Asked & Answered, v.1.

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Well,
here we go.  You guys buried me in
questions, and I just couldn’t get to all of them.  Apologies to those whose questions didn’t
make the cut. 

 

Thanks
to everyone who participated.  Unless feedback
dictates otherwise, I suspect we’ll do this frequently throughout the year.

 

On
to the questions:

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  My question involves Justin Smoak.  Do you see him spending this upcoming year
entirely in the minors?  Or do you see
him being called up towards the end of the year?  Like Teixeira before him? – N.S.

 

A:  More
questions on Justin Smoak than on anyone else, and it wasn’t close.  Tackling this angle: If he’s the most
productive hitter in minor league baseball and there’s a lineup need in Arlington, then yes, we
could see him this summer.  But if
there’s no room for everyday at-bats (e.g., Nelson Cruz for the first four
months in 2008 – and that was a player who was out of options and thus more in
need of a look than Smoak will be in 2009), then even a September call-up would
waste a November 2009 spot on the 40-man roster.  I expect Smoak to arrive during the 2010
season when the situation fits, though not at the outset, similar to Chris
Davis in 2008 and possibly Elvis Andrus in 2009.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Where, in your opinion, would the Rangers’
minor league system rank if you take out the players acquired in the
Teixeira/Gagne/Lofton trades?  I guess
what I am asking is where would our system rank based on JD’s drafting and
signings out of Latin America? – M.M.

 

A:  Remove
the
players Texas
added in those three July 2007 trades, and this is what my top 20 would look
like:

 

1. Derek Holland, LHP

2. Justin Smoak, 1B

3. Michael Main, RHP

4. Taylor Teagarden, C

5. Martin Perez, LHP

6. Blake Beavan, RHP

7. Julio Borbon, OF

8. Neil Ramirez, RHP

9. Wilfredo Boscan,
RHP

10. Eric Hurley, RHP

11. Kasey Kiker, LHP

12. Wilmer Font, RHP

13. Omar Poveda, RHP

14. Jose Vallejo, IF

15. Tommy Hunter, RHP

16. Joe Wieland, RHP

17. Mitch Moreland,
1B-OF-LHP

18. Tim Murphy, LHP

19. Kennil Gomez, RHP

20. Robbie Ross, LHP

 

But in the absence of
the Teixeira trade, you’d also have two more first-round picks in 2009 (the Yankees’
first-rounder – he has a higher Elias ranking than C.C. Sabathia or A.J.
Burnett – plus a supplemental first). 
(Doubt we’d have offered arbitration to Eric Gagné after 2007, so
probably no draft pick compensation lost there.)

 

Without Neftali Feliz,
Elvis Andrus, Max Ramirez, and Engel Beltre, particularly the first two, the
system looks quite a bit different, but it would still clearly be a top 10
system, if not top five.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  The Rangers have seemed to focus their
attention, in recent years anyway, on drafting pitching talent.  Will the Rangers be turning their attentions
towards a 3B or 2B prospect in this year’s draft, and can we expect to see the
Rangers start to collect a few more position prospects in the next few years,
while also continuing to add legit pitchers? – R.B.

 

A:  Never
draft for need.  Never.  If the best player on the Rangers’ board when
the 14th slot comes up in June is a first baseman, take the first baseman.  Plus, if there’s one hole in the lineup when
this team is contending, you can always go fill it by way of trade or free
agency (e.g., Tampa
Bay: Pat Burrell).  That said, a few of the infielders Texas has
signed out of Latin America the last couple years could start to show up on
prospect lists in 2009, making the depth at second and third seem less of a
problem. 

 

Another thing: with
Omar Vizquel, Travis Metcalf, German Duran, Joaquin Arias, and Jose Vallejo
around, and given who is holding down the starting job at those two positions, depth
there maybe less of an issue than at any other position for the next few years.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Do you know the status on the draft pick
we had out of Lexington
Christian Academy
this past year? – B.L.

