Daniels bullish on revamped farm system

Daniels bullish on revamped farm system

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' deep disappointment over a losing season and failure to reach the postseason did not extend to scouting and player development.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels went over what he saw were multiple positive developments in those areas in his end-of-season review. It's unlikely those developments -- with the possible exception of outfielder Willie Calhoun -- will have a significant impact on the Rangers next season.

But the Rangers believe they are making badly needed progress toward replenishing a farm system hit hard by multiple trades of top prospects over the past few years, when they gave up top Minor League talent to try to reinforce the Major League team in a pennant race.

"Went down to Instructional League, had a chance to see it out there but the reports and listening to guys, scouts with other teams, have told me our young group is really, really talented," Daniels said. "We are excited about that."

Daniels' enthusiasm begins with what scouting director Kip Fagg and his department were able to do in the 2017 MLB Draft.

"Looking at it and analyzing it, I thought Kip and his team had the best Draft since we have been here," Daniels said. "Just a really good mix of talent, makeup, arms, athletes, bats, they showed really well. Excited to see them grow."

The Rangers' top three picks in '17 -- outfielder Bubba Thompson, infielder Chris Seise and pitcher Hans Crouse -- are among the organization's top eight prospects according to MLBPipeline.com -- and second-round pick catcher Matt Whatley is at No. 27 after a strong debut season at Class A Spokane. Most intriguing is first baseman Tyreque Reed, the ninth-round pick out of Itawamba (Ms.) College, who hit .350 with five home runs, 29 RBIs and a .617 slugging percentage in 35 games for the Arizona Rookie League Rangers.

"On the pro side in a couple of deals that we made, I felt our scouts did some really good work," Daniels said. "Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, Pedro Gonzalez all have a chance to really do well in our system ultimately up here in Arlington. It might take some time, but the talent is very, very interesting."

Calhoun, Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis were acquired from the Dodgers in the trade for Yu Darvish. Calhoun had an immediate impact as a September callup but Alexy, a right-handed pitcher who is just 19, was 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in five starts for Class A Hickory, striking out 27 in 20 innings. Gonzalez, a 19-year-old power prodigy, was acquired from the Rockies for catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

"On the development side, we knew coming in that our talent was in the lower levels of our system," Daniels said. "Our guys put in some really creative and advanced programs to teach them and get the most out of our talent. Of our five lowest [Minor League] levels, three of them made the playoffs and the other two finished one game out. That was with the youngest team at every level."

The next few years will deliver the final verdict, but the Rangers expect a number of young pitchers to rise quickly after what they accomplished at Class A Down East and Hickory. There is much work ahead but Texas feels good about a group that includes right-handers Kyle Cody, Jonathan Hernandez, Mike Matuella, Richelson Pena and Edgar Arredondo, and left-handers Brett Martin, Wes Benjamin and Joe Palumbo among others.

They are right behind a promising Double-A Frisco group that includes left-hander Yohander Mendez and right-handers Ariel Jurado, Pedro Payano, Connor Sadeck and Collin Wiles.

"We had talked last year about our pitching program, what we wanted to do, what we wanted to accomplish," Daniels said. "That was something we needed to address. Our leadership on the pitching side did exactly that. Look no further than Down East and Hickory -- really struggled in the first half trying to grasp these concepts. In the second half, these guys absolutely killed it. Pitching led Down East to the Carolina League co-championship."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.