Sizing up the catching prospects
Teagarden is the Rangers' top catching prospect
Teagarden is the Rangers' top catching prospect
LoneStarDugout.com
Posted Oct 3, 2007


In this FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT, Lone Star Dugout analyzes the Rangers' top catching prospects. Which catching prospects have the highest upside? Which ones are ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

(FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT)

Highest Ceiling

Taylor Teagarden: Many believed the Rangers got a steal when they were able to select the hometown product in the third round of the 2005 draft. Aside from his affiliation with superagent Scott Boras, doubts about Teagarden’s bat led him to drop to the Rangers at 99th overall. There was never any question about Teagarden’s defense, as he is an advanced game-caller and learned to work with pitching staffs while playing at the University of Texas. Teagarden also works with fluid mechanics behind the plate to go with a strong, accurate arm.

Teagarden ran into injury problems and missed practically the entire 2006 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Still somewhat limited by his injury this year, Teagarden caught nearly one-third of his games and DHed the others. His defense remained as solid as ever and his arm strength appeared to improve as the season progressed. But the story for Teagarden in 2007 was his offense. The 23-year-old displayed the ability to hit for average (.310) and power (27 home runs) with solid plate discipline (75 walks) in 110 games between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. Teagarden struggled to make contact at times – racking up 128 strikeouts, including 39 in 102 Double-A at bats – but he should hit enough to be an everyday catcher in the majors.

Teagarden’s defense may be enough to carry him to the majors by itself, but his offensive development makes him one of the organization’s top prospects. Aside from giving the Rangers Gold Glove caliber defense, Teagarden could develop into a .280 hitter with 15-20 home runs annually.

Max Ramirez: Ramirez became one of the best pure hitters in the Rangers organization the day he was acquired this past July. The 22-year-old is a line drive hitter that has hit for both average and power throughout his professional career. He has a thick and strong body and figures to develop a little more home run power as he grows older. Ramirez has already drawn praise from the organization for his outstanding strike zone judgment.

The knock on Ramirez has been his defense, but the native of Venezuela has only been catching for three years and continues to show improvement behind the plate. Ramirez’s arm is good enough for the position and his handling of pitching staffs has steadily improved. The primary area of focus for Ramirez in 2007 was his footwork, which he feels is also getting better. He gunned down 30 percent (9-of-30) of prospective base stealers after he joined the Rangers organization and should be good enough to remain at catcher down the line.

Closest to Majors

Chris Stewart: Stewart doesn’t project to be much more than a big league backup, but he could fulfill that role for the Rangers in 2008. The 6-foot-4 backstop broke camp as the Rangers’ backup catcher this past season and displayed his strong arm, as he nailed four of eight attempted base stealers. He went on to throw out 38% after being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma. Stewart did struggle with his receiving abilities in the minors, racking up 10 passed balls in only 45 contests with the Oklahoma RedHawks. Though Stewart’s defense is good enough to land him a role in the majors, he is a career .251 minor league hitter and batted just .242 in 153 minor league at bats this season.

The “Sleepers”

De Los Santos has a strong arm.
Leonel De Los Santos: The native of the Dominican Republic, who turned 18 on October 2, was impressive in his first season with the Rangers organization. The youngster’s best tool appears to be his arm strength, which already rates among the system’s best. De Los Santos is still raw behind the plate, however, and he must improve his pop time and accuracy. The right-handed hitter earned a mid-season trip to Arizona and appeared in four games with the AZL Rangers, going 4-for-14 at the plate. De Los Santos spent the majority of his debut campaign with the Dominican Summer League Rangers, where he batted .263 with a pair of home runs in 35 contests.

Need to Make Their Move

Kevin Richardson: At 27 years of age, Richardson recently completed his fifth full professional season and his second at Double-A Frisco. The Gonzaga product has developed into a fine defensive catcher and even threw out 36-of-87 (41%) base stealers with the RoughRiders in 2007. But despite repeating the Texas League, Richardson saw his offensive production drop off in nearly every category. With solid skills behind the plate and a little bit of pop, Richardson could eventually become a backup catcher. However, with just one year left before he becomes eligible for minor league free agency, that opportunity might not come as a Texas Ranger.

Manuel Pina: The 20-year-old Pina has hands-down the best arm for a catcher in the Rangers system. Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2004, the club moved Pina behind the plate and he has done nothing but impress in all facets of the game defensively. Pina spent the entire 2007 season with Single-A Clinton after an elbow injury caused him to miss most of 2006. Because of his time missed, Pina has yet to develop with the bat. The right-handed hitter batted .228 with one home run in 86 games with the LumberKings this season. Pina does make contact – he struck out just eight times in 142 second-half at bats – but wasn’t able to square the ball up often enough. As solid as he is behind the plate, it is far too early to give up on Pina, but he will have to show more with the bat as he will likely repeat the Midwest League in 2008.

The Jury is Still Out

Santana is an advanced hitter.
Cristian Santana: It would not be a stretch to see Santana’s name under “Highest Ceiling” this time next year. In fact, a strong case could be made for that right now. A highly sought after international free agent, the Rangers were able to sign Santana for a fairly hefty bonus in 2005. The catcher missed the entire 2006 season because of shoulder surgery, but he appeared to be going at full strength when he played with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers this year. Not only is the 18-year-old an advanced hitter for his age, but he also possesses above-average speed and athleticism for his position. It could be argued that Santana has the highest offensive ceiling of any catching prospect in the organization. Defensively, Santana has a great deal of work to do. The Dominican Republic native gunned down just 7-of-50 base stealers in the short season while allowing 13 passed balls. Regardless, he has a good arm and scouts have spoken positively of his mechanics in the past.

Jonathan Greene: Regarded as an outstanding hitter during his time at Western Carolina, Greene racked up 33 home runs over three seasons with the Catamounts. The Rangers' eighth round pick in the 2007 draft, Greene continued to hit for power in professional baseball, as he launched 11 round-trippers in 58 games during his debut with the Spokane Indians. Although the 22-year-old spent the majority of his professional season behind the plate, he was more of a utility player during his collegiate career, spending a great deal of time at third base and left field. Greene may very well develop into a fine prospect, but many advanced college hitters dominate the Northwest League in their debut only to never be heard from again.

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