December 31st traditions being what they are, the reliable outcome for me from a writing standpoint is that the next day’s report will probably have a p.m. timestamp, unless I manage to roll it out with minutes of morning to spare.

First, there’s the annual father/son (and occasionally daughter) football game, the reliable outcome of which — more so each year — is me feeling very old.

Then there’s the stipulated effort to see midnight, and ring in something new.

Combined, the two rituals basically render me worn out, but the good kind, because I love (1) sports-sore and (2) the prescribed day off that follows.

Today brings a whole new set of traditions, one also including football (though the couch is far more forgiving than yesterday’s setting) and another that involves baseball.

I rank 72 Rangers prospects every winter for my book (with full write-ups on each of them, in case you’d still like to pick up a hard copy or a digital edition). A couple years ago, when Texas was coming off its first of two straight playoff seasons that ended in Toronto, I did a comparison between that winter’s Top 72 and the one the year before it, and found something interesting, though not really surprising: Looking just at the top third of the January 2015 list, more than half were off the list by January 2016–10 by trade, and three others by exhausting rookie status in Texas.

Not just a contender’s result, but the mark of a contender with a clearly open window and a foot on the gas.

This morning I looked back at the last two years’ Top 72 lists. (How about a high-five on that s-apostrophe convention, Emily? Up top.)

Since that January 2016 list, which had such a big slice taken out of it from January 2015, 18 of the top 36 — a full half of the top half — are either with new organizations, or in Texas and no longer rookies. From the Top 72 as a whole, 32 are now off the list.

But, interestingly, since last January’s list, only 11 are missing. (Caveat: As far as the rankings go, what do I know?) The first to drop off the list doesn’t show up until number 14 (Jose Leclerc). Only three of the top 24 are now absent — vastly different from those 13 that came off the top 24 from January 2015 to January 2016.

Not a random mutation, it would seem. I think we’d all agree that the Rangers continue to view themselves as a contender — not only because Adrian Beltre is still around, though it’s a factor — but perhaps we’re seeing evidence that they’re also focused more on preserving the pieces that will help push the next window open and keep it there.

Texas didn’t stop trading for veterans in 2017, but the front office opted not to touch the top tier of the club’s improving prospect depth to do it — and in fact made a couple deals to boost that top tier, and the one after it.

There are many who continue to talk about how the Rangers system has taken a hit — and because of trades and graduations the last few years, it has — but the lower levels have gotten much stronger. While I will agree that the top 10 or so may not pop like those years when Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson decorated it, I strongly believe that there are players toward the middle of this year’s list with higher ceilings and higher floors than players in that range in recent years.

Take a look at the top third this time. There will be a few who won’t be there a year from now — when the Rangers are a year away from opening a new ballpark — because they’ll be established big leaguers. There won’t be many — even if Texas is in the race this July — who drop off the list because they’ve changed organizations.

As far as the 2017 seasons in pro sports locally are concerned (and plenty of other things about this past year), I think we’re all probably pleased to be flipping the calendar. There’s only one kind of riddance.

That’s part, I think, of what drives me to roll my new Top 72 out each January 1st. It’s a list built on hope, and renewal. A token of optimism for a happy new year, and possibly more.

And also, maybe, because I’m predictably dog-tired.

Here’s this year’s Top 72:

1. Leody Taveras, OF

2. Willie Calhoun, OF

3. Cole Ragans, LHP

4. Hans Crouse, RHP

5. Ronald Guzman, 1B

6. Chris Seise, SS

7. Jose Trevino, C

8. Kyle Cody, RHP

9. Joe Palumbo, LHP

10. Pedro Gonzalez, OF

11. Yohander Mendez, LHP

12. Bubba Thompson, OF

13. Anderson Tejeda, SS-2B

14. A.J. Alexy, RHP

15. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP

16. Brett Martin, LHP

17. Ariel Jurado, RHP

18. David Garcia, C

19. Connor Sadzeck, RHP

20. C.D. Pelham, LHP

21. Ricky Rodriguez, RHP

22. Matt Whatley, C

23. Josh Morgan, SS-C

24. Adam Choplick, LHP

25. Yanio Perez, 1B-OF-3B

26. Alex Speas, RHP

27. Miguel Aparicio, OF

28. Michael Matuella, RHP

29. Andy Ibanez, 2B

30. Tyler Phillips, RHP

31. Nick Gardewine, RHP

32. Scott Williams, RHP

33. Jeffrey Springs, LHP

34. Melvin Novoa, C

35. Noah Bremer, RHP

36. Sam Huff, C

37. Scott Heineman, OF

38. Jairo Beras, RHP

39. Sam Wolff, RHP (since traded to Giants in Matt Moore deal)

40. Emerson Martinez, RHP

41. Joel Urena, LHP

42. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 3B-2B-C-SS

43. Tyreque Reed, 1B

44. Edgar Arredondo, RHP

45. John Fasola, RHP

46. Tyree Thompson, RHP

47. Joe Barlow, RHP

48. Andretty Cordero, 1B-3B

49. Wes Benjamin, LHP

50. Yohel Pozo, C

51. Curtis Terry, 1B

52. Charles Leblanc, 3B

53. Tyler Davis, RHP

54. Brady Feigl, LHP

55. Walker Weickel, RHP

56. Kole Enright, 2B-3B

57. Alex Eubanks, RHP

58. Michael De Leon, SS

59. Jean Casanova, RHP

60. Ryan Dease, RHP

61. Brendon Davis, SS-3B-2B

62. Seth Nordlin, RHP

63. Keyber Rodriguez, SS

64. Reed Garrett, RHP

65. Juremi Profar, 3B-1B

66. Andrison Pena, 1B-2B

67. Blaine Prescott, 2B-OF-3B

68. Demarcus Evans, RHP

69. Ricky Vanasco, RHP

70. Eric Jenkins, OF

71. Leuri Mejia, OF

72. Collin Wiles, RHP

Bonus: Reiver Sanmartin, LHP (traded to Yankees for righthander Ronald Herrera just before book went to press; had been at number 59)

Note: The list doesn’t include Herrera or outfielders Carlos Tocci (picked up from the Phillies in December via Rule 5) or Hunter Cole (picked up in November from the Giants to complete the Sam Dyson trade), also because of timing of the book

Happy New Year, you guys.


Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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