 

A:  You’re
thinking of Robbie Ross, the high school lefthander Texas drafted in the second
round last June.  Ross signed at the
August 15 deadline and, having not pitched in three months, was kept off the
mound by the Rangers with just a couple weeks left on the short-season and
rookie league schedules.  He was invited
to Fall Instructional League in October and will return to Surprise not only
later this month but most likely will remain there all the way until June, when
extended spring training concludes, and possibly all season if the decision is
made to assign him to the Arizona League and keep him there all year.  Hopes are very high: Although Ross fell to
the second round, he signed for more than any of the Rangers’ five first-round
picks the year before.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  With regard to Golson and Mayberry being
great defensive center fielders, should the Rangers consider playing them in CF
even if they are not great bats?  I mean
the Rangers score more runs that anyone else, but our defense, particularly up
the middle, is suspect.  Would playing a
great CF who could maybe save a run or two a week be a better option than a sub
par CF like Byrd or Murphy who could maybe put up more offense?  I always hear that it’s about pitching and
defense, but we are like the Suns of baseball – and neither of us have a
championship recently. – S.

 

A:  Assuming
you meant Julio Borbon rather than John Mayberry Jr.  You’ve probably read by now that Texas is
thinking about moving Josh Hamilton to a corner, which for 2009 is not a
concession that he’s not the club’s best center fielder but instead an effort
to reduce the wear on his body by moving him to a less demanding position.  But you’re right about the franchise’s
emphasis on defense up the middle. 
Evidence: the willingness to use a first-round pick on Borbon even
knowing it could (and ultimately did) take a major league contract to sign him,
and the decision to flip Mayberry for Golson, an oustanding center
fielder.  Still, if you’re asking whether
Texas ought to break camp with Borbon or Golson as the starting center fielder
two months from now, that’s very unlikely. 

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  What has happened to Joaquin Arias?  The guy was discussed for years coming up
(maybe not always as a top of the line prospect, but people knew who he was)
and when he got here he did a very nice job. 
I’m not pushing for him to take over 2B and put Kinsler in the OF.  Or even for him to be the SS until Andrus is
ready (obviously that won’t happen now with Vizquel).  But there seems to be total radio silence
about him. – J.

 

A:  His
shoulder simply hasn’t come back, which is a real shame considering arm
strength was one of his plus tools when he came over in the Alex Rodriguez
trade.  If Arias can’t play on the left
side, he’s obviously not an ideal utility candidate, especially here, where the
utility infielder has to be able to play shortstop since he’ll be called on to
play third or second roughly as often as you or I will. 

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Wouldn’t it be a huge mistake to not make
sure Andrus gets at least the two weeks in the minors needed to get the extra
year out of him before free agency?  I
have been a big supporter of this front office and of JD, but if they blow an
extra year of him over two weeks, I will consider that unforgivable.  - S.A.F. (C.)

 

A:  It
might be overstating things to call it a huge mistake, but never underestimate
how smart the front office is here, or how divergent their thinking is.  They don’t miss things like this.  I’m not suggesting it’s a slam dunk that
Andrus spends a couple weeks in Oklahoma
City, but I’d say the organization won’t at all be
disappointed if his play in March suggests he could use a bit more fine-tuning
on the farm.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Where does the big righthander Tommy
Hunter fall in all of this?  I know he
had a tough time in his three starts with the Rangers last season, so will he
be in Oklahoma or Arlington this season? – L.

 

A:  Both.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  What do you see happening with Chris Davis
and Justin Smoak?  Will the Rangers find
a place for both of them or will one be traded? – B.

 

A:  I
suspect the Rangers will find a way to get both in the middle of the lineup
once Smoak is ready.  But anyone is
tradeable if it makes sense in the big picture. 
Remember the LaPorta theme I wrote about on Draft Day.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Is Neftali Feliz better suited for a
future closer role than a role in the starting rotation?  If you could compare Derek Holland to any
current MLB pitcher, who would it be? – M.

