Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Texas Rangers.
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Before this offseason, the last time Jayce Tingler was directly involved with the Rangers' farm system was 2012-14, when he served as Minor League field coordinator. After he spent 2015-16 in the same role at the Major League level, Texas named him its farm director in November when it reshuffled its front office after Thad Levine left to become the Twins GM.
While it may appear that the Rangers need some time to restock after falling out of MLBPipeline.com's Top 10 Farm Systems rankings for the first time in three years, Tingler believes the organization has more talent than outsiders may realize.
"When I left, we were developing power bats: Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson," Tingler said. "Those guys are now in the big leagues or have been traded. I was under that impression a little bit, that we might be reloading. But back on the back fields, I've been pleasantly surprised.
"We have some real unique skillsets, some guys who can do some things. I think we have some people who people don't know about. I'm pretty confident we have a strong group of up-and-coming players."
International talent abounds
Texas plays the international market as well as anyone, so it's no surprise that our Rangers Top 30 Prospects list starts with Dominican outfielder Leody Taveras, Venezuelan left-hander Yohander Mendez, Panamanian righty Ariel Jurado and Dominican first baseman Ronald Guzman. Sixteen members of that Top 30 were international signees, including on-the-rise talents such as Dominican shortstop Anderson Tejeda and Cuban outfielder/third baseman Yanio Perez.
In recent years, the Rangers have had more success developing bats than arms. They signed and developed just one starter (Martin Perez) and no high-leverage relievers on their projected 2017 staff. But the development of Mendez and Jurado, who have some of the most advanced command in the Minors, may be a signal that pitching is on the way to Arlington.
Texas used its top two picks in the 2016 Draft on left-hander Cole Ragans (first round), who gets likened to a young Cole Hamels, and righty Alex Speas (second), whose athleticism and electric arm prompt comparisons to Dwight Gooden. From Mendez and Jurado to Ragans and Speas with multiple waves in between, the Rangers are encouraged by their pitching prospects.
"Our scouts have done a tremendous job," Tingler said. "We've got Mendez and Jurado and Connor Sadzeck in big league camp. Brett Martin and Joe Palumbo and Wes Benjamin are the next group behind them. We've got Michael Matuella and Kyle Cody and Jonathan Hernandez, and then Ragans and Speas. Our pitching guys feel like we've got some layers of starting pitching depth."
Tejeda wasn't a high-profile international signee, garnering a $100,000 bonus in 2014. But teams quickly took notice of him when he made his U.S. debut last summer, asking Texas about him in trade talks last July.
Though he's just 5-foot-11, Tejeda generates much more power than a typical shortstop thanks to his quick hands and deceptive strength. He tied for the Rookie-level Arizona League lead last summer with six triples in just 32 games, then ranked fourth in the short-season Northwest League with eight homers in only 23 contests. He finished with 34 extra-base hits in 66 games across three leagues as an 18-year-old.
"With his power and bat speed, Tejeda has impact potential," Rangers assistant GM Josh Boyd said. "He has special, whippy power. He's raw, but how he played at Spokane was impressive. He has a chance to be a solid-average shortstop. He'll be a shortstop for now and needs to refine some things."
Yanio Perez commanded a $1.1 million bonus last September and will make his pro debut this spring, likely playing all over the outfield and also on both infield corners at Class A Hickory. The 21-year-old added strength and quickness after defecting from Cuba, and he now earns some plus grades for his power potential and his speed.
"I didn't know much about Yanio Perez, but he keeps catching my eye," Tingler said. "He's at third base one day, first base the next, center field the next. He's physical, he runs, he plays different defensive positions, he has bat speed. He's impressive."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.