While Rangers fans, as well as the front office, may not be wholly satisfied with how things have gone the past two years -- the bridesmaid thing gets old -- there's no question that the overall philosophy of the organization appears to be working.
It's been largely a "from the ground up" build, with the farm system providing a large bulk of the talent at the big league level. The Major League roster isn't exactly old, and that allows the scouting and player development staff to continue doing what it's done of late -- scout, draft/sign and develop high-end, very young talent.
"I think where we are as an organization, there's the core group of big league guys, they're in their prime," said Jayce Tingler, who is entering his first season as the Rangers' Minor League field coordinator. "I hope they stay together and get us a ring. On the scouting and player development side, we've loved working with young players to restock our system. Some guys have graduated and that has allowed us to reload in a way.
"We're aggressive in the Draft, we've been aggressive on the international side. We can allow those guys to catch up."
The depth at the upper levels has been a bit thinned out, but thanks to the efforts mentioned above, the talent pool lower in the system is growing quickly, with many prospects still teenagers or just leaving that age range. The Rangers' staff certainly doesn't mind taking young, perhaps more raw, talent like that and helping those players become the big leaguers seen today in Texas. And when one of those guys does make it, the trickle-down effect is a huge motivator.
"When you take guys at a young age, you see the value of guys continuing to work and the impact they make at the big league level," Tingler said, referring to guys like Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus (the last two were acquired via trade but were largely developed by the Rangers). "It paints the picture of what we're trying to do. The young guys see that, it gives everyone a good visual of what it's supposed to look like.
"That's why we are patient, that's why we work and grind with these guys. We're loading up down low, slowly pushing those guys up now. In two or three years we'll have guys there or knocking on the door."
Top 20 Prospects
The Rangers, for the most part, have found the right balance between patience and challenging the younger talent in their system by pushing them more aggressively. With the top two prospects in the system, the willingness to promote has had more mixed results.
Top prospect Jurickson Profar certainly responded well to the challenge. He made his debut at age 17 in the advanced short-season Northwest League at age 17 and his full-season debut at 18. He improved as the season wore on and he could start showing he's ready to move even faster.
"The guys we've been able to push, they've had some common ingredients," Tingler said. "They're leaders, they're mature for their age. They have a passion and love for the game. Profar certainly has that in his game. He always wants to work. That's allowed him to mature more quickly than expected."
Martin Perez's development path, however, hasn't been quite as smooth. To be fair, when Perez was where Profar is now, he was dominating Class A ball and screaming for a promotion with his play. But the lefty has had his ups and downs with the quick jump to the upper levels.
"We were aggressive with Martin," Tingler said. "At the time, when we bumped him to Double-A, he was kind of demanding that challenge.
"I believe Martin has learned with what he can get away with, what he needs to do. That's what you hope when these guys struggle. You hope he has been able to evaluate his game and learn from those experiences. If he does that, he has the chance to be the pitcher we all have envisioned."
rangers' top prospects
Under the radar
Jordan Akins, OF: Speaking of patience. Akins was a third-rounder in 2010 and spent two summers in the rookie-level Arizona League. He came on late last summer, then had a solid instructional league showing. He continued to work hard in the offseason, and the Rangers are encouraged that he's starting to figure out how to use his many tools in games. He can do just about everything and just needs to learn the game, his swing, how to steal bases and how to play a good defensive center field. It could start to click for him in 2012.
Victor Payano, LHP: The Rangers like sending some of their young international arms right to short-season Class A Spokane for their U.S. debut. They did it with David Perez (who is in the Top 20) and with Payano. The 6-foot-5 lefty understandably had his ups and downs at age 18. He learned how to deal with failure, and the hope is he'll rise to the challenge of facing older, more experienced hitters. He has a good fastball and commands it well and a good changeup. The breaking stuff is still a work in progress. But even if he has to repeat the Northwest League, he's more than age-appropriate.
Hitter of the Year
Mike Olt: With a collarbone injury clearly behind him, Olt will show that his Arizona Fall League showing was the norm, not the exception. Staying healthy for all of 2012, he'll lead the system in both homers and RBIs.
Pitcher of the Year
Robbie Ross: The lefty finished the 2011 season with six strong starts in Double-A, and in 2012 Ross will prove that was no fluke. He finished second in the system in ERA and strikeouts a year ago. This season, he'll finish first in both categories.