February 2009

Impressions.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

First impressions:

 

1. Eric Nadel and Dave
Barnett sound great together.  And Rangers baseball, courtesy of 105.3 The
Fan, sounds awesome in FM.

 

2. As for Neftali Feliz,
yes, it’s tougher up here (a run on three hits and a walk in two innings), but
in his first career effort against big league hitters, he struck out the side
in his first inning of work and added a fourth punchout in his second frame
(Felipe Lopez, who had also fanned as Feliz’s first opponent the previous
inning).  Two swinging, two looking.

 

3. Kirby Puckett hit
207 career home runs, but none in his 583 rookie year plate appearances.  Max Newberg was held goalless in his
three-year-old debut soccer season, but in this year’s opener, a few hours ago,
he drilled the net from about 15 feet out. 
He acted like he’d been there before, I’m proud to say, but I’ll never
forget the smile on his face as his teammates swarmed him.

 

Second impressions:

 

1. The second airing
of MLB Network’s “Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the Dream” documentary will be at
noon (Central) this Wednesday.  Go set
your DVR.

 

2. Max Ramirez, in
his second camp with the Rangers, is now 2 for 4 this spring (having just
doubled to left center to set up what would be a two-run eighth to give Texas a
5-3 lead over Arizona).  Unless Ramirez
comes back up in the ninth, his .500/.500/.750 line will be frozen for a while,
as he departs tomorrow for Team Venezuela World Baseball Classic duties.  Ramirez was just announced yesterday as a
member of Baseball America‘s “All-Winter
League Team,” coming off a .291/.391/.618 run in which he led the Venezuela Winter
League in home runs (15 in 220 plate appearances) and was second in slugging.

 

Third impression:

 

Eleanor Czajka has
loaded edition number three of Ryan Tatusko’s “Back Field Diaries,” along with
the first two entries, on the Minor Details page, linked at the top of www.newbergreport.com

 

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

 


The Josh Hamilton documentary.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

There were probably
20 times during MLB Network’s Josh Hamilton documentary, which aired tonight
and which I just finished watching, that I tucked away some sort of reaction that
I planned to sit here and write down after it ended.  A couple times during the hour-long program I
thought to myself, “Wish I had a pen to jot some of this down.”  Each time the next thought, instantly, was, “Glad
I don’t.” 

 

It would have been a
mistake to water down the experience by taking notes, instead of just absorbing.

 

And it would be
senseless to try and remember it all now and make some lame attempt to put it
into words.  There were lots of chills watching it, both the
uplifting kind and the other kind, and, like Hamilton always seems to do, as naturally
and effortlessly as he swings and runs and throws, he and his story and his
ability and his character made me proud to be a fan of him, of our team, of this
game.

 

It’s
an insanely great show, and I can’t recommend it enough.

 

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

 

Stuff.

Very quick today.

Milton Bradley made his Cubs debut yesterday.  He drew a walk in the first inning.  

And was promptly removed with tightness in his left quad muscle.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said the move was simply a precautionary measure, and too much shouldn’t be read into it.

We’ve heard that before.  Bradley missed 36 games last year, but never landed on the disabled list.  Not once.  He’s a great baseball player, and was a great fit in the clubhouse (something he’s predictably already being praised for in Chicago as well), but, sadly, he seems to be terminally day-to-day.

I hope for really good things for Bradley over the life of his three-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs.  But man, especially given the way the market for hitters developed this winter, I’d have a bit of an upset stomach if I were Cubs management.

Josh Hamilton’s first 11 trips to the plate last spring: .636/.636/1.000.  His first six this spring: .500/.500/1.500.  

He’s good at baseball.

Kevin Millwood, Joe Torres, and Willie Eyre were sharp yesterday.

The Rangers will reportedly be at free-agent righthander Chad Cordero’s throwing session today.  It will be his fourth audition for big league teams in two weeks.

Philadelphia has released Adam Eaton, eatin’ $9 million to do so.

No big league team other than the one you follow has a Scott Lucas covering it, and accordingly only Rangers fans have a resource like this available to them: http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/rule5.htm  

The Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League signed righthander Trey Hodges.

Sports Page Dallas did a quick interview with me for this week’s edition: http://www.sportspage-dallas-ftworth.com/article-detail.php?id=41

Both local papers wrote today that the Rangers are putting individual game tickets on sale tomorrow.  Not true.  They go on sale Saturday, March 7 (at 9 a.m.).  More details here: http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/ticketing/singlegame.jsp?c_id=tex

Also, tickets for the Saturday, April 4 exhibition game against the Royals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will be available that same day for $4.00.  Any regularly priced ticket up to $25 for the 1:00 game will cost only four bucks.

Jamey

Hitting the ground running.

Got a seminar to get to early, so today’s edition will be limited to a few quick hits.

“It felt pretty good today.  Felt like nothing had changed.”

Tiger Woods said that yesterday in Marana, Arizona, after his first competitive round of golf in eight months.

About 130 miles northwest, any number of Rangers hitters might have said the same thing, after the club’s first competitive effort in five months.

The home half of the first Rangers inning of the 2008 Cactus League schedule featured this: Facing Kansas City starter John Bale, Ian Kinsler reaches on an error on the game’s first pitch.  Taking his lead from first, he watches Josh Hamilton strike out on three pitches, Michael Young strike out on three pitches, and Hank Blalock strike out on three pitches.

The home half of the first Rangers inning of the 2009 Cactus League schedule featured this: Facing Kansas City starter Horacio Ramirez,  Kinsler singles up the middle.  Young strikes out swinging.  Hamilton grounds to second, and Mark Teahen throws wild to second, allowing Kinsler to take third and Hamilton to reach second.  Nelson Cruz singles up the middle, scoring Kinsler and Hamilton.  Blalock blasts the first pitch he sees over the fence in right.  David Murphy singles up the middle.  Chris Davis singles to right, Murphy takes third.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounds into a fielder’s choice, shortstop to second, scoring Murphy.  Elvis Andrus singles to left center.  Kinsler singles to left, scoring Saltalamacchia and chasing Ramirez.  Facing Kansas City reliever Brandon Duckworth, Young grounded into a fielder’s choice, shortstop to second.

3-0-2-4-3-1-4-1-2.

What’s that?

The number of Rangers hits in each lineup spot yesterday.

Pitching effort that stood out for me?  Thomas Diamond, taking the ball in the fourth inning, walked the first Royal he faced, then surrendered a ground ball single.  And then: strikeout, swinging; strikeout, swinging, popout to second base.  

Tommy John surgery is not a death sentence.

More Baseball America prospect rankings:

Taylor Teagarden is the best defensive catcher prospect in baseball, and has the best arm.  He’s the number nine catcher overall.  Max Ramirez is number 11.

