Category Archives: Draft

Texas Rangers Trade Deadline Review: Jon Daniels Earns D+

With a last minute, extra-credit submission in the form of the Gagne trade, Little Jon DanielsHart avoids immediate expulsion from school and pulls an F- up to a D+ for the summer trade semester. 

That’s still a failing grade overall, despite a great trade for Gagne. Why?

For a team that has always needed PITCHING but has never been able to develop pitching prospects or sign top free agent starters, it’s inexcusable that JD was not able to pry at least one MLB-ready pitcher who has at least begun a successful transition to the major leagues out of any of the contenders needing an extra bat when we were offering Teixeira – the PREMEIRE bat on the summer market who’s under contract through next season also. That’s even more inexcusable when he also coughed up Mahay along with Tex.

I can’t believe how many Rangers fans have bought into the Rangers’ public relations face-saving propaganda that getting the Braves #1, #2 and #3 prospects makes the Teixeira trade a good one. Garbage!

First, let’s review the definition of prospect:

Prospect (noun) – 1. the possibility of future success; 2. belief about the future (WordNet® 3.0 © 2006 Princeton University)

Thus, the guys we got in the deal have nothing but a possibility of success based on someone’s belief about their future performance. So we shipped off two known, highly valuable commodities for five big question marks! At least one known, as bankable as can be commodity should have been acquired in return. Unfortunately instead, only time will tell – and with these guys, time may range from this month to 4-5 years from now.

Second, consider the difficulty of forecasting prospects’ futures:

Prospects in baseball are particularly iffy. In basketball or football, it’s generally much easier to predict a prospect’s likelihood of making an impact (yes – there are plenty of exceptions). More than in other team sports, players at the major league baseball level are mostly distinguished by the mental aspects of the game – focus, concentration, pitcher-batter strategy, etc. This is particularly true where the two major aspects of the game – pitching and hitting – are concerned. There are just too many variables – again most of them mental, which are nearly impossible to predict – to developing potential and transitioning to the major league level.

Third, while we may have received the best prospects the Braves had, that doesn’t make them the right prospects for the Rangers rebuilding needs. 

1.   Salty – may be a good fit for the Rangers, especially if he can improve behind the plate. If the expectations for his future production are even 75% correct, then he’ll be a major upgrade over Laird, who should be moved to the bench or traded if Teagarden continues to progress.

2.  Elvis Andrus – an 18-yo SS who’s struggling at the plate at A Myrtle Beach. Again, last I checked, we have a great SS who’s locked-up through 2013 and a potential All-Star 2B in his second MLB season at only 25. If we want to find there replacements, I suggest the draft in – oh, maybe 2010 would be more appropriate.

3.  Matt Harrison – is a 21-yo nothing but prospect LHP at AA. He has potential, but again, when have the Rangers ever turned young pitching potential into a winner at the major-league level?

4.  Neftali Feliz – a 19-yo nothing but prospect RHP still in the rookie league.

5.  Beau Jones – a 21-yo LHP doing well, but only at Class A Rome.

On almost any other team, you might be able to bet with confidence that at least one of the three pitching prospects will become a winning starter within the next 2-4 years.  But not so with the Rangers.

That’s why JD HAD to get a pitcher who has at least begun a successful transition to the major leagues in return for Tex, much less Tex and Mahay.

The Lofton trade was also a disappointment. 

Lofton may be a 40-year-old rent-a-player to the Indians, but he will help the Indians down the stretch (on and off the field). I think his value to them is more than a Class-A catcher on whom the Braves already gave up last year to acquire Bob Wickman.  It’s a long, long road from being a Futures-Game Class A catcher to a big league contributor. 

The Gagne Trade May Have Saved Daniels’ Job – For Now 

Finally! JD got a pitcher who is well into a successful transition to the major leagues, plus one who’s a lefty from the AL in Kason Gabbard!

Gabbard has progressed well at every level, including his time in the majors. If he can keep his head straight in the unforgiving Ballpark and keep his stats within the same general range he’s been performing at, he will be a winning pitcher for several years to come. If he comes to Arlington and can improve at all – he’ll be the ace of our staff by ’09 at the latest. 

The two outfielders in the deal were also good pick-ups. Left-handed hitting 27-yo CF David Murphy could do very well in the Ballpark. He’s already had some limited success in the majors, and should be a September call up and ready to compete for a spot on the big club next season. 18-yo “5-tool” outfielder Engel Beltre is several years away, but is reportedly one heck of a prospect.  

In Sum 

Overall, the Rangers shipped off Teixeira, Gagne, Mahay and Lofton in return for: 

1 MLB-ready pitcher

2 Probably ready to break through position players (Salty and Murphy)

3 Very young, who knows what they’ll be position prospects (Andrus, Beltre and Ramirez)

3 Young, who knows what they’ll be pitching prospects (Harrison, Jones, Feliz). 

To give up that much highly-prized and sought-after talent and not have 2 MLB-ready pitchers in return is terrible.  

Salty and Murphy are strong maybe’s, but there are concerns about both of their games. And then there are six really big question marks?????? 

That leaves Gabbard as the only acquisition whose value can be close to accurately projected. 

