The long march to the Sept. 28 finale begins Friday night for the Texas Rangers, the team with the worst record in the major leagues and one that has been in development mode for the past month.
Their record since June 26, when general manager Jon Daniels met with the coaching staff and told the media of the commitment to developing young players, is 3-15. Since June 17, when the team was 35-35, it has gone 3-22.
Now at 38-57 and riding an eight-game losing streak, the past seven at Globe Life Park, they exit the All-Star break with those young players playing, the first step in young players developing.
But within all those losses, it’s been difficult to see if any of them are getting better.
Wins, losses, batting averages and slugging percentages don’t necessarily spell that out. The process includes how the developing players are grasping situational hitting and base running and making the right decisions in the field.
General manager Jon Daniels has made it clear that he wants to see improvement from these players before the season is done.
But these aren’t the Rangers’ top prospects. Instead, they are castoffs from other organizations who have found a home on the Rangers’ injury-ravaged roster.
It might be difficult for the coaching staff to try to make lemonade out of lemons.
“They’re busting their butts and giving me everything they have,” manager Ron Washington said. “If we put runs on the board, the pitching has to pitch. If we’re pitching, the offense has to put runs on the board.
“I want them to keep playing hard and be committed to each other.”
Washington sees players who compete, something that third baseman Adrian Beltre echoed as he was hit with a steady stream of questions about the state of the Rangers earlier this week at the All-Star Game.
Yet, the Rangers have been noncompetitive, especially the pitching staff. The rotation now consists of All-Star Yu Darvish and right-hander Colby Lewis, relative veterans, and rookie Miles Mikolas, second-year player Nick Tepesch and Scott Baker, a veteran but one who has been the long reliever much of the season.
He’ll be back in the bullpen as soon as rookie Nick Martinez can come off the disabled list.
The bullpen is now without right-hander Jason Frasor, traded Wednesday to Kansas City for his apparent clone, Spencer Patton. Neal Cotts, it seems, won’t be around past the July 31 trade deadline.
Get used to seeing more of rookies Roman Mendez and Matt West. Patton, in his fourth pro season at age 26, will be with the club soon enough. There’s no need for Aaron Poreda to be in Triple A, other than he has options and can go back and forth whenever a fresh arm is needed.
The problem is most of the players the Rangers are developing are journeymen, not high-upside prospects. There isn’t a Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Luke Jackson or Alex Gonzalez. Even Martinez came from outside of the Rangers’ top-10 prospect lists entering the season.
Catcher Chris Gimenez, now a bench player with Geovany Soto returning from the disabled list, has never played more than 50 games in a season and has been designated for assignment three times in his career. He’s 31.
J.P. Arencibia is back from Triple A as a first baseman. The former first-round pick was the Rangers’ catcher on Opening Day before batting .133 in 60 games. He’s 28.
Outfielder Jake Smolinski, who has batted .476 in his first seven games, was signed as a minor league free agent during the off-season and opened 2014 at Double A Frisco. He’s 25, and made his big league debut last week.
The Rangers traded for outfielder Daniel Robertson, who had spent his entire six-year pro career in the minors. He’s 28.
Mikolas hadn’t started a game since 2009 in his first pro season before making six starts at Round Rock and earning a spot in the Rangers’ rotation. Most agree the Rangers have something to work with in Mikolas, who turns 26 next month.
Poreda is former first-round pick in 2007. He didn’t even have a job last season, in part because of injury, but won over the Rangers during an off-season tryout for several teams.
Even center fielder Leonys Martin, a regular all season, continues to confound with his wild bouts of inconsistency at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He’s 26 and in his second full season.
The Rangers have a solid wave of prospects coming — in 2015 at the earliest. Even though they have Rougned Odor, who opened the season as the Rangers’ top prospect, starting at second base, the Rangers likely won’t have a full idea of what he can do until next season.
But the expectation is that the players on the roster can improve and the Rangers can start winning games again.
“When we’re losing at the pace we’ve been losing at, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees,” Daniels said. “It is a challenge, but I think we’re going to find out a lot about these guys.
“We’re just looking to see better baseball and see guys grow. But it’s a process, and it’s going to take time.”
Lack of top prospects
The players the Rangers want to see develop aren’t among their top prospects. Here is a look at some of the players and how they were acquired.
|C Chris Gimenez||31|
|Signed to minor-league deal in April|
|RHP Miles Mikolas||25|
|Acquired from Pitts. in off-season trade|
|LHP Aaron Poreda||27|
|Signed minor league deal in off-season|
|OF Jake Smolinski||25|
|Signed minor league deal in off-season|
|OF Daniel Robertson||28|
|Acquired from San Diego in April trade|