A Look at the Surging Texas Rangers | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

A Look at the Surging Texas Rangers

I told a couple of friends at school who are Dallas locals that I would write occasionally about the Rangers this summer.  Today seems like a pretty reasonable day to do that considering that they now sit comfortably atop their own division and tied with the New York Yankees for first in the American League.  As a fan of the game and someone who follows the draft and the minor leagues to some extent, it comes as no surprise to see the Rangers doing so well.  It was regarded as almost laughable by many of my friends from Dallas when I suggested that the Rangers were playoff-bound in 2010.  Despite coming within shouting distance last season, the Rangers most recent playoff appearance came in 1999, and they have never won a pennant.  While I think they may be a move from securing what I think would be a top 3 team in baseball, everyone with an inquisitive mind understands that the playoffs are a roll of the dice, and once in, any team has a shot.  Barring injury, these Rangers seem like a lock for a playoff berth even without a major upgrade at the deadline.

The Rangers have one of the most athletic lineups in baseball.  Julio Borbon, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus have the potential to steal well over 100 bases by the end of the season.  Nelson Cruz has one of the top-5 outfield arms in the game and 40 homers per 500 AB power.  Michael Young is well above average athletically at third.  Their lineup is deadly from the top to the bottom.  Nelson Cruz does not even hit in the middle of their order, and the guy hit 33 jacks in 462 AB’s last season.  And then there are Hamilton and Vlad.  These guys between them already have 36 jacks this season, and both seem like locks for the All-Star Game.  Hamilton is one of the few guys in the game with a realistic shot at a Triple Crown in my opinion.  A healthy Vlad might be in the same boat.

First base has been an issue with the Rangers for the last couple of years.  Justin Smoak was called up 3 weeks into April and has not played well enough to stick around.  Smoak likely has a bright future, but was not exceedingly dominant for his career in the Minors despite being young for his level at every stop.  I still believe the long-term solution will ultimately be Chris Davis despite his well-publicized contact issues.  Davis is a superior defender and has considerably higher upside than Smoak.  Davis has a shot to be Ryan Howard.  Smoak has a shot to be Kendry Morales.  Additionally, in order to make the impact deadline deal they will need to win the Series, Smoak will have to be included in their package because he is the safer bet of the two and probably the more desirable as a result.  Unfortunately for the Rangers, there is a good chance that Martin Perez will also have to be included.  Perez has been very average at AA this year, but scouts consider his potential to be through the roof.  He has a chance to be the ace of the staff within the next 5 years.

Will the Rangers be willing to make a move that includes Smoak and Perez for Lee or Oswalt?  I anticipate them being very active with Lee (Oswalt’s contract is too expensive for the Rangers to take on), especially because they could include a catcher in the deal too.  While the recently acquired Bengie Molina is quite clearly not a long-term solution to anything, he certainly adds a little more flexibility in the event that the Rangers do decide to package one or two catchers into a deal with the Mariners.  No Ranger catcher has played well this season, and Salty is hurt, but no one is questioning the talent of these backstops when age is considered.  Seattle has requested a catcher, and one of the Rangers’ three young catchers is surely to be deemed expendable. The unique situation in Texas is their surplus of young players competing at the same positions.  Smoak or Davis should be deemed expandable.  Teagarden, Salty, or Max Ramirez as well.  Some of their bullpen is expendable as well.

The one thing they don’t have is a frontline ace. Skeptics are suggesting that they will not be given the freedom to make a move in the trading market, however, because the Rangers ownership issues have basically brought about a freeze on payroll.  If they are granted a little room to make a move, they might walk into August as the frontrunner to win it all.  Cliff Lee is one of the ten best starting arms in the game and will be extremely valuable in a playoff race because he pitches so deeply into games, resting the bullpen as a consequence.  Because I will be in Dallas during the playoff race as well as the playoffs, I am really hoping they make a splash in the trading market this month.

The Rangers should be regarded as a model for the rest of baseball of how to effectively run an organization that is in a state of permanent financial discomfort.  They have had the top organizational review according to the folks at BA the last two seasons, and they are watching some of their homegrown talent carry them right now.  Kinsler, Young, Borbon, Andrus, Cruz, and Neftali Feliz to name a few.  It’s not as though the player a team drafts is a finished product.  The Rangers botch very few highly drafted players and get way more than most teams do out of later round selections.  That says an awful lot about the strength of their Minor League coaches and trainers.  They have brought impact players in with trades (Molina, Hamilton, and Salty) as well as through purchasing cheap but highly functional free agents (Vlad), which says an awful lot about the quality of their front office as well as scouting department.  Even in a year that the team has such well-documented financial woes, their frugality and proficiency in player development, instruction, and analysis are putting them in a position to step into the upper echelons of the American League, just like Tampa in 2008.  Imagine a Tampa/Texas ALCS.  I think it is highly possible.  A series like that should prove an inspiration to impoverished professional sports franchises the world over.

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