As of today, that’s a terrible performance from Little Jon DanielsHart.

In time, if Gabbard lives up to expectation, if Salty becomes one of the leagues top producing catchers, if Murphy works out, if one of the three pitching prospects becomes a winner at the major-league level, then this could become a very good performance from Little Jon DanielsHart. But that’s too many “if’s” given all the Rangers had to offer. 

And after 27-years as a fan, there are too many reasons to be skeptical. Hanging on to hopes that so many “if’s” will pan out is just asking for more heartbreak, and I expect more from the General Manager.

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Trade Rumors Heating Up for Gagne and Otsuka

Now that July is here, trade talks are turning much more serious, and Gagne and Otsuka have become the focal point for the Rangers while Teixeira’s on the mend.

I hope the Rangers keep Otsuka.  He’s got enough in the tank to remain an effective closer for several year – long enough to contribute more on the team than through a trade to the Rangers’ chances of becomming contenders in 2-3 seasons.

So let’s talk Gagne first, especially because he’s definitely going, and while he’d be a rent-a-player for team making a run down the stretch, he offers a bidder the added value will be 2 draft picks to wherever he goes when he walks as a free agent this winter.

According to T.R. Sullivan’s article last week, “…the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have shown the most interest in Gagne.”

Gagne, another Boras client, has a list of 12-teams the Rangers can trade him to without his prior consent.  The best I can gather is that the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets and Angels, are on that list. The other eight are being kept secret.  Who knows why. And, MLB Trade Rumors is revealing more every day about Gagne’s limited no-trade clause.

So far, only two teams match T.R.’s “interested” list and Gagne’s “allowable” list: the Yankees and Red Sox – the two teams everyone wants to have interested in the same guy because they’ll spend the money, have prospects and major-league ready talent to spare, and will bid up the price on each other.

But, what do the Rangers need that they can fill through a Gagne trade?

To turn the Rangers into a championship caliber team, the need (besides a new owner), starting pitching, a firstbaseman to replace Teixeira when he leaves, a center fielder, at least one corner outfielder (assuming out of Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Botts the Rangers can produce one capable everyday starter in one of the corners and one bench/DH player) and an upgrade at catcher (pretty much in that order).

There will be a lot of free agent outfielders on the market this winter, and the Rangers will have plenty of money to sign a starter and an outfielder (preferably Torii Hunter to finally give the Rangers a bat and – as important – a glove out of center field – see the post and subsequent comments about next year’s team two posts below). So with Gagne, I think the Rangers should focus on a corner outfielder, a catcher or a firstbaseman – in that order.

Getting a major-league ready guy who can play and contribute every day at one of those three spots will make a significant impact for the team’s future. Additionally, by addressing one of those needs with Gagne, Little Jon DanielsHart should then be able to focus solely on starting pitching for the Teixeira trade.  And, a younger, lower paid outfielder from a Gagne trade also frees up cash for the free agent market.

Robbers Evidence: Rangers Continue Display of Insanity with Terrible Draft Strategy

Well, as the Texas Rangers’ big league club continues it’s embarrassing losing ways on the field, the front office continued its ineptitude Thursday.  Taking two right-hand pitchers out of high school to start their draft, Little Jon DanielsHart and the Rangers front office continue to exemplify one of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  continuing to do the same thing over and over expecting different results. 

As “agent zero” commented on my previous post (https://rangersorrobbers.wordpress.com/2007/06/05/why-the-rangers-should-not-draft-pitchers/#comments), “The rangers have drafted a pitcher 3 times in the 1st round in the last 3 yrs. And where has that gotten them. One is out for the season, they trade the other and the one that’s left is probably their last hope in the minors. Somehow the rangers always find a way to screw up with their pitching. Ala chris young, doug davis, francisco cordero, dan kolb, justin ducsherer. ”

And as I’ve said for years, the Rangers have never been able to develop pitching, so why keep wasting draft picks on pitchers, especially when they CAN develop offensive talent as well as or even better than almost any other club in major league baseball?

Just more evidence that Tom Hicks’ poorly assembled front office is not big-league ready, especially its leader, Little Jon DanielsHart.

Especially with Nolan Ryan interested in buying the Rangers, I sure wish Hicks’ would sell the team!

Why The Rangers Should Draft Hitting Prospects

As I posted yesterday, the Rangers have 5 of the first 54 picks in this year’s draft – starting tomorrow.  Whippie!

Given the Rangers continued attempts to draft and develop pitchers and In-Over-His-Head Little Jon DanielsHart indication that the Rangers are again “leaning towards pitching”, all signs point to continued deterioration of the Rangers organization.So what should they do to avoid that?  Stick to what they’re good at!

