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.
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. -- No team can match the Rangers' trio of top prospects.
Third baseman/outfielder Joey Gallo (No. 9) and outfielders Lewis Brinson (No. 16) and Nomar Mazara (No. 18) all rank near the top of MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. Gallo has as much raw power as anyone in baseball, Brinson may have the best all-around tools in the Minors and Mazara fits the classic right-field profile and is the most polished of the group.
• Rangers Top 30 Prospects list
All three are performing well in big league camp and could combine for 90 or more homers annually once they get established in Texas' lineup. Gallo made his debut last season -- and hit a 439-foot homer off Clayton Kershaw -- while Brinson and Mazara could arrive sometime this summer.
"They were a lot of fun," said Rangers field coordinator Corey Ragsdale, who managed Gallo, Brinson and Mazara on loaded teams in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2012 and at Hickory in the Class A South Atlantic League in 2013. "It's special to have a group like that. You're not sure how many times you're going to have that opportunity. That Hickory team is the only one I've been around where the workers in the stadium would stop and watch them take batting practice."
• Five questions with Dillon Tate
Gallo, Brinson and Mazara deservedly draw the most attention in MLBPipeline's No. 3-ranked farm system, but they also overshadow a deep collection of pitching prospects. The Rangers' last two first-round picks, right-handers Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz, have front-of-the-rotation potential, as does 2015 third-rounder Michael Matuella, a candidate to go No. 1 overall before he had Tommy John surgery last April. It's possible that most of Texas' best pitching prospects could form the rotation at Class A Advanced High Desert, with lefties Brett Martin and Yohander Mendez and righty Ariel Jurado joining Tate and Ortiz.
"A lot of people don't realize it because they're on the younger end, but we do have a lot of pitching," Texas pitching coordinator Danny Clark said. "We're very excited about the arms we have."
MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports
Gallo is tied for the team lead with a pair of homers in big league camp, including a monster shot into the players' parking lot at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Sunday. Brinson is hitting .357 and ranks second on the Rangers with two steals.
Yet neither has been as impressive as Mazara. He went 3-for-3 in an intrasquad contest the day before official games began, and has gone 11-for-25 since then. Farm director Mike Daly said that Mazara has been become a better hitter than the organization originally projected, a strong statement considering he signed for $4.95 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, setting a since-broken record for a bonus given to an international amateur.
"He started doing a toe tap two years ago, and it allowed him to stay on the ball more," Daly said. "He's exceeded our expectations. We thought he'd be more power than bat. He's got the right mentality, never too high or too low, so consistent."
Outfielder Ryan Cordell batted a combined .315/.382/.529 between two Class A levels in 2014-15, then plummeted to .217/.263/.335 in Double-A in the second half of last season. The Rangers think he may have just been worn out after learning to play third base and shortstop to fill a void in Class A Advanced last year. Back to focusing on center field, he has looked better at the plate in Spring Training, going 6-for-12 with three doubles and nary a strikeout.
"He's as physically talented as any of the guys in Major League camp," Daly said. "He's a plus runner, plus center fielder, can play all three outfield positions and first base, and he has good makeup."
After the Rangers signed outfielder Jairo Beras for $4.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, he struggled at the plate until the second half of last season. He batted .310/.349/.487 in his final 70 games at Hickory and could be primed for a huge year at hitter-friendly Class A Advanced High Desert. His bat speed and the leverage in his 6-foot-6 frame give him some of the best raw power in the system.
"I don't know if it was anything in particular, just a little confidence goes a long way," said Ragsdale, who managed Beras at Hickory last summer. "He and [Crawdads hitting coach] Frankie Matos worked a lot in the cage and he was putting up very good at-bats. It was definitely fun to watch. In the second half, he made an impact every night. Sometimes those tall guys with long arms need some time to figure things out."
Texas made Martin a fourth-round pick in 2014 because they saw a projectable left-hander with the potential to become a mid-rotation starter. He showed glimpses of doing so last year while on tight pitch counts in low Class A, sitting in the low 90s with his fastball and spinning one of the better curveballs in the system. Now the Rangers are ready to turn him loose.
"Brett needed to gain weight when we got him and he's gained 20 pounds," Clark said. "Consistency with his arm slot been an issue with him but all signs are pointing up. The thing that separates Brett is his curveball. It's tight and more of a power curveball and at 6-foot-4 he can leverage the ball down."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.