THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 3, 2008

There’s no telling what lies ahead for Jason Botts, who is out of options and part of a group of players (possibly including Nelson Cruz, Robinson Tejeda, Scott Feldman, Bill White, and Josh Rupe) whose roster spots could be up for consideration as Texas nears the official additions of relievers Kazuo Fukumori and Eddie Guardado to the club.

But if Botts is part of that equation, he isn’t going to make the Rangers’ decision any easier.

The Mexican Pacific League isn’t the Major Leagues, but Botts’s run through the MPL regular season was a lot like his four-month pillaging of the Pacific Coast League in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He dominated.

In 242 at-bats over 64 games for the Yaquis of Ciudad Obregon, Botts hit .326/.414/.500 (in a league that hit .259 on average) with 15 doubles, nine home runs, and an impressive 54 RBI, which not only led the circuit but broke Willie Mays Aikens’s franchise record that was about as old as Botts himself. The 27-year-old was especially damaging from the right side, tuning left-handed pitching up at a .381/.447/.548 rate.

After splitting the first month of the winter season between left field and DH, Botts spent his final 32 Obregon games in left. In his 48 defensive games, he committed four errors.

Jon Daniels, managing a full 40-man roster that needs space for Fukumori and Guardado, has a couple big decisions to make. We’d all like to think he’d be able to move Botts or Cruz or Tejeda or Feldman or White or Rupe to another team for another Luis Mendoza, particularly since the alternative of running them through waivers in an effort to outright them would, in most cases, likely fail. But the question is less about what Texas can get in return for the two players the club needs to remove from the roster than it is about which two are the most dangerous to give up on.

It’s obviously a good sign in terms of the increasing strength of the system that there’s no dead weight at the end of the Rangers’ roster, but it’s equally obvious that you don’t want to make mistakes when deciding which players are the ones to subtract.

In T.R. Sullivan’s critique of my Top 72 Prospects list in his MLBlog, I learned something new: Scott Boras evidently represents both Elvis Andrus and Engel Beltre (each of whom was acquired in July for a Boras client). If true, I think that means the top four position player prospects in the system, at least in my estimation (Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, Andrus, and Beltre), are all Boras clients.

According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, new Padres starter Mark Prior said the Rangers were among four teams (the Astros, Cardinals, and Mets were the others) that made lucrative proposals to sign him before he opted for the one-year deal to pitch for San Diego.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis is the latest to heap praise on the Rangers’ rejuvenated farm system. In a chat session yesterday, he divulged that the 2008 BA Prospect Handbook will rank Texas as the number four system in baseball, behind Tampa Bay, Boston, and Cincinnati.

In last year’s book, BA ranked the Rangers number 28. It’s a phenomenal turnaround, paced by the July trade acquisitions from Atlanta, Boston, and Cleveland but also a reflection of the better drafts the club has had the past few years and the franchise’s renewed presence in Latin America, not to mention the strides a number of players have made at the hands of the Rangers’ player development program.

Mike Hindman is up to number three on his ranking of the Rangers’ top starting pitcher prospects. Great reading.

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s cool book about Roger Clemens is now available for preorder at http://www.jonathanmayo.net/. Mayo interviews a ton of big league hitters (including Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Julio Franco, and Chipper Jones) on the plan they took into the batter’s box when stepping in against Clemens (who wrote the foreword). Should be fascinating.

The final 15 minutes of “Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale” were genius. Bet Ricky Gervais created the entire series simply to build up to those last couple scenes.

As “Extras” went out with a bang, I’m looking forward to what Gervais has in store for us as he moves on to the next stage of his career.

I’m hoping that’s not where the Jason Botts story is headed.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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