Baseball America’s Ben Badler Talks Rangers Prospects
Yesterday afternoon prospect guru Ben Badler of Baseball America took some time to answer questions about the Rangers farm system. He had some pretty good things to say about the system as a whole, Joey Gallom Jurickson Profar and plenty more.
I’ve listed some of the highlights of the chat below and the entire chat can be found here.
Ben Badler: Hi everyone. The Rangers system is always a fun one to chat about because of the combination of impact talent and depth the organization has every year. Lots of questions in here already so let’s begin.
- Ryan (GA): No Ryan Cordell, Ben? What's he best suited for, third or the OF?
Ben Badler: Cordell was very close. I like the tools, the versatility and the performance up until he got to Double-A, where his struggles were a big concern for someone who’s already 23. Double-A is a big test for a lot of players, and when Cordell got to Frisco, he just started swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone and getting himself out. Given his athleticism, the adjustments he’s been able to make with his swing and his previous performance record, I’m still optimistic he can bounce back. Defensively, I think he has a chance to fill in at third base occasionally, but he looks much more comfortable as a corner outfielder.
- Kyle (Florida): Do you think Joey Gallo hits enough to be a MLB regular? Gotta love his mindset and the adjustments he has made. Even a .250 batting average with 200 strikeouts could lead to 35-40 home runs/100 rbis and league average OBP, thats more than attainable for him right?
Ben Badler: Not just a regular. He should be a star. Gallo’s power is going to come with strikeouts, but it’s not just a typical minor league slugger with 60 raw power and a lot of whiffs. This is special, 80 power, with the patience to draw walks and a track record of success in the upper levels of the minors despite being the same age as the college juniors from last year’s draft. There’s risk in the swing-and-miss, no doubt, but the upside is enormous.
- @Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Ben. What was the consensus opinion of Jairo Beras this season? Can we expect him to remain in the top 30?
Ben Badler: The second half he had was encouraging. He started to go the other way more, got better at recognizing spin and overall just started to act more professionally on and off the field, which had been a problem in the past. He has big raw power but the free-swinging tendencies combined with the holes in his swing and shaky plate coverage make him an extremely risky prospect who fits in toward the middle of their Top 30.
- Rich (New York): What is the rationale for having Brinson ahead of Mazara?
Ben Badler: I’ll preface my answer by saying they’re extremely close, which shows in where I have them in my person Top 50 in the Prospect Handbook (they’re both among my top 25 prospects in baseball), and I think you could reasonably justify putting them in either order. As a pure hitter, Mazara is more advanced and is the safer bet to be a productive MLB hitter. If you asked me a year ago, it would have been Mazara no question. But Brinson made huge strides as a hitter last year with the mechanical and approach adjustments I mentioned in his scouting report that closed that gap significantly. Based purely on what they do in the batter’s box, I still give Mazara the edge there, but Brinson’s defense at a premium position gives him even more upside than Mazara if they both hit their ceilings. They’re both super talents though, and I think it’s entirely reasonable to put these two in either order.
- Lewis (Somewhere between the Carolina League and Eastern League): How much of a concern is Luis Ortiz' physical conditioning. He looked massive in the AFL. So far it doesn't seem to have affected his results, but is the org concerned?
Ben Badler: I usually don’t mind much if a pitcher carries some extra baggage around his frame, but with Ortiz it became a problem that had a tangible impact impact on him last year because the Rangers decided they had to be very, very conservative in how they brought him back due to his conditioning level. But it’s a lot easier to improve a player’s strength and conditioning than it is to improve his stuff, and there’s no question about Ortiz’s stuff. If he proves he has the durability to handle a starter’s workload, wow, he should be a good one.
- Carle L. Atkinson (Granbury, TX): Where would you rank the Rangers system?
Ben Badler: They’re a top 10 farm system, I can say that comfortably. There’s only a couple teams in the game that can match their top three, and it’s a top three that all have MLB or Triple-A experience. Trades have cut down on some of the impact and the depth, but that’s going to happen when you get Cole Hamels.
