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Rangers' farm system has it all

Rangers' farm system has it all

The Rays' run last year was aided by contributions from rookies such as Evan Longoria, David Price and Fernando Perez. Which club stands to benefit most from its up-and-coming talent this year? Lisa Winston says the Giants could surprise some people with help from a recent influx of young players, while Jonathan Mayo argues here that the Rangers' farmhands are poised to contribute in '09.

There's a difference between having the best farm system in baseball and the system that will have the most impact in 2009. It might be slight, but educated fans love such subtlety, right?

When discussing "top farm systems," there's a need to look at an entire system, from top to bottom. Depth and the number of elite prospects both into making such a call.

But when looking at which Minor League organization will have the greatest impact on its parent club in this coming season, there's no reason to take the rookie league through Class A levels into account. It's all about the here and now.

That's why Lisa Winston wrote about the San Francisco Giants in this point-counterpoint setup. An argument can't really be made that the Giants have the best farm system in the game, but she takes the stance that because all the young talent that streamed to the big leagues last year is just now establishing itself, San Fran is the place to go when looking for biggest '09 impact.

It's an interesting argument, for sure, but I'll beg to differ. Of course, if I didn't, this would be the worst point-counterpoint of all time. In fact, I'm going to go with an organization that could also be considered for top farm system overall, not just 2009 impact: the Texas Rangers.

Sure, there are other options. The Rays still have to be in any conversation like this, with Price alone putting them into the discussion. As do the Orioles, with Matt Wieters. And both systems have plenty of depth at the upper levels that could help out soon. The Oakland A's also warrant a mention with much talent, much of it the pitching variety, knocking on the door.

But there are a number of reasons why the Rangers are the choice here. Ask any scout what they're looking for in any Draft and catching is one of the first answers to come back. There's never enough to go around. Texas's depth at that position is the envy of most other organizations and could give the team the nod just by that standard.

It enabled them to trade Gerald Laird to the Tigers this offseason. And there's plenty more, enough that rumors abound that the Rangers could deal from the strength again as the season progresses. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the "veteran," the one with the most big-league experience, but he's still just 23. Also ready to contribute behind the plate could be 2005 third-round pick Taylor Teagarden, as well as Max Ramirez, who came to the Rangers via trade.

Of course, that's not all the offense the farm might produce. Chris Davis is "established," but is turning 23 this March and will be embarking on his first full season in the big leagues. Shortstop will be handed over to 20-year-old prospect Elvis Andrus, who came to the organization via the Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves.

Want more? No problem. German Duran could be a very valuable utility man, especially if Omar Vizquel is not interested in the gig. Nelson Cruz may not be a prospect per se, but he toiled away in the Rangers system the past two years hoping for another chance, which is coming this year, perhaps joining Brandon Boggs and David Murphy, young outfielders who made more of a contribution last year than many could have anticipated. Right behind them is Julio Borbon, a 2007 draftee who rose to Double-A last year, and perhaps the newly acquired Greg Golson.

But what about pitching? That's been the Rangers' Achilles heel, hasn't it? All the bats coming up in 2009 won't matter if there aren't arms to help the runs stand up, right? OK, you want arms, you got them.

It's not going to be on Opening Day, but it's not difficult for Rangers fans to envision a rotation that has both Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland in it. Both pitchers rose to Double-A in 2008 and helped Frisco go to the Texas League championship series. Feliz is just 20, but has about as electric pure stuff as there is in the Minor Leagues. There's a reason why he's been mentioned among the top pitching prospects in the game. Holland is 22 and cruised in his first full pro season, spending time at three levels. His velocity and overall stuff seemed to get better as the season wore on. There's a reason both are in big league camp now; it won't be long before both immense talents are trying to get Major League hitters out during the regular season.

That's more than enough to state the case for this argument. But here's one more tidbit to consider in the argument over which farm system might have the biggest impact in 2009: The top two affiliates in the system: Oklahoma City (Triple-A Pacific Coast League) and Frisco (Double-A Texas League) had .528 and .600 winning percentages, respectively. Both teams advanced to the championship series in their leagues. They say that winning breeds winning, that those who learn to win in the Minors expect it when they get to the bigs. That should be music to Rangers fans' ears.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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