 

A:  You
never anoint a prospect as a closer until he makes it pretty clear that there’s
little or no hope of his repertoire developing enough variety to start.  Never. 

 

As for Holland, the popular Scott
Kazmir comp has some merit, but toss Jon Lester, John Danks, and Cole Hamels in
there as well.  The thing about Holland is he’s proven he
can get better, not only in short order but against heightened
competition.  One of the fascinations of
camp for me will be to see how he fares in his opportunities to face big league
hitters.  As humble and almost naïve as Holland is, he’s an
extraordinary competitor between the lines.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Which player has more of an MLB ace
make-up for the rest of their career, Holland
or Feliz? – J.

 

A:  Mulder
or Zito?  Smoltz or Maddux?  Kobe
or Shaq?  Lennon or McCartney?

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If Andrus were to play 120 games in 2009,
what sort of stats do you see him ending up with? – J.

 

A:  In
his first 494 big league at-bats (spanning two years), Jose Reyes hit
.283/.307/.407 with 32 stolen bases.  In
his first 196 big league at-bats (spanning two years), Alex Rodriguez hit
.224/.257/.352 with seven stolen bases. 
I’ll say Reyes’s on-base, A-Rod’s slug, and split the difference in
batting average and steals.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  1. What does Feliz have to work on this
year to prepare for the Majors?

 

2. What does Holland
have to work on this year to prepare for the Majors?

 

3. What does McCarthy have to show in spring training?

 

4. What does Diamond have to show this year?

 

5. What does Vallejo
have to show this year to be considered more than a utility player? – T.H.

 

A:  1.
Fastball location, consistency with the breaking ball, arm slot, holding
baserunners.  And you’d like to see him
have a little adversity thrown his way (on the scoreboard, not the trainer’s
room, of course), just to see how he responds. 

 

2. Proving that his
crazy 2008 was no spike.  A dose of some
of that adversity would be good, too.

 

3. Health.  Command. 
Fight.

 

4. Command.

 

5. Patience.  (And not in the plate discipline sense.)

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Which of our upcoming prospects is most
likely to break our hearts, either because of a fragile build, fragile arm,
poor work ethic, or lack of focus? – J.B.

 

A:  It’s
not my nature to think that way, but I’ll say Wilmer Font.  Not saying it’s likely that he won’t make it,
but his upside is the kind that, if not realized, will break hearts.  And he’s a long way away, so the odds of
making it aren’t as good as they are for, say, a Holland
or Feliz or Main or Perez.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  1. What do you expect from Kiker and
Poveda in 2009 as they get their first (extended) exposure to AA hitters?

 

2. Perez, Moreland, Holland,
and Boscan all moved up at least twenty spots in your prospect rankings between
2008 and 2009 while Steve Murphy, Whittleman, Reed, and Garr all moved down at
least twenty spots.  Name five players
from your 2009 list that would not surprise you to see a similarly large change
in their prospect status by the end of the 2009 season.

 

3. In rank order, name five prospects in the Rangers system
with no major league experience who you believe are closest to being able to
compete at the major league level.

 

4.  This is recycled
from Jason [Parks's] Q&A but I so enjoyed/appreciated his answer that I
would like to get your list as well. 
Name and rank the top ten pitches thrown by Rangers pitching prospects. 

 

5. Holland
and Feliz made the two-level jump from Low A to AA in 2008 while Hunter made
the two-level jump from High A to AAA. 
Do you think that any of the projected starters on the A-ball teams
(assume Perez, Boscan, Ramirez, Pimentel, and Bleier at Hickory,
and Main, Beavan, Murphy, and Gomez at Bakersfield)
will experience a similar two-level jump in 2009? – D.