- Tony (Los Angeles): Are the Rangers confident Josh Morgan can stick at SS as he moves up the ranks? ? Seems like he has the offensive profile to be above average if he does, but not so much at 3B.
Ben Badler: They are, and I think he can stay there. They had Michael De Leon in Hickory, so De Leon had to play a lot of shortstop there and the Rangers are an organization that loves getting players experience at different positions, even if they project as surefire shortstops. He’s not going to dazzle you with anything acrobatic or make special plays that give you that plus defensive value, but his actions and fundamentals at the position are sound enough to keep him there.
- Ranger Rick (Arlington): Probably every one is going to ask you about Joey Gallo, but I have a question about Matuella. Some at BA felt he could have been the number one pick if not for Tommy John. How do you see this 3rd-rounder working out for us?
Ben Badler: If you saw Matuella health and at his best, yeah, he was definitely in the mix to go that high. I hope he stays healthy and can re-gain the stuff he had pre-surgery, because that’s nasty, frontline starter type stuff. I just have a hard time getting over the track record when it comes to his lack of durability. John Manuel brought up Tanner Scheppers as another player with a similar combination of high-end stuff and durability question marks, Kyle Zimmer with the Royals is another one who falls under a similar umbrella. I wouldn’t rule out starting, but I do think the most likely scenario is he ends up in the bullpen, and if the stuff comes back, he could be dominant in that role.
- Simon (Scotland): Is there any real reason to think that Joey Gallo is ever going to hit enough to play every day in the bigs? It doesn't really matter how much power you have if you strike out every second at bat.
Ben Badler: I don’t think there are many 21-year-olds in baseball—essentially the same age as all the college juniors who went in the first round of the draft last year—who would step in at the major league level and be able to perform right away. Guys like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Rougned Odor are a different breed. I don’t blame the Rangers for fast-tracking him the way they did, given their need at the time and how Gallo was killing it in Double-A, but he’s the type of hitter who is going to need time to make adjustments to each level because he’s not a pure, simple hitter like Odor. There’s risk in the strikeout tendencies, no question, but given his power and his track record, he should be able to make those adjustments.
- Justin (NY): Are the Rangers set in utilizing Andrew Faulkner as a reliever? If so, how do you think he fares?
Ben Badler: Yes, that’s the role they think suits him best. There’s crossfire and effort to his delivery, but out of the bullpen he throws strikes with a plus fastball and an average changeup with some split-like action. He’ll be in the mix for a bullpen job with the big league team to start the year and should carve out a career as a middle reliever.
- Michael (WV): Likelihood that Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz never put on a High Desert uniform?
Ben Badler: Given what’s happening with that stadium dispute right now, we’re still waiting to see if anyone’s going to put on a High Desert uniform this season. What a mess.
- Bucky (Dallas): How close was Brett Martin to your T10? Hard to not get excited for a big-bodied lefty with three pitches.
Ben Badler: He’s in the 11-20 range, and I did talk to scouts who liked him quite a bit for his breakout potential. Like you said, big-framed LHP with a plus fastball that has good plane, a tight-spinning curveball and a changeup that’s shown encouraging progress too. He had some hip problems that limited his innings last year, but he’s definitely one to watch this year.
- Kyle W. (Bayard, FL): Will Texas let Yohander Méndez develop as a starting pitcher or is he a reliever based on his recent injury history?
Ben Badler: They see him as a starter and they want to get him stretched out to 140 innings this season if they can. Getting him to add weight and just stay healthy was a big challenge early in his career, but he has an average fastball for a lefty to go with a plus changeup and he throws plenty of strikes. I see a back-end starter if he can hold up in that role, but obviously durability is a concern when he’s four seasons into his career and hasn’t thrown more than 70 innings in one of them yet.
