The Texas Rangers are struggling in 2021, which explains why they made several moves at the deadline to part with players like Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, and Ian Kennedy. Not only did Texas fetch some intriguing prospects in these trades, but they also made a huge addition to their farm system by holding the No. 2 overall pick in this summer’s draft.
With some new faces joining the pipeline, let’s check out an updated ranking of the Rangers’ top-five prospects.
Make sure to check out all of our Updated Prospect Articles.
1. Jack Leiter, Starting Pitcher
Leiter has a phenomenal repertoire at his disposal. The four-pitch mix is headlined by his fastball, which sits in the mid-to-upper-90s and blows by batters. The right-hander is able to make the pitch, which also has good vertical break, appear extra powerful thanks to his massive stride and delivery. He also has great feel for his curveball, for which he can harness his command and force hitters to swing out of their shoes. Further, he possesses a low-80s slider that is also an effective pitch. His final offering is a changeup, which is a solid offering with good fade but doesn’t get thrown enough to be considered truly effective.
All eyes will be on how Leiter translates to a professional-level workload. He never threw more than 110 innings in college, so the Rangers might be forced to use a slower approach when easing him into more innings. Because of this, his development might be pushed back a little bit. I would anticipate the Vandy product will debut in mid-to-late 2023.
2. Josh Jung, Third Baseman
The Rangers selected Jung in the first round of the 2019 draft and he has not disappointed. Now 23 years old, the Texas Tech product is slashing .299/.359/.525 with 10 homers, 40 RBI, 15 walks, and 45 strikeouts through 45 games this season. The most notable metric here is the 10 homers, which is up from two in 2019. On a more negative note, he is striking out three times as often as he walks. This is a common trajectory for power hitters, but the Rangers would surely hope he can close the gap between strikeouts and walks a little bit. He is also an average fielder with a strong arm; he’ll stick at third base long-term unless the Rangers want to use him at designated hitter.
Jung has spent most of 2021 in Double-A but recently received a promotion to Triple-A. He won’t take the next step to the majors this season, but it seems very likely that he will debut sometime in 2022. The Rangers clearly need help and stability at third base, where veterans Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt are currently filling a platoon role.
3. Cole Winn, Starting Pitcher
The third first-round pick in this list, Winn landed with the Rangers as the No. 15 overall pick in 2018. After struggling in 2019, Winn has bounced back this year. Through 16 starts at Double-A, the right-hander is 3-3 with a 2.57 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and .140 OBA. He has also walked just 25 batters while striking out 88; his K/BB has more than doubled between 2019 and 2021. The 21-year-old possesses a powerful fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a very nice complementary curveball, which has effective vertical break. He also throws a slider with good break and a changeup with good fade, but neither of these pitches will ever surpass the curveball as his No. 2 offering.
Winn spent 2019 at Single-A and 2021 at Double-A, though it would not be surprising to see him earn a promotion to Triple-A by the end of the year. With this timeline in mind, Winn should be called up to the majors sometime next season as long as he continues to post good numbers and harness his control.
4. Justin Foscue, Second Baseman
Four prospects, four first-round picks. Foscue represents the draft class of 2020, from which he was selected with the 14th overall pick. Between time at Rookie, High-A, and Double-A, the second baseman has posted a strong .275/.376/.635 slash line with 15 homers, 41 RBI, 19 walks, and 54 strikeouts this season. Foscue possesses an above-average hit tool (although he struggles when it comes to strikeouts) and very good power for a second baseman. In the field, he plays a position that does not require exceptional range, yet he plays with ease and has very good glovework and hands when it comes to fielding ground balls and turning double plays. On a more negative note, Foscue is not very fast; he grades below-average in the running category and has logged just two stolen bases this year.
The 22-year-old still needs more developmental focus on his hitting approach so that he does not have such a high K/BB rate (2.84). With that said, there is significant draft capital behind Foscue, who has shown great potential throughout various instances. He might not make a quick rise to the majors, but Texas has to like what it sees in the Mississippi State product.
5. Josh Smith, Shortstop
The Rangers acquired Smith from the Yankees in this summer’s Joey Gallo blockbuster. The 2019 second-round pick is slashing .313/.416/.537 with four homers, 15 doubles, 16 RBI, 18 walks, 36 strikeouts, and 14 stolen bases between three levels of the minors this season. He clearly has a knack for hitting the baseball and getting on base, although he is lacking in the power department. With that said, he does have impressive speed, as evidenced by his 14 swiped bags this year. Defensively, there are questions about whether Smith can stick at shortstop. His arm strength and range would suggest yes, but there is still plenty of time for Texas to gain clarity on the situation.
Smith has appeared in just nine games at Double-A, so any idea that he could reach Triple-A this year should be ruled out. Even if he opens 2022 at Triple-A, it’s difficult to feel optimistic that he could reach the majors in the same season. I’m being cautious with this projection, but an ETA of 2023 seems the most likely.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Rangers have a very strong farm system brewing. If they hadn’t added Leiter and Smith, I would have legitimate concerns about this group and whether it could help turn around Texas baseball. However, by adding an elite pitching talent and another young prospect up the middle, the Rangers have built an impressive-looking future. Going forward, it will be key for the Rangers to remain relevant at the MLB level while continuing to develop prospects in the minors.
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