’s little doubt in my mind most of these guys have more value on the dynasty market. I try to keep my rankings mostly separate from market value and involve those considerations more in the conversation about a player than in his ranking, but in this case I did give Acosta and Acuña an extra name-on-the-market bump. If I was doing tiers this year, Acosta would be in the same group with the top four.

 

6. SS Anderson Tejeda | 22 | MLB | 2020

Been a bit of Lion King in my house this past week. Hakuna Tejeda. And we should probably apply some of the same no-worries refrains to the concerning parts of Tejeda’s profile that we did to Leody’s. Tejeda had no experience above High A yet held his own across 23 games, swiping four bags and popping three bombs. That’s roughly a 21 HR 28 SB pace. Silly to even run those numbers, I know, but to do that while striking out 39 percent of the time like he did in 2020 would be some kind of season. He walked just 2.6 percent of the time, but I think he’ll double that this year, having been around nine percent across the previous three seasons. Guy comes up from A ball, nothing to do but attack him in the zone. Gotta earn walks by swinging it well, so to speak, and his defense, power and speed offer Tejeda plenty of time to learn. 

 

7. C Sam Huff | 23 | MLB | 2020

Not related to Aubrey, so that’s a win. 

Slugged .742 with three home runs in ten games in his 2020 debut. 

Likely to open 2021 leading a timeshare with Jose Trevino, so he’ll have nice travel discounts and a good golf partner. 

Futures Game MVP in 2019 thanks to a big home run. 

Huge dude, soft receiver with supple hands and plus power. Elite build for tinder profile and a nice get for redraft leagues this year. Could pop 20 homers as a rookie backstop.

 

8. 2B Justin Foscue | 22 | NCAA | 2022

I can’t help but be profane in the membrane every time I think this name. 

Foscue is a bit like Jung in that he’s a ready-made professional hitter who walks more than he strikes out. Might signal something of an organizational shift. Know thyself. Stop aiming for high upside long-term projects and acknowledge that you’re not great at turning them into key pieces. These safer bats have an upside of their own. The 14th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Foscue checks in at 6’ 203 lbs and walked ten more times than he struck out in his three year career at Mississippi St. 15 walks and 3 strikeouts across 16 games as a junior. Just two home runs in those games but 14 home runs across 67 games as a sophomore. If I had more confidence in the power, I’d put him in the three spot here, but Foscue is not an explosive rotator despite the explosive name

 

9. 2B Keithron Moss | 19 | R: AZL | 2023

I had Keith-tron in my top 100 not long ago. Here’s what I said on last year’s list about the speedy second sacker. 

“Witness the transformation of Keithron Moss.

Note the extraneous, pre-pitch movements: March 16 2019 instructs via Fangraphs 

Now five months later, note how synchronized his pre-pitch motions have become, all harmonizing perfectly at hip-snap. : August 7-12 in AZL via Prospects Live 

I can’t think of another hitter I’ve seen morph so much in one season. Even his body is significantly different. Bahamanian players have been making physical and mechanical leaps after being signed due to improved physical training, nutrition, coaching and facilities than they’ve ever had. These are not the battle-worn types you find in the Dominican Republic, where kids like Wander Franco have been putting in 12-hour baseball days since before they were 12 years old. Anyway, Moss looks a bit like Aaron Bracho in the box, and that’s a sweet swing.”

Moss did not gain any traction on the national prospect scene, which creates an excellent buying opportunity this winter. 

 

10. RHP Demarcus Evans | 24 | MLB | 2020

A reliever? 

Not Bayron Lora or Sherton Apostel or Cole Winn or Evan Carter but a reliever?

