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Rangers Top 10 Prospects

By John Manuel
December 30, 2002

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Prospect Handbook
Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.

It’s tough to thrive in the American League West. The Angels are the reigning World Series champion. The Mariners are a year removed from winning a record-tying 116 games. The Athletics are on a three-year playoff run and have back-to-back 100-win seasons.

Then there are the Rangers. They have the division’s marquee player (Alex Rodriguez) and largest payroll ($130.6 million for the 40-man roster in 2002, $30 million more than any division rival). Owner Tom Hicks is willing to spend what it takes to compete, and his bankroll and track record–he owned the Dallas Stars when they won the Stanley Cup–lured proven winner John Hart from Cleveland to become general manager.

Hart’s first acquisition was assistant GM Grady Fuson, Oakland’s former scouting director. Fuson helped engineer the Hart regime’s first big trade, sending Carlos Pena to Oakland for four prospects. The supposed centerpiece of the deal, lefthander Mario Ramos, flopped in Triple-A.

The rest of the first year of Hart’s regime didn’t go much better. The club continued to spend on free agents, giving Chan Ho Park a five-year, $65 million contract and watching him turn into a bust. Juan Gonzalez, Jay Powell and Todd Van Poppel also didn’t have much success. The Rangers finished 72-90, their third straight last-place finish. After the season, they said goodbye to catcher Ivan Rodriguez and faced the possible retirement of oft-injured Rusty Greer.

Fuson was hired in part to revamp the Rangers’ scouting efforts, though all the free-agent signings cost the organization draft picks from rounds two through five. Fuson surprised many by drafting shortstop Drew Meyer 10th overall, and by giving righthander Kiki Bengochea, like many Rangers a client of Scott Boras, a hefty $550,000 bonus as an 11th-round pick.

Fuson also brought a new philosophy for the minor league system, which should be able to cope with the departures of farm director Trey Hillman and pitching coordinator Bob Cluck. As Fuson sees it, the key is minimizing risk. For hitters, that means working counts while being aggressive. For pitchers, it means efficiency and throwing strikes, emphasizing approach over radar-gun readings. For the draft, it means an emphasis on college players with a record of success.

The way Hart and Fuson see it, the AL West has enough risks as it is.

Top Prospects
Of The Past Decade

1993 Benji Gil, ss
1994 Benji Gil, ss
1995 Julio Santana, rhp
1996 Andrew Vessel, of
1997 Danny Kolb, rhp
1998 Ruben Mateo, of
1999 Ruben Mateo, of
2000 Ruben Mateo, of
2001 Carlos Pena, 1b
2002 Hank Blalock, 3b


Prospect Archives

1999 Top 10 Prospects
2000 Top 10 Prospects
2001 Top 10 Prospects
2002 Top 10 Prospects
• Top 10 Prospects Since 1983
• Top Prospects for all 30 teams
1. Mark Teixeira, 3b

Age: 22. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Zachary Hoyrst.

Background: Under the prospect microscope since high school, Teixeira has always thrived–when healthy. He was expected to be a first-round pick out of high school in 1998, but fell to the Red Sox in the ninth thanks to perceived bonus demands. Teixeira had a decorated career at Georgia Tech, where he was Baseball America’s College Player of the Year in 2000. His junior season was interrupted by a broken right ankle. The injury, and again perceived bonus demands, contributed to his being available to the Rangers with the No. 5 overall pick in 2001. He signed a major league contract that guaranteed him $9.5 million, including a club-record $4.5 million bonus. A ruptured tendon in his left elbow and forearm sidelined him in spring training, but Teixeira bounced back to have a big season in his pro debut.

Strengths: Teixeira’s tools, approach and strength make him the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues. He has well-above-average power–40 homers a year is no stretch–and hitting ability from both sides of the plate, in part because he’s in tune with his abilities and has sound fundamentals. Powerfully built, he has a short swing with leverage from both sides, excellent pitch recognition and an advanced two-strike approach. Athletic and instinctive, Teixeira also works hard on the deficiencies in his game.

Weaknesses: Teixeira takes pride in not being a baseclogger, but speed is his weakest tool. Offensively, he can be stubborn and hasn’t taken to the organization’s take-a-strike philosophy, but his mindset stems from his success. Teixeira’s range at third is average and he had throwing problems in 2002, which the Rangers attribute to injuries and rust. He worked on getting his body back into his throws, and by the Arizona Fall League his arm was again a plus instead of a problem.

The Future: Teixeira’s AFL stint was cut short by a muscle strain in his torso, but BA still rated him the league’s top prospect. His major league ETA depends solely on his health. He figures to start 2003 in Triple-A but should get big league at-bats soon at third base, first base (which he hasn’t played since the Cape Cod League in 1999) or DH.

2002 Club (Class)

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

Charlotte (A)

.320

.411

.593

150

32

48

10

2

9

41

21

24

2

Tulsa (AA)

.316

.415

.591

171

31

54

11

3

10

28

25

36

3

Click here for prospects 2-10.

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