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The Unknown Prospect

In a Rangers system that is lacking in positional prospects -- and, in particular, outfield prospects, once you get past Vince Sinisi -- there is a 23 year old outfielder in the Rangers system who has posted a .290/.396/.457 line this season.

And he's done that, not in the Cal League. And not in the Texas League -- he's actually posted a .342/.519/.526 in the Texas League, in 50 plate appearances.

No, this 853 OPS, with an OBP approaching .400, has been posted in AAA. You'd think that a 23 year old switch-hitter with numbers like that would be attracting some attention as a prospect, would be getting some buzz as someone in the mix with Adrian Gonzalez and Jason Botts for a job with the Rangers next season.

So, who is this unknown prospect? His name is Rashad Eldridge. And if that name doesn't ring a bell, you probably aren't alone...Eldridge has been a stealth player in the Rangers' minor league system, a guy looked at as organizational depth since he arrived. But he has, quietly, made his way up the organizational ladder, and has now arrived at the point where we need to be asking, should we consider Rashad Eldridge a legitimate prospect?

Eldridge came to Texas from the Cleveland Indains in exchange for Chris Magruder, right before the 2002 season. And the fact that he was obtained for Magruder, a 5th outfielder type who was pretty much a fringe player himself, may be part of the reason he's been so unrecognized...after all, anyone the Rangers got for Chris Magruder couldn't be a prospect, could he?

But if you look at Eldridge's minor league numbers up to this season, you see a certain consistency in performance...not much power, not much in the way of steals, but a decent average, and a lot of walks, year in and year out. Nothing that stands out about him, other than his plate discipline. If he were a middle infielder, he'd have been generating buzz, but as a corner outfielder -- and not a particularly good defensive corner outfielder, from what I've read -- he's a guy who slips through the cracks, not generating much notice.

He was Rule 5 eligible last season for the first time, and generated scarcely a mention, as either a possible addition to the 40 man roster, or as a possible draftee. Passed over in the Rule 5 draft, he was plugged into the Redhawk outfield this season, and split time there and at the DH position with guys like Chad Allen and Chris Richard.

And once again, he hit for average, and he drew a bunch of walks. But for the first time this season, Eldridge has shown a flash of some power. His raw power numbers at AAA -- 27 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers -- aren't all that impressive, but he's done that in exactly 300 ABs. As a result, he's been able to put up a 167 Isolated Power number at AAA. Given how young he is, and how late power tends to develop -- Jason Botts, for example, didn't post an ISO that high until age 24 -- you have to think he might be able to hit for enough power to, combined with his on base skills, allow him to be a productive major league hitter.

I'm not predicting stardom for Eldridge, or even a future as a major league starter, necessarily. But when you look at his development, he's someone who could possibly be a Matt Lawton, a Rusty Greer, someone of that mold. And at this point, I'd be a bit surprised if he didn't at least get a chance to be a Chris Magruder/Craig Monroe-type fourth outfielder for a major league team some day.

The Rangers most likely won't protect him in the Rule 5 draft this offseason. But his skill set might entice a team like the Dodgers or the A's to take a flyer on him in the Rule 5. And if he does sail through, he's someone to keep an eye on, because there's a chance he could be up in Texas at some point during the 2006 season.