SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' farm system, rebuilt into one of the best in baseball over the past five years, has played a significant role in the club winning two straight American League pennants.
As general manager Jon Daniels said, the goal for the Rangers is not to be a one-year wonder but to have a sustained run of success. The financial resources they have committed to making that happen reinforce the Rangers' desire to be among the best in scouting and player development.
But the next two years could be the ultimate test of just how successful they have been. The Rangers have 12 key players who can be free agents after this season or 2013, and not all of them can be re-signed. The Rangers also can't replace them all with free agents.
At some point the Rangers must have young players ready to step in and contribute at the Major League level, just as Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and others have done in the past few years.
The Rangers have plenty of candidates even if they have taxed the system over the past two years with a series of trades needed to reinforce the Major League team during the pennant drives. The Rangers will also likely continue to do that. The No. 1 goal is still to win now even if they do have to plan carefully for the future.
The Rangers have to plan along both lines and that's the role of the farm system. Wins and losses are nice and having five of six affiliates in the playoffs last year was certainly admirable.
But the ultimate goal for the farm system is to keep turning out prospects, and the Rangers are going to expect a number of them to step up in the next two years.
With the Minor League season getting under way, you can keep track of the Rangers' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Rangers' Minor League teams on the Rangers' affiliates page.
where to watch
A look at where the Rangers' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
The Rangers' farm system, which has taken some big hits over the past two years due to trades, can be divided into two groups.
The first group consists of prospects who are getting close to having an impact at the Major League level. That group includes pitchers Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, Miguel de los Santos, Johan Yan, Jake Brigham, Robbie Ross and Neil Ramirez, infielders Mike Olt, Mike Bianucci, Tommy Mendonca and Jurickson Profar, and outfielders Leonys Martin, Joey Butler and Engel Beltre.
Perez and Profar are the crown jewels of this bunch, although Olt and Martin are coming quickly, and Scheppers could be an impact reliever at some point this season.
The second group consists of younger players who were drafted or signed in the last couple of years. They are highly regarded because of their talent and are just starting to understand what professional baseball is all about. Now it's time for them to firmly start establishing their credentials as prospects.
This group includes pitchers Cody Buckel, Roman Mendez, Luke Jackson, Kevin Matthews, David Perez, Will Lamb, Barret Loux, Wilmer Font, Matt West and Justin Grimm, catchers Kellin Deglan and Jorge Alfaro, infielders Leury Garcia, Luis Sardenia and Christian Villaneuva, and outfielders Jared Hoying, Zach Cone, Jordan Akins and Jake Skole.
The outfield is particularly interesting. Skole and Cone were first-round picks, Hoying has impressed some people in Spring Training, and Akins is a tremendous athlete who is quickly polishing his baseball skills. He could easily start showing up in those top prospect lists in the next year or two.
The Rangers should have a formidable Triple-A team with a pitching staff that includes Perez, Ramirez, Scheppers, Justin Miller, Cody Eppley, Ben Snyder and Mark Hamburger, and a lineup that includes Mendonca, Bianucci, Martin, Butler and Beltre.
Debuts and Draftees
The Rangers' two biggest international signings were Ronald Guzman, 17, and Nomar Mazara, 16, a couple of left-handed power-hitting prospects from the Dominican Republic who have yet to play in the United States. This will also be the first full season for Matthews and Cone, the Rangers' top two picks from the 2011 Draft.
New kids on the block
The Rangers are waiting for approval from Major League Baseball on their signing of Dominican Republic outfielder Jairo Beras. There is some question about his age but if the deal goes through, Beras gives the Rangers another potential impact outfielder in the system.
Teams on TV
The Round Rock Express are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.