 

A:  1. I
have a very good feeling about Kiker. 
This is the year I bet we see him turned loose, given the opportunity to
face a lineup more than twice through. 
If it doesn’t go well, the idea of creating a bullpen monster could find
some traction – think J.P. Howell.  Even
though we have more of a book on Poveda, I’m less confident.  Can’t put my finger on why.

 

2. Great
question.  Gimme Carlos Pimentel, Thomas
Diamond, Richard Bleier, Tim Smith, and Juan Polanco as candidates to storm
upwards on the list.  (Smith fascinates
me: if I had to bet whether he’d be number 15 next year, or number 60, I’m not
sure what I’d say.)  As for a possibility
to drop a bunch, Chad Tracy is coming off a
great 2008 finish but could find it tough to get everyday at-bats all
season. 

 

3. Elvis Andrus, Derek
Holland, Justin Smoak, Jose Vallejo, Julio Borbon.  And I’ll add this: Candidates for a Tommy
Hunter stampede to the big leagues? 
Lefthanders Tim Murphy and Corey Young, both drafted eight months ago.

 

4. Neftali Feliz’s
fastball, Derek Holland’s fastball, Martin Perez’s curve, Michael Main’s
fastball, Omar Poveda’s change, Neil Ramirez’s curve, Wilfredo Boscan’s sinker,
Tommy Hunter’s curve, Corey Young’s curve, Mike Ballard’s change.

 

5. Best bets: Boscan, Main, and Murphy. 
And Corey Young.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  The question I have relates to Michael
Young’s move to third.  What’s Travis
Metcalf think about the organization indirectly telling him he not in their
plans for third base?  I haven’t heard or
seen anything referencing the impact to Travis. – J.M.

 

A:  I
don’t know what Metcalf’s thoughts are, but I’m betting he understands the
situation.
  He’s
important this year as a safety net in case of injury to Young, but if he has a
good AAA season (he has one option left), he’s a candidate for a trade next
winter, or possibly even in July, in a Marcus Thames-for-Ruben Sierra kind of
deal.  Flip side: If Metcalf has an
extended stretch of difficulty in Oklahoma
City, he’d be an in-season candidate for a designation
for assignment, which could have the effect of extending his Rangers career
another season.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If Colby Lewis and Juan Dominguez were 22,
where would you rank them among our current prospects?  What is the difference (at a similar age)
between Ruben Mateo and Engel Beltre? – G.M.

 

A:  Two
cool questions.  I’d say Dominguez behind
Elvis Andrus (who I have at five on my list) and ahead of Taylor Teagarden
(six), and Lewis behind Martin Perez (seven) and ahead of Max Ramirez (eight).  Dominguez’s age 22 winter followed a very
good Low A season (2.16 ERA in 66.2 innings, .209 OBA, 70 strikeouts and 21
walks) and preceded his breakout season, when he would go 10-0, 2.83 between
High A, AA, and AAA (.208 OBA, 140 strikeouts and 40 walks in 136.2 innings)
and make six big league appearances. 

 

As for Beltre vs.
Mateo, their age 18 seasons were strikingly similar even though they projected differently.  Both played Low A at that age, and Mateo’s
.260/.309/.401 line (30 doubles, eight triples, eight homers, 30 steals in 39
tries) looked a lot like Beltre’s .283/.308/.403 (26 doubles, nine triples,
eight homers, 31 steals in 42 tries). 
While Mateo was built solid like Vernon
Wells, and Beltre is Alfonso Soriano-wiry, the two outfielders shared a plus
arm that would play in right field but stand out in center.  As Mateo developed, his slug increased while
his running game became less productive. 
A similar trend wouldn’t be out of the question with Beltre, though he’s
likely to run to some extent no matter how much his power develops.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If Justin Smoak shows he is ready for the
Majors, what do the Rangers do with Chris Davis and Hank Blalock?  I would assume they trade Blalock, meaning
Chris Davis and Justin Smoak share first base and designated hitter.  What is your take on this? – R.D.