Honestly they’ve all got a great case for the spot, but the roto rules are outside my jurisdiction, saves are still a thing, and Demarcus Evans will be almost universally owned at some point in 2021. Maybe as soon as Spring Training. Could be Jonathan Hernandez. Could be a free agent. Could be Jose LeClerc. But I think the intimidating Evans will get his chance at some point and could be a viable piece in any league even if he’s not closing. Plus curveball. Double-plus fastball. He’s listed at 6’4” 270 lbs but looks even bigger as he’s coming down the mound and getting excellent extension. His pitches tunnel well, so it’s just command holding him back, and I think he’s on his way in that area, aided by big leaguers less likely to take and big league umpires more likely to hang in on a tougher guy to see and call. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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dandretti
dandretti
1 year ago

Josh Jung and CJ Abrams for Moncada.? 20 team dynasty. Entering a 3-4 year win-now window. Have France and Andres Gime ez to plug in till someone else is ready at 3rd. I currently have Moncada but love Abrams.

dandretti
dandretti
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

I’d be getting Jung and Abrams for Moncada

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
1 year ago

Itch, very good intro. You actually had me thinking.

FYI – my personal opinion is Dunning may end up being the best of the 10 you listed. He looked really good last year under the circumstances. With normality returning this year, I expect more from him.

Thanks Itch,

Jolt

NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
1 year ago

Thoughts on Jose Acosta? He was recently acquired from the Reds, previously their minor league bat of the year for. I read an article a while back (on Ralph’s “new” site) pumping up his ridiculous numbers. I want to believe, but don’t hear any other love, which ok, it’ll come. Thanks the work you do.

BB
BB
1 year ago

Tejeda will not be “opening 2021 as the everyday shortstop”: https://www.mlb.com/news/isiah-kiner-falefa-becomes-rangers-full-time-shortstop

toolshed
toolshed
1 year ago

Hey itch, its been a while since I commented. This has nothing to to with Texas. Can you comment on the tallion deal? Did the pirates receive anyone decent in the package. 4 players for 1 doesn’t sound like it. Thanks

Smitty
1 year ago

Jung gives some depth at 3B, hope he gets the call. Took Huff as a C2, should add some pop. Remember discussing Demarcus with you last year, could be his time comes in ’21. Awesome read, thanks Itch!

Harley Earl
Harley Earl
1 year ago

Itch!!!!!!!!!

Interesting piece. I own a share of Acuna myself, so I must ask, what exactly about Acuna excites you enough to say he could belong at the top of the list? Is there one particular thing about him? Does he have any power? Seems kind of small, like top of the order runs/steals/average kind of guy.

Anyway, I’ve been unable to unearth much information on LuisAngel. Hoping you can provide a little more depth as I’m all ears!

Harley Earl
Harley Earl
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

That’s a pretty interesting reply. And one I definitely agree with. Pedigree is important!

Rebar
Rebar
1 year ago

Where does Sherten Apostel fit in? I thought most rankings had him I’ve seen him ranked inside the top 100 on prospects list. Wondering why you may not think he should rank higher.

Powdered Toast Man
Powdered Toast Man
1 year ago

Thanks For all of these columns Itch. Great writing and research. You’re the man!
In always thought Jon Daniels was a great GM when I’m hindsight it looks more as if it was all AJ Preller. And I’m no Rangers fan.

Philip
Philip
1 year ago

Thanks for the insight, Itch. Over the past few years I’ve developed a bit of bias against Ranger prospects and have paid them less attention as a result. The list isn’t so bad!

Non Ranger question: I’m seeing DL Hall pretty high on prospect lists — he’s probably the best available upper-level minors arm in my 20 team league (outside of fypd guys like Lacy, etc). Would you grab and hold him if you were light on pitching in your rebuild process? Would you take him over Reid Detmers, Joe Ryan, McClanahan, or Corbin Martin? Thanks, homey!

Jimmy
Jimmy
1 year ago

Great write up! If JJ has a good showing in spring training do you think he starts opening day? What are your thoughts on converted catcher Jordan Weems in Oakland? Thanks for the best prospect content in the business!

Ben W
Ben W
1 year ago

I wasn’t able to comment on the post, but how do you feel about Alex Reyes of the Cardinals as a pitcher and prospect.

Ben W
Ben W
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

Thanks for the insight! I have him and will hold him for one last ride! Will you be able updating your top 100 list for 2021 with additional commentary?

Pat
Pat
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

Curious what you traded for him?

goodfold2
goodfold2
Reply to  Ben W
1 year ago

no longer counts as prospect by any measure, finally showed he can be at least close to what we thought he was for so many years. hope hope hope STL lets him start and how much he’ll gain in value if/when that happens.