Welcome to the latest installment of the Daniels’ Minions Roundtable. The minions for this edition are Let’s Talk Rangers writers Bo Reed and Matthew Irby, Rangers blogger Nick Simmons (http://rangersexpress.blogspot.com/) and KZNE The Zone’s Stephen Rhodes.

In this edition the minions discuss who replaces Tommy Hunter in the rotation, Julio Borbon’s defensive struggles, prospects Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez and give their predictions for the upcoming season.

1) The Rangers have set the rotation but Tommy Hunter left his last start with a strained groin and is likely heading for the DL. Who takes his place in the rotation?

Bo Reed

Eric Hurley was having a very good spring before he was optioned to AAA Round Rock halfway through camp for reasons I still don’t understand. I’m not wild about the idea of using Alexi Ogando in the role considering the struggles of the bullpen lately. I think either Hurley or Michael Kirkman could fill in for Hunter until he returns in May leaving the bullpen in tact but Ogando appears to be the guy they want to put in the rotation.

Matthew Irby

The Rangers have a decent list of candidates ready to step in now if “Big Game” has to miss some time.  Michael Kirkman is a likely option, as is the other minor league prospect Eric Hurley.  However I’m leaning toward seeing those two starting the season as starters in Triple-A Round Rock and the Rangers going with Dave Bush to start the season as the #5 starter.  I’m ok with Bush starting off the season in the rotation and would be fine with Kirkman, not certain if Hurley is ready…just yet.  Dark horse – watch for Brett Tomko to make a last week push for the rotation spot.

Nick Simmons

It is probably well known that I’d push for Eric Hurley here (gotta keep the HHH at the end of the rotation right?). His dominance over the AFL and into spring training has put him back on my radar and that of many others as well. The organization seems to want him to spend more time facing high caliber live batters until he is considered for a ticket to Arlington. Why not give him a 5 week try out though? When a team is looking to contend, it’s not exactly the ideal time to experiment and try guys out like Rangers teams of recent. Look at it this way though, within weeks or months into the season the Rangers will get Big Tommy, Webb, and Feldman back. So when those three are ready, who are the odd men out? Bush (who I see being the long man, but Tobin is giving him a run for his money) Harrison (who many don’t understand why he is in the rotation anyways) and the replacement for Tommy. So, in theory all three of those guys would be sent down, traded, or released upon the return of Hunter, Webb, and Feldman.

Kirkman is rumored to be the likely replacement for Tommy, but do you really want to waste one of Kirkman’s options? If he is dominant in the rotation replacing Tommy, I can imagine the Rangers would have a harder time sending him down than under-the-radar Eric Hurley. Barring a trade, Kirkman would then take Tommy’s spot, Webb would take Harrison’s spot, and Feldman would take the long relief spot (he’s making too much money to be in the minors all year). That leaves Tommy Hunter in the minors waiting for someone else to inevitably go down. If you want to read my case on why Tommy should be in Arlington, look for the Minion’s post from a few back. 

Stephen Rhodes

It seems as if they really want Ogando to take his place. I think they should treat this as an audition. There are three spring games left. Give one to Webb, one to Ogando, and one to Harrison. Analyze those games, and take into account the whole spring as well. Whoever is the best of those should get an extended audition until Hunter is back. At that point they can decide between that person and Hunter. I think it will be Harrison, even if the buzz is going toward Ogando.

2) Julio Borbon has been terrible in CF this spring prompting the Rangers to take a look at David Murphy in the position over the final week and a half of camp. Should Borbon start the season at AAA Round Rock and can Murphy play well enough to keep Josh Hamilton in LF?

 Bo Reed

Borbon should absolutely start the season in the minors but I think Texas should send him down to low A ball to send the kid a message. As for center field I think Texas needs to put Josh back in the spot. It was a nice idea to put Josh in left field but that little experiment is over until the Rangers find someone that can play at least an average center field. Watching the train wreck in the outfield was excruciating and clearly not the way to go.

Matthew Irby

Yes and Yes.  YES, Julio Borbon should be demoted to start the season at Triple-A, for multiple reasons.  He can play in CF everyday, he can continue to work on his mechanics, angles, and overall awareness it takes to play center, and he can continue to work on his hitting by playing everyday.  Borbon is too young, and too talented to be wasted to playing as a pinch-runner and playing every 4-5th day.  Yes, give Murph a legit shot at CF.  I know it’s not his main position and there is likely to be growing pains, but my respect for the man says give him the responsibility.  Think about his time with Texas, he has never been a go-to starter opening the season, yet every year he gets his ABs, he gets his hits, he gets his clutch home runs, and he gets his time in CF.  After a month the situation can be re-evaluated if not working, but all signs regarding Murph point to him being able to handle this added responsibility.

