Two years, four months, and six days ago, in my recap of Day One of the Rangers’ landmark 2007 draft, I wrote this:
Rounds six through 50 take place today. And then we can start to envision how the Rangers might staff the Arizona League and Spokane rotations, with [Blake] Beavan and [Michael] Main and [Neil] Ramirez (should they sign) joining a promising collection of arms that includes pitchers like Fabio Castillo, Jake Brigham, Wilmer Font, Geuris Grullon, and Carlos Pimentel.
And that brings up a point that must be made. For yesterday and today to pay off the way they need to, it’s not necessary that all, or even most, of those pitchers are wearing Rangers caps four years from now.
In fact, it’s not conceivable.
At least a couple won’t be able to get AA hitters out. Another one or two might get hurt, as much as we don’t want to think about it. And who knows, maybe three years from now, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels . . . trades Main and third baseman Emmanuel Solis, both of whom are starring in Frisco, and big league left fielder Chad Tracy to Colorado for free-agent-to-be outfielder Brad Hawpe, who helps Texas separate itself from the Angels on the way to a playoff berth.
It’s not quite three years later yet, but all four players in my silly little hypothetical were in my notes over the past few days.
A couple stories this week suggest the Rockies may shop the Fort Worth native Hawpe, coming off a solid .285/.384/.519 season, right in line with the .288/.384/.518 slash line that the right fielder sports over the last four seasons in Colorado (with his road numbers [.284/.381/.508] only slightly lagging his Coors Field production [.292/.387/.528]). Cons: he hits left-handed, he turned 30 this year, he’ll make $7.5 million in 2010 (with a $10 club option in 2011 [and $500,000 buyout] that he can void if traded), and he’s not a better defender than any of the outfielders in the current Texas mix. But he’s a base-reacher, and the Rangers are likely looking at players who can inject some of that skill into the lineup. What he might be, particularly if Marlon Byrd departs, is a potential bridge at DH to Justin Smoak.
(Colorado will also continue to look to move 29-year-old arbitration-eligible corner infielder Garrett Atkins, coming off a $7.05 million contract and a third straight season of offensive decline. A right-handed hitter, he’s better against lefties and could fill the backup first baseman role, but at his compensation level he’s a possible non-tender candidate. It’s probably more likely that the Rangers, if at all interested, would wait to see if the Rockies cut him loose, as opposed to trading for his arbitration case.)
Main tells Lone Star Dugout’s Jason Cole that the mysterious illness that crippled his 2009 season was an unidentified viral infection of the liver whose onset may have been as early as last January. He’s healthy again, and Main, my top 2009 breakout candidate, will probably be near the top of that list in the 2010 Bound Edition as well.
Solis, who signed for a reported $525,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July 2006, hasn’t hit much in his four pro seasons (.212/.284/.332), and the Rangers are experimenting at Fall Instructs with a shift of the third baseman to the mound. Early reports on his velocity are encouraging – he’s reportedly touching 94 (but righthander Tanner Scheppers is sitting 95-96 and touching 98, with a plus breaking ball).
Tracy has played 160 games in AA over the last two years and has hit .288/.341/.490 with 35 Frisco doubles, 30 home runs, and 122 RBI in that span, prompting roving minor league hitting instructor Mike Boulanger to recently call him the most overlooked hitter in the system. Said Boulanger: “This guy can flat-out hit.”
Chris Ruddick of The Sports Network is one of dozens of writers suggesting in the past couple days that Boston could shop closer Jonathan Papelbon this winter, but he’s the first to predict that Papelbon will be shipped to Texas for Smoak, and converted back into a starting pitcher.
Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan have both hinted that Neftali Feliz will go to spring training as a candidate to win a spot in the Rangers’ rotation.
Feliz will be eligible for Rookie of the Year votes in 2010, having not reached 50 big league innings or 45 pre-September days of active service. Julio Borbon’s 157 at-bats exceeded the 130-at-bat threshold and thus his rookie eligibility was exhausted in 2009. (Why the league measures by at-bats rather than plate appearances makes no sense, not that it would change Borbon’s status.)
For all his flaws, Nelson Cruz – in what was his first full big league season – was ninth among American League outfielders in OPS in 2009. Among those behind him: Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Abreu, Byrd, Nick Markakis, Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson.
In Baseball Prospectus’s season-ending “Hit List” power rankings, the website had the Rangers as baseball’s 10th-best team in 2009, based on win-loss records and run differentials, actual and adjusted. Minnesota was 12th.
Contrary to popular belief, Texas didn’t exactly change Scott Feldman’s slot in 2008. The club changed Feldman’s slot back. When the righthander went 25-2, 1.26 in two seasons with the College of San Mateo, he did so with a three-quarters slot not unlike the one he featured in 2009. It was only after the Rangers drafted him the 30th round in 2003 that he began to drop down sidearm.
Texas will draft 15th and 22nd in the June 2010 draft. The earlier pick is compensation for the failure to sign high school lefthander Matt Purke with the 14th pick in 2009. The latter pick is subject to forfeiture should the Rangers sign a Type A free agent this winter who was offered arbitration by his 2009 club.
Texas has let longtime equipment manager Zack Minasian and veteran scouts Jay Robertson and Mel Didier go. Minasian (whose son Calvin, a clubhouse assistant, won’t return either) had been with the Rangers in some capacity for 22 years. Robertson had been a special assistant to the GM in Texas for both John Hart (with whom he’d also spent 11 years in the Indians organization) and Daniels. The 83-year-old Didier, who has spent more than 60 years in the game, was a Rangers senior advisor out of Arizona for seven seasons.
Toronto promoted Minasian’s son Perry from pro scout to director of pro scouting, and named former Rangers catcher Doug Davis minor league field coordinator.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune suggests that the Cubs, who dismissed Von Joshua as the club’s hitting coach, ought to wait until Rudy Jaramillo’s contract expires at the end of this month and money-whip him, not unlike the move the Rangers made last winter to lure pitching coach Mike Maddux away from the Brewers once his contract expired. Said Rogers of the Jaramillo-to-Chicago idea: “This marriage should be a slam dunk, even if the Cubs offend other teams by paying Jaramillo at a premium.” Rogers notes that Cub disappointments Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley were far more productive in Texas under the tutelage of Jaramillo, who is already the highest-paid hitting coach in baseball.
A Jaramillo hiring would qualify as an instant splash by the new Cubs ownership group.
Houston got infielder German Duran through waivers and outrighted his contract to AAA. The 25-year-old hit .136/.250/.159 for the Astros’ AA affiliate in Corpus Christi after Houston claimed him from Texas off release waivers in July.
Former Rangers farmhand Johnny Washington is the hitting coach for the rookie-level Ogden Raptors in the Dodgers system.
The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association released outfielder Wally Backman Jr. The Pensacola Pelicans
of the same league exercised their 2010 option on infielder Marshall McDougall.
Arizona Fall League play has gotten underway. The Surprise Rafters, whose roster includes lefthander Matt Harrison, righthanders Scheppers, Danny Gutierrez, Evan Reed, and Brennan Garr, catcher Doug Hogan, infielder Marcus Lemon, and outfielder-first baseman Mitch Moreland (as well as hitting coach Brant Brown), won their opener yesterday, 17-4. Lemon, Hogan, and Garr each appeared late without distinction.
The Fall Instructional League schedule concludes today, and my work on the 2010 Bound Edition is underway.
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(c) Jamey Newberg