Good work - more than 120 questions this time. I could only get to about 40 of them.
Here we go.
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Q: What do you think of the Andruw Jones signing? If he shows signs of life in spring training and makes the big league club, isn't he just going to take away at bats from Murphy, Byrd, Cruz and Boggs, and shouldn't we be looking at those guys as hard as possible to determine if they will be pieces when this team contends in 2010? Is Daniels going to try and revive Jones and flip him at the trade deadline? It seems to me if he has a good season and is on a one-year deal that he would not be with the Rangers in 2010. - Chad H.
A: Not surprisingly, Jones questions lapped the field this time around. Chad's version hit a lot of the points many of you brought up.
If the one-year veteran acquisition spectrum is Kenny Lofton on one end (flippable), Ben Broussard on the other (miserable), and Sammy Sosa in the middle (serviceable), I'd place the Jones upside somewhere between Lofton and Sosa - closer to Sosa - but then I'd take it all back for one primary reason: Lofton, Sosa, and Broussard arguably filled temporary needs. Jones does not.
Texas doesn't need Jones to work out. If he has a sensational month in Arizona, he'll still need a vacancy created by an injury or trade of one of the front four (Hamilton, Cruz, Byrd, Murphy). Byrd is the key. He's not likely to be a Ranger after 2009 because of service time and salary. If he can be traded for pitching in March - which may be difficult given his knee issues - then Jones (if going well) conceivably provides Texas the same thing Byrd does: solid center field ability with a right-handed bat capable of doing some damage.
I'm not optimistic, but again, he's here on a low-cost audition to give the club some flexibility and protection - not to fill a void.
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Q: What makes Nelson Cruz's situation different from previous years? Is he still a 4-A player, or has he finally figured something out this time around? - Brett G.
A: I'm betting on the latter, buoyed by that league-leading 1.115 OPS (.356/.448/.667) in September. What Cruz figured out in 2008 is how to make pitchers throw strikes, first in AAA and then translated to Arlington. Cruz does cruel things to strikes.
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Q: In the last 10 years what prospect has broken your heart the most and what prospect would you say has come out of nowhere and been the most surprising? Since you have been covering the Rangers farm system, who would you say is the biggest first-round draft pick bust? - Paul G.
A: Ruben Mateo is the heartbreaker. Jeff Zimmerman is the obvious answer to the second question but Scott Feldman deserves mention. Drew Meyer, for a number of reasons, is the bust.
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Q: 1. I am curious why the Rangers did not try and re-sign Jamey Wright. He pitched very well for the Rangers last year (until the end). Why didn't they even talk to him?
2. If all the outfielders perform well this spring, do you think this will result in a trade before opening day? If so, who is the most likely to get traded? Who would draw the most in return?
3. Are the Rangers finished with the free agent market or do you think there will be someone else signed to a minor league contract with an invite to camp in the next few days? - Daniel S.
A: 1. Well, we don't know that they didn't make an effort. But given the workload he fought through last year, certainly a factor in his second-half meltdown, maybe the thought was he wouldn't be as good a bet in 2009.
2. Yes, assuming Byrd is ready to go and nobody else is injured during camp. Byrd is the most likely to be moved; he has value on and off the field, he'll be a free agent in seven months (and not likely to get from Texas the first multi-year deal of his career, something he'll want - and deserve - from someone), and if Jones is playing well (as your hypothetical assumes), those two are relatively duplicative. But Hamilton, of course, would bring the best return.
3. Last year most players had signed by this time, and Texas still went out during camp and signed Sidney Ponson and John Patterson to let's-see contracts. Chances are even better in this late-developing market that the club could give another pitcher or two an audition.
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Q: I know it is way too early to worry about this, but what do you think will happen with Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, and Max Ramirez, realistically only having room for two of them? - Kent S.
A: An impact trade.
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Q: I hear talk that Jose Vallejo will be working as a utility infielder at Oklahoma City. I hope he stays at second. Any chance Ian Kinsler is learning to play left field next spring due to Vallejo's advancement? - Bryan H.
Q: I'm curious to read what you think the club's long term outlook/projection is for German Duran. He was a great prospect of ours a couple of years ago, and now it seems that he's been relegated to a utility man role (if that). With Andrus's seemingly inevitable introduction this year, the signing of Omar Vizquel, and other developing prospects on the way, will Duran ever settle into a role more significant than a utility man (if that)? - Brett B.
