While the 2012 Bound Edition has sold more copies than any of the other 17 volumes, I’m fairly confident the Top 72 Prospects section that year got as little attention as any other version of the list. Texas was coming off its second straight World Series, and though the minor league pipeline was obviously a big part of that success and promised to keep the club’s window of contention wide open, the story coming out of 2011 and going into 2012 was whether the Rangers could win a third pennant in a row, and a first title, and do it with a Japanese-Iranian righthander they’d just won the negotiation rights to and signed.
Atop that list, I had 18-year-old Curacaoan shortstop Jurickson Profar (a year before he’d risen to many national lists as the top prospect in baseball), followed by 20-year-old Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez. Both were months from making their big league debuts.
The next pitcher I tabbed was at number 6 overall: 19-year-old Dominican righthander David Perez, born two months before Profar and 30.1 stateside innings into his minor league career. Coming off a dirty Dominican Summer League debut in 2010 (68 strikeouts and eight walks in 70 innings, zero home runs, 1.41 ERA, .201/.234/.245 slash), he’d blown me away at Fall Instructs that October with a power arsenal that had precocious life, and even though his 13-game 2011 season wasn’t nearly as effective (43/29 k/bb in 30.1 frames, two home runs, 8.60 ERA, .223/.408/.330), Perez was the Northwest League’s youngest pitcher, more than three years younger than the average player in the league, and still generating plenty of buzz.
Since they arrived, few key prospects in the Rangers system have had their development physically derailed to the extent that Profar and Perez have.
Their careers have both had Wikipedia weeks.
Profar is hitting .522/.577/.870 for the Netherlands squad in the World Baseball Classic, which has moved into the Championship Round along with Japan, awaiting the arrival of two of the United States, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Nobody with as many as Profar’s 23 WBC at-bats has as high a batting average, or as high an on-base, or as high a slug, or as high an OPS among the 16 team’s hundreds of players, and nobody has as many as his six extra-base hits.
It’s an absurdly small sample, but notable if for no other reasons than the level of competition and the relative stake of the at-bats.
Meanwhile, this week Perez was released.
The 2011 Spokane club that Perez pitched for just ahead of my slotting him 6th in the system had a losing record but was an exceedingly young team. Off that roster, teenagers Rougned Odor (17), Jorge Alfaro (18), Hanser Alberto (18), and Alex Claudio (19) have reached the big leagues, as have Kyle Hendricks (21), Jerad Eickhoff (20), Ryan Rua (21), Nick Martinez (20), Phil Klein (22), Brett Nicholas (22), and Matt West (22). Drew Robinson, who played that year at age 19, is going to join that group very soon.
Perez got the Opening Day start for that club — striking out eight Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the first three innings, all swinging — but wouldn’t get past Spokane until four years later, first fighting severe control issues and then succumbing to Tommy John surgery that wiped out most of his 2012 and 2013 seasons. He was eased back into action in 2014 by spending the first half of the year in extended spring training, and appeared to be reestablishing himself in 2015 when he split the season between Low A Hickory and High A High Desert, fanning 97 in 84 innings while issuing only 28 free passes.
The lanky, 6’5” righty then spent most of 2016, his final season of club minor league control, with Frisco, primarily in relief. The results were decent at best, as he punched out 51 Texas Leaguers in 54 innings but walked 28 unintentionally (.270/.384/.415 slash) and posted a 4.83 ERA. Still, in December, days before his 24th birthday, he received and accepted the Rangers’ invitation to return for another camp even though he was eligible to seek work elsewhere as a free agent.
With two weeks left in camp, however, Texas has reportedly cut ties.
The WBC has given us Adam Jones home runs and Nelson Cruz home runs and Javier Baez sweep tags and Francisco Lindor and Drew Smyly, and it’s featured five players off that 2012 Top 72 Rangers prospects list (Profar, Martin Perez, Alfaro, Odor, Odubel Herrera).
And it’s given us a really exciting run of baseball by Jurickson Profar (whom Jon Heyman [FanRag] suggests San Diego wouldn’t trade righthander Luis Perdomo for, which I’d strongly suggest means there are two teams that wouldn’t make that deal), five years after I wasn’t the only one squinting my eyes and imagining Profar and David Perez at the core of a team trying to sustain a run of success that started with two World Series appearances.
Rather than competing for a starting job, in one case, and finding himself looking elsewhere for minor league work, in the other.