Top Ten Prospects: Texas Rangers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By John Manuel
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, 2005.
Powered by an all-star shortstop, they mashed their way into the American League playoff race until the final week of the regular season. The farm system, handed over nearly three years ago to former Athletics scouting director Grady Fuson, started producing dividends.
The system provided enough depth to help prop up an injury-riddled pitching staff with fill-ins such as 2002 draftees Kameron Loe and Sam Narron, and trade acquisitions Frankie Francisco and Chris Young. Shortstop Ian Kinsler, a 17th-round pick in 2003, had one of the best seasons in the minors and helped Double-A Frisco win the Texas League championship. Every minor league club had a winning record.
Some things, however, didn't go according to plan.
The shortstop in question was Michael Young, as the Rangers radically changed the face of their organization by dealing Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees prior to spring training. And Fuson, once virtually handed the keys to the organization as assistant general manager and John Hart's designated successor as GM, was forced out when Hart decided to return for 2005 after all.
It's not just Hart's show. Manager Buck Showalter also played a major role in persuading owner Tom Hicks that Hart should stay and Fuson should be squeezed out. Together, Hart and Showalter are in charge of the direction of the organization and split Fuson's duties three ways. They elevated 26-year-old Jon Daniels to assistant GM, promoted savvy veteran Dom Chiti to farm director and installed Fuson's chief lieutenant, Ron Hopkins, as scouting director.
The changes were subtle but immediate. The tandem-starter system Fuson installed at the lower levels of the organization--in which Class A teams used eight pitchers in a four-day rotation to minimize wear and tear--was halted. Players were pushed more aggressively. The Rangers also signaled a renewed commitment to Latin American talent, in part with the hiring of A.J. Preller, formerly of the Dodgers, as manager of professional and international scouting.
Fuson's legacy in Texas will be the vastly improved pitching depth he leaves behind. Hart prefers power arms, while Fuson liked power arms only if they also throw strikes. The Rangers likely don't have a future No. 1 starter--how many clubs do?óbut they've acquired a number of quality arms in first-round picks John Danks, Thomas Diamond and Eric Hurley; hard-throwing Dominican Edison Volquez; and 2003 draftees John Hudgins, Wes Littleton and Matt Lorenzo. Such is their depth that the 40-man roster wasn't big enough to include Colby Lewis and Ben Kozlowski, considered the organization's top pair of arms as recently as two years ago. They were both lost on waiver claims.
If the pitching prospects develop sooner rather than later, or if Hart can trade them for big league pitching, Texas should be able to contend for the foreseeable future. The big league infield of Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Hank Blalock and Young is the American League's best, with Soriano the oldest member at 28.
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