Rangers’ deep pool of prospects doesn’t guarantee success

Posted Saturday, Jul. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Notable trades with prospects

July 1, 2010: Acquired catcher Bengie Molina from the Giants for right-handers Chris Ray and Michael Main.

Comment: A win for the Rangers. Molina helped take them to their first World Series, while Ray was an average big-league reliever and Main has yet to reach the majors as a pitcher or outfielder.

July 9, 2010: Acquired left-hander Cliff Lee and right-hander Mark Lowe from the Mariners for right-handers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke, first baseman Justin Smoak and second baseman/outfielder Matt Lawson.

Comment: Another win for the Rangers. Lee was a difference-maker in the postseason push, and Smoak and Beavan haven’t panned out as well as expected.

July 31, 2010: Acquired second baseman Cristian Guzman from the Nationals for right-handers Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko.

Comment: A loss for Texas. Guzman was ineffective when he did play for the Rangers, and Roark has developed into a rotation piece for the Nationals. Tatusko, meanwhile, is pitching in Korea.

July 31, 2011: Acquired right-hander Koji Uehara from the Orioles for first baseman Chris Davis and right-hander Tommy Hunter.

Comment: Uehara didn’t make the World Series roster in 2011, but bounced back in 2012. Still, that did little to help this trade. Davis hit 53 homers and driving in 138 runs last season. And Hunter has become a hard-throwing reliever in the bullpen.

July 31, 2011: Acquired right-hander Mike Adams from the Padres for right-hander Joe Wieland and left-hander Robbie Erlin.

Comment: Adams was a dependable setup reliever during the Rangers’ playoff runs in 2011 and 2012. Wieland and Erlin have both reached the majors. Wieland suffered a setback in 2012 by undergoing Tommy John surgery, while Erlin made the Padres’ Opening Day rotation this season before being sidelined with an elbow injury.

July 31, 2012: Acquired right-hander Ryan Dempster from the Cubs for right-hander Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva.

Comment: Dempster never became the rotation stabilizer the team had hoped for. Hendricks is pitching well for the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate, and Villanueva is at Double A.

July 31, 2013: Acquired right-hander Matt Garza from the Cubs for right-handers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm, third baseman Mike Olt and a player to be named later (Neil Ramirez).

Comment: Garza underwhelmed in his time in Texas, while three of the four players (Grimm, Olt and Ramirez) sent to Chicago are in the big leagues. Grimm and Ramirez have each pitched well in relief roles. And Olt would be leading the Rangers with his 11 homers, although he’s not hitting much for average. Edwards, meanwhile, is on a path to the big leagues, pitching at Double A at age 22.

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This is arguably the most difficult month for baseball executives. It’s a time when their decisions can affect not only the outcome of this season, but the organization’s future as well.

In spring training, Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels spoke about the difficulties during the trade deadline. It’s never easy to part ways with prospects, but it’s often done in hopes of winning a World Series title.

Some deals, such as acquiring Cliff Lee in 2010 for prospects who haven’t blossomed as expected, have been worth it. Others, such as trading Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for reliever Koji Uehara, haven’t.

It surely wasn’t a given to Daniels and his group to put together the package they did to land Matt Garza last season, particularly a package including right-hander C.J. Edwards. It was already quite a story that Edwards went from a 48th-round draft pick in 2011 to a legitimate pitching prospect. But it would’ve been a genuine fairy tale if he had reached the big leagues with the Rangers.

That’s the nature of the business, however.

Daniels and his group have built a farm system deep in talent that allows the Rangers to be players every year at the trade deadline. The Rangers had the top-ranked system in 2009 and the second best in 2010, according to Baseball America. It shouldn’t be too surprising that those high marks came just before the Rangers’ World Series runs in 2010 and 2011.

Prospects are the lifeblood of an organization, although nothing is a sure bet. We look back to the Rangers’ top 10 prospects going into 2010, according to Baseball America, as well as a few notable trades that included prospects.

1. RHP Neftali Feliz

Then: Flame-thrower lived up to his hype early on, saving 40 games and winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2010. He was the closer on the World Series teams in 2010 and 2011.

Now: The Rangers made a failed attempt at moving him into the rotation after the 2011 season, and he underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2012. He hasn’t been the same since, although he’s only 26 and has shown signs of getting it back together. He was called up Friday from Triple A Round Rock.

2. 1B Justin Smoak

Then: Next great switch-hitting first baseman who headlined the Rangers’ package to acquire Cliff Lee during the 2010 season. But Smoak has never reached his potential at spacious Safeco Field.

Now: Smoak is on the disabled list and having another rough season, batting .208 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.

3. LHP Martin Perez

Then: Always known as someone who had No. 1 stuff, Perez had a breakout season last year, going 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA. He followed that by throwing two shutouts this April.

Now: Underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in May and is out until at least the middle of next season.

4. RHP Tanner Scheppers

Then: Hard-throwing right-hander emerged as a dependable setup reliever last season. The team tried to turn him into a starter, and that hasn’t gone well.

Now: On the disabled list for a second time this season with right elbow inflammation and is likely done for the year.

5. SS Jurickson Profar

Then: Once regarded as baseball’s top prospect, he homered in his first big-league at-bat in 2012 and showed flashes of brilliance. He has yet to play every day in the majors.

Now: The 21-year-old entered this season as the projected everyday second baseman, but shoulder issues are going to keep him out. And it might end up costing him his job at second as 20-year-old Rougned Odor has filled in nicely.

6. LHP Kasey Kiker

Then: Drafted in a class that included future Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer (all who went before the Rangers selected), there were high hopes for Kiker, the 12th overall pick. His first few seasons went well, but he flamed out before reaching the big leagues.

Now: The last known baseball team he played for was the independent-league Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks in 2012. According to his Facebook page, he’s living in his hometown of Phenix City, Ala.

7. LHP Robbie Ross

Then: Had success starting at every minor league level and developed into a nice lefty specialist the past two seasons in the bullpen before becoming another casualty in the reliever-to-starter transition this year.

Now: He’s being stretched out as a starter and working through a few mechanical issues at Triple A Round Rock.

8. 1B Mitch Moreland

Then: Known for his professional approach at the plate, he batted .255 and hit nine home runs in 47 games as a rookie in 2010, and was part of both World Series teams. He has never become the everyday player the Rangers would have liked to see, however.

Now: Entered season in a part-time role at designated hitter, backup first baseman and backup outfielder before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left ankle.

9. RHP Danny Gutierrez

Then: Acquired in a 2009 minor-league deal in exchange for two prospects. He tested positive for using a banned substance, Adderall, in 2010, and was released from the organization in 2011.

Now: Now 27, he is pitching in independent ball for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

10. RHP Wilmer Font

Then: Hard-thrower with potential for the back end of the bullpen before missing the 2011 season because of Tommy John elbow surgery. But he reached the majors with short stints in 2012 and 2013.

Now: He’s still in the organization, pitching at Double A Frisco as a reliever. He will be out of options going into next season.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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