In advance of tonight's deadline for adding players to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, the Rangers have purchased the contracts of six players, all pitchers: lefty Martin Perez, and righthanders Neil Ramirez, Roman Mendez, Matt West, Justin Miller and Jake Brigham.
Perez, whom the Rangers signed in 2007 as a minor league free agent out of Venezuela, turns 21 years old in April and is considered the team's best pitching prospect. Perez was ranked in the top 100 in BA's rankings prior to the 2009 season, and in the top 25 each of the past two seasons. He is expected to be included in the top 25 in this offseason's rankings, as well. Another of the Rangers' small lefties (Perez is listed at 6'0", 178 lbs), comparisons were being made a couple of years ago to Johan Santana, although the sense now seems to be that Perez's realistic ceiling is as a #2 starter, not an ace. Perez splits 2011 between Frisco and Round Rock, and while he's always been young for his league, there's been some concern that his results haven't matched his stuff, largely the product of inconsistent command.
Ramirez was the second of the Rangers' three supplemental first round picks in the 2007 draft, and had a breakout year in 2011, going from fringe prospect to top prospect in a remarkably short time. Ramirez has always had impressive stuff, but never seemed to be able to harness it, struggling particularly in 2009 with Hickory. After returning to the Sally League in 2010 and showing progress, Ramirez got great reviews in spring training and impressing with his conditioning and dedication. Ramirez made one start at high-A Myrtle Beach, then was jumped to AAA Round Rock for what was expected to be a spot start. Instead, he performed so well that he never returned to A ball. His performance in AAA this year had him being talked about as a potential August or September reinforcement for the bullpen before injuries slowed him down towards the end of the year. Ramirez, like Perez, is a candidate to get brought up in 2012 as a fill in for the rotation should a starter go down.
The other four additions to the 40 man roster are righthanded pitchers who at this point seem to profile as relievers. Matt West is a converted third baseman, a second round pick in 2007 who was moved to the mound this year and took to it immediately. His power fastball/slider arsenal makes him a potential impact reliever, and while he spent most of 2011 with the short-season Spokane team, he could move fast in 2012, and it wouldn't surprise to see him in the majors at some point.
Roman Mendez is more of a project. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox as part of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade in 2010, Mendez throws hard but is still figuring out how to pitch. Just 21 years old, Mendez spent all of 2011 with Hickory in the Sally League, with the team continuing to let him develop as a starter. Unlike West, it would be a major surprise to see him in Texas in 2012, unless the Rangers decide this spring to give up on him as a future rotation member and choose to convert him to relief now.
Justin Miller is a 24 year old drafted by the Rangers in the 16th round of the 2008 draft. Miller has pitched exclusively in relief as a professional, and after a decent but not particularly eye-opening campaign in Bakersfield in 2010, Miller broke out in 2011 for Frisco, striking out 77 in 69.2 innings while allowing just 2 home runs. Miller is a fastball/slider pitcher who could compete for a middle relief role in the majors going forward.
Jake Brigham, who turns 24 in February, was a 6th rounder from the 2006 draft who turned some heads with his performance in Spokane in 2007, but then missed all of the 2008 season with Tommy John surgery. Brigham has been up and down since then, spending 2009 in Hickory with some ugly statistics, and splitting the 2010 season between Hickory and high-A Bakersfield. Like Miller, Brigham spent all of 2011 in Frisco; unlike Miller, however, Brigham has spent most of his professional career as a starter, with the Rangers looking at him more out of the bullpen in the second half of 2011. Brigham is another guy who could end up getting a look as a middle reliever at some point in the next couple of years.
UPDATE -- Jason Cole has scouting reports on these six pitchers, along with Ryan Kelly and Johan Yan, the players the Rangers are in the most danger of losing in the Rule 5 draft.