Just took a look at the BA handbook to remind myself of all the good pitchers that the As have in the pipe in AAA/AA.
Here are the notable starters at the ML/AAA/AA levels this year with their system ranking and highest ceiling in ():
ML: Duscherer (#2), Gallagher-LH (#2), Eveland (back), Braden-LH (back), 7. Gio Gonzalez-LH (#2 or bullpen), 12. Josh Outman-LH (#3 or bullpen), 20. Blevins-LH (Middle Reliever)
NOTES: Gonzalez was rocked last yr before being moved to the bullpen. He has a lot of work to do to reach the status as a #2 starter. So his realistic ceiling is a #3. They prefer Outman in the pen and Gonzo starting this year but could switch their roles based on spring training performance.
AAA: 2. Cahill (#2), 1. Anderson (#2), 8. Mazzaro (#3), 10. Simmons (#3), 23. Bailey (setup/MR), 25. Carigan (closer/setup/MR)
NOTES: Quite a lineup! Mazzaro's slider is ave, his change is below average but his FB is AA - plus. So to reach his ceiling he needs to improve his change to at least an average pitch. Simmons has to improve his below-ave slider to reach his ceiling but has an ave-AA fastball and an AA-plus change.
AA: NO STARTERS IN TOP 30. Relievers: # 14. Rodriguez (closer/setup), #26. Sam Demel (closer/setup), 27. Lansford (setup/MR)
A+: 15. Tyson Ross, 19. Brett Hunter
NOTES: Both could quickly move to AA especially in relief but both will be kept as starters to begin the season.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Oakland clearly has the advantage in the # of ranked pitching prospects in the majors or on the verge in AAA. Many of these prospects were acquired last season/this off-season but Oakland had the advantage of having more talented players to trade, who were having/had better seasons, and could draw packages of ready/near-ready players.
The Rangers had a less-talented field to trade from, many of whom were chronically injured or sucking until the trade deadline: Millwood went on the DL one week before the trade deadline and Padilla went on the DL 2X before the deadline, though pitched 3 nice starts before 7/31. CJ and Benoit were injured, which likely kept JD from trading Guardado until after the deadline for a bag of beans as our need likely outweighed any proposed return.
I don't blame him for holding on to our catchers if the return wasn't good enough. The only player I think they shouldve traded was Bradley. I might blame JD for not being imaginative enough to do that by packaging other players and prospects to get some near-ready starters. But we will never know what the offers were or what the Rangers were holding out for in order to judge his relative sagacity. Also, there may have been some pressure to remain idle due to unfound sentiments in the front office that we had a chance at the wildcard, read, Ryan.
Whatever the case, the lack of anykind of haul at the deadline, put the rangers about 1 yr behind the As in terms of starting prospects who should be ready sometime in 09 and assuredly by 2010. Hurley's injury, a legit #3 starter, further reduced the # of candidates.
By contrast to Oakland, here is a breakdown of the Ranger's ready or near-ready pitching prospects in BAs Top 30:
ML: (13. Hurley, #3 - DL), UR Harrison-LH #3, Millwood #3, Padilla #3, McCarthy (#3/bullpen), UR Feldman (back/bullpen), 14. Madrigal (setup/closer)
NOTES: McCarthy must stay healthy and regain his stuff to reach his ceiling. Otherwise he will be moved to the bullpen. Feldman is a #5 who would be moved to the bullpen if there were other options - unless he throws 180 innings in 09 (I am one of the few who thinks he will).
AAA: 2. Holland-LH #2 (could reach ML by mid-season), 23. Moscoso (#3/bullpen), 17. Hunter (back/bullpen), 28. Diamond (#3/bullpen), UR Mendoza (back/bullpen), UR Gabbard-LH (back/bullpen)
NOTES: The problem with this group is that among them only Holland is a sure-fire keeper as a starter. All of the rest have significant hurdles to overcome to solidify themselves as legit starters on a playoff club. Most of them will end up in the bullpen IMO.
AA: 1. Feliz #1(could reach ML by yr's end), 19. Kiker-LH (#3/bullpen), 24. Poveda #3, 30. Bannister (closer/setup -could progress quickly to AAA), UR Strop (closer- could make to ML by mid-season)
NOTES: Feliz is a prospect who has the rare ceiling of a #1 starter. Oakland has one of those in their system as well (Inoa) but at least he is about 4-5 years away. Both Kiker and Poveda had poor seasons in 2008 and must answer their critics this year to reach their ceilings. If they don't, Poveda won't be in the system next year and Kiker will be moved to the bullpen.
A+: 22. Tim Murphy-LH (#3/bullpen), UR Corey Young (setup/MR)
Notes: Both could see AA very quickly with the possible progression to AAA as relievers. They want to keep T-Murph as a starter for now though so in that capacity he would likely end the season in AA.
Ok I will parse all of this into some sort of coherent analysis regarding composition of the 2010 pitching staffs for both clubs in Part 2 - I hope...