Justin Smoak is the best defensive first baseman, and the number three player at that position overall.

Elvis Andrus is the best runner among shortstops, number four overall.  
 
Engel Beltre and Julio Borbon are the number 13 and 14 center fielders.  Greg Golson (a “Ron Gant-esque player”) earned an honorable mention after the top 15.

Neftali Feliz is the number two right-handed pitcher, but boasts the number one fastball.  Michael Main is the number 25 righty.

Derek Holland is the number five lefthander, and Martin Perez is number nine — and the only international southpaw in the top 20. 

Feliz, who was ranked by BA as the number 10 prospect in baseball, is the highest-ranking Rangers pitcher in the 20 years that the publication has done a Top 100 Prospects list. 

Oakland tied Texas with seven players in the top 100, but look a little deeper and the Rangers begin to separate themselves: (1) Texas had four players in the top 37, while Oakland had two in the top 50; and (2) piecing together some comments that BA‘s Jim Callis and John Manuel made in a chat session following the unveiling of the Top 100 list, Beltre was evidently number 101, Borbon was number 104, and Main was just outside the top 105.

Travis Metcalf will get some spring work at first base.  Makes sense.

The Rangers came to terms with the nine remaining unsigned pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster, most notably Hamilton, whose 2009 salary will be $555,000 (with an additional $50,000 in incentives).  For now.  Expect discussions about a long-term extension to pick up steam right away, with a possible deal in place before the club breaks camp.

In the wake of the Smiley Gonzalez birthdate scandal, the Nationals have fired special assistant Jose Rijo and reportedly plan to shut their Dominican Republic Academy down.  General manager Jim Bowden’s job is apparently not safe.

Debuts today: Holland is expected to pitch in this afternoon’s Rangers-Royals game, and we’ll hear Dave Barnett help describe it, as he settles in as Eric Nadel’s radio broadcast partner.  Tune in at 105.3 The Fan.

 

BA Top 100 revealed.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects
list was just unveiled.  It contains
seven Rangers:

 

10.
Neftali Feliz

23.
Justin Smoak

31.
Derek Holland

37.
Elvis Andrus

73.
Taylor Teagarden

84.
Max Ramirez

86.
Martin Perez

 

(101.
Engel Beltre)

 

Someone
cut this out and thumbtack it in Michael Main’s locker.

 

 

Embracing adversity.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

One
left-handed hitter has managed to take Derek Holland deep in his two pro
seasons.  Last year, including the Texas
League playoffs (when Frisco right fielder Dustin Majewski volleyed a ball over
the fence), Holland
allowed only four home runs all year.  But only one by a lefty – Cubs prospect Dylan
Johnston, whose solo shot with two outs in the ninth on May 10 knotted the
Clinton-Peoria game at 2-2 and prevented Holland from locking down what would
have been his first and, so far, only complete game as a pro.

 

While
he’s far from a slap hitter, power is not among the key components of Julio
Borbon’s offensive game.  He’s hit seven
home runs in his two pro seasons.  Only
two of which came off lefthanders.

 

The
one time either Holland (who pitched for Spokane in 2008, and Clinton,
Bakersfield, and Frisco in 2009) or Borbon (who played center field for the AZL
Rangers and Spokane in 2008, and Bakersfield and Frisco in 2009) saw the other
teed up in a lefty-on-lefty battle that ended with a home run was on August 24,
2008, when Borbon took former Rangers southpaw Chris Michalak deep in the
eighth inning of a 9-3 Frisco win over Midland, a day after Holland led the
RoughRiders to a 10-1 victory over the same RockHounds.

 

Until
yesterday.

 

Holland was called on to pitch
the eighth inning of the Rangers’ first intrasquad game of the spring Monday
afternoon, entrusted with an 8-1 lead. 
He faced five batters, retiring none. 
He allowed four runs, three earned, with the big blow coming off
Borbon’s bat, as Holland hung an 0-2 slider that Borbon jerked over the right
field fence for a three-run bomb. 

 

Holland has given up more than
three earned runs in an entire start
only three times as a pro. 

 

It’s
tougher at this level, even when the hitter in the box is on a similar
development path.

 

The
organization had to feel good about Borbon’s moment.  He’s a big part of the plan here.

 

But
I bet, as far as Holland
is concerned, management is not all that disappointed about the result, and
very interested to see how the young southpaw responds.  Part of the process is learning to deal with
adversity, which Holland,
like a lot of blue-chip prospects, hasn’t had a lot of experience with.  It’s inevitable in the big leagues, and
demonstrating the ability to handle it is one of the final and most important
pieces in the maturation from prospect into big leaguer.

 

“A
home run is home run,” Holland
said after yesterday’s game.  “You just
tip your hat and go on.  You’ve still got
to pitch and can’t let something like that bother you.” 

 

Good.

 

“Yeah,
he beat me once.  Show me you can beat me
twice.”

 

Good.

 

Bet
you want the ball again, right now, huh?

 

“I
want to be out there right now. 
Working.”

 

Excellent.

 

Aside
from the Holland-Borbon bout, here’s some more microscopic sample to overreact
about from Monday’s game:

 

Brandon
McCarthy, getting the ball in the third, buckled down with a man on third and
one out, striking out Taylor Teagarden and Frank Catalanotto to end the inning.

 

Thomas
Diamond struck out one in a perfect seventh.

 

Kevin
Millwood, Kris Benson, Willie Eyre, and Tommy Hunter each allowed one hit in a
scoreless inning of work, while Elizardo Ramirez set the side down in order in
the eighth.  Brendan Donnelly and
Guillermo Moscoso each walked the two batters he faced.

 

Nelson
Cruz hit a first-pitch grand slam off Doug Mathis, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia
crushed a two-run blast off Eddie Guardado. 
Overreact: Saltalamacchia hit .158/.220/.224 against lefthanders last
year, .311/.426/.451 against righties. 
Same story in winter ball: .158/.273/.368 against southpaws,
.447/.587/1.043 against righthanders. 
Good to see him do some damage against an established lefty.

 

Joaquin
Arias singled, doubled, and tripled in three trips.  Maybe more significant was the “SS” next to
his name in the box score (though one local report suggested his arm strength
is not fully back).  Michael Young
singled twice in two trips and committed a throwing error on a slow roller up
the line.  Andruw Jones singled twice in
three at-bats, striking out in the other. 

 

Elvis
Andrus singled in three trips, driving in a run, but what matters is he played
the entire game, meaning the left wrist discomfort that slowed him for a few
days is apparently not a big issue.

 

Ramirez
will play for Venezuela
in the World Baseball Classic.  Cruz (Dominican Republic) and Catalanotto (Italy) are the
other two Rangers playing in the tournament.

