On January 15th, MLB organizations will once again be able to officially sign international amateurs to join their farm systems. The Rangers have taken big swings in the international amateur window in recent years, netting organization Top 30 standouts Anthony Gutierrez, Echedry Vargas, Marco Torres, and Jesus Lopez in 2022. The 2023 cycle would prove no different, as the team spread its $4,144,000 in signing bonus allocations across 17 prospects during the international signing period. As the Rangers begin preparations to sign another crop of prospects in 2024, two members of the 2023 international class are already making their case to rocket up prospecting boards as they begin their journey to the majors.
Sebastian Walcott (SS)
The Rangers signed Sebastian Walcott as the crown jewel of their 2023 class out of the Bahamas for $3,200,000. Walcott impressed scouts while playing for the Bahamian youth teams, flashing strong bat speed and a projectable frame with his 6’ 4” size. Walcott has shown an early knack for punishing fastballs, generating multiple exit velos of 110+ mph and hitting 7 HR in 187 AB across three levels. Walcott began his 2023 MiLB season in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) after impressing in minor league spring camp but was quickly promoted to the Arizona Complex League (ACL) after only nine games. Once in Arizona, Walcott got off to a scorching start hitting 5 HR in his first 9 games. Pitchers soon adapted and found success by attacking him with off-speed pitches in the lower parts of the zone. Walcott would soon adjust and break out of this slump to finish his ACL campaign on a high note with a 0.273/0.325/0.524 slash and 19 XHB in 35 games. Walcott would briefly be promoted to Hickory where he got a taste of High-A ball before the season concluded.
The Rangers have been aggressive with Walcott’s assignments, but the 17-year-old fought through adversity and flashed the potential plus-plus power that warranted his ranking among the top international prospects. Walcott will need to continue refining his plate discipline to avoid excessive strikeout rates should the Rangers continue with another aggressive assignment in 2024. There are also question marks about his best defensive position long-term. Walcott exclusively played SS when not in the DH spot, but given his frame and strong arm, some scouts believe he could make a transition to 3B before reaching the MLB. Walcott still has room to add muscle and continue to fill out physically. Walcott skipped over Low-A Down East at the end of last season, so don’t be surprised if he makes a return to Hickory to begin the 2024 season. Walcott’s tools and performance so far have seen him rocket up prospect rankings, and an equally impressive 2024 campaign could see Walcott become the natural successor to Evan Carter as the organization’s next top prospect.
Braylin Morel (OF)
The Texas Rangers signed Braylin Morel out of the Dominican Republic for $100,000, and he quickly became a potential hidden gem within the class. While the Rangers quickly moved Sebastian Walcott stateside, Morel completed his debut season in the DSL where he earned a plethora of honors including Mid-Season All-Star, Post-Season All-Star, and DSL Top MLB Prospect. Morel slashed an impressive 0.344/0.417/0.644 across 204 PA, including 7 HR. The 6’ 2” outfielder has shown impressive bat speed and uses a short leg kick to explode into the baseball. However, this motion leaves him opening up his lower body too much at times, generating swings and misses. While Morel kept his K-rate down to 24.5% on the season, expect further mechanical refinement in the offseason as he prepares to put his skills to the test in 2024.
Prospects in the Dominican Summer League are notoriously hard to project, as the standard of pitching is substantially below what Morel will face stateside in the 2024 MiLB season. He will need to improve his plate discipline, while retaining much of the power that saw him sweep honors in the DSL. Expect Morel to begin the season in the Arizona Complex League, with a potential late promotion to Down East contingent on his early performances. The move stateside is always a challenge for international prospects, both on and off the field; but in Morel, the Rangers may have found themselves another gem in the international market.
Photo: Phrake Photography