- Pete (Jackson Co.): Is Travis Demeritte still in the top-30? I'm sure he's fallen, but still has some pretty sick athleticism and tools, right?
Ben Badler: He stuck around toward the back of the list, but his stock tumbled. The athleticism, bat speed and raw power are still there, but way too much chasing and swing-and-miss in the zone even against bad pitching. The Rangers hitting coaches have done a great job of taking raw, tooled up players and making them more polished hitters, so there’s at least hope he can follow that path in time.
- Rich (NJ): Was Ronald Guzman close to making the Top 10 and do you feel he will develop the in-game power necessary to become a top prospect. Were you surprised he was not picked in the Rule 5 Draft?
Ben Badler: He would have been extremely hard to carry around an MLB roster all year even for a bad team, so I didn’t expect him to go in the Rule 5 draft. He wasn’t close to the Top 10, and he barely snuck in toward the back of the Top 30. There are reasons to be hopeful with Guzman because he doesn’t swing and miss that much and he uses the whole field, but he also gets caught up overswinging instead of keeping his weight back and trusting his hands, which leads to inconsistency. Then he just doesn’t have the power you want out of a first baseman, which when he was younger is something you would think would come along later because he’s built like a giraffe, but it’s just not there right now. He’s still young and shows it to you just enough to still believe, but there has to be more offensive impact for someone who’s value is completely tied into what he brings at the plate.
- James (Dallas, TX): With Beltre playing 3rd what do you see happening with Gallo this year? Does he start the year in the minors and what position do you eventually see him playing in the big leagues?
Ben Badler: Gallo’s most likely going to start the year in Triple-A. I think he can handle third base, at least in the short term, but unless Beltre gets hurt, his quicker path is probably getting there as an outfielder.
- Ringo (Octopusses Garden): Can you tell us anything about Evan Van Hoosier?
Ben Badler: Nothing too flashy about him, but it’s a simple approach with good feel to hit, line drive oriented hitter without much power, though that could come if he’s able to create more torque and separation in his swing. Definitely an offensive-oriented player who will need to bring along the defense. The jump to Double-A this year will be a key test for him.
- Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): Where would Jurickson Profar have ranked on this list if he were still eligible?
Ben Badler: I have no idea what to do with Jurickson Profar and I don’t think the Rangers do either. When he was healthy, he looked like a franchise cornerstone who could be an anchor for their middle infield for years. He’s still 23 so I’m certainly not giving up on him, but injuries have completely derailed him and there just isn’t much track record or healthy scouting looks on him over the past two years to produce any type of informed judgment or prediction about him. He’s just a huge wild card.
- James (Texas): Can Jose LeClerc continue the transition to starting pitching from relief? Seemed like his stuff was tantalizing, but his starts were up and down.
Ben Badler: I liked that the Rangers gave him a chance to start, but the results in his first year moving from reliever to starter in 2015 were ugly. The Rangers are planning to keep him as a starter to open 2016, probably going back to Double-A. That said, if he has trouble throwing strikes again, I don’t expect a long leash and you could see him back in a bullpen role. He has the repertoire to start, although Double-A hitters had an easier time handling his curveball than lower-level hitters did because of the way it breaks early out of his hand, the question is whether he can ever get that aggressive delivery under control to be able to repeat his release point and keep the ball in the strike zone consistently.
- Adam (Burleson Texas): Is there any one that might surprise me this year in the minors for the Rangers?
Ben Badler: If (and this is a big “if”) Connor Sadzeck ever figures out the body control to get all his long levers in sync and throw strikes, he could be a fun one to watch with his 101 mph fastball.
- Or Moyal (Dallas): If Mike Matuella hadn't needed TJ surgery, where would he have gone in the last draft? Top 3?
Ben Badler: If we’re talking about the spring of his sophomore year, he would have been in the mix for the top three picks. The problem is not only did Matuella have the TJ, he also has a chronic back condition, so the durability worries stem from more than just the arm problems and complicate things even further.
