Part 17 in a season-long series projecting a hypothetical 25-man roster made up solely of prospects from the Texas Rangers' Minor League system.
Suspend short-term memory and you might recall Chone Figgins, in his days with the Angels, as a winning piece who made an All-Star team and received American League Most Valuable Player votes in four different seasons.
Dial back a little further and you'll find that Figgins, who was developed by the Rockies, never landed on a top-10 or top-11 or top-30 list of Colorado's best prospects. The Rockies liked Figgins more than the media did, but they underestimated his potential, too.
Leury Garcia, an infielder with the Rangers' Class A team in Myrtle Beach, isn't going to have the career Figgins has had, but there are similarities developmentally between the two, and reason not to sleep on the 20-year-old switch-hitter.
Thad Levine had been the Rockies' assistant director of baseball administration for the final 2 1/2 seasons of Figgins's time in the Colorado system, before the club traded him in July 2001 to the Angels for journeyman outfielder Kimera Bartee (who had a hitless 19 plate appearances down the stretch for the Rockies and would never appear in the big leagues again).
"Colorado regarded Chone as an undersized, plus-running utility player who had tremendous makeup," Levine recalls. "They had questions on whether he would ever excel at one position and whether the bat would allow him to stick in the Majors.
"They were mostly correct. But really wrong about the bat and the defense."
Jamey Newberg's hypothetical 25-man roster made up of Rangers prospects
When Figgins started his pro career in 1997, Colorado had him play nothing but shortstop for three seasons. He didn't hit, though, and the effort began the next season to move him around defensively. He played second base in 2000, then shortstop, second and third base in 2001, and after he was acquired by the Angels, he started getting work in the outfield as well.
Garcia has been strictly a shortstop over his four pro seasons, with the exception of one game at second base in 2010. He's having his best offensive season yet (.268/.316/.354, 24 stolen bases in 34 tries), but what's likely going to get him to the big leagues is something we haven't even seen yet: his potential to be a super-utility player along the lines of a young Figgins. Garcia has standout defensive tools across the board, and tremendous arm strength. The possibilities excite the Rangers.
"In the big picture, we see Leury as having the potential to play an exciting shortstop on an everyday basis at the Major League level," says Jake Krug, the Rangers' assistant director of player development, a roughly equivalent position to the one Levine held with the Rockies as Figgins was advancing through their system. "But I think initially when he breaks in, he could provide a lot of versatility due to the combination of his athleticism and arm strength."
According to Krug, the organization believes Garcia, who like Figgins stands about 5-foot-8, will eventually be able to contribute at shortstop, second base, third base, left field and even center field. "A very good center field, in fact, with some repetition out there," Krug says. "He'll run out there sometimes during BP -- it's pretty impressive watching him chase fly balls down."
Garcia, in his first season of High Class A ball, had a tremendous month of June, hitting .342/.397/.459 with 10 stolen bases in 25 games. He cooled off a bit in July, a month when his name popped up from time to time in various trade rumors. His bat is still a work in progress, but so was that of Figgins, and Garcia's plus-plus arm and game-changing speed make him a player who, according to Levine, stands out more defensively than Figgins ever did.
Krug agrees. "Leury could play shortstop and center field off the bench, and bring a lot of value and flexibility to a championship-level roster," he says. "He'll be able to handle all the other positions you want from a player in a super-utility role, too. He's an exciting player."
Garcia may not end up having years in the big leagues as a starter at second base and as a starter at third base and as a starter in center field, as Figgins has, but few have. It's been a remarkable career for the 33-year-old veteran, who wasn't even considered a prospect by many as he was figuring things out in the Minor Leagues -- he never had the stature as a prospect that Garcia has now -- but who will earn more than $50 million and a World Series ring playing the game.
As unique a player as Figgins has been, he serves as the prototype for what the Rangers believe Garcia can become. Despite developing as a middle infielder, Figgins initially made his big league mark by playing all over the field, not being assigned a single everyday spot until his sixth year in the big leagues. The effort to diversify Garcia defensively on the farm hasn't gotten under way yet, but it will happen eventually, and might be the step that completes his path to the start of a potentially dynamic Major League career.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.