Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Possible Free Agent Targets

Aside from the possible signings of Sheets, Pettitte or Garland for the starting rotation, I thought that I would take a look at some of the other candidates that the Rangers might look at to shore up the lineup.

Setup guys:
Cordero (27)- former closer before he was sidelined in 2008 with a torn Labrum. I think he had his surgery around the end of March so he may or may not be ready for spring training not to mention the regular season. This uncertainty might ensure that a mid-tier team such as the Rangers might have the advantage in signing him. Clubs that are already competitive probably won't want to take the risk on him, and may already have their closer and setup guys in place. Signing an incentive-laden contract with a team that has innings to spare and the willingness to activate him in, say, June, once he is healthy, would be the perfect way for both parties to gain a return on his season.

Isringhausen, Type B, (36)- see above. Coming off a torn elbow tendon, he could restore his value here on an incentive-based contract and the Rangers could afford to wait until he is healthy enough to be activated.

Lyon, Type B, (29) - had an ugly debut as a closer with a much more impressive line as a setup/middle relief guy. Has a really low SO/9 rate but good bb/so ratio.
Hoffman, Type A, (41) - he should re-up with SD

Juan Cruz, Type A, (30) - The fact that some team will lose their first round pick if they sign him may suggest that the bottom 15 teams could have a shot at him. He is a stellar setup guy with an absurdly high walk rate (4.6) that only got worse in 07 and 08 (5.1 ave). However, his extremely low H/9 (6.3), high SO/9 (12.6), and manageable HR rate (.95) mitigates his control problems.

Uehara, Japan, (34)- Formerly the top Japanese starter and money earner before he was forced into a closer role (despite his complaints), he could be a dark-horse candidate. He has reportedly expressed a desire to sign with a team who wants to pencil him into the rotation, however, his ego aside, I can't understand why. His dominant performance in his role as a closer the last 2 years suggests that he could excel as a setup guy in the states.

Lefties
Guardado (38) - Performed much better in Texas than in MN after the trade. As a lefty specialist, I think the Rangers have a good chance to sign him unless he is holding out for a team assured of a playoff run.

Shouse, Type B, (40) - despite his age, his #s the last 3 years have been irreproachable and he is a former Ranger to boot. Considering his success in the NL, I would assume that he would want to remain there.

Beimel, Type B, (32)- I've never seen the guy pitch but he has some interesting #s that might play better in the NL. He has a really low SO rate along with a good bb rate (but it rose to 3.9 in '08) but has give up only 1 HR in 2 years!! Not sure if he is a groundball guy or what. His last 3 seasons have been excellent.

Dennys Reyes, Type B, (31) - His last 3 yrs in the AL have been much better than his stints in the NL. I would rank him as the top candidate for the Rangers to angle for due to his #s and the likelihood that he would want to remain there.

Ohman (31) - good 08, relatively bad 07 (4.96) and great 06. I guess beauty will be in the eye of the beholder with this guy depending on which trend you put stock in.

Middle Relief
G. Mota (35)- TR Sullivan suggests the rangers have interest in him. Doesnt really appeal to me, but that might be why he will be available to the rangers. Had some stellar seasons in MR 02-04 then laid an egg in 06 and 07 while posting decent #s in 08 (4.11 era). He either gives up too many hits or walks and always just a few too many homers. However, he could be a serviceable, if not valuable, guy, especially if Benoit cannot get healthy.

Turnbow - missed much of 08 due to shoulder problems (not sure what the issue was or if he had surgery). Debuted as a closer with good success in 05 but was a bust in that roled in 06. Had a good 07 as a setup guy but his abhorrent bb/9 rate forces me to project him as a middle relief candidate, who, at best, floats between a setup/MR role.

Starting Pitchers (outside of Sheets, Garland, Pettitte)
Uehara, projects as a #5 starter if his desires are met to return him to a starting role.
Kawakami, projects as a #5 starter. He displaced Uehara as the top Japanese pitcher and money earner.
Looper, pitched as a league average #5 starter in 08 and pitched 199 innings.
Byrd, did not pitch as a league average #5 starter in 08 (4.7ish era)but would have been better than what the Rangers rolled out.
Jennings, he will be signed by the rangers on a minor league contract with a STI. The Rangers will send him to AAA in the end so that they have an emergency option to go to due to major injuries with the hope that he can give the AA/AAA prospects time to mature and avoid being rushed to the majors.

