As I wrote some weeks ago, i expect TX to slightly change its model for pursing j2 players with the change in ownership. With the resources to finally compete like a big market team, I predicted that Texas would finally venture into the rarefied air of the 2-3+ million dollar position prospects. Now while Texas has made an exception to this rule for pitching on occasion (might have gone toward 2m$ for Adys Portillo, and did bid from 5-7m$ for Michael Ynoa, but who I don't think were willing to go 2$m for Guillermo Pimentel to continue the rule), it simply doesn't do this for j2 hitters. Texas has never really been players for the elite hitters in the j2 market, those in the 2 -3.3 million plus range, guys like Sano, Sanchez, and (for some) Mateo to name 3 most recent examples. As a general rule, if you want to sign a j2 power hitter, your looking at starting the bidding at 2.5. Now there are only a few, never more than 3, of those types in the market in any given year, so if you want a young hitter who projects for elite power, then you have to pay. So far, Texas has been unwilling to pony up.
This year, Texas was not really a player for any 7-figure guys due to the convoluted sale process and the team's inopportune turn toward bankruptcy during the meat of the signing timeline (July/August). The front office meme of course was that we lacked interest because it was a "weak market". Right. At Ranger's beat writer Jamey Newberg's latest Ra-Ra, , the first thing that Welke notes (about the 35m minute mark of Ted Price's feed) about this it that it was the bankruptcy that forced Texas out of the market. Hope we can put that to rest now. Thanks for that last parting shot, Tom Hicks. I think they did manage to sign a couple of interesting prospects who signed late in order to salvage the 2010 j2 debacle but there isn't an elite player in the bunch, though Odor is intriguing, and likely debuts stateside if his hitting is as advanced as some say it is, and they only spent on the order of 1 million (announced).
However this year will likely usher in a new approach, with both the draft and j2 stratagems, spending like a big market club on bonus monies. The most interesting thing that Welke had to say, actually, was that Texas is currently hotly pursuing 3 of the elite players from the next j2 class and that he was off on a trip to Miami for work related to that end. So while 2009 saw the unprecedented signing of not only the first 7-figure sign from the j2 market but a total of three, 2011 might usher in the first 3 million dollar sign. If there happens to be two 3 million dollar signs, well, this will certainly cause a fit of apoplectic joy among Texas prospectors. I also think you could see a more opportune club in the draft as well, not skipping elite players due to their bonus demands, and not hesitating to pull the trigger on one or a few kids who falls because of it, whether early or late .
In that Welke interview, I found out that he is the guy (or one of them) that loves Leury Garcia (20minute mark, second video), and likely the guy who has Newberg's ear on the matter(though not apparently the "if he can hit" part), when, really, the kid is an org guy, who'll have trouble hitting his way through the upper minors in addition to clearly having issues with his hands/actions. Welke also noted that Fabio Castillo broke his foot, which might prevent him from getting a long look in spring training.
And as I have said previously, I hope that I have time to write a piece which looks at what I think is a questionable draft strategy by Texas since Jon Daniel's and staff have come on board, which is drafting tools over likely ceiling, or as Don Welke called the deliberate strategy, "whales over minnows". If you just take a cursory look at the history of this approach, there haven't been any whales, and if that approach is now the established scouting culture int he organization, there is unlikely to be much internal criticism of the failures of the approach. If you swing big and miss most of the time, who can be blamed, if you still believe that it just takes one guy? Some aspects of the complete absence of talent in the upper minors right now lies in the failure of this approach to take some college kids who are near locks to be average major league players and quickly progress through the system. Maybe its possible that this strategy works if you can spend a lot more money or maybe Texas developed this kind of strategy because they didn't have a lot of bonus money to spend? What I hope happens for this year's draft is a bit of a shift in strategy in general but alos just in case a bonus cap emerges for 2012 or a an international draft happens in 2012 or 2013, that Texas simply picks the best player available and pays him. If this strategy fails, then I can live with it. But then, the definition of the BPA might be the crux of the issue here, at least when it comes to evaluating the ceiling for high school players.
Two of the top hitters in this year's j2 crop are both outfielders: Elier Hernandez and Ronald Guzman (LH, 6.4/170). Guzman won the HR derby at this years DPL all-star game (mid-season) and was also at the Under Armour showcase last August. (per Badler)