 

Travis
Metcalf won the Home Run Derby at Sunday’s FanFest at Surprise Stadium,
defeating Kansas City
catcher J.R. House in the finals.  Other
contestants were German Duran and Justin Smoak from the Rangers and Kila
Ka’aihue and Corey Smith from the Royals.

 

Benson’s
minor league deal has a May 5 opt-out. 
Good.  There’s no pressure to save
an Opening Day spot for him.  Jon Heyman
of Sports Illustrated reports that if
Benson hits all workload incentives, he could earn a little more than $2
million.  Not likely.

 

Contrary
to multiple reports, it turns out Texas
did not attend Chad Cordero’s throwing session on Wednesday.  The club plans to watch the former closer
throw this week, when he’s expected to step things up from the first session’s
70 percent effort.

 

The
Cubs released lefthander Bill White after he failed his physical.

 

Check
out the video interview T.R. Sullivan did with Young in the top right corner of
texasrangers.com.  Really good
stuff.  Looking forward to more of those.

 

Jeff
Passan of Yahoo! Sports points out that Andrus, whose late father was a physics
professor, taught himself English as he was coming up in the Braves system by
listening to music, notably hop-hop and country music because they “tell the
best stories.”  Omar Vizquel tells Passan
that Andrus has “the perfect personality” to settle in as a big leaguer. 

 

The
Dodgers’ signing of second baseman Orlando Hudson pushes the Rangers
supplemental first-round pick (compensation for the loss of Milton Bradley)
down one slot to number 42, and the club’s second-rounder down to number
60.  It’s that latter pick that Texas would forfeit if
it were to sign Ben Sheets before the June draft.  If Manny Ramirez, Juan Cruz, and Orlando
Cabrera sign with anyone but their 2008 teams, both Rangers picks drop one slot
each.  There are a few Type B’s left as
well, which may or may not affect the supplemental first, but will affect the
second-rounder if those players find new teams.

 

In
a hypothetical posed in this week’s edition of “Ask BA,” Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis was asked what Washington could get for
the first pick in this year’s draft if the trading of draft picks were
permitted.  Given that San Diego State
righthander Stephen Strasburg is considered “the best righthanded pitching
prospect this decade and should reach the major leagues within a year of
signing” and a pitcher whom “[s]ome scouts would take . . . over Rays
lefthander David Price,” Callis notes the price would be high.  His proposal:

 

For the sake of
argument, let’s take a look at the Rangers, who have the best farm system in
baseball, and are deep at certain positions. 
They could afford to give up first baseman Chris Davis (with Justin
Smoak on the way) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (with Taylor Teagarden and
Max Ramirez on hand), and maybe they’d be willing to part with the 14th overall
pick to get Strasburg.  But it’s unlikely
Texas would
add righthander Neftali Feliz to that package, and I’d want Feliz. . . . The
Rangers probably wouldn’t give up lefty Derek Holland or shortstop Elvis Andrus
either.

 

That’s
a crazy package to put together for a player who has never thrown a
professional pitch and who would still have to be signed – his advisor is Scott
Boras – but I thought it would be worthwhile to share that here because it’s
further proof of a point I’ve been pushing for about a year now: the next time
(and next few times after that) that a Josh Beckett is floated on the market by
a team who knows it can’t keep him long-term – and I’m not talking about a C.C.
Sabathia-type two-month rental – general managers will instinctively target Texas and its
unparalleled prospect depth, just as Callis did.

 

MLB
Network, which has made ESPN completely obsolete for me, is airing a one-hour
feature on Josh Hamilton this Friday at 8:00 p.m.  It will be the new network’s first player
documentary.

 

Jim
Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
reported this weekend that Hamilton’s
grandmother, Mary Holt, is dying of Stage IV cancer.  That makes me very sad.

 

Here’s
the Rangers’ local
television broadcast schedule
for the regular season.

 

The
Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League traded outfielder Carl
Everett and lefthander Vic Darensbourg to the Newark Bears for righthander Jose
Garcia and catcher John Pachot.  The
Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association claimed righthander
Mark Roberts off waivers from the Sioux Falls Canaries. 

 

Matt
Harrison will start Wednesday’s exhibition opener against Kansas City. 
Millwood goes Thursday, Scott Feldman Friday, McCarthy Saturday, and
Vicente Padilla Sunday.  Pitching coach
Mike Maddux’s goal is for each to go two innings, after which the plan in their
successive starts is to get through two innings again, then three, four, five,
and six, before scaling back down to four innings in each starter’s seventh and
final spring training appearance. 

 

Padilla
and Feldman are slated to start today’s intrasquad game, and supposedly every
pitcher who didn’t work on Monday will see action.  If that’s the case, today’s box ought to
include Dustin Nippert, Frankie Francisco, Josh Rupe, Warner Madrigal, Derrick
Turnbow, Luis Mendoza, Joe Torres, John Bannister, and Omar Poveda.

 

And
Neftali Feliz.  If Max Ramirez takes him
deep, so be it. 

 

Wouldn’t
be the worst thing in the world.

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

 


 

Incentives.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


In 2005, the last
time he was pitching for a contract, Kevin Millwood posted a 2.86 ERA that led
the American League.  Vicente Padilla,
one year away from his first shot at free agency, went 9-12, 4.71, after which Philadelphia decided to trade him to Texas for Ricardo Rodriguez.

 

In 2006, Millwood
and Padilla’s first season with the Rangers, their results were nearly
identical: Millwood went 16-12, 4.52 in 34 starts, chewing up 215 innings, while
Padilla went 15-10, 4.50 in 33 starts, logging 200 frames.

 

Things change quickly
in this game, sometimes overnight and without warning.  Millwood and Padilla can look around the
clubhouse in Surprise to hammer that point home. 

 

Dial back to those
2005 and 2006 seasons.

 

In 2005, Andruw Jones
had a .922 OPS, 51 home runs, and 128 RBI, and was runner-up for NL MVP.  Eddie Guardado saved 36 games and had a 2.72
ERA.  Brendan Donnelly won nine games in
relief and posted a 3.72 ERA for a 95-win Angels team.  Kris Benson went 10-8, 4.13 in 28 Mets starts.

 

In 2006, Omar
Vizquel hit .295/.361/.389 and locked down his 11th Gold Glove
(second most in history for a shortstop). 
Derrick Turnbow saved 39 games, won seven more, and posted a 1.74 ERA under
Mike Maddux’s tutelage in his first full big league season (other than his scattered
Rule 5 season six years earlier).  Jason
Jennings went 9-13, 3.78, logging 212 Rockies
innings, completing three of his 32 starts, two of which were shutouts.

 

All seven of them
are in camp with the Rangers on minor league deals.

