The Texas Rangers have placed six prospects on the 40-man roster, protecting them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft––Jake Brigham, Roman Mendez, Justin Miller, Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, and Matt West.
This year's roster decisions were even a bit tougher than most years for the Rangers. Coming into Friday's cutoff date, the club had 41 players eligible for selection in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Texas hasn't lost a player via the major league portion of the draft since 2006, when right-hander Alfredo Simon went to Baltimore with the fifth pick. He was later returned during spring training. With a couple of intriguing candidates left off the roster due to space constraints this offseason, the Rangers may have a prospect plucked for the first time in five years.
The 2011 draft will be held at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas on December 8.
After Friday's moves, the Rangers now have 37 players on their 40-man roster.
The following scouting reports were included in the Lone Star Dugout Rangers Rule 5 preview, which was posted on Friday morning.
All four players that were listed as "near locks" in the aforementioned article were added to the 40-man roster. Two of the four prospects from the "strong candidates" group were selected. The two most prominent players left unprotected were right-handed relievers Johan Yan and Ryan Kelly. Yan, a sidearming reliever, is perhaps the most likely candidate to be taken by another team in the Rule 5 Draft. Although he doesn't profile as a late-inning reliever, he's polished and could contribute to a major league club in 2012.
Jake Brigham, RHP – Raw stuff has never been Brigham’s issue, as his arm remains one of the best in the system. The 23-year-old had an inconsistent Double-A debut campaign but appeared to settle into the full-time bullpen role during the second half. He posted a 2.35 ERA while fanning 45 in his final 38.1 innings. As a reliever, Brigham’s fastball sat at 93-97 mph, and both his power curveball and upper-80s slider flashed plus. He may not be a finished product, but his late-innings ceiling gives him a good case for addition.
Roman Mendez, RHP – Mendez has never pitched above Low-A, but he could move quickly during the next two seasons. The 21-year-old works at 92-96 mph and touched up to 99 in spring training. His 80-83 mph slider is a future plus pitch, and the still-developing changeup improved this past season. If Mendez ultimately can’t stick as a starting pitcher, he has the stuff to become a lethal late-inning reliever. Despite his lack of upper-level experience, pitching prospects of his caliber (raw talent and ceiling) are rarely left unprotected, and the Rangers aren’t likely to take their chances by leaving him off the roster.
Justin Miller, RHP – One of the top breakout pitchers in the Rangers’ organization this year, Miller posted a 1.81 ERA while allowing only 46 hits and striking out 77 in 69.2 innings at Double-A. His command took a massive step forward while his velocity and secondary stuff also improved. The 6-foot-3 righty works at 93-96 mph and touches even higher––up to 98-99 this season––with improved mechanics and decent command. He also uses a solid-average 83-87 mph slider that flashes plus and the occasional changeup.
Martin Perez, LHP – Perez’s addition doesn’t really need explaining. He remains the top pitching prospect in the Rangers’ organization, and he finished the ’11 campaign in Triple-A despite being only 20 years old. He flashes three plus pitches at times, including a 90-96 mph fastball and a curveball that became more of a swing-and-miss offering this past season. The Venezuela native still needs more seasoning in terms of refining his fastball command and making his secondary stuff more consistent. He’ll likely play most––if not all––of the ’12 season back in Triple-A, but he is a 100 percent lock to join the club’s 40-man roster.
Neil Ramirez, RHP – Ramirez is another young hurler who spent much of the ’11 season in Triple-A, and he––like Perez––is an absolute lock for the 40-man roster. The former first-round pick busted back on to the scene during a major league spring training game this past March, when he flashed 98 mph heat and a hammer curveball in a relief appearance. Through Ramirez battled some shoulder fatigue that limited his innings during the regular season, he missed Triple-A bats with three pitches (91-96 mph fastball, plus curveball, deceptive mid-80s changeup) when at full strength. He could contribute to the Rangers’ big league club at some point next season.
Matt West, RHP – The former second-round pick appeared to be on his last legs as a position player in spring training, having been passed on the depth chart by prospects like Mike Olt and Christian Villanueva. But he touched 94 mph in an experimental bullpen session at the end of camp and never looked back from there. Armed with two wipeout pitches in his 95-97 mph fastball and low-80s slider, he fills up the strike zone (35 strikeouts, one walk in 27 innings this season) and should fly through the system beginning next year. West still must refine his within-the-zone fastball command, but he is polished despite his lack of experience on the mound and has future closer potential.
Here are the two scouting reports on Kelly and Yan from the Rule 5 preview story:
Ryan Kelly, RHP – Kelly is currently scuffling in the Fall League, but it’s more likely a product of fatigue, as his velocity is down and he pitched 82 innings during the regular season. The 24-year-old righty works at 91-96 mph fastball and his 81-84 mph breaking ball can miss bats. He had more success keeping hitters off-balance in the second half after introducing an upper-80s cutter to his arsenal. While Kelly’s results didn’t match the stuff early in the season, he improved (2.95 ERA, 29 hits in 36.2 ip in the second half) after adding the cutter.
Johan Yan, RHP – In his second season as a sidearmer, the 23-year-old progressed across the board in terms of velocity, command, and secondary stuff. Yan’s long arms lead to a highly deceptive (and unorthodox) delivery, and he features a heavy 87-90 mph sinker. He also mixes in a unique mid-70s breaking ball and a changeup. After allowing just one earned run in 26.2 Double-A innings, he has pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. Both Miller and Yan should be major league ready at some point in 2012, making them attractive (and relatively safe picks) to other clubs if left off the roster.
The preview story, which is linked above, features more scouting reports of players that were left unprotected.
The full list of Rangers farmhands that will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft: OF Mike Bianucci, LHP Richard Bleier, 1B/OF Jared Bolden, RHP Wilfredo Boscan, OF Joey Butler, RHP Leonel de los Santos, RHP Ovispo de los Santos, C Jose Felix, INF Edwin Garcia, 1B Jhonny Gomez, RHP Kenny Gomez, OF Jonathan Greene, LHP Geuris Grullon, LHP Juan Grullon, RHP Ben Henry, INF Mitch Hilligoss, RHP Trevor Hurley, INF Andres James, RHP Ryan Kelly, LHP Kasey Kiker, RHP Carlos Melo, LHP Tim Murphy, LHP Yoon-Hee Nam, LHP Joe Ortiz, RHP Carlos Pimentel, OF Guillermo Pimentel, 2B Alejandro Selen, INF Davis Stoneburner, LHP Ben Snyder, C Tomas Telis, 1B Chad Tracy, RHP Tyler Tufts, RHP Johan Yan, LHP Corey Young, C Zach Zaneski.
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