Inbox: Examining new prospect rankings

Beat reporter Kennedi Landry responds to Rangers fans' questions

March 10th, 2021

MLB Pipeline is dropping its lists of the Top 30 prospects in each organization this week, and the Rangers' new list was one of the first to be released. There weren’t many changes in the list from 2020 to now, but you guys had questions, so I tried to answer as many of them as I could as we head into the ‘21 season.

We’ve seen a few of these guys in Spring Training games. Any of them there now that we haven’t seen yet?
-- Michael H. on Twitter

We’ve seen pretty much all the prospects that are in camp on the field at one point or another, even if just briefly. Rangers No. 12 prospect Anderson Tejeda was one of the only ones not to appear as he recovered from an elbow infection, and we got our first glimpse of him in Tuesday's 9-2 loss to Cleveland, when he came in at shortstop for Isiah Kiner-Falefa mid-game. He went 1-for-2 at the plate with a double.

“I've been dying to see him in this camp,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “One thing with Andy that really impressed us last year when he came up was just his attitude and the way he plays. This kid plays hard, and he's got a ton of talent, we saw it last year.

“Not having him out there, up to this point I was a little frustrated because I really wanted to see this kid in camp and watch this guy compete, so it was nice to see him out there. He had a good game.”

Rangers No. 26 prospect A.J. Alexy -- who was part of the 2017 Yu Darvish trade with Willie Calhoun -- is the only other non-roster invitee on the Top 30 list that we haven’t seen in game action. He threw a live bullpen session on Monday and is now on the Rangers' 40-man roster, so I would expect to see him out of the big league bullpen at some point this coming season.

Is Ryan Garcia only outside the Top 30 because of his Tommy John surgery last spring? He thrived in the Pac-12, Northwoods, Cape Cod League and Low A -- plus he was ranked No. 23 in the system with a 2022 ETA at the end of 2019.
-- Sam C. on Twitter

A second-round Draft pick out of UCLA in 2019, Garcia is a good talent. Like you mentioned, he thrived in his junior season at UCLA. He was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and a consensus First Team All-American with a 10-1 record and a 1.44 ERA. On the Cape, he had a 2-0 record, 1.28 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.

But the Rangers have a ton of pitching depth in the farm system, and while they really like Garcia, there are better and healthier arms throughout as he rehabs from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in March 2020. They will likely need to reevaluate him once he makes his return to the field.

How much Tejeda at SS do you think we’ll see this year?
-- @CespedesBBQ on Twitter

Woodward loves what Tejeda does on the field, and I would expect he wants to see him quite a lot. Tejeda is on the 40-man, but Woodward said it depends on whether Tejeda performs.

If Kiner-Falefa ever goes down, Tejeda is definitely the next man up. But the coaching staff wants the prospects to get at-bats and games following the cancellation of the Minor League seasons last year.

I have two: What’s the service time cutoff that makes someone a prospect or not? Seeing how there’s only one LHP on the list, is there ANY consideration given to righty vs. lefty starters in terms of how the new ballpark is favoring one or the other?
-- @WoolCorp on Twitter

In order to be considered a prospect, you must still have rookie eligibility remaining. The thresholds are:

• 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues

• 45 total days on an active Major League roster prior to Sept. 1, when clubs are allowed to expand their rosters from the 25-player limit to include any player on the 40-man roster.

Woodward has said in response to the starting rotation this season that he wasn’t too worried about the disproportionate amount of right-handed pitchers to their left-handed counterparts. How those things play out in the new park doesn’t seem to have been a consideration just yet.

Do you think Brock Holt makes the team as a bench player?
-- @rangergrl71 on Twitter

I think one of Holt and Charlie Culberson makes the team as a utility infielder. In my latest Opening Day roster prediction, I have Culberson, but either could slot in there. As I mentioned there, whoever starts at third is just a placeholder for No. 1 prospect Josh Jung as he gets some seasoning in Triple-A before making his debut.

But if you need a placeholder, you can’t go wrong with either veteran guy. Both have experience at all the infield positions, though Culberson has more in the middle infield than Holt.

I’m hoping the Rangers draft either Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter in the MLB Draft. If/when they do, will that player surpass Jung as No. 1 prospect?
-- @Scorpidoc on Twitter

The Vandy Boys are basically a baseball player factory, and that’s apparent with these two pitchers, who could be Nos. 1-2 in the MLB Draft. According to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, they would both likely jump Jung for the No. 1 prospect in the Rangers' system. Rocker is finishing up his junior season, with Leiter finishing his sophomore season.

Three weeks into the college baseball season, both Rocker and Leiter have nearly identical stat lines, at a 3-0 record with a 0.60 ERA. Both are polished college pitchers who can hit 100 mph easily on the radar gun. Leiter has 26 strikeouts and seven walks on the season, while Rocker has 25 strikeouts and seven walks.

If Jung tears it up in Triple-A to start the season and starts hitting .330 with a few homers, things could get interesting atop the prospect list.