You all came up with a ton of great suggestions for report topics. Can't get to nearly all of them, but let's hit on a few.
What happens to the bench now that Khalil Greene is out of the picture? Can't be answered yet. But the Rangers have said the utility infield job will be won internally (Felipe Lopez? Really? Why would he ever sign here, when the job of backing up Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler promises so little opportunity?), and Esteban German isn't a very good shortstop, so that means the competition at this point features Joaquin Arias and Ray Olmedo. If Arias's shoulder can hold up on the left side of the infield, the job should be his. As for the other infield spot, preferably a right-handed bat that can play both corners? I give Matt Brown a one-in-three shot, Mike Lowell twice that. Another possibility: either infield spot on the bench could be manned by a player in someone else's camp a month from now. Such as Arizona's Augie Ojeda.
In the age of video scouting and league adjustments, can Scott Feldman do it again? As long as he commands that filthy cutter, a true out pitch, you bet. It's not the kind of pitch a hitter can sit on and punish when it's working. Remember, Feldman's 17-8, 4.08 mark - 17-8, 3.79 as a starter - came in just 31 starts. Given a full year in the rotation, can he win 17 again? Of course. Can he maintain the peripherals? Don't see why not.
Compare the 40-man roster to that of the last Rangers playoff team. Good one.
Going into 1999, 19 pitchers were on the roster: starters Rick Helling, Aaron Sele, John Burkett, Esteban Loaiza, and Mark Clark; relievers John Wetteland, Tim Crabtree, Eric Gunderson, Danny Patterson, and Al Levine; minor league starters Doug Davis, Ryan Glynn, Danny Kolb, Corey Lee, Jonathan Johnson, Brandon Knight, Derrick Cook, and Matt Perisho; and reliever Mike Venafro.
The current roster has 24 pitchers - 26 if you count Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando - including starters Feldman, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, and we'll say Brandon McCarthy; relievers Frankie Francisco, Neftali Feliz, C.J. Wilson, Darren O'Day, Darren Oliver, Chris Ray, and Dustin Nippert; staff contenders Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Doug Mathis, and Ben Snyder; minor league starters Eric Hurley, Michael Kirkman, Guillermo Moscoso, and Omar Poveda; and minor league relievers Beltre, Ogando, Pedro Strop, Warner Madrigal, Luis Mendoza, and Zach Phillips.
Call Sele and Feldman a wash. Burkett was coming off a 5.68 ERA season; I'll take Lewis. Loaiza had a 5.90 ERA after his summer arrival in Texas; Hunter is just as good a bet today as Loaiza was going into his first full season as a Ranger. Clark or McCarthy? Clark or Holland? Clark or Harrison? C'mon.
Helling or Harden? Tough call. Lunchpail consistency vs. risk/reward. Depends on what you're looking for.
The bullpens aren't close. Wetteland beats Francisco but every other matchup favors the current group.
The minor league pitching groups are close, but there's greater upside today.
To be fair, there was one non-roster invite at this time in 1999 who promised to make an impact during the season, but there's one today, too. This isn't a hindsight exercise, though, and anyone who says he expected Jeff Zimmerman (whom Baseball America judged that winter to be the Rangers' number 10 prospect) to be anything close to a rookie All-Star in middle relief is lying, and there's just as much buzz about 23-year-old Tanner Scheppers as Camp 2010 gets rolling as there was in February 1999 about the 26-year-old Zimmerman.
Catchers? The red-shoed ‘99ers (Ivan Rodriguez and Gregg Zaun) have the obvious advantage.
The Lee Stevens/Mark McLemore/Royce Clayton/Todd Zeile infield? Texas is measurably stronger now at second, shortstop, and third, and similar at first offensively. But Chris Davis has a better chance of outproducing Stevens than McLemore had to put together a Kinsler-type year (not to mention Davis's massive edge defensively), and nobody would take the 29-year-old Clayton over Andrus. I'd take Young over Todd Zeile, even discounting the off-the-field factors. Luis Alicea and Jon Shave probably make a stronger bench case than Greene or Arias plus a non-roster type like Brown or Esteban German, but Lowell would tilt things the other way.
Outfield and DH: Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, Tom Goodwin, and Rafael Palmeiro vs. Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon, and Vladimir Guerrero. There are scenarios in which you can imagine the current group outplaying the 1999 group, both offensively and defensively, but you have to give the old guys the edge. Roberto Kelly and David Murphy as fourth outfielders make a pretty good match. Other big leaguers: Ruben Mateo and Mike Simms in 1999; Brandon Boggs and Craig Gentry today. You had to give the older crew the decided edge because of pre-injury Mateo and the 1998 that Simms was coming off of.