The Rangers clearly CAN produce good-to-great hitters with amazing frequency.  Four AL MVPs have gone to three different Rangers hitters in the past 11 seasons.  One batting title and 19 Silver Sluggers over the same time period.  The Rangers organization CAN turn hitting potential into capability, largely thanks to Rudy Jaramillo and The Ballpark.So let’s hope the Rangers don’t make the same mistakes they made in 1996.  According to T.R. Sullivan:“The last time the Rangers were in a similar position (in the draft) was in 1996, when they had four of the first 53 picks and used them all on pitchers. The Rangers ended up taking R.A. Dickey, Sam Marsonek, Corey Lee and Derrick Cook. Dickey, who has 16 Major League victories, is the only one of the four who pitched more than one game in the Major Leagues.”Four high pitching prospects taken, and 11 years later, the four have a total of 16 wins to show for it.  And not one of them ever made a serious positive contribution to the Rangers.

So instead, draft what you can grow. 

If the Rangers want to ever get pitchers who can perform on the bump in Arlington, they need to implement a counter-intuitive strategy.  The Rangers should grab the best offensive prospects they can with all five early picks.  Develop that offensive talent, then use it where you need it and turn the rest into trade bait to bring in pitchers who have already turned their potential into capability – mid-career pitchers we can keep for a few years who could at least be assetts to the team but definitely won’t be liabilities.  

Getting mid-career, already proven pitchers here worked to various degrees in the late 90s (enough to contribute to three division titles) with guys like Sele, Loaiza, Burkett, Hill, Morgan, etc., and it could work again.  In fact, with an intentional, deliberate strategy to develop offensive talent that can be traded for championship-quality pitching, it could work even better.  And since the Rangers can’t sign top free agent pitchers and can’t develop quality pitching, that is the only strategy that has a chance to bring enough capability to the mound in
Arlington necessary to finally contend for a Championship.

Why The Rangers Should Not Draft Pitchers

So the draft starts Thursday, and the Rangers have 5 of the first 54 picks.  Whippie!

First, this isn’t the NBA or NFL where a good draft can help your team next season.  Usually, it takes at least 5 years to evaluate a team’s MLB draft performance. 

More importantly, looking at the Rangers’ past drafts leaves little room for optimism for the short or long term.  They’ve focused on (and In-Over-His-Head Little Jon DanielsHart has stated they are again “leaning towards”) pitching in recent drafts.  While at first it seems to make sense for the Rangers to focus on pitching with their picks (since that’s ALWAYS been their biggest need), on further reflection, it’s asinine.  

Why waste high picks to draft pitching prospects when you can’t build a system, an organization that can incubate pitching talent and potential and develop it into Major-League, championship-caliber pitching capability?  The Rangers have NEVER been able to do so. 

Why can’t the Rangers develop pitching? 

Maybe it’s ownership.  Hicks may be a talented businessman and a shrewd manipulator of the political realm to keep his wallet fat, but he suffers from Bi-Polar Owner Disorder.  If you listen to what he says, pitching has been a focus under Hicks’ dark 9 years of ownership.  But Hicks keeps tripping over himself and continually makes pitching worse for the organization.  First, when it’s time to put his money where his mouth is, he’s shown that he’s much more likely to spend on hitting (Alex Rodriguez’s super-stupid, market-changing contract is the best of many examples) than he is on pitching.  Second, Hicks’ Bi-Polar Owner Disorder (Bi-POD) also leads to fluctuating team salaries – leading to the Rangers’ current 10th cheapest roster amongst MLB’s 30 teams despite being in the nation’s 4th largest market.  No wonder top free agent pitchers (and their wives) don’t want to pitch in Arlington; despite Hicks’ words, free agent pitchers can clearly see Hicks’ lack of commitment to pitching (and winning) in his deeds.  Finally, Hicks’ Bi-PODism has led to more change than consistency in Rangers’ baseball personnel.  An organization where managers, GMs, pitching coaches, scouts, and farm system personnel are constantly changing is not conducive to developing pitching talent and turning potential into capable.

Maybe it’s organizational psychology.  For complex reasons, some organizations have capabilities that others don’t.  Take innovation in the auto industry for example (just innovation, not selling, reliability, etc.).  Some companies, like Chrysler, seem to be able to churn out innovative new concepts and production models at whim.  Others can’t seem to innovative their lineup to jumpstart their business no matter how hard or long they try, like Chevrolet.  Like people, some organizations are naturally good at some things while others couldn’t do the same thing to save their lives.  The Rangers don’t have the DNA or the organizational psychology to develop pitching.  It’s just not in their blood.

Maybe it’s the Ballpark.  It’s one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.  When the biggest thing that separates minor-league talent and potential from major-league capability is the mental aspect of pitching – the mental ability to be the center of a game and play the toughest position in sports – the Ballpark is far from a conducive setting for young pitchers to develop their mental game.  It just heaps more pressure on pitchers, because mistakes are usually punished hard through a wide outfield alley or into the stands.  And with little to no foul territory, the Ballpark doesn’t hand pitchers many easy outs.

Maybe it’s the heat.  Can’t find information on this, but I’d be willing to bet that The Ballpark offers the hottest average game-time temperature in all of baseball.  Extreme heat tires athletes.  Tired pitchers loose their stuff and control sooner and make mistakes.  Loosing your stuff, your control and making more mistakes is especially hard for younger, developing pitchers to cope with.

Maybe it’s… does it matter?

If you can’t develop pitching, don’t draft it.

So what should they do?  Thoughts on that tomorrow…