A: Related questions, so let's combine the answer. Vallejo's immediate usefulness to the franchise is as a candidate to be a weapon on the bench, versatile defensively and offensively. That doesn't limit his future necessarily. As for Duran, if by "relegated" you mean "he isn't going to unseat Michael Young or Ian Kinsler or derail the Elvis Andrus train," OK. But - and this pertains to both infielders - Chone Figgins and Placido Polanco and Mark McLemore broke in as utility players and eventually shed that tag.
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Q: With so many talented pitchers in the system and not enough spots for them, what do you think will happen to the leftovers? - S.D.
A: Any organization that can point to a group of capable pitchers and call them "leftovers" is authorized to privately think about parade routes.
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Q: I'm wondering why the Rangers don't go sign Ben Sheets to an incentive-laden deal so when he is fully recovered from surgery in mid-summer, he can step into the rotation. Just imagine what a boost that would be to team morale in the middle of the season. What do you think about this idea? - Wes R.
A: It's a great idea, one that I've been pushing (a "Jon Lieber deal") since before reports of the failed physical emerged. I'm sure the organization agrees with everything you said. The issue is whether Sheets thinks he'd be better off waiting until mid-season, when more teams are interested. The flip side is that he'd probably be better served having his rehabilitation conducted under the supervision of a big league medical and training staff.
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Q: Considering several young pitchers the Rangers have traded the last three years have excelled with their new teams, WHEN the Rangers are contending near the trade deadline, will the team be trigger-shy to trade Michael Main and/or Martin Perez for an impact player who could lead the team to the playoffs? - Mark B.
A: If you're talking about a two-month rental, then I hope they don't even consider it long enough to get trigger-shy. But a controllable player? Different question. In other words: Carlos Lee, no thanks. Matt Cain? Hmmm . . . . Gun to my head: Main and Perez are untouchable.
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Q: This question doesn't pertain to an individual Ranger player, but what is your thought on the use of PED's in baseball? Do you think Bud Selig is handling the A-Rod situation appropriately? Should baseball test its players more frequently? - Zach P.
A: Sorry, can't hear you. My head is buried comfortably in the sand.
Meanwhile, here's a tribute to A-Rod that I first posted in October 2006, courtesy of my favorite band:
Ugly apparition, God's gift to oxygen
The puffed up immortal son
How they love him ‘cause he'll become
The ghost at number one.
How does it feel
To be the only one?
How does it feel
To be the only one that knows that you're right?
How does it feel
To be a chalkline dollar sign?
How does it feel
Up at the address all the widows write?
― Jellyfish, "The Ghost at Number One"
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Q: Did the Rangers sign Andruw Jones, Brendan Donnelly, and Derrick Turnbow to help the team in the short term but with the intention of flipping them in July? - A.S.
A: No. Those guys would likely bring Eddie Guardado-type returns at best. It's not worth the investment of money and playing time. Texas brought those three in to see if they can make the team better right now.
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Q: I was looking forward to Travis Metcalf getting a full-time shot at third base until the Michael Young move killed that plan. He seemed like a low-cost, home-grown, great glove with some pop in his bat. He is of an age where we cannot expect him to wait until Young has to be replaced in order to get an opportunity. What gives? - Rick
A: Remember Tom Evans? Standout defense at third base, moderate power, a couple shots to start in the big leagues. To me, that's Metcalf's comp at a minimum; the absolute ceiling is Ryan Zimmerman. Obviously there's a huge spectrum between those two extremes. He'll need a new employer in order to maximize things.
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Q: What kind of package could Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, and two lower minor league players net us? - Shawn D.
A: Who are the two lower minor leaguers? No, wait, forget that. Doesn't matter. Davis alone gets you an impact pitcher, and if you're dealing with the right club Cruz has some value as well.
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Q: Three questions about Nolan:
1. How do you think he's graded out so far?
2. What do you think his long-term impact will be on the Rangers?
3. What kind of a relationship does he have with JD? - S.F.
A: I've been very happy so far. His integrity and credibility are unassailable - we knew that. The thing I worried about was that he might have come in and decided to justify the importance of his position by making sweeping changes, perhaps impetuously, particularly since someone at his age with a lifetime of baseball achievement might have been hungry to win as soon as possible.