 

A:  Two
initial thoughts: First, you roll the balls and bats and gloves onto the field
in 2009 and let everybody play.  See what
happens this year before even thinking about how Smoak impacts the lineup.  Second, don’t rule out Max Ramirez’s place in
all of this.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  With Greinke getting a four-year, $38
million extension, wouldn’t this be a good time to go hard after him?  That is a long-term, manageable contract and
if you can do it with three top prospects, I would go for it.  Trust me, I love having the top prospects in
the league here, but this is an ace that we need and he is young.  Smoak, David Murphy, Feliz, and Beavan, maybe,
or is that just wayyyyy too much for him? – C.T.A.

 

A:  Yes,
that’s too much.  I’m pretty sure I was
the first around here to wave the Greinke flag last summer, but I’m not sure
there’s a pitcher I’d give that much up for. 
Even if I were willing to trade all of those players, I’d probably pair
Smoak with Beavan, then put a separate Feliz-Murphy package together, and see
what two starting pitchers I could get in side-by-side trades.  

 

On top of all that, Kansas City won’t trade
Greinke now.  Even for that package.  At best they’d probably say “Love the offer,
but come back with it in a year.”

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If I’m understanding the Rule 5 Draft
correctly, next off-season the Rangers protect or risk losing, among others,
Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Pedro Strop, Beau Jones, Brennan Garr, Renny Osuna,
and Manuel Pina.  After 2010, the list
apparently includes Derek Holland, Wilfredo Boscan, Wilmer Font, Mitch
Moreland, Engel Beltre, Carlos Pimentel, and Kennil Gomez.  And there’s also the chance that guys will
reach Arlington
before they have to be protected (perhaps Justin Smoak, Michael Main, Tim
Murphy or Corey Young).  Since Texas has already been
scrambling with the Rule 5 each of the last two years, should the Rangers try
trading depth for more elite prospects? – A.

 

A:  You’re
right about all those names.  Add to the
2009 watch list Fabio Castillo and Cristian Santana, both of whom have the
talent to explode onto the scene at any time, and guys like David Paisano,
Johnny Whittleman, Chad Tracy, and Glenn Swanson, none of whom would be
protected today but could be on that map by the summer.  And forget about leaving Holland on the 2010 list – he’s an almost
sure bet to reach the big leagues this year. 

 

When I suggested over
the summer that Texas
consider padding an offer of Jarrod Saltalamacchia for Clay Buchholz with Omar
Poveda (who was added to the roster in November), this was a key reason why.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  WHEN the Rangers are contending for the
division title at the trade deadline this year, which prospect(s) are they most
likely trade to fill in the missing piece at the time?  What positions are the Rangers overloaded at
in any particular minor league level that may also bring the organization
additional value? – M.B.

 

A:  Interesting
question.  Justin Smoak can’t be traded
before August 15, but he can be a player to be named later (deals involving
PTBNL’s must be closed within six months). 
Teams will ask about him, figuring that unlike Derek Holland and Neftali
Feliz, Smoak might be expendable given Chris Davis’s presence.  But as the Rangers have shown this winter in
the case of their catching depth, they won’t discount their young players just
because they have a potential excess. 

 

Where the Rangers
could be tested is if teams dangle impact veterans this summer for the next
wave of high-end pitching prospects, starting with Michael Main and Martin Perez.  It’s hard to imagine Texas
making either of them available for a summer rental (as Milwaukee did when it traded Matt LaPorta in
a deal for C.C. Sabathia), but if it’s an impact player with multiple years of
control? Gut check time.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Is Feliz considered a better prospect than
Holland purely
due to velocity? – B.E.

 

A:  Not
by me.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Which pitcher below the Major League level
do you expect to make the biggest impact this season? – A.F.