 

If you think that’s
not incentive enough for Millwood and Padilla, consider the following free
agent deals signed this winter:

 

C.C. Sabathia: seven
years, $161 million.  A.J. Burnett: five
years, $82.5 million.  Derek Lowe: four
years, $60 million.  Ryan Dempster: four
years, $52 million.  Oliver Perez: three
years, $36 million.

 

Then there’s a
dropoff.  A huge one.

 

Randy Johnson: one
year, $8 million.  Jon Garland: one year,
$7.25 million.  Andy Pettitte and John
Smoltz: each one year, $5.5 million. 
Brad Penny and Randy Wolf: each one year, $5 million.

 

The chasm between
the top tier and the second tier is bigger than ever.

 

I’m expecting
Millwood and Padilla to be as motivated as they’ve ever been, and to deliver Texas as much as they
did in 2006.

 

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


 

Wipe that Smiley off.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

I’ve been thinking
about the bullet the Rangers seem to have dodged by losing out to the Nationals
three July’s ago when they were reportedly on the verge of signing Dominican shortstop
Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez for $700,000 (outbidding, among others, Boston,
which paid outfielder Engel Beltre $600,000 that same summer), only to lose him
when Washington swooped in and paid the slick-fielding switch-hitter $1.4
million to sign. 

 

When news broke this
week that Gonzalez had falsified his identity and age – and not just by a
little – he instantly transformed from a 19-year-old whose breakthrough 2008
put him back on the map to a 23-year-old non-prospect named Carlos Alvarez
Daniel Lugo, a player whose two-month, .343/.431/.475 numbers in a second Gulf
Coast League stint have basically become empty.

 

I’m probably overthinking
this, but I wonder if, in May 2007, when Jon Daniels and Thad Levine made the
decision to set the Rangers franchise on a new course, one that would start
with the trade of Mark Teixeira, the blueprint might have looked different had
Gonzalez been at the head of the previous summer’s international haul, which included
Wilmer Font, Wilfredo Boscan, Kennil Gomez, Carlos Pimentel, Geuris Grullon,
Leonel De Los Santos, and Emmanuel Solis. 
Gonzalez would have gone through Fall Instructs the previous October and
would have been on the verge of debuting in the Arizona League when the Rangers
decided that trading Teixeira was going to be step one in a large-scale effort
to build from the bottom up.  He would
have unquestionably been the franchise’s shortstop of the future at that time.

 

There was an October
2007 report in Baseball America suggesting
that when the Rangers engaged Atlanta – one of a
few carefully selected targets – in mid-season trade talks regarding Teixeira, the
Braves told Texas
that they would make 18-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus or 20-year-old center fielder
Jordan Schafer available.  But not
both.  (The report was disputed by Baseball
Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein, who said Schafer was unavailable.)

 

In the spring of 2007,
as thin as shortstop was in the Rangers system (Joaquin Arias was out the first
half and missed nearly the entire season with a shoulder injury), center field
was in worse shape.  The top hope on the
farm for a club that was running Kenny Lofton out to center every day was probably
Anthony Webster, who was regressing in his second AA season.  Marlon Byrd didn’t make his Rangers debut
until the last week of May.  In June, Texas would draft Julio
Borbon, and in July the club would trade for David Murphy and Beltre.  But in May 2007, the center field cupboard was
bare.

 

Assuming the BA story was accurate, if the Rangers had
Gonzalez in the system would they have chosen Schafer (who hit .372/.441/.636
before an early May promotion from Low A to High A, and was on his way to
leading the minor leagues that year with 176 hits) over Andrus, who was thought
to be one year older than Gonzalez (rather than three years younger than
Gonzalez, as we now know)?  Would they
have gone a different direction with the pick they used on Borbon or the return
they demanded from Boston
for Eric Gagné? 

 

Schafer was
suspended in 2008 for 50 games after testing positive for human growth hormone,
though he did come back with a solid second half and remains a legitimate prospect.  Still, what if Texas ended up with Carlos
Alvarez Daniel “Smiley Gonzalez” Lugo and Jordan Schafer, and had no Elvis
Andrus and maybe, having spent all that cash on Gonzalez, an international class
that ended up including fewer than all of Wilmer Font and Wilfredo Boscan and Kennil
Gomez and Carlos Pimentel?

 

Maybe the Nationals
saved us.

 

Questions surrounding
Byrd’s left knee and Brandon Boggs’s right shoulder make the Andruw Jones audition
a little more understandable.  While Byrd
expects to be ready for Opening Day and Boggs had a good MRI reading, both will
probably be limited as exhibition play gets underway next week.  That development, along with Nelson Cruz’s
addition to the Dominican Republic roster for in next month’s World Baseball
Classic (he was invited Wednesday once Melky Cabrera withdrew from the tournament),
will open up plenty of at-bats for Jones. 

 

Here’s the
audio from Jones’s interview with Ben & Skin
on 105.3 The Fan
yesterday.

 

Lefthander Matt
Harrison is expected to get the start on Wednesday when Texas
opens its Cactus League schedule against Kansas
City.  He begins
camp as one of the members of the club’s penciled-in rotation, along with Kevin
Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Scott Feldman, and Brandon McCarthy.

 

No pitchers have impressed
Ron Washington more in camp, according to reports, than McCarthy and C.J. Wilson,
and that’s very encouraging, given how the 2008 season ended for each.  Both have a lot to prove.  According to Washington, “C.J. is really overmatching our
hitters.”

 

Rumor has it Arias’s
arm strength is coming back, though he hasn’t yet been asked to make throws to
first from the left side of the infield. 
If true, it would significantly increase his value as a utility player
candidate (here or in trade).  The reason
he played in only two games in winter ball was reportedly not a physical one,
but rather a family issue.

 

Scott Lucas digs into the numbers to test my theory
that Josh Hamilton fared significantly better when Milton Bradley was next to
him in the lineup last year.

 

Sometime during camp,
the Rangers and Hamilton are expected to discuss a long-term contract.

 

Texas reportedly sent a representative to California for reliever Chad
Cordero’s Wednesday throwing session (his first off a mound since shoulder surgery
last summer).

 

According to one
local report, lefthander Joe Beimel turned down a non-roster deal to join Texas about a month ago.  The solid 31-year-old reliever (who was
drafted by the Rangers in 1996’s 26th round but didn’t sign) remains
unemployed but won’t for long, and you’d expect that his interest in coming
here has probably diminished, if anything, since Eddie Guardado has signed
since Beimel declined the Rangers’ first offer.

 

The same local
report notes that Jerry Narron won’t resume his consulting role with Texas this season.

 

Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis made Neftali Feliz
the number one starter and Andrus the shortstop on his Prospect All-Star Team
including players signed internationally; Justin Smoak the first baseman on the
college version; and Derek Holland as the number two starter on the junior
college version.

