|Jurickson Profar leads a strong Rangers' farm system that could produce several big-leaguers this season. (USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The Rangers have emerged as one of baseball's best run organizations in recent seasons. The major-league club has been a contender since 2009, and a strong farm system ensures they'll remain close to that level in the near future. The organization is set up so well, that even the top overall prospect in baseball can't find a spot on the major-league roster. And although Jurickson Profar is a big reason for the team's lofty minor-league rating, he's far from the only impact player in the system.
2013 Impact Prospects
The biggest question surrounding Profar is whether he can force his way into a full-time role this season, and not whether he'll produce. He plays much older than his 20 years, displaying an advanced approach at the plate and a solid walk rate. He's also shown an ability to hit for power and steal bases. Perhaps most importantly, his defense is highly regarded, ensuring he'll remain at short for most of his career. It's not often that you see a strong hitting prospect that can stick at the toughest defensive position. A five-tool prospect, Profar may force his way into a significant role with the team even though other talented players block his path.
3B Mike Olt
Although not as good as Profar (who is, really?), Olt is in a similar situation. He's blocked by Adrian Beltre at third, and the team signed Lance Berkman to be the DH. Olt was mentioned as a potential trade chip this offseason due to the club's excess of talent, but was never moved. Olt's main skills are his plate discipline and ability to hit for power. In 420 Double-A plate appearances last season, he hit .288/.398/.579, with 28 home runs. There are a few reasons for concern, though. Olt has struck out a lot in the minors, and probably isn't a candidate to hit for a high average in the big leagues. That was certainly on display during Olt's incredibly tiny stint in the majors last year. At 24-years-old, he's also a little bit older than you might expect. He's still a strong prospect despite those flaws.
SP Martin Perez
Technically, Perez's time to earn a full-time role is now, but he's so young that he could probably qualify as a future star. Perez's numbers haven't been great in recent seasons, but prospect analysts are quick to point out that Perez has always been exceptionally young for his league. He'll be just 22 this year and might make 25-30 starts in the majors. He also has a ton of velocity for a lefty, topping out in the mid- to high-90s on the radar gun. If he wants to succeed in the majors, his performance is going to have to start matching his scouting reports.
Martin defected from Cuba and joined the Rangers in 2011. At that time, he was already 23 and had to work his way up from the lowest levels of the minors. But he's moved quickly due to solid performances and the fact that he was signed to a higher deal since he was an international signing. He's shown that he's capable of contributing power and speed. Last year, he hit .359/.422/.610, with 12 home runs, in just 260 Triple-A plate appearances. With Josh Hamilton's departure, Martin could play a big role on the major-league club this season.
The Rangers have plenty of talent ready to contribute at the major-league level but may not have to rely on those players this season. Since they didn't deal away any major talent to make room for Profar and Olt, the Rangers have the depth to survive a couple of injuries. If everyone somehow stays healthy, the team can either trade their veterans for prospects, opening spots for Profar or Olt, or they can deal Olt for a major-league piece that helps them contend now. Even though the Angels made the big splashes in free-agency, the Rangers' depth should keep them in the race for the AL West crown.