 

A:  These
are my top 10 candidates for a breakout season on the mound in the 2009 Bound
Edition:

 

1. Michael Main, RHP

2. Martin Perez, LHP

3. Joe Wieland, RHP

4. Neil Ramirez, RHP

5. Tim Murphy, LHP

6. Kennil Gomez, RHP

7. Corey Young, LHP

8. John Bannister, RHP

9. Fabio Castillo, RHP

10. Kasey Kiker, LHP

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If we don’t have a great prospect
currently at third base and Smoak is supposedly coming soon, why wouldn’t you
see if Davis or Max Ram can become adequate third basemen?  Would Davis
really be happy just being a DH at such an early age?  Wouldn’t trade value increase if they show
they can play third? – J.

 

A:  First,
there’s the matter of Texas
having its third baseman in place, you know? 
On top of that, even if the position were a question mark, Davis and
Ramirez are better where they are now. 
Hold off worries about how Davis and Ramirez and Smoak fit together
until all three are in the immediate picture.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Do you think that MLBAM taking control of
all the Minor League Baseball website operations might signal a possible end to
the perceived “value” of going to and attending minor league baseball?   Almost seems like the owners want to squeeze
that revenue stream for some additional cash by homogenizing all the minor
league websites.  Thoughts? – J.S.

 

A:  I’d
be surprised if web content or design had any impact on the loyalty of Minor
League Baseball’s fan base.  That
demographic can fight through just about anything.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Now that Davis is here and Ramirez is knocking on the
door, who is the next power hitter on the horizon? – D.R.

 

A:  Justin
Smoak, and there’s not a close second. 
Mitch Moreland may pitch, and Engel Beltre and Clark Murphy are years
away.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Can you comment on which minor league
level will have the best/worse rotation in 2009?  Who is likely to make a quick jump to Frisco
due to the abundance of starting pitcher candidates in Bakersfield? – R.

 

A:  I’d
suggest that Frisco might have the weakest April rotation of the four
full-season affiliates, but there’s precedent for pitchers who survived Bakersfield to put up better results once they get to the Texas League.  These 20 starting pitchers – Derek Holland,
Neftali Feliz, Michael Main, Martin Perez, Blake Beavan, Neil Ramirez, Wilfredo
Boscan, Kasey Kiker, Wilmer Font, Omar Poveda, Tommy Hunter, Joe Wieland, Tim
Murphy, Kennil Gomez, Guillermo Moscoso, Robbie Ross, Doug Mathis, Fabio
Castillo, Carlos Pimentel, and Thomas Diamond – could be evenly distributed
among the organization’s farm affiliates. 
Stunning depth.

 

Give me Boscan, Main, and Murphy as candidates to get to Frisco quickly.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Is there any chance that the Rangers will
give Beau Jones another chance at starting? 
He started in six of his seven appearances with Clinton
after being acquired in 2007, and then four times with Bakersfield early in 2008.  I know that he suffered an injury while
starting last season, and that he was more effective out of the bullpen in
2008, but Jones doesn’t turn 23 until August 25th, and although there wouldn’t
be anything wrong with him turning into a reliever similar to C.J. Wilson in
2006 and 2007, it’s hard to imagine that Texas would so easily concede that a
left-handed pitcher who can hit the mid-90’s with his fastball can’t be a
starter. – A.

 

A:  A
chance?  Sure, but with the number of
starting pitcher prospects knocking on the door, and the lack of depth in
left-handed bullpen candidates, the likelihood is that Jones is right where the
organization wants him, being groomed for a relief role.  The 2008 season was Jones’s first full year
with Texas -
he posted a 5.30 ERA and .286 OBA in four High A starts (18.2 innings), but a
1.11 ERA and .202 OBA in 13 relief appearances (24.1 innings).  After his July promotion to AA, he pitched
strictly in relief, with an ERA of 4.02 but a .200 OBA.  He could come quickly as a reliever.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Other than Smoak do we have a good first
baseman in the minors? – O.B.