 

BA‘s Top 100 Prospects list isn’t out yet, but Callis confirmed that seven
Rangers will show up, and although Beltre missed the cut, he was “number 101.”

 

Goldstein, asked during
a Baseball Prospectus chat to identify prospects on his own Top 100 list who
could shoot up the chart a year from now, said that of the players he ranked
between 51 and 75, Michael Main is the top candidate for a big jump.  Goldstein added that Martin Perez “might be
the guy not on the Top 100 who could make the highest jump.”

 

Kansas City claimed infielder Tug Hulett off waivers from Seattle.  Florida
signed infielder Dave Matranga to a minor league deal.  The Dodgers signed shortstop Johnny Washington
to a minor league deal.

 

Need a 2009 Bound
Edition
to help get you ready for the season?  I can ship you one immediately.

 

In 1989, my sophomore year of college, some UT buddies and I spent Spring
Break on the ASU campus.  We went to
spring training games nearly every day.  We
happened to see two or three Mariners games that week.  Seattle
ran a 22-year-old (who looked 14) out to shortstop each time, a minor leaguer named
Omar Vizquel. 

 

I filled one of those cheap little spray bottles with ice water as we
headed out each morning . . . .

 

water_bottle.jpg

 

. . . to help keep cool while getting a tan.  By the third inning of the first M’s game we
were at, Vizquel would jog our way at the end of every defensive inning on his
way to the dugout, grab the bottle, and douse himself.  Same thing at the other game or two.  Met him after one of the games, and we’d
later joke that it would be cool if that kid, the happiest guy to play spring
training innings you’ve ever seen, eventually made it all the way to the big
leagues, even for just a day or two.

 

A few months later, that kid was starting in Seattle,
and when the Mariners visited Texas
in June, we met up with Vizquel after the game (minutes before we very nearly
got into a physical altercation with Junior Griffey).  He showed us the bat he’d used to get his
first big league hit (off Oakland’s
Storm Davis, three days after Dave Stewart had scared the tar out of him when
he stepped to the plate on Opening Day). 
We all planned to get lunch the next day. 

 

I called Vizquel a little before noon the next morning.  Pretty sure the phone call woke him.  He mumbled, “Who?”  I reminded him who it was.  He hung up. 
I remember thinking then that we’d been bigtimed by a kid who would be
in The Show for two years, maybe three. 

 

I’ve forgiven the future Hall of Famer since, so I’m not going to get mad
at him for getting his dates wrong and reporting to Surprise today, a day later
than he was supposed to.

 

 

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

Asked & Answered, v.2.


Good
work – more than 120 questions this time. 
I could only get to about 40 of them. 

 

Here
we go.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What do you
think of the Andruw Jones signing?  If he
shows signs of life in spring training and makes the big league club, isn’t he
just going to take away at bats from Murphy, Byrd, Cruz and Boggs, and shouldn’t
we be looking at those guys as hard as possible to determine if they will be
pieces when this team contends in 2010? 
Is Daniels going to try and revive Jones and flip him at the trade
deadline?  It seems to me if he has a
good season and is on a one-year deal that he would not be with the Rangers in 2010.
– Chad
H.

 

A:  Not surprisingly, Jones questions lapped the
field this time around.  Chad’s version
hit a lot of the points many of you brought up.

 

If the one-year veteran acquisition spectrum is Kenny Lofton on one end
(flippable), Ben Broussard on the other (miserable), and Sammy Sosa in the middle
(serviceable), I’d place the Jones upside somewhere between Lofton and Sosa -
closer to Sosa – but then I’d take it all back for one primary reason: Lofton,
Sosa, and Broussard arguably filled temporary needs.  Jones does not. 

 

Texas doesn’t need Jones to work out.  If he has a sensational month in Arizona, he’ll still
need a vacancy created by an injury or trade of one of the front four
(Hamilton, Cruz, Byrd, Murphy).  Byrd is
the key.  He’s not likely to be a Ranger
after 2009 because of service time and salary. 
If he can be traded for pitching in March – which may be difficult given
his knee issues – then Jones (if going well) conceivably provides Texas the
same thing Byrd does: solid center field ability with a right-handed bat
capable of doing some damage. 

 

I’m not optimistic, but again, he’s here on a low-cost audition to give
the club some flexibility and protection – not to fill a void.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What makes
Nelson Cruz’s situation different from previous years?  Is he still a 4-A player, or has he finally
figured something out this time around? – Brett G.

 

A:  I’m betting on the latter, buoyed by that
league-leading 1.115 OPS (.356/.448/.667) in September.  What Cruz figured out in 2008 is how to make
pitchers throw strikes, first in AAA and then translated to Arlington. 
Cruz does cruel things to strikes.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  In the last 10
years what prospect has broken your heart the most and what prospect would you
say has come out of nowhere and been the most surprising?  Since you have been covering the Rangers farm
system, who would you say is the biggest first-round draft pick bust? – Paul G.

 

A:  Ruben Mateo is the
heartbreaker.  Jeff Zimmerman is the
obvious answer to the second question but Scott Feldman deserves mention.  Drew Meyer, for a number of reasons, is the
bust.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  1.  I am curious why the Rangers did not try and re-sign
Jamey Wright.  He pitched very well for
the Rangers last year (until the end). 
Why didn’t they even talk to him?

 

2.  If all the outfielders perform well this
spring, do you think this will result in a trade before opening day?  If so, who is the most likely to get
traded?  Who would draw the most in
return?

 

3.  Are the Rangers finished with the free agent
market or do you think there will be someone else signed to a minor league
contract with an invite to camp in the next few days? – Daniel S.

 

A:  1.  Well, we don’t know that they didn’t make an
effort.  But given the workload he fought
through last year, certainly a factor in his second-half meltdown, maybe the
thought was he wouldn’t be as good a bet in 2009.

 

2.  Yes, assuming Byrd is ready
to go and nobody else is injured during camp. 
Byrd is the most likely to be moved; he has value on and off the field,
he’ll be a free agent in seven months (and not likely to get from Texas the
first multi-year deal of his career, something he’ll want – and deserve – from someone),
and if Jones is playing well (as your hypothetical assumes), those two are
relatively duplicative.  But Hamilton, of course, would
bring the best return.

 

3.  Last year most players had
signed by this time, and Texas
still went out during camp and signed Sidney Ponson and John Patterson to let’s-see
contracts.  Chances are even better in
this late-developing market that the club could give another pitcher or two an
audition.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  I know it is
way too early to worry about this, but what do you think will happen with Chris
Davis, Justin Smoak, and Max Ramirez, realistically only having room for two of
them? – Kent
S.

 

A:  An impact trade.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  I hear talk
that Jose Vallejo will be working as a utility infielder at Oklahoma City.  I hope he stays at second.  Any chance Ian Kinsler is learning to play
left field next spring due to Vallejo’s
advancement? – Bryan
H.