To his credit, he has done anything but that. He's been patient, has bought into the long-term plan that Jon Daniels implemented in May 2007, and from all accounts is a consensus-builder who has made it a priority to have all facets of the organization unified in direction and approach.
And you can bet his presence here helped Texas land Mike Maddux, and nearly land Ben Sheets. There will be more situations like that.
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Q: Jamey, I expect the Rangers to go about 10 to 15 games above .500. What do you expect? - B.M.
A: So 86-89 wins? I don't expect that many, but it can't be ruled out. I laid out more than a dozen reasons on February 16 why it's reasonable to expect 2009 to be better than 2008 was, and perhaps chief among them is to have a better April and better health. Millwood and Padilla in what amount to contract years doesn't hurt.
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Q: What about a list of top 25 Rangers prospects in the last 10 years? - David N.
A: David gets the medal for submitting the best question in the storied, two-volume history of Asked & Answered. Love this one.
I went back and gathered the Rangers' top prospects from the winters going into the 2000 through 2009 seasons, and then tried to determine which winter each player was at his pinnacle of prospecty goodness. Finally, in coming up with the list, I did my best to summon up where my head was on each player at that time, without the benefit of hindsight. So as much as I'd like to switch Ruben Mateo and Adrian Gonzalez now, I'm playing fair.
So here goes - the top 25 Rangers prospects of the last 10 years:
Mark Teixeira (going into '03)
Hank Blalock ('02)
Derek Holland ('09)
Ruben Mateo ('00)
Neftali Feliz ('09)
"Edison" Volquez ('06)
Carlos Pena ('01)
Chris Davis ('08)
Justin Smoak ('09)
Ian Kinsler ('05)
Jovanny Cedeno ('01)
John Danks ('07)
Michael Main ('09)
Elvis Andrus ('09)
Thomas Diamond ('06)
Juan Dominguez ('04)
Adrian Gonzalez ('05)
Taylor Teagarden ('08)
Martin Perez ('09)
Colby Lewis ('03)
Travis Hafner ('03)
Doug Davis ('00)
Kevin Mench ('01)
Eric Hurley ('07)
Laynce Nix ('03)
Ten others I considered: Max Ramirez ('09), Joaquin Arias ('06), Jason Botts ('06), Francisco Cordero ('00), Jason Romano ('00), Mario Ramos ('02), Mike Lamb ('00), Ryan Dittfurth ('02), Ben Kozlowski ('03), and Kasey Kiker ('08).
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Q: How reasonable is it to think that Feliz or Holland could possibly be on the Opening Day roster? If they are thinking 2010 is their real shot at competing, why not bring up one or both of them? - Daryn J.
A: Holland - one percent chance.
Feliz - zero percent. I hope.
The reason you don't run those two out there right now is they aren't ready. It's not only about talent. Handle with care.
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Q: Who is the best Rangers prospect you can remember that came furthest from realizing his big-league potential (not including careers derailed by injury). - B.H.
A: Romar Benjamin Gil.
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Q: Justin Smoak seems to have an incredible reputation already. Given the fact that the work sample is small, what is it about this guy that makes him an almost universal favorite among those who rate prospects? - Tim P.
A: He does everything but run. Everything. Tack on the both-handed-ness at the plate and his baseball rat mentality, and it's hard not to love his future.
* * *
Q: How do options work, and how are they used up? - Charlie L.
A: There's an 865-word explanation in the Transactions Hornbook chapter of the Bound Edition.
Biggest misconception is that every time a player is sent down from the big leagues to the minors, an option is exhausted. Not the case: one option lasts an entire season, regardless of how many times a player is called up and sent down.
* * *
Q: In a recent chat with Jason Parks, Keith Law said that a healthy Brandon McCarthy still looks like a solid number two starter. What is your opinion? - Ross L.
A: He's got a ton to prove in the next six weeks, maybe more than anyone in camp. Number two's don't earn number two status purely on stuff.
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Q: Can you give us your predicted "Schedule" of 2009 Ranger prospect arrivals in Arlington? In other words, your monthly breakdown of first time call-ups, including those breaking camp with the Rangers and September call-ups as well. - Mike M.
