But here's the thing. Though all of that praise is well and good, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans if it doesn't produce players who can contribute at the Major League level. That's why you won't see the Rangers rest on their laurels when it comes to all the accolades. The talent is starting to arrive in Texas, and the pipeline should continue flowing as the ultimate praise gets within sight: a trip to the top of the AL West.
Joaquin Arias, INF
He's having a great spring, though it's more likely that veteran Omar Vizquel will get the utility job, especially considering the inexperience of Elvis Andrus at shortstop. Arias is now completely healthy and showing he can play shortstop again when needed.
Max Ramirez, C
He got sent down recently, but that's mostly because the Rangers want him to catch every day. He couldn't even find at-bats when he got back from the World Baseball Classic because of the depth at the position. His bat is pretty much ready, but his defense could use some work. He'll work on that aspect of his game at Triple-A as he waits for another chance.
Taylor Teagarden, C
The glove is definitely ready, but the bat is a little behind. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will get most of the time because of his bat, but Teagarden will see plenty of action based on what he can do behind the plate.
Under the Radar
Mitch Moreland, 1B/OF/LHP
Two-way players are not uncommon in amateur baseball, but they don't often continue to hit and pitch as a pro. But Moreland, the 17th-rounder (2007) out of Mississippi State, has done both. He had a strong first full season with the bat, leading the Midwest League in average and RBIs while also getting some time in on the mound. He might get the chance to keep helping out with his bat and arm.
David Paisano, OF
The Rangers have some serious talent in center field, so Paisano sometimes gets lost in the shadow of guys like Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre. But Paisano might be the best defensive center fielder in the system with natural instincts and an ability to glide to the ball. He's getting bigger and stronger, so his offensive game might start catching up now.
Corey Young, LHP
Lefty specialists don't get much attention on prospect lists, but try to find a big league team that doesn't want a couple. The 2008 12th-rounder out of Seton Hall knows how to pitch, and has some funk to his delivery with some decent stuff to boot. Most importantly, he can get lefties out, limiting them to a .105 batting average last summer, and could move up very quickly.
2008: Justin Smoak, 1B
The 11th overall pick didn't get much time in before the regular season ended, though he did hit well with Clinton and then in the Arizona Fall League. He's the kind of advanced hitter who should move quickly.
2007: Blake Beavan, RHP
If it's possible for a first-rounder to fall under the radar a little, Beavan's done that. His velocity dropped a bit, but he still had a very good first full season and really learned how to pitch.
2006: Kasey Kiker, LHP
This could be a breakout year for the southpaw in his third full season. Some adjustments in his delivery could lead to big results in 2009.
2008 Draft Recap
LHP Tim Murphy (3rd round) went 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA between Spokane and Clinton, striking out 51 over 47 2/3 innings, while holding hitters to a .173 average. ... RHP Joe Wieland (4) was sent to the Rookie-level Arizona League and went 5-1 with a 1.44 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. ... 1B Clark Murphy (5) only got in 95 at-bats, but made the most of it, hitting .358 with a .962 OPS in the Arizona League. ... OF Mike Bianucci (8) hit .316 in 31 games for Class a Short-Season Spokane. He had a .921 OPS. ... OF Joey Butler (15) finished seventh in the Northwest League with a .301 average and sixth with a .417 OBP. He then hit .400 in the playoffs.
Hitter of the Year -- 1B Justin Smoak
So many choices, so many viable candidates. Some might make a good case for Julio Borbon, but here's saying the switch-hitting first-rounder wins the organizational Triple Crown while making a beeline for the bigs.
Pitcher of the Year -- Neftali Feliz
There was a strong desire to go with a conglomeration -- Neftali Holland or Derek Feliz -- as both top pitching prospects deserve consideration. Flip a coin and go with Feliz, with the thought that maybe Holland spends some time in the big leagues.
"We're very happy with the praise that has been lavished upon us by the industry the last couple of years. We're proud of that accomplishment. It's a testament to our scouts and the trades we've made. We don't want to rest on our laurels. We want to continue this process, continue laying the groundwork so that we can sustain success, not only within the system, but also at the Major League level. That's the ultimate goal, to get these guys to the big leagues and have them maintain success there."
-- John Lombardo, director of Minor League operations