 

Q:  I’m curious to
read what you think the club’s long term outlook/projection is for German
Duran.  He was a great prospect of ours a
couple of years ago, and now it seems that he’s been relegated to a utility man
role (if that).  With Andrus’s seemingly
inevitable introduction this year, the signing of Omar Vizquel, and other
developing prospects on the way, will Duran ever settle into a role more
significant than a utility man (if that)? – Brett B.

 

A:  Related questions, so let’s combine the
answer.  Vallejo’s immediate usefulness to the
franchise is as a candidate to be a weapon on the bench, versatile defensively
and offensively.  That doesn’t limit his
future necessarily.  As for Duran, if by “relegated”
you mean “he isn’t going to unseat Michael Young or Ian Kinsler or derail the
Elvis Andrus train,” OK.  But – and this
pertains to both infielders – Chone Figgins and Placido Polanco and Mark
McLemore broke in as utility players and eventually shed that tag.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  With so many
talented pitchers in the system and not enough spots for them, what do you
think will happen to the leftovers? – S.D.

 

A:  Any organization that can point to a group
of capable pitchers and call them “leftovers” is authorized to privately think
about parade routes.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  I’m wondering
why the Rangers don’t go sign Ben Sheets to an incentive-laden deal so when he
is fully recovered from surgery in mid-summer, he can step into the
rotation.  Just imagine what a boost that
would be to team morale in the middle of the season.  What do you think about this idea? – Wes R.

 

A:  It’s a great idea, one that I’ve been
pushing (a “Jon Lieber deal”) since before reports of the failed physical
emerged.  I’m sure the organization
agrees with everything you said.  The
issue is whether Sheets thinks he’d be better off waiting until mid-season,
when more teams are interested.  The flip
side is that he’d probably be better served having his rehabilitation conducted
under the supervision of a big league medical and training staff.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Considering
several young pitchers the Rangers have traded the last three years have
excelled with their new teams, WHEN the Rangers are contending near the trade
deadline, will the team be trigger-shy to trade Michael Main and/or Martin
Perez for an impact player who could lead the team to the playoffs? – Mark B.

 

A:  If you’re talking about a two-month rental,
then I hope they don’t even consider it long enough to get trigger-shy.  But a controllable player?  Different question.  In other words: Carlos Lee, no thanks.  Matt Cain? 
Hmmm . . . .  Gun to my head: Main and Perez are untouchable.

*        
*          *

 

Q:  This question
doesn’t pertain to an individual Ranger player, but what is your thought on the
use of PED’s in baseball?  Do you think
Bud Selig is handling the A-Rod situation appropriately?  Should baseball test its players more
frequently? – Zach P.

 

A:  Sorry, can’t hear you.  My head is buried comfortably in the sand.

 

Meanwhile, here’s a tribute to A-Rod that I first posted in October
2006, courtesy of my favorite band:

 

Ugly apparition, God’s gift to oxygen

The puffed up immortal son

How they love him ’cause he’ll become

The ghost at number one.

How does it feel

To be the only one?

How does it feel

To be the only one that knows that you’re right?

How does it feel

To be a chalkline dollar sign?

How does it feel

Up at the address all the widows write?

― Jellyfish, “The Ghost at Number One”

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Did the
Rangers sign Andruw Jones, Brendan Donnelly, and Derrick Turnbow to help the
team in the short term but with the intention of flipping them in July? – A.S.

 

A:  No. 
Those guys would likely bring Eddie Guardado-type returns at best.  It’s not worth the investment of money and
playing time.  Texas brought those three in to see if they
can make the team better right now.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  I was looking
forward to Travis Metcalf getting a full-time shot at third base until the
Michael Young move killed that plan.  He
seemed like a low-cost, home-grown, great glove with some pop in his bat.  He is of an age where we cannot expect him to
wait until Young has to be replaced in order to get an opportunity.  What gives? – Rick

 

A:  Remember Tom Evans?  Standout defense at third base, moderate
power, a couple shots to start in the big leagues.  To me, that’s Metcalf’s comp at a minimum;
the absolute ceiling is Ryan Zimmerman. 
Obviously there’s a huge spectrum between those two extremes.  He’ll need a new employer in order to
maximize things.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What kind of
package could Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, and two lower minor league players net
us? – Shawn D.

 

A:  Who are the two lower minor leaguers?  No, wait, forget that.  Doesn’t matter.  Davis
alone gets you an impact pitcher, and if you’re dealing with the right club
Cruz has some value as well.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Three
questions about Nolan:

 

1. How do you think he’s
graded out so far?

 

2. What do you think his long-term
impact will be on the Rangers?

 

3. What kind of a relationship
does he have with JD? – S.F.

 

A:  I’ve been very happy so far.  His integrity and credibility are
unassailable – we knew that.  The thing I
worried about was that he might have come in and decided to justify the importance
of his position by making sweeping changes, perhaps impetuously, particularly
since someone at his age with a lifetime of baseball achievement might have
been hungry to win as soon as possible. 

 

To his credit, he has done anything but that.  He’s been patient, has bought into the long-term
plan that Jon Daniels implemented in May 2007, and from all accounts is a
consensus-builder who has made it a priority to have all facets of the
organization unified in direction and approach. 

 

And you can bet his presence here helped Texas land Mike Maddux, and nearly land Ben
Sheets.  There will be more situations
like that.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Jamey, I
expect the Rangers to go about 10 to 15 games above .500.  What do you expect? – B.M.

 

A:  So 86-89 wins?  I don’t expect that many, but it can’t be
ruled out.  I laid out more than a dozen
reasons on February 16 why it’s reasonable to expect 2009 to be better than
2008 was, and perhaps chief among them is to have a better April and better
health.  Millwood and Padilla in what
amount to contract years doesn’t hurt.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What about a
list of top 25 Rangers prospects in the last 10 years? – David N.

 

A:  David gets the medal for submitting the best
question in the storied, two-volume history of Asked & Answered.  Love this one.

 

I went back and gathered the Rangers’ top prospects from the winters
going into the 2000 through 2009 seasons, and then tried to determine which
winter each player was at his pinnacle of prospecty goodness.  Finally, in coming up with the list, I did my
best to summon up where my head was on each player at that time, without the
benefit of hindsight.  So as much as I’d
like to switch Ruben Mateo and Adrian Gonzalez now, I’m playing fair.

