On Wednesday, Jurickson Profar’s 20th birthday, a package landed on my desk at work containing this:
I remember when Jon Daniels joined us for his annual 90 Newberg Report Night minutes on August 2, 2009 and said of the 16-year-old his club had signed a month earlier for $1.55 million, agreeing almost uniquely that he didn’t have to pitch, that he wouldn’t be surprised if, one year later, Profar would be widely considered one of the top 10 shortstop prospects in baseball.
The reason I remember it is it basically sounded insane – especially coming from the unfailingly understated JD, said in front of more than 300 Rangers fans who would be running to Twitter and to blogs and to message boards to broadcast what the GM had said about a player yet to play a minor league game.
Today, Profar is almost uniformly considered the number one prospect in baseball, the only Rangers player to land that Baseball America honor in the 24 years the publication has been rolling the Top 100 list out other than Mark Teixeira, 10 years ago.
That year, 2003, even though Teixeira topped the list (beating out Rocco Baldelli, Jose Reyes, and Joe Mauer), BA ranked Texas only 19th overall, though the Rangers did have three other representatives on the Top 100 that year: righthander Colby Lewis (32), lefthander Ben Kozlowski (80), and outfielder Laynce Nix (85).
Teixeira spent all of 2003 in the big leagues and accordingly was ineligible for the list the following year. So were Lewis and Nix, who also exhausted their rookie status, while Kozlowski pitched only two AA months before Tommy John surgery and thus fell off the list, too.
Yet Texas moved up slightly in 2004, up to number 16 overall (even though only Adrian Gonzalez  and John Danks  made the Top 100).
The point is this: Profar is a strong bet not to be on next year’s list. Same with Mike Olt, who is this year’s number 22 prospect. And Martin Perez (81), who if he’s still under 50 big league innings this time a year from now won’t deserve to be on the list any longer (hey, if Tuesday’s nine-pitch, nine-strike scoreless intrasquad inning signals something he can come close to sustaining this spring, he’s going to lose rookie status by the end of April). And Leonys Martin (97), who in actuality isn’t a rookie any more due to active days in the big leagues.
None of those four players will be repeat Top 100’ers, and Texas may necessarily drop out of the top three organizations overall given that the real strength of the system after those guys is probably two waves away, if not three. But this shouldn’t be a situation like the Indians falling from seventh in 2011 to 29th in 2012 (having graduated Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, and losing Alex White and Drew Pomeranz via trade), or the Nationals dropping from the top spot in 2012 to 16th in 2013 (due in large part to Bryce Harper graduating and four key prospects heading to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez).
Lewis Brinson could leap forward in 2013, and nobody would be shocked. Same for Jorge Alfaro. It could be a big year for Cody Buckel and Luke Jackson and Nick Tepesch, and I’d have said that about him even if he didn’t strike Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz out with his plus cutter in a scoreless first yesterday.
Justin Grimm, too, but if he advances things in 2013, he won’t be a rookie in 2014.
Luis Sardinas and Leury Garcia could take the next step, if not fellow middle infielders Rougned Odor and Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera.
No telling what 2013 could bring for corner bats Joey Gallo (who just missed the BA Top 100) and Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman and Jairo Beras.
And for whoever Texas drafts at number 24 and number 30 or 31 in June, two slots well ahead of where Gallo (39th pick) fell last year.
Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was BA’s number 74 prospect last year. He’s now number three.
Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez wasn’t on the Top 100 last year at all, and sits now at number five.
Righty C.J. Edwards will not be baseball’s number five prospect next winter. I’ll be good if he rockets up to number five in the Rangers system.
This system is really, really deep.
A note about all this, but first, here’s BA’s top 30 Rangers prospects:
13. Roman Mendez, RHP
21. Drew Robinson, 3B
22. Wilmer Font, RHP
23. Neil Ramirez, RHP
24. Zach Cone, OF
25. Nick Williams, OF
26. Keone Kela, RHP
27. Nick Martinez, RHP
28. Matt West, RHP
29. Randy Henry, RHP
30. Joe Ortiz, LHP
And Baseball Prospectus’s top 10, courtesy of Jason Parks:
1. Profar (Jason’s top 101 will be revealed in a few days)
And Keith Law’s top 10 for ESPN:
1. Profar (1st overall)
2. Olt (71)
3. Buckel (90)
4. Perez (93)
And Jonathan Mayo’s MLB.com list:
1. Profar (1st overall)
2. Olt (22)
3. Sardinas (84)
4. Buckel (87)
5. Alfaro (88)
6. Perez (95)
And John Sickels’s top 20:
My own top 30 (with the full top 72 here):
20. Jose Valdespina, RHP
22. Engel Beltre, OF
25. David Perez, RHP
26. Jordan Akins, OF
27. Collin Wiles, RHP
28. Alec Asher, RHP
30. Yohander Mendez, LHP
Now, for that note.
I’m not sure if he said it yesterday, or if it was simply yesterday when MLB.com’s Richard Justice decided to recycle it, but Brewers GM Doug Melvin, whose Rangers clubs ranked 28th, 16th, and 8th in BA’s farm system rankings going into their three playoff seasons under his watch, was credited for saying, “I’d rather be on the cover of Sports Illustrated than Baseball America.”
Melvin’s comment was evidently made in the context of parting with top prospects for big league help, and that’s something we talk about here all the time, but the more general point is worth reminding ourselves of as well.
It was fun to celebrate the Rangers’ number four farm system ranking going into 2008, and its number one position going into 2009, and its number two spot going into 2010, but as much as I focus on prospect development, it’s all because of the impact it has on the real endgame, staged every October.
The BA rankings don’t always correlate with playoff success, but they do a lot of the time.
Cheers to Profar for his number one ranking, and here’s hoping that it leads to the kind of success that fellow number ones Mauer, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, and Profar’s countryman Andruw Jones enjoyed before him, and that he doesn’t instead go the way of Brien Taylor, Rick Ankiel, Delmon Young, or Daisuke Matsuzaka.
More importantly, here’s hoping that the Rangers’ fifth top five billing as an overall system in the last six years leads to a lot more of what October 2010 and October 2011 gave us, and that the new BA Prospect Handbook cover boy is a big reason why – maybe even along with the second player identified on that cover, thanks in part to the next couple waves of Rangers minor league talent barreling in behind the one about to hit shore.