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Rangers Prospect Primer: Alfaro has tools03/27/2014 10:00 AM ET
By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com
Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2014 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining star: Jorge Alfaro, C
The 20-year-old backstop is still considered a little raw behind the plate, but his combination of athleticism, raw power and arm has Rangers fans drooling.
A converted infielder, Alfaro has every chance to stick behind the plate and is expected to improve his game-calling and pitch-blocking abilities as he moves through the system. His arm is good enough to play at any level and his 18 homers and 43 extra-base hits across three levels in 2013 give an insight into the thunder he has in his bat. He is deceptively efficient on the basepaths for someone who isn't necessarily considered fast, but his running game should be considered as an added benefit rather than one of his trademark assets.
"Jorge is very talented, he has everything you're looking for," said Rangers director of player development Mike Daly. "His experience as a catcher is limited, but he has really grown into that position and we are real excited about him. Right now, he is slated to continue his development in Myrtle Beach in 2014.
"When you look at players like Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, guys on World Series teams, the catcher is a premium position. When you look at championship-caliber catchers, they really help their team offensively and defensively; they're good two-way players. I don't want to put a limit on what [Alfaro's] ceiling is, because right now our only focus is on him being the best he can be."
Breakout prospect: Jairo Beras, OF
Paperwork irregularities surrounding his real age kept Beras from making his professional debut until early July, but he has the tools to move through the system quickly.
His arm is among the best in the organization and his speed translates well to center field, although he could move to a corner spot as he progresses. Beras only saw a couple weeks in the Arizona League last year, but scouts rave about his raw power and expect his bat to become a plus tool as he grows into his wiry frame
"Jairo only played 17 games, which was not ideal, but he came back and had a very strong instructional league and he went to the [Dominican Republic] to get more at-bats," Daly said.
"Jairo has a unique tool set. He profiles as a Major League right fielder -- he's 6-foot-6, he can throw and he runs well for a big man. He has the ability to hit and he has some power in his bat. We've worked with him in center and left field, but his final position could be decided by opportunity because we have other corner outfield bats in the organization with Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams."
At the Crossroads: Cody Buckel, RHP
Buckel entered last season on the back of a 10-win, sub-3.00 ERA Carolina League All-Star campaign.
Selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft, the right-hander was considered one of the organization's best pitching prospects. Whether his loss of command prompted a decrease in confidence or vice-versa, Buckel's numbers became very ugly very quickly.
He went 0-6 with a 21.09 ERA in eight appearances, walking 35 batters in 10 2/3 innings. The Rangers sent him to back to extended spring training and he didn't return to live action until August. In two Arizona League outings, he issued seven walks, uncorked two wild pitches and hit a batter in 1 1/3 frames.
"We really like Cody and he has worked on a number of different things," Daly said. "We believe in him and we believe in our coaches. We are very excited to see him pitch and we have heard some really positive things. We know he has worked hard, and that will pay off.
"We want him to get back to the old Cody. We've always liked Cody. One year ago, he was in Major League camp, and that should tell you what we think of him. He certainly has the talent and the ability on the mound, but Cody's ceiling is up to Cody."
More to keep an eye on: Travis Demeritte, a first-rounder in 2013, is in the conversation to start the year at Class A Hickory after batting .285 in 39 games with the Rangers' Arizona League affiliate at the end of last year. Texas is waiting to see how his body develops before deciding which infield spot is most suitable for him, but he likely will see time at third base, second base and shortstop. Nick Martinez, Alec Asher and Luke Jackson -- who ranked first, second and third in wins among Myrtle Beach pitchers in 2013 -- are all ticketed to start the year in the Texas League with Frisco. The Rangers know Minor League home run leader Joey Gallo can hit for power; now they expect to see him improve his plate discipline and show growth defensively at third base with a promotion to Myrtle Beach.