ARLINGTON -- If Michael Young's numbers were slightly down in 2007, it didn't seem to matter to the Elias Sports Bureau.Elias still had Young ranked No. 1 among American League third basemen, shortstops and second basemen when they came out with their annual ratings in October.
The intrigue starts with shortstop Joaquin Arias, the Rangers defensive prodigy who missed almost the entire 2007 season with a shoulder injury. He is still rehabilitating the injury at the Rangers camp in the Dominican Republic and may not be at full strength at the start of Spring Training. Once a top prospect, Arias, 23, will have to re-establish that ranking while playing at Triple-A Oklahoma."It's a big year for him," Daniels said. "He's got to prove himself. Physically he is as talented as anybody, but he has to stay on the field and prove himself."
Elvis Andrus threatens to pass him. Andrus is another shortstop prodigy that the Rangers acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade on July 31. Andrus is only 19, but still hit .257 with 78 runs scored and 40 stolen bases at Class A in 2007. Scouts who have seen him play said he is ready to play defensively at the Major League level.That's not going to happen for a while. Andrus is expected to play at Double-A Frisco while Young is signed through at least 2013. The Rangers aren't in any rush right now to predict what might happen at shortstop in the future. "We've got a shortstop who is coming off four straight All-Star Games and is as steady and as productive as they come," Daniels said. "As Michael continues to maintain his production and Elvis continues to develop, we'll talk about it. But right now Michael is clearly our shortstop." The Rangers face a similar situation at second base where German Duran is getting closer to being Major League-ready. The 23-year-old right-handed-hitting infielder batted .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs and 81 runs scored at Double-A Frisco. He is not ready to displace Kinsler at second, but he could be ready to push for a job with the Rangers as a utility man. The Rangers used him at both third base and left field during the Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League and he could see some time at first base during the Spring. "He's very much capable of playing every day at this level," Daniels said. "Second base is probably the easiest position for him to perform at. My sense is -- knowing German and the player he is -- he'll be the kind of guy that [manager Ron Washington] will want to get in there every chance he can. He wants to help the team anyway he can." Many things can happen in the next year or two but -- one way or another -- the Rangers should be strong in the middle infield both now and for some time to come.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.