Nick Simmons

Does anyone else want to roll up a newspaper and swat Borbon on the nose? Seriously, this guy needs to get his head out of his rear end (family friendly). He raced through the minors and it’s starting to show that he really needs more seasoning, and there is nothing wrong with that. I love Murphy; he’s my favorite current Ranger. I’ve seen him play center and I’ve seen Borbon play center. Neither is very comforting to watch. Josh is an elite defender in center, and he is going to play equally as hard in left as he does in center.

The best lineup for this team for 2011 has Murphy in left, Josh in center, Borbon in Round Rock, and Chavez or Gentry in Arlington. Remember what this Neftali Feliz drama has taught us: “What is best for the team right now” and remember what contradictory Ron Washington taught us: “Borbon is given a spot, but guys who earned it in 2010 like Tommy Hunter and David Murphy have to earn it”. Put Josh in center, he is going to get hurt regardless. If he weren’t an injury risk in any circumstance, do you really thing he would have only received a two year contract? Let Borbon polish his defense in AAA, bring him back up when that is solid, and keep Engel Beltre biting at his heels.

Stephen Rhodes

I've always like Murphy. He should be a starter. I like Borbon and what he brings to the table, and I don't think the spring should knock him down to AAA. But Murph better be ahead of him in the depth chart. He deserves it, and has been deserving of it for a while.

3) Going into the 2009 season the Rangers top pitching prospects were Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz and both made their debuts that season. When do you expect the next duo of Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez to get their first major league action?

Bo Reed

I don’t think we’ll see the same type of dynamic from these two that we saw in 2009 when Holland came up in April and Feliz later in the season. I really thought Scheppers had a good shot to make the Rangers bullpen before he got hurt so I’m betting he gets his feet wet this season, either as a spot starter or to take over for an ineffective starter. Perez still looks to be a year away but with a good season could be in contention for a spot in the rotation in 2012.

Matthew Irby

Regarding any unforeseen setback (injury or command issue), Tanner Scheppers will don a Rangers uniform in the 2011 campaign.  As it sits right now I think it will more likely be an early summer move for a potential starter who needs a DL-stint or is demoted due to ineffectiveness.  I’m very excited by the fact that Texas has already sent him down to Triple-A to continue working on being a starter. 

If Scheppers can continue to move forward and progress as he did last year, then he is much more valuable as a potential starter this year than as a 6th-7th inning reliever.  However if Texas has more bullpen issue, you could see a mid-May call-up.  Scheppers timetable will depend greatly of the current rotation, effectiveness (Derek Holland and Matt Harrison) and injury (Tommy Hunter and Brandon Webb).  Either ways, if Tanner is effective and healthy, I think the latest we see him in Ranger Red is September call-ups. 

As for Martin Perez, this is a big developmental season for him.  If he continues to take steps forward, as he should and is projected to, then Perez could see Rangers play time as early as 2012.  However if he continues to struggle with command issues and inconsistencies, then all bets are off as to when he could make him Major League debut.

Nick Simmons

Scheppers has the stuff to be in the bullpen right now. He will be up in September. He could possibly be there in October. I would not be surprised to see him up before September and never look back. Heck, we could have Rhoades and Oliver going in for a new hip come July (think the docs will give a 2-for-1 discount?). O’Day came out of nowhere and just as relievers tend to do, could be headed back that same direction (though I don’t think so and I hope not; those O’Day chants are intoxicating).

Perez? Not this year. 2012? If the world doesn’t end… then maybe. I’d say that’s more dependent on FA signings this coming off season, Feliz in the rotation, and if Holland proves to be the real deal this season. I’d look for him September of 2012 and definitely in 2013.

Stephen Rhodes

I've got no idea. I think we're pretty set for now, but you never know. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't know jack about prospects, and I'm not going to comment on things I don't know anything about. I look forward to reading what the other Minions have to say about the subject though.

4) Rosters league wide are almost set so let's do some predicting. Name your division winners, wild cards, league champions and World Series Champions.

Bo Reed

AL East: Red Sox

AL Central: Tigers

AL West: Rangers

AL Wild Card: A’s

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Giants

NL Wild Card: Braves

AL Champs: Red Sox

NL Champs: Braves

World Series Champs: Red Sox

Matthew Irby

AL East: Red Sox

AL Central: Tigers

AL West: Rangers

AL Wild Card: A’s

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Brewers

NL West: Rockies

NL Wild Card: Braves

AL Champs: Red Sox

NL Champs: Phillies

World Series Champs: Red Sox                 

Nick Simmons

AL East: Red Sox

AL Central: White Sox

AL West: Rangers

AL Wild Card: Yankees

NL East: Braves

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Giants

NL Wild Card: Phillies

AL Champs: White Sox

NL Champs: Braves

World Series Champs: Braves

Stephen Rhodes

AL East: Red Sox

AL Central: Twins

AL West: Rangers

AL Wild Card: Yankees

NL East: Phillies

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Padres

NL Wild Card: Giants

AL Champs: Red Sox

NL Champs: Phillies

World Series Champs: Phillies

Bonus Prediction: 2012 World Series: Rangers over Reds in 5