- Bill (Vermont): What are your thoughts on Ariel Jurado? Put up good stats in the Sally league last year, but I've heard some questions about his overall stuff and whether it's big league material. What is your opinion on Jurado? Can he be a mid rotation starter?
Ben Badler: Jurado’s success is more about his ability to hit his spots than his pure stuff. The key for him came a couple years ago when he dropped down to a low three-quarters arm slot and started throwing his two-seamer from there, because that pitch has some nasty sink. He throws strikes and gets a ton of groundballs with that pitch, and while he’s mostly had success off one pitch in Low-A, he’s going to have to develop a better secondary pitch against more advanced hitters, whether it’s improving the curveball and changeup he’s throwing now or coming up with something else. If he does that, he has a chance to be a back-end starter.
- Pablo (Dallas): The Texas Ranger clearly have a strong farm system. However, they still have areas that are weaker than others. What would you consider some weaknesses of the Ranger's farm system?
Ben Badler: Ortiz and Tate are strong arms to have, but the pitching in the system as a whole is filled with durability question marks, including those two, and the pitching beyond them is more relievers and back-end starter upside types. The durability stuff is partially a product of pitching throughout the industry in the modern era, but the Rangers more than a lot of teams seem to have a lot of high-risk arms in that respect.
- Kyle W. (Bayard, FL): Do the Rangers have a catcher in their system who projects as a big league starter at the position?
Ben Badler: They don’t, and that’s one position where they are fairly light, especially with Jorge Alfaro gone. The best one in the system is Jose Trevino, who has a compact swing with good bat control and hand-eye coordination to hit, but the offensive performance last year wasn’t great. If you want some deeper cut sleepers, Melvin Novoa, Yohel Pozo and Francisco Ventura would be a few young catchers to keep an eye on.
- Warren (Texas): In a deep system such as this, which prospects are not getting as much notice as you think they are due.
Ben Badler: Some of that’s hard for me to say, since I’m putting together the rankings, but based on my sense of public perception and the rankings themselves, Andy Ibanez is a guy a lot of people aren’t too familiar with yet because he doesn’t have any professional track record in the US, but that was a very good pickup for the Rangers given the cost and that they stayed within their bonus pool. He tore it up this winter in Colombia and is a very solid prospect with some similarities to Josh Morgan. Another guy to keep an eye on that I’m sure most people don’t know is Israel Cruz, a teenage pitcher who pitched in the DSL last year. Nice $30,000 signing who could follow in the mold of Jonathan Hernandez as an athletic, skinny, quick-armed pitcher with a good fastball.
- Leo (USA): What exactly do you think Gallo needs to improve on to reach his ceiling from the time you saw him in the Majors?
Ben Badler: Stay efficient with his swing and stay within the strike zone, which he got away from last year once he got to the big leagues and in Triple-A trying to do too much to get back there, which is common to see. I don’t think the light bulb is going to go on immediately on Opening Day, but given normal time to progress and develop at the upper levels, he’s going to figure it out and be a scary, scary hitter.
- Shutdown Inning (DFW): What do you see in Andy Ibanez that made you rank him so high? What does his future hold with the club with the emergence of Odor?
Ben Badler: Pretty much everything I laid out in his scouting report. No 60s or 70s on his scouting card, but a lot of teams liked his bat and overall baseball IQ. He is very blocked in Texas though, because I can’t see him playing anywhere other than second base.
Ben Badler: I’ve got to run off to another meeting to sort through our Top 100 prospects. Thanks for all the questions, lots of passionate Rangers fans and good ones in the queue today that I couldn’t get even get to, but I tried to hit on as many players as possible and go into depth on the ones people wanted to know more about.And a big thanks to everyone who has been following along with all 30 of our team Top 10s being posted online now and the Prospect Handbook hopefully arriving to BA headquarters as soon as possible. We always appreciate the support!