A: Sort of a crazy exercise, since these are largely dependent on injuries, rainouts, trades, and so on, but a shot in the dark:
April: Elvis Andrus
June: Derek Holland
July: John Bannister
August: Thomas Diamond, Neftali Feliz
September: Jose Vallejo, Julio Borbon, Guillermo Moscoso, possibly Greg Golson and Omar Poveda (but more likely 2010)
No Justin Smoak, Tim Murphy, or Corey Young until 2010.
* * *
Q: Chris Young, Armando Galarraga, John Danks - which do you think was the greatest goof and why? - Stan K.
A: Danks. Texas may have underestimated his ability to get better and his makeup. The club definitely overemphasized the importance of what it perceived to be his and McCarthy's timetable to arrive.
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Q: Jamey, can you explain for me why Adam Dunn wasn't a better fit at DH than Hank Blaylock? I still don't get giving an extension to Hank instead of using the money to spend on a potential stud (especially at home) like Dunn. - Terry B.
A: You'd spend $16 million to have both in 2009? Of course not.
Now, was picking up Blalock's option a mistake? In retrospect, maybe. Nobody thought the hitter market would be this depressed. (We know many teams who spent early this winter would have better served to wait, but in the case of a contract option, waiting isn't permitted.) I do think, however, that Blalock could have a very productive season, given how strong his 2008 finish was.
* * *
Q: How did Holland perform in the post-season as an amateur? He really was locked in during the Texas League playoffs last year. Did his team make it to the JUCO playoffs? How excited should we be if he has a chance at the post-season in a Rangers uniform? - Taylor S.
A: I tried to get Wallace State-Hanceville playoff box scores but the media relations contact wasn't responsive. Piecing together some game accounts, from what I was able to gather Holland pitched twice in the JUCO World Series in 2006, and in 2007 he made two playoff starts, giving up one Calhoun run on four hits and no walks in seven innings in the first, fanning seven, and firing 11 scoreless innings in the second, a 13-inning affair that the Lions lost to Chattahoochee Valley, 1-0.
We do know that it was during those 2007 playoffs, as the Rangers' draft-and-follow window to sign Holland was about to close, that the lefthander opened the eyes of Texas scouts Jeff Wood and Rick Schroeder even further, leading to the $200,000 bonus (fourth- or fifth-round money) 10 days before the negotiating deadline that persuaded the 25th-rounder to go pro rather than transfer to Arizona State.
* * *
Q: What kind of roster moves do you project the Rangers to make coming out of Spring Training? It seems like they have a lot of non-roster veterans invited to camp with (I think at last count) only one spot on the 40-man. - Andy S.
Q: Out of all the NRI's, who do you see making the 40-man, and if it's necessary who will lose their spot? - Dave H.
A: Andy's and Dave's were just two of a good handful of questions aiming at the same issue.
Best odds: Omar Vizquel, Eddie Guardado
Next best: Brendan Donnelly, Elvis Andrus
Reasonable shot: Andruw Jones, Derrick Turnbow, Joe Torres
Audition for first half: Jason Jennings, Doug Mathis, Derek Holland
There's one open spot now. Eric Hurley and Joaquin Benoit will be 60-day DL candidates, which would clear two more spaces. If Dustin Nippert doesn't make the staff, he comes off the 40. If another spot is needed? Depends. If the player for whom room needs to be made is Andruw Jones, then maybe the club eats Frank Catalanotto's contract or trades Marlon Byrd (if healthy). Luis Mendoza probably needs to show something in camp, too.
* * *
Q: Game 7 of the 2012 World Series. Assuming all parties reach their projected ceilings do you go with Holland, Feliz, or Perez? And why? Don't forget to take into account their mental make up as well. - Stewart S.
A: Give me Holland. Feliz and Perez will lack the big league experience to have earned the responsibility of being number one. Then again, David Price did too - you don't need to be called "number one" (or even get the ball in the first inning) to impact a playoff series in a huge way.
* * *
Q: Percentage chance that the starting catcher for the Rangers in 2010 is Salty, Teagarden, Max or other. - Mike H.
A: 100 percent. (Kidding.) I'll say in 2009 it breaks down as 60/40/0. But you asked about 2010, and my answer is different: 35/65/0.
* * *
Q: Do you agree with possibly batting Nelly in front of Josh to begin the season? I believe he could benefit from seeing a few more fastballs early in the year. - Frank S.
A: If you believe enough in Cruz to hit him third in the lineup, better to go with him at number four to break up the left-handed hitters.
