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It seems fans of the Texas Rangers are upset with the nature of the 2014-2015 offseason. The team has done little in either free agency or the trade market. The only notable acquisitions have been those of Ross Detwiler from the Nationals, Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers, Carlos Corporan from the Astros, and newly acquired Anthony Ranaudo from the Red Sox. After the disaster that was 2014 it seems a team that should have been a formidable contender like the Rangers should be all in this winter to reload in the face of a closing window.
So why has general manager Jon Daniels been so patient this year? First, he has to see how injuries to key veterans are going effect them in 2015 and beyond. If Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo bounce back like they should then Texas could be a very good team following a near miss on a 100 loss season.
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Second, he has a loaded farm system with potential all-star caliber players less than two years away from breaking onto the scene. Signing free agents to long term contracts could be problematic for the 2016 season and beyond if it creates conflict with prospect arrivals. While the farm system does not have super star potential players outside of Joey Gallo, it is loaded with the type of players that could turn into all-star and starting caliber players. Players like Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Nomar Mazara, Alex Gonzalez, Jake Thompson, Luke Jackson, Delino DeShields, Spencer Patton, Jairo Beraz, Anthony Ranaudo, and others have the potential to be good major leaguers. These players combine to make the organization a very good one. The Rangers’ farm system is frequently ranked in the top ten of baseball.
While it is an obvious exercise in futility, it can be instructive to examine how the Rangers’ roster might evolve over the next few seasons based on the subtraction of current players and the arrival of prospects. Of course, it cannot be cautioned enough that the future rosters discussed here will undoubtedly be very different than actual future rosters due to trades, free agent signings, injuries, and player performance.
Most of the Rangers top prospects have official etas of no later than 2018 so this analysis will extend only through the 2018 season. Of the current roster there are several notable players who have contracts extending through the 2018 season. These include, Yu Darvish, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Leonys Martin, Shin-Soo Choo, Martin Perez, Shawn Tolleson, Tanner Scheppers, and Robinson Chirinos. Of course players who made MLB debuts in 2014, like Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Michael Choice, Tomas Telis, Rougned Odor and Roman Mendez have contracts through the same time period.
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To simplify the analysis, free agents will be allowed to walk, no free agents will be signed, no players will be drafted, and no trades will be made. This will be key at the end of the analysis because this exercise is intended to highlight how the Rangers farm system has the ability to fill the upcoming holes in Texas’ roster.
Presented below is a table including last year’s 25 man roster, this coming season’s projected roster and 2016-2018 projected rosters using the above assumptions.
Let’s break the analysis down year by year. It should be noted that this analysis uses the etas provided by MLB.com. So when MLB.com says Joey Gallo will arrive in Arlington in 2016 that number will be used in the analysis. It is also expected that players in their second year will earn a spot as a starter. Alfaro, and Thompson get starting roles in year one, which possibly makes sense for Thompson because he will likely get a September call up in 2015 and is very near MLB quality already. Newly acquired Ranaduo is major league ready as well so he is penciled in for a starting spot in 2016. This is a highly possible outcome since he has already had some major league starts with Boston. It is hard to gauge how Ranaduo with major league experience stacks up against Chi Chi Gonzalez with no, or few, major league starts. Gonzalez gets the nod in 2017 but if you prefer Ranaduo, simply move Gonzalez to the pen and Ranaduo to the rotation. Alfaro, on the other hand, is supposed to arrive in 2016, so giving him a starting position in his rookie year is likely a stretch. It also highlights that the organization is thin at the catcher position.
Bullpens are impossible to predict from one to another let alone forecast out over four seasons. Therefore, the only changes in the bullpen are where players leave or prospects arrive in the bigs without a corresponding spot in the rotation being available.
This team has so many prospects that many players top 20 players are not even able to crack the roster as a back up. Players like Ronald Guzman, Lewis Brinson, Yeyson Yrizarri (a top ten Texas prospect according to Keith Law), Travis Demeritte, Josh Morgan, Luis Ortiz, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Keone Kela do not even make an appearance before the end of 2018. This, of course, excludes September call ups.
