Tracking The Affiliation Shuffle
The affiliation shuffle kicks off Sept. 16 and begins a two-week period when clubs can negotiate agreements with unattached affiliates. Consider it free agency for minor league teams. Teams had […]
Top Ten Prospects: Texas Rangers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Aaron Fitt
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
The Rangers followed up their surprising 89-win 2004 campaign with their fifth losing season in the last six years. The exciting young infield core of Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young and Hank Blalock produced excellent numbers again, as Texas' 260 homers were just four shy of the major league record.
But as usual, pitching was the problem for the Rangers. They scored the third-most runs in baseball but gave up the fifth-most. They jettisoned three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation by the end of July and entered the offseason looking for answers.
The identity of the man responsible for finding those answers changed in the offseason. Former general manager John Hart originally was to step down after the 2004 season, turning the reins over to assistant general manager Grady Fuson, who also ran the farm and scouting departments. But Hart and manager Buck Showalter persuaded owner Tom Hicks that Hart should return for 2005, leading to Fuson's departure.
Hart stepped down as GM after the 2005 season, moving into a consultant role after Texas went 311-337 on his watch. Hart protégé Jon Daniels, 28, was promoted from assistant GM to become the youngest general manager in baseball history. Daniels hired Rockies director of baseball operations Thad Levine to be his assistant, and tabbed Rockies pro scout Scott Servais to replace Dom Chiti as farm director, with Chiti becoming bullpen coach. Daniels retained Ron Hopkins, who succeeded Fuson as scouting director.
Daniels' first major move was trying to swing a deal for Josh Beckett, which would have given the Rangers a young ace who was a Texas native to boot. That trade fell through at the last second, as the Red Sox swooped in and acquired Beckett. But then Daniels got busy in December.
He pulled off a blockbuster at the Winter Meetings, acquiring Brad Wilkerson, pitching prospect Armando Galarraga and journeyman Terrmel Sledge from the Nationals for Soriano, who becomes a free agent after 2006. He made a smaller deal to acquire lefthander Fabio Castro, the No. 1 overall pick in the major league Rule 5 draft.
Then Daniels directly addressed the 2006 rotation with a trio of moves. He got former all-star Vicente Padilla from the Phillies for spare part Ricardo Rodriguez. Next, he picked up Adam Eaton and setup man Akinori Otsuka in a six-player deal with the Padres that cost him Chris Young and first-base prospect Adrian Gonzalez. Finally, he signed Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million contract after failing to land free agents A.J. Burnett and Matt Morris.
In the near future, the Rangers anticipate that they won't have to go outside the organization for mound help. Five of their top seven prospects are pitchers, led by the DVD trio of John Danks, Edison Volquez and Thomas Diamond. The Rangers' newfound pitching depth is largely the result of Fuson's drafts. He used first-round picks on Danks (2003), Diamond (2004) and Hurley, and he also found Kameron Loe in the 20th round in 2002. With all those arms on hand, Hopkins had the freedom to focus on position players in the 2005 draft. Texas used its first three picks on a premium athlete (outfielder John Mayberry Jr.), a pure hitter (third baseman Johnny Whittleman) and a Gold Glove-caliber defender (Taylor Teagarden), and later added some promising high school pitchers in Shane Funk, Michael Kirkman, Jacob Rasner and Matt Nevarez.
Texas also continued to expand its presence in Latin America. While the Rangers are making progress in Venezuela with players such as catcher Manuel Pina and righthander Omar Poveda, they're making a bigger impact in the Dominican Republic. Second baseman Jose Vallejo already is establishing himself as a legitimate prospect in the United States, while Texas signed catcher Cristian Santana, shortstop Johan Yan and righthander Fabio Castillo to six-figure bonuses in 2005.
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