* * *
Q: Do you expect there will be any surprise players on the Opening Day Rangers squad? - Jimmy R.
A: No, but if I had to come up with a few candidates, I'd go with Joe Torres, Thomas Diamond, and Joaquin Arias. (Maybe Doug Mathis, too, but since he's off the roster I think he's a longer shot to break camp.) (Yes, Torres is off the roster as well, but being left-handed that may be less of an issue.)
* * *
Q: What kind of role do you see Warner Madrigal playing not only this season but in future seasons? Is he a type of guy that will be pitching the seventh inning now with an eye towards taking over the closer role two or three years down the line? - Zach B.
A: He's a baby pitcher with little wear on his arm, so I don't rule anything out, but if he is what he is, I think shutting down the eighth inning may be his ceiling role down the line. Nothing wrong with that.
* * *
Q: Random Question: If you could add one player to the rotation and one player to the lineup from any organization, who would it be? - Salman M.
A: Maybe Brandon Webb and Carlos Beltran.
* * *
Q: With Elvis Andrus pushing the club to move Michael Young over to third base for the better of the team to get as much talent as possible on the field at once, who is the position player currently on the farm who is most likely to force another current regular to change positions in the near future? - Matt S.
A: Justin Smoak. But that's no knock on Chris Davis, who may be close to Smoak's equal defensively. (I think of Davis/Smoak as Teixeira/AG defensively.) Davis is just more versatile and thus a better candidate to move.
* * *
Q: What do you think the lineup will look like Opening Day 2010? Will guys like Main, Beavan, and Borbon be with the club on Opening Day? - John M.
A: Roughly the same as 2009, which is a good thing. Max Ramirez instead of Hank Blalock. Borbon with a shot to force David Murphy and Nelson Cruz into a platoon (Marlon Byrd gone), depending on how those two develop this year. I change my mind on Smoak all the time - too early to say whether he'll have an Elvis Andrus-like opportunity to start the 2010 season in the lineup, or make a Chris Davis-like entrance a few months into that season. No on Main or Beavan, but I believe Main could be on the Derek Holland track next year, getting a serious look in camp with an eye toward a mid-season debut.
* * *
Q: Do the rules allow for Andruw Jones to be traded before Opening Day if he has a good spring? Where do you expect Max Ramirez to be opening day? - Gary F.
A: Yes, Jones can be traded (but teams won't offer much, knowing we might release him on March 20 if we're not going to make room for him on the 40-man roster). I expect Ramirez to be the starting catcher in Oklahoma City.
* * *
Q: I'd like to see who ranked in the same slots that our guys did on top 100 lists from the last few years. Example: if Neftali is number 6, who was number 6 the last five years? - Jon N.
A: I like this question. I'll revisit it in the report after Baseball America unveils its Top 100 in the next few days.
* * *
Q: Fast forward to a couple weeks before the trade deadline. The Rangers, after a surprisingly quick start, are holding off the surging Angels (three games back) and A's (one game back) atop the American League West. Fill in the following blanks:
1. The hole(s) (whether apparent now or exposed during the season) that the Rangers look to fill via trade are __________.
2. The players (minors or majors) on the trade block are __________.
3. The most integral part of the Rangers' success thus far has been ___________. - Adam T.
A: 1. Starting pitcher who would fit in a playoff rotation, and an eighth-inning lockdown reliever.
2. Nobody's on the "block" if we're in first place. And nobody playing a key big league role would be moved under that scenario. But no player is untouchable on the farm outside of Holland, Feliz, Main, and Perez.
3. Health, bullpen consistency.
* * *
Q: Using only players in the system now, what is your ideal 25-man roster in 2012? - Tim W.
A: PITCHERS: John Bannister, Blake Beavan, Thomas Diamond, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Kasey Kiker, Warner Madrigal, Michael Main, Tim Murphy, Martin Perez, Joe Wieland, Corey Young
CATCHERS: Manuel Pina, Taylor Teagarden
INFIELDERS: Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Justin Smoak, Jose Vallejo, Michael Young
OUTFIELDERS: Engel Beltre, Julio Borbon, Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton
HITTER: Max Ramirez
(And if you'd allowed me to go outside the organization, I would have had Ben Sheets, Clay Buchholz, Kerry Wood, and Brad Hawpe in there.)
* * *
Thanks again for all the strong questions.
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