 

So here goes – the top 25 Rangers prospects of the last 10 years:

 

Mark Teixeira (going into ’03)

Hank Blalock (’02)

Derek Holland (’09)

Ruben Mateo (’00)

Neftali Feliz (’09)

 

“Edison” Volquez (’06)

Carlos Pena (’01)

Chris Davis (’08)

Justin Smoak (’09)

Ian Kinsler (’05)

 

Jovanny Cedeno (’01)

John Danks (’07)

Michael Main (’09)

Elvis Andrus (’09)

Thomas Diamond (’06)

 

Juan Dominguez (’04)

Adrian Gonzalez (’05)

Taylor Teagarden (’08)

Martin Perez (’09)

Colby Lewis (’03)

 

Travis Hafner (’03)

Doug Davis (’00)

Kevin Mench (’01)

Eric Hurley (’07)

Laynce Nix (’03)

 

Ten others I considered: Max Ramirez (’09), Joaquin Arias (’06), Jason
Botts (’06), Francisco Cordero (’00), Jason Romano (’00), Mario Ramos (’02),
Mike Lamb (’00), Ryan Dittfurth (’02), Ben Kozlowski (’03), and Kasey Kiker (’08). 

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  How reasonable
is it to think that Feliz or Holland
could possibly be on the Opening Day roster? 
If they are thinking 2010 is their real shot at competing, why not bring
up one or both of them? – Daryn J.

 

A:   Holland – one percent chance.

 

Feliz – zero percent.  I hope.

 

The reason you don’t run those two out there right now is they aren’t
ready.  It’s not only about talent.  Handle with care.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Who is the
best Rangers prospect you can remember that came furthest from realizing his
big-league potential (not including careers derailed by injury). – B.H.

 

A:  Romar Benjamin Gil.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Justin Smoak
seems to have an incredible reputation already. 
Given the fact that the work sample is small, what is it about this guy
that makes him an almost universal favorite among those who rate prospects? – Tim
P.

 

A:  He does everything but run.  Everything. 
Tack on the both-handed-ness at the plate and his baseball rat
mentality, and it’s hard not to love his future.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  How do options
work, and how are they used up? – Charlie L.

 

A:  There’s an 865-word explanation in the
Transactions Hornbook chapter of the Bound Edition. 

 

Biggest misconception is that every time a player is sent down from the
big leagues to the minors, an option is exhausted.  Not the case: one option lasts an entire
season, regardless of how many times a player is called up and sent down.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  In a recent
chat with Jason Parks, Keith Law said that a healthy Brandon McCarthy still
looks like a solid number two starter.  What
is your opinion? – Ross L.  

 

A:  He’s got a ton to prove in the next six
weeks, maybe more than anyone in camp. 
Number two’s don’t earn number two status purely on stuff.  

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Can you give
us your predicted “Schedule” of 2009 Ranger prospect arrivals in Arlington?  In other words, your monthly breakdown of
first time call-ups, including those breaking camp with the Rangers and
September call-ups as well. – Mike M.

 

A:  Sort of a crazy exercise, since these are largely
dependent on injuries, rainouts, trades, and so on, but a shot in the dark:

 

April: Elvis Andrus

June: Derek Holland

July: John Bannister

August: Thomas Diamond, Neftali Feliz

September: Jose Vallejo, Julio Borbon, Guillermo Moscoso, possibly Greg
Golson and Omar Poveda (but more likely 2010)

 

No Justin Smoak, Tim Murphy, or Corey Young until 2010.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Chris Young,
Armando Galarraga, John Danks – which do you think was the greatest goof and
why? – Stan K.

 

A:  Danks. 
Texas
may have underestimated his ability to get better and his makeup.  The club definitely overemphasized the
importance of what it perceived to be his and McCarthy’s timetable to arrive.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Jamey, can you
explain for me why Adam Dunn wasn’t a better fit at DH than Hank Blaylock?  I still don’t get giving an extension to Hank
instead of using the money to spend on a potential stud (especially at home)
like Dunn. – Terry B.

 

A:  You’d spend $16 million to have both in
2009?  Of course not.

 

Now, was picking up Blalock’s option a mistake?  In retrospect, maybe.  Nobody thought the hitter market would be
this depressed.  (We know many teams who
spent early this winter would have better served to wait, but in the case of a
contract option, waiting isn’t permitted.) 
I do think, however, that Blalock could have a very productive season,
given how strong his 2008 finish was.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  How did Holland perform in the
post-season as an amateur?  He really was
locked in during the Texas League playoffs last year.  Did his team make it to the JUCO playoffs?  How excited should we be if he has a chance
at the post-season in a Rangers uniform? – Taylor S.

 

A:  I tried to get Wallace State-Hanceville
playoff box scores but the media relations contact wasn’t responsive.  Piecing together some game accounts, from
what I was able to gather Holland pitched twice in the JUCO World Series in
2006, and in 2007 he made two playoff starts, giving up one Calhoun run on four
hits and no walks in seven innings in the first, fanning seven, and firing 11
scoreless innings in the second, a 13-inning affair that the Lions lost to
Chattahoochee Valley, 1-0. 

 

We do know that it was during those 2007 playoffs, as the Rangers’
draft-and-follow window to sign Holland was about to close, that the lefthander
opened the eyes of Texas scouts Jeff Wood and Rick Schroeder even further,
leading to the $200,000 bonus (fourth- or fifth-round money) 10 days before the
negotiating deadline that persuaded the 25th-rounder to go pro rather than
transfer to Arizona State.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What kind of
roster moves do you project the Rangers to make coming out of Spring
Training?  It seems like they have a lot of
non-roster veterans invited to camp with (I think at last count) only one spot
on the 40-man. – Andy S.

 

Q:  Out of all the
NRI’s, who do you see making the 40-man, and if it’s necessary who will lose
their spot? – Dave H.

 

A:  Andy’s and Dave’s were just two of a good
handful of questions aiming at the same issue.

 

Best odds: Omar Vizquel, Eddie Guardado

Next best: Brendan Donnelly, Elvis Andrus

Reasonable shot: Andruw Jones, Derrick Turnbow, Joe Torres

Audition for first half: Jason Jennings, Doug Mathis, Derek Holland

 

There’s one open spot now.  Eric
Hurley and Joaquin Benoit will be 60-day DL candidates, which would clear two
more spaces.  If Dustin Nippert doesn’t
make the staff, he comes off the 40.  If
another spot is needed?  Depends.  If the player for whom room needs to be made is
Andruw Jones, then maybe the club eats Frank Catalanotto’s contract or trades
Marlon Byrd (if healthy).  Luis Mendoza
probably needs to show something in camp, too.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Game 7 of the
2012 World Series.  Assuming all parties
reach their projected ceilings do you go with Holland, Feliz, or Perez?  And why?  Don’t forget to take into account their mental
make up as well. – Stewart S.

 

A:  Give me Holland. 
Feliz and Perez will lack the big league experience to have earned the
responsibility of being number one.  Then
again, David Price did too – you don’t need to be called “number one” (or even get
the ball in the first inning) to impact a playoff series in a huge way.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Percentage
chance that the starting catcher for the Rangers in 2010 is Salty, Teagarden,
Max or other. – Mike H.

