Baseball's best prospect Profar tops strong group

Baseball's best prospect Profar tops strong group

The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.

It seems fitting that in his first Major League at-bat last September, Jurickson Profar clubbed a pitch 388 feet and over the right-field wall at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

At the time, he was a 19-year-old who had never played above the Double-A level, thrust into the starting lineup when Ian Kinsler was scratched with back stiffness shortly before the game. Profar didn't appear fazed as he became the first player in franchise history to homer in his first career at-bat. That's just one example of why MLB.com named him the top prospect in all of baseball, not just the Rangers' organization.

Profar's talent -- he hit .281 with a .368 on-base percentage, 14 homers, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases for Double-A Frisco last season -- might make it difficult for Texas to stash him away at Triple-A Round Rock in 2013. But the Rangers' infield is already set, with Adrian Beltre at third base, Elvis Andrus at shortstop, Kinsler at second and Mitch Moreland at first.

"Our stance with Jurickson is if he demonstrates he's one of our best 25 and maybe one of our best nine, if we're convinced he can make an impact on the team and continue his progress, we'll be open-minded," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.

The same goes for the club's No. 2 prospect, Mike Olt. The 24-year-old's natural position is third base, which the Rangers hope Beltre occupies for the majority of games this season. Daniels hinted that Olt could see time in the outfield or at first base if he makes the big league club. He hit .288 with a .398 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 82 RBIs in just 95 games for Frisco last season, but hit only .152 in 33 at-bats with Texas after a late-season promotion.

Top 20 prospects

Right-hander Cody Buckel surpassed southpaw Martin Perez as the top pitching prospect in the organization.

Perez, who posted a 5.45 ERA in 38 innings for the Rangers last year, will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation during Spring Training. Ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Texas system, Perez went 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) at Round Rock. Buckel, Texas' second-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, won the Nolan Ryan Award last season as the organization's Top Minor League Pitcher. He checks in as the club's No. 4 prospect.

Right-handers Wilmer Font (No. 7) and Justin Grimm (No. 10) are the next two pitchers on the list. Font went 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA in 33 outings (19 starts) between Class A Myrtle Beach and Frisco last season. He was a September callup and made three appearances for the Rangers, allowing two runs in two innings. Grimm stymied opposing hitters at Frisco, where he went 9-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 16 outings (14 starts). He compiled a 2-3 mark and 4.59 ERA in nine games and eight starts for Round Rock following a promotion.

Under the radar

Joey Butler, RF: A 15th-round Draft choice in 2008, Butler hit .290 with 20 homers, 28 doubles, 78 RBIs, 93 runs scored and a .392 on-base percentage in 137 games with Round Rock last year. In '11, he hit .322 for Round Rock. Butler turns 27 in March, so he's old as far as prospects go, but he has posted solid numbers throughout his professional career.

Chad Bell, LHP: The Rangers selected Bell in the 14th round of the 2009 Draft, and he has pitched well at every Minor League stop since. He opened last season at Myrtle Beach and earned a promotion to Frisco after four strong outings. At Frisco, he logged a 2.84 ERA in 13 appearances before advancing to Round Rock, where he went 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year

Joey Gallo, 3B: The 6-foot-5 third baseman slugged 18 homers in 43 games for the Rangers' rookie level team last summer. He was only 18 years old and playing at the lowest rung of the Minor League ladder, and he struggled after earning a promotion to short-season Class A Spokane. But Gallo oozes raw power and could put up eye-popping numbers if he figures out how to flex his muscles against tougher pitching.

Pitcher of the Year

Buckel, RHP: He earned the distinction of Top Minor League Pitcher in the organization last year, and there's no reason to think he can't repeat that performance in 2013. The 20-year-old went 10-8 with a 2.49 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings between Myrtle Beach and Frisco last year.

Zack Meisel is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.