Since the trade deadline of 2007, it’s fair to say the Rangers have been one of the five most flush franchises in terms of firepower on the farm, in all of Major League Baseball. That year we exchanged Mark Teixeira for a bevy of future All Stars, turned Eric Gagne into David Murphy and Engel Beltre, and Kenny Lofton into Max Ramirez — a highly regarded catching prospect at the time.
The common thread? — Trading proven assets with minimal years of remaining control for young talent with maximum controllability. It’s the small market mentality teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay have to operate under to stay afloat.
Being a Rangers fan in the early- to mid oughts, it was necessary to dedicate just as much focus on Texas’s Minor League affiliates as the big league squad. I would have risked losing my sanity and falling from the face of the Earth if that wasn’t the case.
2013 features as many raw, projectable commodities on the farm as any other year in the existence of the Rangers, and that’s saying something after the last three years, where Texas has been ranked anywhere from #1-#3 in terms of aggregate organizational talent — according to Baseball America.
If farm systems were like the hip hop industry, you could say the Rangers have been Jay-Z for the last five years, and a team like the Angels would be Lil B.
Regardless, blue-chip prospects don’t always pan out. Guys have big years, and their stock skyrockets. Conversely, lauded talents also have suspect seasons, and their value diminishes. It’s a wishy-washy industry, which is why we label them as prospects.
Either way, simple mathematics clearly illustrate it’s better to have more highly revered farmhands than fewer, giving your team the best possible chance at striking gold with more than just one or two.
That said, what follows is my list of three prospects to keep your eye on, and three more whom I suspect will have troubling 2013 campaigns:
1. Nomar Mazara — I’m not venturing off any limb on my first choice. Knowing how aggressive Jon Daniels typically is with Rangers prospects with the highest upside, Mazara should be featured in a Hickory lineup along with Lewis Brinson, Ronald Guzman and Joey Gallo. Powerful. Mazara has lost his leg kick, which should offer him a bit more balance at the plate, as many scouts believed his highly-pronounced toe-tap was detrimental to his power stroke.
2. C.J. Edwards — He dominated Arizona’s rookie league last year, compiling a ridiculous line of 20 IP/25 K’s/6 BB’s/6 hits, allowing zero runs to cross home plate. He was challenged in short-season Spokane at the end of the year, and repeated his success, carrying a 2.11 ERA over 47.0 innings, striking out 60. He’s known as a command wizard with excellent movement on his fastball offerings, which is basically the name of the game until AA where the hitters are more advanced. I also see him starting the year at Hickory, but if he has a strong start (pun intended) out of the gates, he could easily wind up in Frisco before season’s end.
3. Jorge Alfaro — Is this the year? Could this really be the year we start to see his tools translate from the scouting sheets onto the field? I’ll believe it when I see it, but with how few truly projectable catching talents the Rangers have on the farm, one can only assume they are going to give Alfaro all the attention he needs to transcend his game from toolsy prospect into superstar in-the-making. He might be the one guy I’ll be focusing my primary attention to over the course of the year, even if it’s only my wishful thinking that he’ll be as much of a stud as scouts say he will be.
1. Joey Gallo — I’m kind of torn on Gallo, because, like Alfaro, I’m rooting for him to be an amazing player. I want him to mash his way to the Major Leagues at the same rate he killed Rookie pitching last summer, setting the new league benchmark in home runs. I tend to stay leery when it comes to Three True Outcomes players (walks/strikeouts/home runs), and I think 2013 will be the first season of a long and trying Minor League career for Gallo. I love his raw power. I love his ability to draw walks. But as we’ve seen a million times with guys who have a rough time making contact, eventually the home runs and walks get put on the shelf, and the strikeouts dominate the stat sheets.
2. Mike Olt — Olt and Gallo have the same type of makeup. They both have truly elite power potential, healthy plate discipline and solid gloves, but are tragically flawed with holes in their swings. Olt has accumulated a half-season above single-A in his Minor League career, and that was last year at Frisco before he was called up to the Rangers. He’ll likely start the season in AAA — if he’s not in another organization — and my sinking feeling is that he’ll struggle mightily in terms of making solid contact. AAA features a bunch of fringy Major League pitching, and they should figure out pretty early on that Olt’s achilles heel is the breaking stuff.
3. Martin Perez — Perez has been pitching about two full levels beyond his years since he was 17 pitching in Spokane. He was pitching full-season ball with the Clinton Lumberkings by the time he was 18. He was in AA at 19. He pitched with the Rangers for the first time last season, at age-21. It seems like his prospect path has gone in reverse order: The lower the level the bigger the prospect he was. Now that we have a pretty solid grasp of his repertoire, he may be more of a #3-#4 starter than the TORP (Top Of The Rotation Pitcher) he was expected to become. He still has a plus curveball/change up mix, and a low-90’s fastball, but command — both on the edges and within the strike zone — has plagued him the last couple years. 2013 is a big season for Perez, even at the ripe age of 22, because we should be able to tell if he’ll be sinking or swimming in the longterm picture in Arlington.
Anyway, that’s my (brief) list. The odds of being right on either collection is just as likely to be wrong. And who knows, all six of these guys could be great next year, or all six could suck.
Predicting the future and I do not have a symbiotic relationship, but I nonetheless prognosticate.