Not a lot of time today, which is not so problematic since there’s not a lot of news to write about, but there are a few things I didn’t want to get stale.
There was word a couple days ago that the Rangers have entered the mix for two free agent righthanders, starter Tim Redding and reliever Derrick Turnbow. This follows news on Monday that Texas is one of a large number of teams in on righthander Daniel Cabrera, who was non-tendered last week by Baltimore.
Boston has reportedly withdrawn from the Mark Teixeira hunt, despite widespread speculation over the last week that the club had emerged as the favorite to land the free agent first baseman.
I’ll believe Boston is out of it when Teixeira signs with someone else, and not before that.
Which actually means “signs with someone else,” as opposed to “exchanges terms sheets with someone else.” If you need some entertainment today, let Google guide you to a story or two about Atlanta president John Schuerholz’s reaction to Rafael Furcal’s last-minute decision to back out of a verbal agreement with the Braves and instead re-sign with the Dodgers.
Max Ramirez homered twice in Venezuelan Winter League action Wednesday night, adding a double and driving in seven runs while lifting his season numbers to .277/.364/.587 in 41 games. Ramirez’s 12 homers are one short of the league lead, and his 45 RBI are also second in the league despite the fact that he has significantly fewer at-bats than anyone else in the top seven.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has homered in two straight Dominican Winter League games. He now sits at .349/.494/.841 with nine home runs in 63 at-bats, plus 17 walks to go along with 13 strikeouts. Saltalamacchia is tied for second in the league’s home run race — the two hitters he’s tied with each have more than twice as many at-bats. (Everyone trails former Rangers outfielder Victor Diaz, who has gone deep 17 times in 180 at-bats.)
Nelson Cruz, who has one fewer homer than Saltalamacchia, is hitting .362/.417/.638.
Josh Hamilton has declined an invitation to play in the World Baseball Classic. Sounds like a mature, focused decision.
The minor league deals that Texas gave lefthander Joe Torres and righthander Brian Gordon included invites to big league camp. Torres, at the moment, stands to compete, chiefly with Kason Gabbard, for the second southpaw spot in the bullpen behind C.J. Wilson.
Cincinnati signed outfielder Laynce Nix to a minor league contract, with plans to give him an opportunity to win the fourth outfielder job (replacing Ryan Freel, whom the Reds traded to Baltimore). Nix’s deal is for $600,000 if he makes the big club and contains incentives that could pump it up to as much as $1.1 million.
Seattle signed first baseman Chris Shelton to a minor league contract.
The Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League named Phil Nevin manager.
Philadelphia signed outfielder Kevin Mahar to a minor league contract.
Baltimore outrighted catcher Guillermo Quiroz.
Righthander Jason Davis and lefthander Les Walrond will pitch in Japan this year.
You can go here to see artists’ renditions of the various Rangers Ballpark changes announced this week:
Will Carroll said the following in a Baseball Prospectus chat, when asked who among Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, and Milton Bradley would end up as the Rays’ designated hitter in 2009: “I’d rank them in precisely the opposite order you did. I’d be very curious to see whether Dunn would respond to Joe Madden’s style. Speaking of Bradley, I had a long but off record conversation with Ron Washington where I came away amazingly impressed with Washington. There are people in the game (and in life) that just have ‘it’ and Washington is one of them.”
Finally, the great John Sickels has posted 24 of his top 25 Rangers prospects at http://www.minorleagueball.com/, seeking message board input on who number 25 ought to be.
Before you read the following, you need to know how tough a grader Sickels is. In last year’s Baseball Prospect Book, he gave 17 players in all of baseball an “A” or “A-” grade. That’s all. About half a player per team.
He and I have some significant differences on the ranking, starting with who should be number one, but what fascinates me about this list is the top three grades.
The Sickels list, with his player comments:
1) Neftali Feliz, RHP, Grade A: I don’t give out Grade A’s lightly, especially to pitchers. I might go down to A-. [For what it's worth, Sickels handed A's out to five minor league pitchers in all of baseball a year ago, with two others getting an A- grade.]
2) Justin Smoak, 1B, Grade A-: I like him better than [Yonder] Alonso and [Eric] Hosmer, and frankly I can’t believe the Rangers got him.
3) Elvis Andrus, SS, Grade A-: Should I go with B+ here? Athletic, very young for Double-A, I think the [Edgar] Renteria comparisons are apt and Andrus could be better.
4) Derek Holland, LHP, Grade B+: He’s great, but I worry that sometimes a step backward can follow such a breakout. Can he maintain late-season velocity?
5) Taylor Teagarden, C, Grade B: Excellent glove with power, could hit anywhere from .230 to .280 though.
6) Julio Borbon, OF, Grade B: I was too hard on him last year, and I buy into the idea that he can refine his game.
7) Engel Beltre, OF, Grade B: Read the comment below.
8) Michael Main, RHP, Grade B: Impressive Midwest League performance, and if instructional league reports are accurate he is primed for a huge breakout.
9) Max Ramirez, C-1B, Grade B: I love this bat. Glove might not be QUITE as bad as everyone says, but it isn’t good enough for him to rank higher.
10) Martin Perez, LHP, Grade B-: Very young, very high ceiling, will need time.
11) Kasey Kiker, LHP, Grade B-: Almost reduced to C+ but something is holding me back. Not sure what, need to think about it.
12) Neil Ramirez, RHP, Grade C+: Almost a B-. Another young pitcher with breakthrough potential. Another changeable grade.
13) Guillermo Moscoso, RHP, Grade C+: Nice pickup from the Tigers. Durability and role are issues.
14) Kennil Gomez, RHP, Grade C+: Breakthrough candidate if his arm is OK. I think he is right up there with some of these other guys who get more press.
15) Blake Beavan, RHP, Grade C+: Loss of velocity is disturbing, but other skills got better.
16) Wilfredo Boscan, RHP, Grade C+: Yet another breakthrough candidate. Low-A is gonna be loaded in ’09.
17) Tim Murphy, LHP, Grade C+: Nice pick from 2008 draft, could advance quickly as an inning-eater if his command is there.
18) Wilmer Font, RHP, Grade C+: Huge upside, could easily rank as high as 12 if you prefer youth. Worried about injury nexus and command.
19) Tommy Hunter, RHP, Grade C+: He was rushed, but could still be a nice strike-throwing inning eater. Could rank as high as 12th if you want guys close to the Show.
20) Eric Hurley, RHP, Grade C+: Worried about health here. I held onto him too long as a higher-ranked prospect, but could do better with a change of scenery.
21) Robbie Ross, LHP, Grade C+: Young high school pick with no pro track record yet.
22) Omar Poveda, RHP, Grade C+: In danger of getting lost in the shuffle, but still interesting.
23) Joe Wieland, RHP, Grade C+: Sleeper high school arm from ’08 draft, breakthrough candidate.
24) Jose Vallejo, 2B, Grade C+: Speedster added some pop t
his year, good glove at second.
* * *
SYSTEM IN BRIEF:
The Rangers have three of the best prospects in baseball, several others who project as major league regulars, and a whole bevy of Grade C+ type guys, some of them breakout candidates for higher grades next year. I love the way they have run this farm system in recent years: they have mixed raw and polished talent in the draft, and have made a big push in Latin America. The Rangers are looking at every source of talent: college, high school, other countries, guys with tools, guys with skills. The result is a system with both depth and breadth, and the future of this organization is quite bright.
Sickels adds that Feliz will “probably” end up as his number two pitching prospect in his book, behind post-season hero David Price.
You should buy the book.