 

A:  100 percent. 
(Kidding.)  I’ll say in 2009 it
breaks down as 60/40/0.  But you asked
about 2010, and my answer is different: 35/65/0.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Do you agree
with possibly batting Nelly in front of Josh to begin the season?  I believe he could benefit from seeing a few
more fastballs early in the year. – Frank S.

 

A:  If you believe enough in Cruz to hit him
third in the lineup, better to go with him at number four to break up the
left-handed hitters.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Do you expect
there will be any surprise players on the Opening Day Rangers squad? – Jimmy R.

 

A:  No, but if I had to come up with a few
candidates, I’d go with Joe Torres, Thomas Diamond, and Joaquin Arias.  (Maybe Doug Mathis, too, but since he’s off
the roster I think he’s a longer shot to break camp.)  (Yes, Torres is off the roster as well, but
being left-handed that may be less of an issue.)

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What kind of
role do you see Warner Madrigal playing not only this season but in future
seasons?  Is he a type of guy that will
be pitching the seventh inning now with an eye towards taking over the closer
role two or three years down the line? – Zach B.

 

A:  He’s a baby pitcher with little wear on his
arm, so I don’t rule anything out, but if he is what he is, I think shutting
down the eighth inning may be his ceiling role down the line.  Nothing wrong with that.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Random
Question: If you could add one player to the rotation and one player to the
lineup from any organization, who would it be? – Salman M.

 

A:  Maybe Brandon Webb and Carlos Beltran.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  With Elvis
Andrus pushing the club to move Michael Young over to third base for the better
of the team to get as much talent as possible on the field at once, who is the
position player currently on the farm who is most likely to force another
current regular to change positions in the near future? – Matt S.

 

A:  Justin Smoak. But that’s no knock on Chris
Davis, who may be close to Smoak’s equal defensively.  (I think of Davis/Smoak as Teixeira/AG
defensively.)  Davis is just more versatile and thus a better
candidate to move. 

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  What do you think
the lineup will look like Opening Day 2010? 
Will guys like Main, Beavan, and Borbon
be with the club on Opening Day? – John M.

 

A:  Roughly the same as 2009, which is a good
thing.  Max Ramirez instead of Hank
Blalock.  Borbon with a shot to force David
Murphy and Nelson Cruz into a platoon (Marlon Byrd gone), depending on how
those two develop this year.  I change my
mind on Smoak all the time – too early to say whether he’ll have an Elvis
Andrus-like opportunity to start the 2010 season in the lineup, or make a Chris
Davis-like entrance a few months into that season.  No on Main or Beavan, but I believe Main
could be on the Derek Holland track next year, getting a serious look in camp
with an eye toward a mid-season debut.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Do the rules
allow for Andruw Jones to be traded before Opening Day if he has a good
spring?  Where do you expect Max Ramirez
to be opening day? – Gary F.

 

A:  Yes, Jones can be traded (but teams won’t
offer much, knowing we might release him on March 20 if we’re not going to make
room for him on the 40-man roster).  I
expect Ramirez to be the starting catcher in Oklahoma City.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  I’d like to see who ranked in the same
slots that our guys did on top 100 lists from the last few years.  Example: if Neftali is number 6, who was number
6 the last five years? – Jon N.

 

A:  I like this question.  I’ll revisit it in the report after Baseball
America unveils its Top 100 in the next few days.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Fast forward
to a couple weeks before the trade deadline. 
The Rangers, after a surprisingly quick start, are holding off the
surging Angels (three games back) and A’s (one game back) atop the American
League West.  Fill in the following
blanks:

 

1. The hole(s) (whether
apparent now or exposed during the season) that the Rangers look to fill via
trade are __________.

 

2.  The players (minors or majors) on the trade
block are __________.

 

3.  The most integral part of the Rangers’ success
thus far has been ___________. – Adam T.

 

A:  1.  Starting
pitcher who would fit in a playoff rotation, and an eighth-inning lockdown
reliever.

 

2.  Nobody’s on the “block” if we’re
in first place.  And nobody playing a key
big league role would be moved under that scenario.  But no player is untouchable on the farm
outside of Holland, Feliz, Main,
and Perez.

 

3. Health, bullpen consistency.

 

*        
*          *

 

Q:  Using only
players in the system now, what is your ideal 25-man roster in 2012? – Tim W.

 

A:  PITCHERS: John Bannister, Blake Beavan,
Thomas Diamond, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Kasey Kiker, Warner
Madrigal, Michael Main, Tim Murphy, Martin Perez, Joe Wieland, Corey Young

CATCHERS: Manuel Pina, Taylor Teagarden

INFIELDERS: Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Justin Smoak, Jose Vallejo,
Michael Young

OUTFIELDERS: Engel Beltre, Julio Borbon, Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton

HITTER: Max Ramirez

 

(And if you’d allowed me to go outside the organization, I would have
had Ben Sheets, Clay Buchholz, Kerry Wood, and Brad Hawpe in there.)

 

*        
*          *

 

Thanks again for all the strong questions.

 

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

Crystal ballin'.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

As I get ready to
take Max to school, having rifled last night through more than 100 of the
excellent questions you all submitted for volume two of “Asked & Answered”
(only about 40 of which I’ll be able to include), a thought occurred to me.

 

Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects list should be revealed
later this week, and if there’s commentary attached to it, it will probably include
a remark that we’re starting to see with some regularity, that the Rangers
system is the best in the game not just because of its high-end prospects but also
because of its vertical waves of talent, its horizontal balance, and its diversity
(draft, international, trades). 

 

And as I turned that
thought over in my mind, I realized this: By the end of 2011, as Max is
entering second grade, my dream Rangers rotation will contain a big league free
agent, a draft-and-follow, a conventional draft pick, a trade acquisition, and
an international free agent.   

 

There are a number of
reasons that the Texas
starting five won’t turn out to be Ben Sheets, Derek Holland, Michael Main, Neftali
Feliz, and Martin Perez.  Injuries
happen.  So do trades.  So do Joe Wieland’s. 

 

But as long as Baseball America finds it reasonable to
project rosters years into the future, ignoring the reality of player movement,
it’s an exercise I don’t mind engaging in myself, and if that conceivable starting
five, guardrailed by Mike Maddux, doesn’t get you fired up, then the recognition
that this front office is attacking the job of player acquisition from every possible
angle as well as it is ought to.

 

When
my baseball brain is assaulted later today with images and sound of Alex and 24
Id’s, I’m going to turn my attention back to the idea of Sheets, Holland, Main,
Feliz, and Perez, and all that that implies.

 


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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers