Friday on the Farm: Recliner Nerd’s unique ranking of top 20 Rangers prospects, 10-1
(Texas Rangers/Ben Ludeman)
Last week’s Friday on the Farm featured the bottom half of my top-20 countdown of Rangers prospects.
The top 10 is on its way today.
My list is different from others around because of one simple rule: Any prospect who has taken even one at-bat in the major leagues or appeared in one inning of one game is not eligible for these rankings.
That means Josh Jung will not be ranked here. The same goes for Cole Ragans.
But there are many others to choose from, and I did just that below.
Here we go …
10. Thomas Saggese, inf
Saggese was the fifth-round pick in the COVID-shortened 2020 draft, which is turning into one of the better drafts in Rangers history. It took over-slot money ($800,000) to convince Saggese, from Carlsbad, Calif., to forgo his commitment to Pepperdine.
Saggese was impressive in his debut season, hitting .256 with 10 home runs in 73 games at Low A Down East. He really broke out in 2022 between High A Hickory and Double A Frisco. He hit a combined .312 with an .867 OPS and 15 homers. He plays all around the infield, but seems to fit best at third.
Saggese will begin 2023 in Frisco.
9. Kumar Rocker, rhp
Rocker was the third overall pick in the 2022 draft in a surprising but stealthy move by the Rangers. He was taken 10th overall by the Mets in 2021 and wasn’t signed because of medical issues that he and his advisor (Scott Boras) disagree were real. The Rangers swooped in and took him with the third pick and signed him under slot for $5.2 million. They then used their fourth-round pick to sign another top pitching prospect in Brock Porter for well over slot.
Rocker didn’t pitch until the Arizona Fall League, where he started six games and threw 14 innings, striking out 18, with an ERA of 4.50. His fastball has been sitting at 94-96 mph, and his slider is a wipeout pitch. He also loves to compete.
The big debate exiting spring training was where the Rangers would start Rocker. He will open at Hickory, but the expectation is he will be a candidate for a quick promotion to Frisco.
8. Anthony Gutierrez, of
Gutierrez signed with the Rangers in 2022 for $1,997,500 even though he supposedly was promised more money if he would wait a year to sign with the Nationals. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis says Gutierrez is the one Rangers prospect to watch in 2023 and might be a sleeper to crack the top 100 by year’s end.
He made two stops in his first professional season. He started out in the Dominican Summer League, where he dominated, and finished the season in the Arizona Complex League. Between the two he hit a combined .308 with an OPS of .835 and four homers in 45 games. He did all of this at the age of 17.
Gutierrez, who won’t turn 19 until January, will open the season at Low A Down East. If he plays well he could end the season in Hickory as an 18-year-old.
7. Brock Porter, rhp
Perhaps the best pick of the entire 2022 draft, Porter fell to the Rangers in the fourth round even though he was considered the best arm of the draft by MLB Pipeline. Porter slipped out of the first round because of what most considered a hard commit to Clemson.
Porter consistently hit 100 mph his senior year and was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. He also helped lead his Michigan high school team to three state titles. The Rangers were able to sign Porter for $3.7 million thanks to Kumar Rocker taking well below the slot value No. 3 overall.
Porter is starting the season at Down East, which might come as an aggressive assignment to start his career. The Rangers, though, are convinced that he’s mature enough, and good enough, to skip the complex league.
6. Dustin Harris, 1b/of
Thought to be the lesser of the two prospects in the Mike Minor deal in 2020, Harris turned that thinking around in 2021 after being named the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .327 with a .943 and 21 homers between Down East and Hickory.
He was on his way to a second straight 20-homer/25-double season last year before a wrist injury ended his season with six weeks left at Frisco.
Healthy and ready to go, Harris returns to Frisco but should be with Triple A Round Rock relatively quickly. He was also added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so he has a legitimate chance to make his MLB in 2023.
5. Justin Foscue, 2b/3b
Foscue was the 14th overall pick in 2020 after a standout career at Mississippi State. Foscue has not disappointed since signing. He hit a combined .275 with 17 homers and a .961 OPS across three levels in 2021, and once again put up good numbers last season at Frisco. In 400 at-bats Foscue he hit .288 with 15 homers and an OPS of .850.
Coming into 2023, he bulked up for his first big-league spring training. Foscue hit .286 with three homers in 13 Cactus League games. The organization loves him, and some at Rangers Today (Jeff Wilson) think he is a favorite to get to the big leagues this season.
Foscue, who is Rule 5 eligible after the season, will be in Round Rock.
4. Jack Leiter, rhp
The No. 2 overall pick in 2021, Leiter signed for a Rangers record $7,922,000 bonus out of Vanderbilt but his pro debut wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be. While he did consistently sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, his lack of control put him in hitters’ counts.
He made 22 starts and threw 92 2/3 innings with 102 strikeouts, which was good. However, his ERA was 5.54, which isn’t what he wanted.
There was a debate whether to let him open his career at Double A, and his numbers might have given the Rangers an answer. He will again open at Frisco, but the Rangers saw improvements in spring training and Leiter admits that he learned from his 2022 campaign.
3. Luisangel Acuna
Acuna signed for $425,000 in 2018 out of Venezuela. The younger brother of Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr., Luisangel is on his way to becoming the second big-league player in that family.
Acuna played 92 games between High A and Double A in 2022 and was good overall, hitting .277 with a .795 OPS and 11 homers. He did most of his damage, though, at Hickory and hit some bumps in the road at Frisco. Defensively, the question remains where he ends up. He is blocked at the big-league level in the infield, and some think it is best if he moves to the outfield.
Acuna will start 2023 in Frisco. It will be interesting to see if he gets any time in the outfield if he starts producing well. He is a member of the 40-man roster.
2. Owen White, rhp
The Rangers’ second-round pick in 2018, White was derailed in 2019 by Tommy John surgery and by COVID in 2020. He then missed most of his first pro season in 2021 because he punched the ground after a bad throw on Opening Day and broke his hand.
He did strike out 52 in only 35 ⅓ innings. After an impressive go in the Arizona Fall League, White started 2022 at Hickory and was bumped to Frisco, where he made only four starts because of a shoulder injury. But he ended the season with an impressive run through the playoffs with Frisco.
White will start 2023 in the Frisco rotation with Leiter, TK Roby and Ryan Garcia, among others.
1. Evan Carter, of
Once again we have a new top prospect, with Josh Jung graduating to the big leagues in 2022. The head-turning, mind-boggling second-round pick in 2020, Carter was the surprise of the five-round COVID-shortened draft. No draft talking heads even had Carter in their top 500 prospects. Kip Fagg’s press conference was eye-opening and a head-scratcher. The Rangers’ amateur scouting director claimed that Carter was very possibly a five-tool kid who was hurt by COVID ending his senior season of high school.
Yeah, we always hear that.
Well, Fagg has been proven right so far. Carter’s approach at the plate is that of a seasoned player who is older than he is. Carter, who is 20, is 6-foot-4 and barely 200 pounds. This means he has room to grow and increase his power. He is fast on the bases and threw in the 90s in high school. Lastly, he plays center field and has the ability to stay there.
Carter ended 2022 with a week at Frisco and will begin there in 2023. It’s a long shot, but Carter might play his way to Arlington by year’s end after impressing during his first big-league camp.
Unless Carter makes the big leagues or has a bad season, he may be my first repeat No. 1 prospect heading into 2024. I guess someone could also surpass him, say Gutierrez or Sebastian Walcott, but Carter ought to be on top for a while.
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