This analysis highlights many things.
First, Texas has some top notch prospects. The 2017-2018 rosters rely heavily on Gallo, Alfaro, Williams, Mazara, Gonzalez, Profar, Thompson and Jackson. Some might be quick to argue, and correctly so, that prospects will break your heart. Indeed, the Rangers will be highly unlikely to have all of these key prospects find success to level such that the team can pencil them in as major league regulars. This, however, ignores the depth of the organization however, because behind these top prospects is a cadre of good players who could surprise.
For example, behind Williams and Mazara are players like Michael Choice, Lewis Brinson, Ronald Guzman and Delino DeShields, all of whom have real shots to be good big leaguers. Joey Gallo is supported by prospects like Yeyson Yrizarri, Ti’Quan Forbes, and Travis Demeritte. Profar is backed up by Odor, Josh Morgan, and others. Left off the list of pitching prospects are high ceiling players like Alec Asher, Luis Ortiz, Jerad Eickhoff, and Keone Kela. All the players mentioned above are top 20 prospects, which ignores a plethora of good players who fell shy of the top 20 prospect list. Only Jorge Alfaro seems to have no quality alternatives.
The Rangers’ system is one of the best in the league and that mostly stems from the incredible depth. For example, Keith Law’s newly released top 100 prospects list includes 6 Texas prospects, which is tied for the most in the MLB. This remains true even after the Rangers have made the trades mentioned above. Few teams would have the depth to make three trades that did not include trading away a major league piece (ie only prospects left the team) and still have this kind of farm system.
Second, Texas has a stable of veterans that should be around for the arrivals and development of the organization’s top prospects. Leonys Martin, Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Yu Darvish will have the chance to play along side Gallo and Alfaro in their second year at the big league level.
Third, key players will leave the team just as top flight prospects are ready to arrive. The best example here is Adrian Beltre.
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None of us are ready for Beltre to leave Arlington, but the Rangers have a great in house option for when he does. Gallo is expected to arrive in Arlington in 2016 and in 2017 Gallo will have a clear path to the starting third base job. Similarly, the departure of Derek Holland will be after Anthony Ranaduo, Alex Gonzalez and Jake Thompson have had a season or two to prepare.
Fourth, the rotation looks like it will have depth but lack truly top of the rotation pitcher other than Darvish. Ranaduo, Thompson, Gonzalez, and Jackson are most likely going to be middle of the rotation talent. Add in Martin Perez and this potential rotation will deep and solid. All five pitchers could be the type that will always keep a team in the game. Additionally, as was highlighted in 2014, injuries happen and having a couple quality rotation pieces in reserve is critical for a contending team.
Fifth, the lineup could be the best in the majors. It is impossible to project what the MLB landscape will look like in 2017-2018 but if Mazara, Williams, Gallo, Alfaro, and Profar live up to their potential, adding them to Choo, Fielder, Martin and Andrus, even though those four will regress some between now and then, could make for a truly potent lineup.
Sixth, all of the current issues the lineup and rotation face can potentially be solved from within the system. Many are questioning Jon Daniels’s decision to fill positions of need with temporary fixes like Corporan, Gallardo, and Detwiler, or to not fill the position at all, as he has done with left field. Yet the reasoning for this type of decision making becomes fairly apparent when the next three years of rosters are considered. Why would Daniels get a long term solution at catcher when he has Alfaro coming soon? Why would Daniels block Thompson, Gonzalez, Jackson, or Ranaduo with a long term deal for a pitcher? Why would Daniels sign or trade for a left fielder when he has enough corner outfield prospects to make a dynasty? This is why Texas made a real attempt to pull off impact trades like Cole Hammels and has remained interested in James Shields but has not bothered to get a long term middle of the rotation piece, long term catcher or long term corner outfielder.
Finally, aside from 2016, it appears all of these rosters are at least fringe playoff contenders even without free agent signings and trades. Given the depth of the organization a few key additions over time to upgrade positions of need could easily create a true powerhouse in Arlington.
The future is bright.