Minor league position players: catcher Cesar King, infielders Kelly Dransfeldt, Shawn Gallagher, and Rob Sasser, and outfielders Mike Zywica and Ricky Williams (yes, that Ricky Williams) in 1999. Today: Catcher Max Ramirez and no infielders or outfielders. Off the roster but in camp, the club now has Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland, and Chad Tracy, but in 1999 had Carlos Pena and Mike Lamb. Strong in both cases.
Overall? Better pitching staff today, better catcher and outfield then, better infield today.
And Martin Perez's on the way: 2010 one, 1999 zero.
What Rangers player has the biggest 2010 beta? I'm not sure which I'd say is more likely: Scheppers starting and finishing the year with Frisco (remember, he logged only 19 innings last summer), or closing games in Arlington in September. Surely it will be something between the two extremes, but the possibilities are all over the map.
You nailed it coming up with realistic trade ideas for Zack Greinke and Josh Johnson a year before each of them really broke through. Do it again. OK, in time. I will say this: The odds of making an impact July trade go up this year, for two reasons: (1) the ownership transition and (2) tougher 40-man roster decisions this coming November than in any off-season in memory. Among those who will need to be added to the roster to avoid exposure to next December's Rule 5 Draft: Moreland, Wilmer Font, Kasey Kiker, Danny Gutierrez, Engel Beltre, Wilfredo Boscan, and Carlos Pimentel.
I'll go ahead and say this: If (when) Kansas City is 20 games out in mid-July, despite a second straight Cy Young-quality season from Greinke, I'd call the Royals and offer them Holland, Font, Ogando, Moreland, and Engel Beltre for Greinke and a middle reliever or veteran bench piece (whichever makes more roster sense at that point).
But that's just off the top of my head. I'll work on this idea and expand it to other trade targets soon.
OK, one more: Smoak, Font, and Kiker for Brandon Webb.
Twist my arm: Poveda and Engel Beltre for (righthander) Chris Young, or - if the decision is made to move Feliz into the rotation - Harrison, Font, and Engel Beltre for Heath Bell, who is under control through 2011 (a year longer than Frankie Francisco is).
Can Texas commit to Neftali Feliz in the bullpen again without scuttling the idea of making him a starter eventually? Of course. See what the Dodgers did with Pedro Martinez at age 21 in 1993 (after his brief 1992 debut). One difference to think about, though: Los Angeles was coming off a terrible 1992 season (63-99) and managed to play only .500 ball in 1993. They were arguably better able to blueprint Martinez's development, with little heed paid to the team's chances to win, than the Rangers can now. Texas expects to win, and for that reason the decision on Feliz may have more than just his own development to factor in.
In other words, even if the Dodgers thought Martinez was one of their five best rotation options coming out of camp in 1993, they probably didn't expect to win and could focus on what was best for the young Martinez's development (managing his workload in a bullpen role). If, on March 15, Texas believes Feliz gives it a better chance to win than the pitchers against whom he's competing for the fourth or fifth rotation spot? Trickier.
For those of us who didn't get to go to Sherlock's to meet Chuck Greenberg, is he going to be another Arte Moreno? Who does he remind you of? Roger Staubach. (Apologies to Chuck, a Steelers guy, if he's reading this.) Same inspiring mix of humility and command.
Has Chris Davis ever tried to catch? He has the footwork and arm to do it. That's super-interesting. A little too late in the game to consider that kind of transition (Davis did catch a little in high school), but wow, that would have been an inspired experiment years ago. Like Justin Morneau and Carlos Delgado and Dale Murphy and Mike Sweeney and a bunch of other power hitters, Davis might not have lasted long behind the plate (to preserve his career as a run producer), but imagine how valuable he'd have been as a catcher if it all came together, even for a few years.
After the Rangers are successful this year, do you fear that we could lose Thad Levine or A.J. Preller or Scott Servais to other organizations raiding our system? Damn right I do. Cost of being good.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia seems to be the biggest wild card in the lineup. What do you see happening with him this year? How great would an Anthony Spencer/Mike Jenkins breakout be? Even if Saltalamacchia doesn't quite pull that off, he could still be Clint Hurdle's greatest Year One accomplishment.
With Marlon Byrd gone, who steps up as the vocal leader in the clubhouse? Michael Young is more of a quiet leader, and Vladdy doesn't seem to be a rah-rah type, either. Young isn't as quiet as you think. Yes, he leads primarily by example, but one offshoot of being more selective with your words is that whenever you speak, it counts. A lot.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing in Surprise? Righthanders Beltre and Ogando, outfielder Miguel Velazquez, and catcher Jorge Alfaro.
And outfield/baserunning coordinator Wayne Kirby. That's when I'll know it's baseball season.
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