 

A:  Mitch
Moreland and Clark Murphy lead the pack, though Moreland’s versatility and the
presence of Smoak could limit his first base reps.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  The Lone Star Ball message board has been
talking about where Salty and Chris Davis would be ranked in the Rangers
organization if they were still prospects. Got any ideas? – R.

 

A:  For
me, Davis would
be number one, Saltalamacchia somewhere around eight.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Is Mitch Moreland more likely to stick in
the big leagues as a pitcher or hitter? – M.

 

A:  He’s
more accomplished as a hitter but the answer to your question, in my opinion,
is pitcher.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  I find I am having trouble getting my head
around the impact that the number of quality prospects the Rangers now have
will have on the big league team in the next five years.  Could you try and place your top 72 prospects,
on a percentage basis, into the following four categories.

 

1. Percentage of the prospects who you estimate will play
for the Rangers for one or more seasons.

 

2. Percentage of the prospects who you estimate will play
for another major league team for one or more seasons.

 

3. Percentage of the prospects who you estimate will become
regular AAA players who might play minor roles with a major league team.

 

4. Percentage of the prospects who you estimate will never play
regularly above AA.

 

I know that it is impossible to do this on a individual
player basis but I am hoping that your experience with minor league players can
allow you to make these “guesstimates” and help me get a better feel
for where the Rangers are headed in the next five or so years. – F.H.

 

A:  Looking
back at my 2004 rankings, the four categories were roughly as follows: 18
percent; 10 percent; 22 percent; and 50 percent.  It’s all guesswork, but I’d say with this
Rangers system, which is significantly deeper than it was five years ago, you
can arguably add five percentage points to each of the first three categories,
dropping category four to 35 percent.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Because of Elvis Andrus, we hardly hear
about infielders Joaquin Arias or Marcus Lemon.  With Andrus and Ian Kinsler set to be
patrolling the middle infield in Arlington for years to come, will guys like
this become trade bait or just have to settle on serving as utility players? -
G.W.

 

A:  Neither
is trade “bait” but I would judge both as potential utility infielders who would
be available as sweeteners in the right deal.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Jamey, sometime back I read that Nolan has
taken to Joe Wieland quite a bit.  Is it
his ability, pitching style, or make-up that piqued his interest?  Since he’s one of the high schoolers, could you
give us an optimistic view on how these high-upside youngsters should progress
through the system with advancement criteria for the different levels? – T.

 

A:  Yes.  Yes. 
And yes. 

 

As for his promotion track,
Jon Daniels likes to say about any of his club’s prospects, “The player will
tell us when he’s ready for the next level.” 
An optimistic projection?  Wieland
starts the season in Hickory and ends it in Bakersfield.  Reaches Frisco in 2010, a year when he’ll
pitch all season at age 20.  Gets a
non-roster invite to camp in 2011, and at some point during that season reaches
Arlington if
there’s a natural opening and he’s in rhythm with the RoughRiders or
RedHawks.  A 2012 or 2013 debut is more
likely, but you wanted optimism.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  I was just wondering if there were perhaps
any regrets over not taking Rick Porcello instead of the hometown product in
Beavan, since I noticed he was not in BA’s top 10.  I know Rangerland is giddy over the young ones
to come and I can only imagine the hype we have if we could boast Feliz, Holland, and Porcello.  - B.J.S.

 

A:  It’s
tricky.  Would you trade Beavan for
Porcello today, player for player? 
Yes.  But would you trade Beavan
(10-6, 2.37 in Low A last year, 73/20 K/BB in 121.2 innings, .234 OBA) and
about $9.165 million right now for Porcello (8-6, 2.66 in High A last year,
72/33 K/BB in 125 innings, .244 OBA), who has now exhausted the first of his
four options?  What if drafting Porcello
also meant you wouldn’t have committed out of slot in that draft to Julio
Borbon and Neil Ramirez?

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  With all the injuries that the Rangers
have had to their pitching staff, both starting and relief, what is your
prediction as to the starting five? – R.B.

