With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.
Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.
The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.
Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
Texas has no prospects in this tier.
Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
#1 - Yohander Mendez (LHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
In 2016 Mendez made the leap from High-A High Desert to the majors, with stops at Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. Along the way he answered questions about his durability by making 21 starts and throwing 111 innings, both career-highs by wide margins. At his best, Mendez features an above-average fastball and a plus-to-double-plus changeup with excellent control. He was often at his best in 2016, finishing 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA and 113 strikeouts across those three levels. The development of his third pitch, in this case an average curveball, will go a long way toward determining whether he reaches his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter, if not a little more. Look for him to open 2017 back at Round Rock and then to arrive in Texas before long.
Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters
These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.
#2 - Cole Ragans (LHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 19
Selected with the 30th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ragans has the look of a future No. 2 or No. 3 starter. His arsenal already includes three above-average pitches--fastball, curveball, and changeup--and his 6’4” frame has plenty of room for projectability. Hence the bullish ranking. All he appears to lack is experience, for he made only two starts in the Arizona rookie league. The Rangers could start him in short-season ball at Spokane, though an aggressive assignment to Low-A Hickory is not out of the question.
#3 - Ariel Jurado (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 21
Jurado has moved quickly through the Texas system and pitched well at every stop, including the hitter-friendly California League, where he spent two-thirds of the 2016 season before reaching Double-A Frisco as a 20-year-old. All told, last season he finished 8-6 with a 3.66 ERA and a 106:34 K:BB ratio in 123 IP. His best pitch is his changeup, though he also gets good movement on his fastball. Above-average control and pitchability have helped him succeed everywhere he’s been. Expect him to reach Triple-A Round Rock at some point in 2017.
#4 - Eric Jenkins (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 20
A second-round pick in 2015, Jenkins plays a very good centerfield and is dynamic on the basepaths. In 2016 at Low-A Hickory he stole a league-leading 51 bases. Detractors could point to his .221/.279/.330 slash line, but he played the entire season as a 19-year-old, and teenagers often struggle with their first taste of Low-A ball. He did hit 8 HR, and his 6’1”-170 frame has room for added strength. His ceiling is that of an everyday outfielder with average power and 30-SB potential, though he remains a long way from reaching it. If all goes well in 2017 he should see some time with the new Down East Wood Ducks of the High-A Carolina League.
Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays
These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
#5 - Andy Ibanez (2B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 23
Ibanez’s advanced hit-tool and plate discipline make him an ideal No. 2 hitter. As a 23-year-old in 2016, getting his first taste of American professional ball, the former Cuban infielder obliterated Low-A pitching on his way to a .324/.414/.546 slash line with 7 HR and 10 SB in only 49 games. Badly under-assigned at Hickory, he skipped High-A altogether before encountering a much bigger challenge at Double-A Frisco, where his production declined. On the whole, fantasy owners might expect solid batting averages without much in the way of counting stats. With Rougned Odor manning second base in Arlington, Ibanez’s long-term future is uncertain. In the short term, he could head back to Frisco for more seasoning.
#6 - Ronald Guzman (1B)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
Although Guzman is 22 and reached Triple-A Round Rock for a 25-game cup of coffee, there is still some projection in this ranking. A 6’5” first baseman, Guzman enjoyed his best season in 2016, slashing a combined .274/.333/.449 with 16 HR and 67 RBI, with the bulk those numbers coming at Double-A Frisco. From year to year, slowly but surely, the home-run totals have been climbing. Another spike in power at Round Rock in 2017 would enhance Guzman’s offensive profile and make it more likely that he develops into a league-average player at first base.
#7 - Leody Taveras (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 18
One of the top signees in the 2015 international class, Taveras performed well in 2016, starting in the Dominican Summer League and then reaching short-season Spokane as a 17-year-old. The young outfielder projects as a plus hitter and baserunner. Across three levels he slashed .271/.324/.366 with 18 steals in 73 games. At 6’1” 170, he has room to grow into at least average power. As with all teenagers who make these lists, there’s plenty of projection and optimism in this ranking. The challenge of full-season ball at Low-A Hickory likely awaits Taveras in 2017.
#8 - Michael Matuella (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 22
Matuella ranks among the most difficult prospects to evaluate and project. He was a candidate to go 1-1 in the 2015 draft until Tommy John surgery pushed him into the third round. He returned to the mound in June 2016, only to suffer a setback and be shut down again after three innings. At his best and healthiest, Matuella features three above-average-to-plus offerings and has the potential to develop into a true ace. Much time has passed, however, since he was healthy and dealing, so there’s plenty of uncertainty involved here.
#9 - Connor Sadzeck (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 25
Another pitcher who returned from Tommy John surgery, Sadzeck boasts perhaps the biggest arm in the system. At 6’7”-240, the former 11th-round pick throws a double-plus fastball and an above-average slider, both of which he has struggled to harness. That’s a reliever’s profile, and yet Sadzeck has enjoyed some success as a starter. In 2016 he finished 10-8 with a 4.16 ERA, 133 strikeouts and 52 walks in 140.2 IP at Double-A Frisco, which shows at minimum that he can handle a starter’s workload. If he performs well and develops a changeup at Triple-A Round Rock, he could be a darkhorse rotation candidate for Texas in the near future.
#10 - Alex Speas (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 19
A second-round pick in 2016, Speas is a big-armed project. The young righthander already features a double-plus fastball and a plus curveball. At 6’4”-180, he also has plenty of room for physical maturity and added velocity. The questions with Speas, as with Sadzeck, revolve around control issues and the development of a changeup. Unlike Sadzeck, Speas remains years away from the majors. Texas could move cautiously with Speas by starting him at short-season Spokane in 2017.