The Texas Rangers Farm System – All’s Well on the Farm
When Jon Daniels took over as Rangers’ General Manager, he pledged to rebuild the Rangers farm system. Literally every GM in club history had made the same pledge, and none of them ever paid much attention to the pledge after the introductory press conference. The terms “farm system” and “rebuilding” aren’t exciting and often translate into “don’t expect us to have a good team for a few years.” They are terms that don’t sell tickets.
Jon Daniels however has adhered to the goal. He expanded and developed the scouting operation of the Rangers’ organization into one of the best in baseball. This year, it got to the point that other organizations are knocking on the door to grab procurement and development personnel from the Rangers, such as Scott Servais going to the Angels as their assistant GM.
The Rangers farm system was rated best in baseball just a couple of years ago and has amazingly maintained a position among the top 10 farm systems in baseball since, despite graduations to the big leagues, trades of prospects for Major League help, and prospects that didn’t pan out. This year, Kevin Goldstein with the Baseball Prospectus recently ranked the Rangers’ farm system sixth best in baseball, while FanGraphs Baseball ranks it fifth.
Daniels never ceases to compliment the personnel he has assembled for the success of the farm system. As he said in an interview last summer, “You’re only as good as your players, and that takes scouts to find them and coaches to develop them.”
He’s done it well, and he’s done it by relentlessly leaving no stone unturned in his search for players, particularly pitchers. He has been successful finding players through trades, in Latin America, and in the Pacific Rim. The 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira advanced the farm system by leaps and bounds. At this point, three players received in that deal are making significant contributions at the big league level. Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz are in the starting rotation, and Elvis Andrus is the starting shortstop. Feliz and Andrus have made an All-Star team. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was also received in that trade. He didn’t work out as a catcher here, but was traded to Boston for Roman Mendez, currently rated on the Rangers’ web site as the sixth best prospect in the system. Indeed it was a king’s ransom fetched from the Braves in that trade. Leonys Martin from Cuba is a product of the extensive Latin America scouting effort. He is projected to be the team’s future center fielder and lead-off batter. Yu Darvish of course is a find from three years of extensive scouting in Japan.
The value of the Rangers farm system, however, is not limited to players graduated to the big league team in Arlington. The Rangers farm system has literally become the currency to fuel the Rangers’ past two drives to the World Series. In 2010, the team found itself surprisingly in command of the A. L. West race as well has a ward of the baseball state financially. The team was literally immersed in a bankruptcy proceeding with funding coming directly from MLB to keep the team afloat. Despite those handicaps, Daniels was able to add a much-needed catcher in Benji Molina and an always needed top of the rotation starter in Cliff Lee. They also added complimentary parts in Jeff Francoeur, Christian Guzman and Jorge Cantu. The Rangers had the prospects to not only make the trades for these players, but enough to do so without taking on additional payroll, which the team literally could not do because of the financial straits they were in.
Last year, the bullpen simply did not fall into place and was still a hole in July. Daniels again had the prospects to add Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, a pair of experienced bullpen arms to solidify middle relief.
As for the actual names for Ranger fans to follow, here are two lists of the team’s top 10 prospects. The first is taken from Jamey Newberg’s annual The Newberg Report, in which he lists the top 72 prospects in the organization. The second is taken from the Rangers’ web site.
- Jurickson Profar, SS 1. Jurickson Profar, SS
- Martin Perez, LHP 2. Martin Perez, LHP
- Mike Olt, 1B – 3B 3. Mike Olt, 1B – 3B
- Leonys Martin, OF 4. Leonys Martin, OF
- Jorge Alfarao, C 5. Robbie Ross, LHP
- David Perez, RHP 6. Roman Mendez, RHP
- Ronald Guzman, 1B 7. Jorge Alfaro, C
- Neil Ramirez, RHP 8. Neil Ramirez, RHP
- Tanner Scheppers, RHP 9. Leury Garcia, SS
- Jordan Adkins, OF 10. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
As for where these guys stack up compared to other teams, Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus has ranked 101 top prospects in baseball. He has Profar rated fourth, Martin Perez 36th, Olt 45th, Ramirez 77th and Alfaro 101st. These rankings were published before Yu Darvish was signed. He would figure among the top five had he been included.
It is interesting how the emphasis of the Rangers farm system has shifted under the Daniels’ regime from offense to pitching. The Rangers have largely been known for producing offensive players. In the late 80’s for example, Ruben Sierra was producing at the big league level at a MVP capacity. Outfielders in the minor league system behind him included Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa. The Rangers in the 90’s and even the 2000’s produced some run scoring machines, but they won just one playoff game until the emphasis shifted to pitching.
A year ago, Dave Bush made three spot starts. The other 159 were made by pitchers that made their major league debut as a Texas Ranger. If the starting five coming out of spring training this year is some combination of the seven leading candidates, then the five will again all have made their debut as a Ranger. A strong farm system that produces home-grown pitching. It’s a formula that has positioned this franchise to be a solid contender for at least the next five years.