One of the most fascinating things about baseball is how a team gameplans to be a winner. Some spend big bucks to get proven veteran talent (Yankees), some play with a ton of young and role players (Rays), some concentrate solely on pitching depth (Athletics), and some are riddled with hitters throughout the system (Tigers).
Notice how I mentioned only winning franchises, because if you want to talk about some others...Astros, Cubs, Mets, Pirates, and of course the Marlins, they seem to mainly find themselves always trying to define their organization, and when you change directions every couple years, you set yourself up for failure.
Now, the four ways I listed above on how to succeed don't always work, they are not full proof systems and many times you see teams that don't have the proper balance lose even with these gameplans. Spending big bucks (Dodgers), ton of youth and role players (Royals), pitching depth (Mariners), and tons of hitters (Blue Jays).
This is why I have been and will continue to be such a HUGE fan of the Rangers' gameplan to success. Jon Daniels and his Super Friends (other front office members) have implemented a plan of success back in 2007 and over the last three years have seen it blossom. Ok, I know 2012 didn't end how we wanted, but there is no comparison in the franchise history to the success the Rangers have had over the last three years. It's better than the 1996-1999, you can't argue that.
And one of the biggest keys to that success...Youth.
Back in 2007, the Rangers moved toward concentrating on young, high-ceiling prospects, and building the core of the team around them. The plan is obviously a success as today we see the team being lead by Matt Harrison (Age: 27), Mitch Moreland (27), Derek Holland (26), Neftali Feliz (24), and Elvis Andrus (24). (I realize that Yu Darvish is only 26, but with this being his first season, I didn't feel it appropriate to include him on this list.)
Here are five CORE players who have been essential to the success over the past three years. Of course the Rangers have veteran leadership to go with these youngster (Young, Beltre, Lewis, Hamilton, and Kinsler), but the success of the Rangers' gameplan has been to the Youth. Veteran leadership is essential with Youth, because it is nearly impossible to retain all your Youthful Core once they become veterans. Thus you need to keep the cycle going on developing Youth.
Therefore what does the future hold? Already on the 40-man roster are six other players who seem to be developing as essential pieces to that next round of the core. RHP Justin Grimm (24), 3B/1B Mike Olt (24), CF Leonys "Cohiba" Martin (24), LHP Robbie Ross (23), LHP Martin Perez (21), and Jurickson Profar (19).
All six players saw time on the Big League team during the 2012 season, just as all except Ross started 2012 in the Minors. But you can't argue that the potential of all six aren't there and looking very bright. Of course, not all six will be in the Rangers' future, I highly doubt it. Just as RHP Blake Beavan, 1B Justin Smoak, SS Drew Meyer, RHP Michael Main, and 1B Jason Botts were all highly touted prospects in the not too distant past.
The future of Grimm, Olt, Cohiba, Ross, Perez, and Profar will become more obvious over the next full season as we could see some moved this offseason, some promoted, and regrettably some will digress. But this isn't what I wanted to concentrate on, there is plenty of time this offseason and Spring Training to see how the Rangers continue to build to the core with these six youngster. Instead, I want to talk about the next round, the babies, the teenagers that have all been added recently.
Lewis Brinson (18): CF - 6'5" - 175 - 2012 1st round draft pick: Brinson is the definition of a five-tool player, speed (recently clocked 6.5 seconds in his 60-yd dash) and power (2011 Under Armour All-American HR Derby champ). He played his first season of pro ball in the Rookie league in Arizona this past summer. In 54 games he batted .283/.345/.523, 67 hits, 54 runs, 22 doubles, 7 triples, 42 RBI, while stealing 14 of 16 bases.
Joey Gallo (18): 3B - 6'5" - 205 - 2012 Compensation 1st round pick: Gallo wasted no time introducing himself to pro ball as he slugged an Arizona Rookie League record 18 HRs in 43 games before being promoted to Short-A Spokane, where he hit 4 more in 16 games. Gallo holds the record for most HRs in a single High School season and HS Career in the state of Nevada (FYI - Bryce Harper played HS ball in Nevada). Gallo was considered to have had the best "raw power" in the 2012 draft. He finished Rookie ball batting .293/.435/.733, 18 HRs, 44 hits, 43 RBI, and 37 BBs.