 

A:  Ben
Sheets, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman.  Texas
uses an option on Brandon McCarthy (he has two remaining) but he ends up
winning 10 big league games in 2009. 

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  1. Percentage chance that Feliz ends up
being a starter versus a reliever in the long run in the majors?

 

2. Date that Borbon takes over permanently in CF for the
Rangers?

 

3. Where would Bucholtz rate in our top 10 prospects, if we
acquire him?

 

4. Where would Ryan Tucker rate on our prospect list, if we
acquire him? – M.H.

 

A:  70 .
. . June 6, 2010 . . . first . . . ninth.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  What is the deal with Blake Beavan?  I know he lost some velocity last year as his
delivery was re-tooled.  Will he ever
gain that velocity back as he becomes used to the rigors of big league
pitching? – M.R.

 

A:  Bet
on it.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  When compiling your prospect rankings, how
are you able to separate your personal feelings for a player in order to form
an objective evaluation? – J.P.

 

A:  It’s
tough.  I try actually to err on the side
of underselling the players I’ve gotten to know, to try and avoid the
appearance of rooting for them at the same time as I’m evaluating them.  But it’s a fine line.  Without understanding what makes Michael
Young tick, as an up-and-coming prospect you couldn’t fully appreciate what he was
and what he was bound to become.  I can’t
wait for Michael Main to arrive.  And based
on what Jason Parks (whose question this is) has said and written about his
dealings with Martin Perez – who happens to be the Jerry West of the Newberg
Report email logo – I’d suggest that any “objective” evaluation that fails to take
into account the player’s makeup and drive is an incomplete evaluation.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  I am curious on your thoughts on Ian
Gac.  He is currently in High-A, and
split time last year in Low-A.  He had
almost a 1.000 OPS in Low-A, but struggled a bit in Bakersfield, hitting below
.250, but still showing a little pop (13 HR,.760 OPS).  Even though he was a little old for the
class, I though he showed signs of possibly being able to eventually get a
call-up in a few years, but with his struggles at the end of the season, and
his “older” age (he will be 25 this year), do the Rangers expect anything out
of him, or is he going to always be that AA All-star type guy? – R.T.S.

 

A:  Gac
could become a legend in Japan.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  If you were to rate the Rangers’ top 10 prospects
for future major league performance among players 25 and under, including both
minor league and major league players, how would you rank them? – B.R.

 

A:  1.
Chris Davis

2. Derek Holland

3. Neftali Feliz

4. Justin Smoak

5. Michael Main

6. Elvis Andrus

7. Taylor Teagarden

8. Martin Perez

9. Jarrod
Saltalamacchia

10. Max Ramirez

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Number one farm system – what year will that pay off? – M.

 

A:  If
the team is in the hunt this summer, maybe right away.  Some of the key players who help make this
system number one will be traded for players who will help Texas get back to the playoffs.

 

*         *          *

 

Q:  Most prospect rankings have Michael Main
well ahead of Blake Beavan.  Other than Main’s mid-nineties fastball, there is not much
difference in their stats.  Main has a
3.19 K:BB ratio vs Beavan’s 3.65 even though Main
strikes out 10.34 per IP.  Is Beavan
being underestimated?  Is Beavan’s
durability at such a young age being factored into the prospect rankings? -
R.M.

 

A:  It’s
not a knock on Beavan, at least as far as I’m concerned.  He had a sensational season, particularly
given the velocity issues.  Have to be
pumped about a teenaged kid who responds to a noticeable drop on the radar gun
not by sulking or freaking out, but by putting up dominant results in a
full-season league, without his best stuff. 

 

But you have to see Main to fully appreciate what the Rangers have in that
guy.  In the 20 minutes or so I saw of Main at Fall Instructs, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  And from everything I heard, the glimpse I
caught was no aberration.  That is one
bad man. 

 

Thanks again for all the strong questions.

 

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

 

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