Position Players
Crede, 3b - I think the competition for him will put him out of range in terms of dollars and years. In the end, i hope, but do not expect, that the Rangers trade for a major league ready (with/without experience)prospect to fill the hole until Young moves to 3B in 2010. They can always trade the guy they get in the end so will gain some prospects back. I like metcalf - he has alwasy been the top defensive 3b in the system for the last 4-5 years - and he admirably filled in for blalock in 07 but if we cannot upgrade a starting pitcher than I would upgrade a starting position player. If we make decent pitching upgrades, both starting and relief, then I am fine with metcalf and Duran manning that spot as their offense will not be as important.
RH bat - hopefully the Rangers can dump Catt's contract and sign a RH bat to bring off the bench. It will likely be some spare leftover from the main FA period who will perform his role adequately.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2009 Rangers Minor League Rankings and Rosters

Just finished my top 90 Rangers prospect rankings with separate rankings of Latin American players who have yet to make their state-side debuts. Each list provides thumbnail profiles of each prospect. These It can be found here in spreadsheet form:

2009RangersProspectRankings

In addition, I have taken a stab at projecting all of the rosters from the Rangers to DSL 2. It can be found here:

2009RangersRosterProjections


Just a few comments about the rankings. I shifted the emphasis of my rankings toward upside and youth this time around. As a result, players who have a chance to make it to the majors for a few games but who are unlikely to have a major league career have been left off. Players in this category include: Richardson, Frostad, Swanson, Batista, Gordon, Gerrard, and all the 25-26 yo relievers in AA/AAA.

The other area in which I have departed from most other ranking systems is that I have resisted the temptation to rank Latin American rookies who have not made their state-side debuts alongside US players out of High School. From my pov, if there is not a general consensus that a Latin American sign can be immediately considered a top 10 or top 15 talent, then it is really pointless to project them in the same way you project US HS prospects. If we take a look at recent Rangers'experiences with their Latin American signs, we can see such busts as Yohan Yan (who signed for 400K) and Emmanuel Solis (who signed for 525k) and such dramatically unexpected successes as Martin Perez and Joe Ortiz.

Both Yan and Solis were touted as terrific prospects who both showed up on everyone's rankings for 2-3 years before it was clear that if they weren't converted to pitchers, then they would never make it to full-season ball at all. This years Solis might be considered to be Juan Polanco, a power-hitting OF who many project in the top 25-40 prospects in the system (just like Solis and Yan were years ago). IF you look at the success of Perez, Ortiz and Boscan last year, only Perez was on the prospect radar in the rankings and even then in the 55-75 range. Judging by the Rangers track record, it seems that Latin American hitters, particulary power hitters, have the most difficult time transitioning to professional ball. So, when looking at recent signs like Telis, Polanco and Abreu, to say that a cautionary note is in order would be an understatement. I am interested to see if a good bb/so ratio will turn out to be the best indicator for predicting successful transitions of DSL hitters to rookie ball. This is where Telis, polanco (though heavy on the so/9) and Edwin Garcia differ from Yan and Solis.

The vast gulf that lies between the potential of a LA sign at age 16 and the realization of that potential in professional baseball is so extreme that ranking them along-side professional players seems chimerical. If one posits that it is extremely difficult to project US HS prospects 4 yrs out, then that difficulty is orders of magnitude greater for Latin American prospects. In my mind, this merits a different approach to ranking them, and I have chosen to rank them separately, against one another, in a top 20 list, with Solis appearing as #21 as a salutary warning.

Just a word on the DSL rankings themselves. I have ranked them generally according to whatever #s they have, scouting reports, ceiling, age, and, most importantly, whether they received an invite to instructs. I feel an instructs invite is the best indicator of the Ranger's valuation of a Latin American rookie. The older they are the farther down they fall on the list. For those 2010 rookies who did not receive an invite to instructs I have ranked those with 6 figure signing bonuses ahead of older guys already in DSL due to the higher projected ceiling and younger age.

As an aside, I have also chosen to leave AJ Murray and Juaquin Arias off the top 90 list, as their chronic injuries may thwart any long-term career at all. If they prove that they are healthy during the first half of the 2009 season, then I will put them back on the rankings. Arias was a top 20 player before his "injury" (as a shortstop) and Murray, who should be limited to bullpen duty for the rest of his career due to his injuries, would now fall in the 35-50 range.

Finally, for those of you who don't already know about the great resources available to Rangers fans, those that have helped me and kept me excited about Rangers baseball for many years are as follows: Lonestarball.com, The Newberg Report and Forum, Scott Lucas (www.rangers.scottlucas.com), Mike Hindman, Lonestardugout.com, TR Sullivan, Baseball Time in Arlington (BBTIA.com) and the Dallas Morning News beat writers, most recently Evan Grant, before they axed the entire position.

Enjoy!