A Bright Future
Hot young prospects for the Texas Rangers soften the blow of a wasted offseason
Any way you slice it, this offseason for the Texas Rangers has not been a good one. The Rangers haven’t necessarily expressed a lot of disappointment publicly, however. Perhaps their work on the farm is the reason the Rangers aren’t in panic mode.
MLB.com recently released its list of the top 100 minor league prospects for 2013. The Rangers had six of them, highlighted by the No. 1 prospect in the game, infielder Jurickson Profar.
Profar was untouchable this past year. Practically every trade the Rangers pursued near the deadline saw a move for Profar. Every time the Rangers said no. Profar is part of the reason the Rangers made no real significant move at the deadline.
Although Jurickson Profar may be the closest to being a star, Jorge Alfaro may be the most important.
Investing in young talent
The Rangers clearly see a greater future with Profar in the infield than without him. He’s a potential leadoff hitter with the kind of five-tool talent every baseball team craves. Profar’s numbers at Double A Frisco were great across the board: .281 with 76 runs scored, 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. The coaches in the Texas League named him the league’s best defensive shortstop.
Profar did some time with the Rangers in September and homered in his first Major League at-bat. Profar is vying for a spot on the opening-day roster. There hasn’t been this much buzz surrounding a Rangers rookie since Elvis Andrus. Of course, they play the same position. So if Profar makes the team, who knows where the Rangers will put him.
Two other top 100 players were on the Major League roster last year for Texas.
There was No. 22 Mike Olt, a corner infielder who struggled statistically with the Rangers but was still named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year for hitting .282 with 17 doubles, 28 home runs and 82 RBIs at Double A Frisco.
Pitcher Martin Perez (No. 95) ended last season as the Rangers’ No. 5 starter, going 1-4. At Triple-A Round Rock he went 7-6 with a 4.25 earned run average.
All three could end up with on the Rangers’ opening-day roster. The other players in the top 100 are infielder Luis Sardinas (No. 84), pitcher Cody Buckel (No. 87) and catcher Jorge Alfaro (No. 88).
The team's commitment to cultivating young talent can help offset the losses of veteran players.
These six players are examples of why the Rangers can remain American League contenders in the long term. The team's commitment to cultivating young talent can help offset the losses of veteran players, especially because general manager Jon Daniels was reticent to part with any of them.
A south-of-the-border strategy
Profar, Perez, Sardinas and Alfaro are an example of the Rangers’ huge push in Caribbean and Latin American scouting since 2007. All were signed in their teens and developed meticulously for the majors.
Although Jurickson Profar may be the closest to being a star, Jorge Alfaro may be the most important. The Rangers have not developed a great catching prospect since Ivan Rodriguez.
Buckel was drafted out of high school in the second round in 2010 and averaged more than a strikeout per inning last year while splitting time between Single A and Double A. The Rangers would probably like to see him spend a full year at Double A before considering a promotion, but Buckel will be at Major League camp this month to learn the ropes.
In 2009, Baseball America, the game’s most prestigious publication, named the Rangers’ farm system as the best in baseball. The publication named the Rangers No. 1 again in 2012.
A great farm system doesn’t always translate into championships. But a great farm system can keep a team consistently in the mix as a contender. Look at any franchise that spent more than a few years at the top, and player development is always a key.
The Rangers may not be as good as last year. But this organization is built for the long run, and that softens the blow of what appears to be a wasted offseason.