Sizing up the outfield prospects

Engel Beltre

In this feature article, Lone Star Dugout analyzes the Rangers' top outfield prospects. Which outfield prospects have the highest upside? Which ones are ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

Highest Ceiling

Engel Beltre: A 17-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Beltre has the highest ceiling of any position prospect in the Rangers organization. Already an outstanding defensive centerfielder, Beltre uses good reads and plus speed to track down balls with ease in the outfield. His strong arm would play well in a corner spot, let alone centerfield.

Though Beltre is impressive with the glove, it's his potential at the plate that has Rangers officials and fans alike excited. The left-handed hitting Beltre already has impressive power, but he has not yet begun to fill out physically. Beltre stands 6-foot-1 and still has a relatively thin frame. His power should continue to grow as his body develops. Beltre did struggle with patience in his first professional season, as he swung early and often and came up empty quite a few times. The 17-year-old – who finished his season in the short-season Northwest League – could eventually develop into one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

John Mayberry: Mayberry continued to show the power that makes him a high-ceiling prospect in 2007, as he belted 30 home runs between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. The Stanford product often struggled to make contact due to a long swing that made him an all-or-nothing hitter. Mayberry batted .235 with 126 strikeouts in 132 games between the two levels. If Mayberry is able to improve his pitch selection and develop a more compact swing, he could become an All-Star outfielder with 30 home run ability.

A first baseman at Stanford University, the Rangers moved Mayberry to right field upon drafting him because they felt his athleticism and arm would be wasted at first. Mayberry's arm rates as slightly above-average and he is a good enough athlete to play in the outfield. However, he has had trouble getting good reads and taking direct routes to fly balls.

Closest to Majors

Brandon Boggs: Boggs will likely be added to the club's 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from December's Rule 5 draft. The 24-year-old had a breakout season with the bat in 2007, belting 23 home runs. Boggs has above-average power and a good eye at the plate, but he is prone to strike out. A switch-hitter, Boggs batted just .236 from the left side of the plate (.311 from the right) with Double-A Frisco this past season. He will need to improve his offense against right-handed pitching in order to become an everyday player in the big leagues. A centerfielder, Boggs' outstanding range and above-average arm make him one of the top defenders in the system. There is little doubt that he could be an everyday big leaguer in the field, but he will need to become more consistent at the plate.

David Murphy: Murphy created quite the buzz when he batted .343 in 105 at bats as a member of the Rangers' outfield in August and September. The Baylor product is a solid hitter with a good approach, but he has never developed the power the Red Sox hoped he would when they took him 17th overall in 2003. Murphy probably will not hit enough to become a full-time player at a corner outfield spot and his average range and arm strength probably won't let him stick in center. However, Murphy is passable defensively at all three outfield positions and he should hit enough to become a dependable, versatile fourth outfielder.

The "Sleepers"

Miguel Alfonzo: Alfonzo originally signed as an international free agent alongside Fabio Castillo, Cristian Santana, and Johan Yan in mid-2005. The 19-year-old recently finished up a strong stateside debut. In 31 games with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers, Alfonzo batted .310 with seven doubles, one triple, and one home run. Despite not being a well-known name, the native of Venezuela was one of the most impressive hitters on the Arizona Rangers roster. Alfonzo's greatest strength was his ability to make solid contact on the ball with regularity.

Eric Fry: The Rangers' 33rd round pick in 2006, Fry became part of the club's final draft-and-follow class as he agreed to terms with the Rangers shortly before the 2007 draft. The 5-foot-10 left-handed hitting outfielder is an advanced hitter with some raw power and a bit of speed. Fry, 20, can play all three outfield positions, but he spent the majority of his professional debut in right field.

Paisano is solid defensively.
David Paisano: Paisano has garnered a lot of attention since being involved in the Brandon McCarthy trade with the White Sox, but he is still technically a sleeper. Despite being 19-years-old in 2007, Paisano had never played in the states before. He spent his 2006 campaign in the Venezuelan Summer League, where he batted .338 with seven triples. After spending some time in extended spring training, the Rangers sent Paisano all the way to Single-A Clinton, where he would appear in 88 games. Paisano looked overmatched at first and batted just .203. However, he appeared gradually adjust to the league and hit .249 with increased power in July and August. The native of Venezuela is already an above-average baserunner and a very good fielder. Paisano has excellent range and a strong throwing arm in centerfield. The outfielder could break out as he is expected to repeat the Single-A level in 2008.

Tim Smith: The Rangers' seventh round pick in 2007, Smith was able to crack a loaded Arizona State lineup after spending his first two collegiate seasons at Midland College in Texas. The 6-foot-3 outfielder doesn't have a lot of power potential, but he is arguably the top pure hitter drafted by the Rangers this past year, thanks in part to his impressive bat speed. The 21-year-old has average speed and average arm strength. While he can play all three outfield positions, he is probably best suited for left field.