Nick Williams (18): OF - 6'3" - 195 - 2012 2nd round draft pick: Williams is another highly touted HS product coming out of Texas. Because of a tough Spring, he dropped in many teams rankings and the Rangers were able to nab him in the 2nd round. Once signed, all he did in 48 Rookie league games was hit .313/.375/.448, 63 hits, 34 runs, 9 doubles, 6 triples, 27 RBI, and stole 15 bases. The power isn't what the guys above him have, but Williams thing is excellent bat speed and ability to spray the ball to all fields.
Keone Kela (19): RHP - 6'1" - 190 - 2012 12th round draft pick: Kela who spent a year in college trying to improve his 29th round draft status has bloomed since joining the Rangers. While in instructional league, Texas tweaked his delivery and now the young man's 89-91mph fastball when he was 18 sits at 96-100mph. Cleaning up his delivery has also helped his other pitchers and one scout said had he done this before being drafted, he would have been taken in the 1st or 2nd round. Kela threw 11.1 IP in Rookie-ball, striking out 15 and registering a 1.59 ERA.
Nomar Mazara (17): OF - 6'5" - 200 - 2011 International Signing: Mazara was one of two Top 3 International signings the Rangers nabbed this past season and done so before the new, limited international budget. Mazara is best known for his BP with the Rangers in which he took it standing beside Josh Hamilton and hit shots just as majestic. He has a lot of learning to do, but still just 17. In 54 AZL games this year he had 53 hits, 22 of them for extra bases, drove in 39 runs and walked 37 times.
Ronald Guzman (17): 1B - 6'6" - 210 - 2011 International Signing: Guzman is the other signing along with Mazara. He didn't receive as much publicity and that should be the mistake of those who overlooked him. Guzman is a pure-hitter, with some plus-power potential (the kid is 6'6", 210 at the age of 17...SERIOUSLY!!!!) In 52 AZL games he batted .321/.374/.434, 68 hits, 29 runs, 15 doubles, 33 RBI, and 7 SBs. Guzman swings from the left side and one day could really enjoy learning the term "Arlington Jet Stream."
Jairo Beras (17): OF - 6'5" - 185 - 2012 International Signing: Beras was the center of a very controversial signing by the Rangers. Many teams believed he was underage and not-eligible until since past July 2nd, the Rangers did their homework and discovered otherwise. And after an embarrassingly-long investigation by MLB his contract with the Rangers was upheld. Last winter Beras was considered the #4 international prospect, again look at the size for that age (#1 was some kid named Darvish).
I just named 7 players who are all highly-touted prospects in the Rangers' farm system. Any one of them would be a Top 10 prospect in any franchise, right now...all 7 are Rangers. I heard a story a couple days ago that while in Arizona at Fall Instructs (couple weeks ago), the players are divided up into groups of five for batting practice. One of the groups was Brinson, Gallo, Mazara, Guzman, and Beras. (Please go back now and re-read those ages and sizes...now lift your jaw off the floor.) Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.
My favorite thing too is that I just named seven high-potential prospects...all seven teenagers...and all seven added within the last calendar year. I didn't even mention some of the Rangers' top prospects...#4 Cody Buckel (LHP - Age: 20), #5 Jorge Alfaro (C - Age: 19), #7 Luis Sardinas (SS - Age: 19), #9 Rougned Odor (2B - Age: 18), #13 Luke Jackson (RHP - Age: 21), #14 Roman Mendez (RHP - Age: 22), #18 Barret Loux (RHP - Age: 23), and #20 Leury Garcia (2B - Age: 21).
Balance...spending money on veteran leadership and a Youthful Infusion of Core talent....the future is bright my friends...the future is very bright.