Texas Rangers

Rangers’ Big Three prospects not worried about big league roadblocks

As regularly as agent Scott Boras communicates with Adrian Beltre, if Beltre doesn’t know if there’s anything new with his contract extension, there must not be anything new.

“Go ask the other guy,” Beltre said, referring to Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.

The other guy also said that nothing is new, but that there continues to be mutual interest in preventing Beltre from hitting free agency after this season.

Nothing after two days of full-squad workouts at Rangers spring training has altered the Rangers’ belief that Beltre, albeit at 36 years and 324 days old, remains an elite third baseman and a productive player.

Nor have the first two days of camp changed how the Rangers feel about Joey Gallo, a third baseman who is their top prospect. He will play third base this spring, even though it looks as if, assuming Beltre’s stay is extended, another position is in his future.

“I’ll play wherever,” Gallo said Thursday morning. “It doesn’t matter to me. For my career, I want to be a third baseman.”

Lewis Brinson, rated as the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect, wants to be a center fielder, but like Gallo, will move around the outfield to accommodate his first big-league stint. Delino DeShields currently occupies center field.

Next on the prospect list is Nomar Mazara, who can play both corner outfield spots. But right and left field are to be held down by Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton through 2017, though Hamilton’s lingering health issues at least give Mazara an opening in left field.

The top prospects — three of the top 21 in the game, according to Baseball America — have significant road blocks in front of them. That’s not how the Rangers want them to look at things, and they aren’t.

“I don’t really worry about it,” said Brinson, ranked 16th overall by BA. “I’m in camp just like the rest of the guys, just to show what I can do. I’m just here to have fun. I’m going to play hard. I’m here to show the staff what I can do on the field.”

He and his “brothers” Gallo (BA’s No. 10 prospect) and Mazara (No. 21), banded together in 2012 at rookie ball, could all start the season at Triple A. In all their time together in the minors, they have spoken about blossoming into big-leaguers together and being the trio that helps lead the Rangers to the World Series.

Gallo has the most power in the minors, and showcased it during his big-league debut in 2015. Brinson is tall, athletic, fast and strong. Mazara wows with his maturity and size at only 20.

“I’ve been with them the whole time,” said Gallo, the 39th overall pick in the 2012 draft, 10 spots behind Brinson. “We’re really close. We’re all happy we’re here. It’s going to be exciting the next few years.”

While that dream seems close, the reality before them is Beltre, DeShields and Hamilton. If the Rangers lock Beltre in for two more years, Gallo might find himself playing first base. That assumes, though, that Mitch Moreland leaves this off-season via free agency.

If Brinson stays true to how scouts have projected him, he could beat out DeShields in center field or push DeShields to left field and create another obstacle for Mazara.

The Rangers won’t hesitate to tell Hamilton that he will be only an extra outfielder in the final year of his contract should Mazara or Brinson force their way into the lineup as regulars.

“You’ve got to win a spot on the team first, right?” Daniels said.

Daniels isn’t blind to what the top prospects are facing. Another team in another market might forgo keeping Beltre and go with the younger, more affordable top prospect. But the Rangers have the money and are willing to be creative to get their best nine players in the lineup.

If that means a temporary position change, so be it. It hasn’t hurt past prospects who have become star players.

“You can run down a long list of big-league players who broke in at one spot before settling into another,” Daniels said. “That’s the nature of the beast, really, from part-time guys all the way up to the best players in the game. Albert Pujols played left field, third base and then first base.”

The most important thing for the Big Three prospects to remember is to not focus on what might be in front of them even though Gallo, Brinson and Mazara clearly know what’s right in front of them.

“It’s about these guys coming out and competing on a daily basis,” manager Jeff Banister said. “Believe that you belong here. Believe that you can compete here. And then go show us what you can do.

“Don’t worry about who’s ahead of you. The only thing you have control of is what you do on the field. That should be the one thing they continue have in their thought process.”

To their credit, that’s what Gallo, Brinson and Mazara are doing.

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