Miguel Velazquez: The Rangers selected Velazquez in the 16th round of the 2006 draft. Velazquez was regarded as one of the top prospects in Puerto Rico, but fell in the draft due to a knee injury. The 19-year-old outfielder batted .330 with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, and seven stolen bases in just 94 at bats with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers. Velazquez was placed on the suspended list in late-July, but was recently reinstated. Rangers' minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger said Velazquez is "pretty much a five-tool guy". Boulanger went on to say that he projects the outfielder to play in the major leagues someday. The 6-foot-2 Velazquez is, without a doubt, one to keep an eye on next season.

Need to Make Their Move

Freddy Guzman: The only question for Guzman is his ability to get on base. With his blazing speed – Guzman led the PCL with 56 steals this season – and good plate discipline, the 26-year-old switch-hitter fits well as a leadoff man. However, Guzman batted just .269 with Triple-A Oklahoma in '07. Guzman does not have much power at all, but he has the ability to stretch some of his doubles into three-baggers. The former Padres prospect covers a great deal of ground in centerfield and has an average arm. Guzman's defense and speed are easily good enough to land him a starting job in the majors, but he will never be more than a reserve if he is unable to get on base consistently.

Ben Harrison: Harrison entered the 2007 season as one of the system's more intriguing power prospects, but the 26-year-old followed up his breakout campaign with a disastrous season. After missing nearly half the season nursing a shoulder injury he sustained in the Venezuelan Winter League, Harrison spent a short amount of time at Double-A Frisco before being sent down to High-A Bakersfield. Harrison fell into bad habits with his swing, lost his power, and struggled to make contact. The outfielder batted just .240 with six home runs and 75 strikeouts in 221 at bats in Bakersfield. There is still hope that Harrison can re-discover the swing he had in 2006, but as a 26-year-old who recently regressed to High-A, things are beginning to look dim.

Murphy's power was down in 2007.
Steve Murphy: Although not related to fellow outfield prospect David Murphy, the two players share quite a few similarities. Both attended Big 12 schools, profile best in left field, swing a left-handed bat, and – while neither of them is loaded with tools – they don't have many glaring weaknesses. Murphy's best attribute during his first two professional seasons was his power, but he saw it drop off for much of 2007. A free-swinger, Murphy says he wants to work on improving his plate discipline for next season. The Kansas State product is a decent defender in left field with average range and an average arm. As mentioned previously, the 23-year-old's tools rate solid average across the board.

Chad Tracy: Tracy was regarded as one of the more advanced hitters in collegiate baseball after three outstanding seasons at Pepperdine University. The 22-year-old posted a strong professional debut with short-season Spokane in 2006, but he was inconsistent with low Class-A Clinton in 2007. Though Tracy got off to a promising start, he appeared to wear down as the season progressed and ended up batting just .250. The right-handed hitter has a line drive swing and – while he doesn't project to hit for a ton of home run power – he could end up with 15-20 home runs. Tracy entered the organization as a catcher, but the Rangers opted to move him to left field for his first full season. He began to play some first base towards the end of the year and will likely see time at both positions while playing in Hawaii this winter.

The Jury is Still Out

Julio Borbon: The 35th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Borbon saw very limited action this past season after signing shortly before the August 15 deadline. The former Tennessee Volunteer battled injuries during his final college season and appeared in just 40 games. Borbon was at his best in the summer of 2006 when he put his skills on display with Team USA. The 21-year-old's speed is currently his best tool, as he may be the fastest player in the organization. Borbon also figures to hit for a relatively high average, though he has never drawn a lot of walks. He showed flashes of power with a wood bat while playing for Team USA, but he had only 16 extra base hits in 174 at bats during his final season at Tennessee. In the field, Borbon is a centerfielder with good range and a below-average arm. The Rangers gave him a major league deal when they signed him and he should progress though the system's lower levels quickly.

Craig Gentry: At this point in time, Gentry seems to compare fairly well with Triple-A outfielder Freddy Guzman both in statistics and ability. Gentry – who swiped 42 bases in 52 attempts in his first full professional season – is an outstanding runner with plus speed that profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter. The Arkansas product is also one of the organization's very best defensive outfielders. Though he doesn't have a great arm, his range in center is very good. The only question for the 23-year-old is how often he will reach base. Gentry batted .274 while splitting the time between the two A-ball levels in 2007 and he has never drawn a lot of walks. He has displayed a bit of gap power thus far, but will probably never produce much in the way of home runs.

K.C. Herren: Much like fellow Clinton outfielder Chad Tracy, Herren followed a phenomenal first half with a poor showing in the second half. Still, the former second round pick had his best season as a pro, batting .276 with 30 doubles, 12 triples, and six home runs. Herren has good speed to go with some gap power. The 22-year-old still figures to develop more home run pop as he moves up, but it doesn't project to be a plus tool. Herren felt he made strikes with his throwing arm this season, but he remains a fringe average defender in right field with an average arm. A move to the hitter-friendly California League could do wonders for Herren's prospect status in 2008.

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