Texas Rangers Top 10 Prospects

Moderator: Allan Simpson will begin taking your questions at 2 p.m. ET

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Thanks for taking my question Mr. Simpson. How do you see the acquisition of Soriano impacting the role of Ramon Nivar? Is he destined as a utility role or do you see him settling in as an every day player? Does he have what it takes to be a lead off hitter or will he be held back because of his low walk totals? What kind of offensive performance do you expect when he settles into his role?

Allan Simpson: All right, let's get started. I'm pinch-hitting, of sorts, for Josh Boyd, who assembled the Rangers information before leaving BA to take a job with the Padres. Nivar's future role with the Rangers could be impacted greatly by Soriano, depending on whether he takes to shortstop in spring training or moves to center field. If Soriano works out at short, then Nivar probably is the long-term answer in center though I'm sure Drew Meyer will eventually enter the picture. Nivar has the speed to hit leadoff, but is not disciplined enough yet for the role. He hits a lot of pitches and needs to be a little more patient in the role. He's got below average power but is more than just a slap hitter.

 Q:  Bill from Austin, TX asks:
Has former first round pick Scott Heard completely disappeared off the prospect map?

Allan Simpson: Unfortunately, Heard went on the voluntarily retired list this offseason. He wasn't having much success with the bat, hitting just .245 with 24 homers in four years, none above Class A, and even his defensive skills had leveled off. Even if he was still in the organization, he wouldn't have ranked among the top 30 prospects. He was considered for the No. 1 overall pick by the Marlins in the 2000 draft, and it just points out how unpredictable it is in projecting high school catchers.

 Q:  A.J. Morris from Houston, Texas asks:
In past years, the Rangers system has generally had a couple of top, A+, blue chip prospects, but little depth. This year, as a Ranger fan, it seems to have turned around -- no real blue chips, but a very deep system. Do you (as an outsider) view the Ranger farm system at this point as being particularly deep in the BC type prospects, and does the Ranger system possibly rival the Cleveland farm system as the deepest in baseball?

Allan Simpson: A.J., that's a pretty astute assessment of the system. Now that players like Teixeira, Blalock and Nix have moved to the big leagues, the system is lacking a marquee talent. But it is also deeper than it's been in a while, even as the organization forfeited seven premium draft picks from 2000-02, including four in 2002. Multiple player trades with the White Sox (for Carl Everett) and the Marlins (for Ugueth Urbina) last year did a lot to improve the depth, but it's not quite in Cleveland's class yet.

 Q:  mark sommer from toledo, ohio asks:
Thank you for taking my question. Does the A-Rod trade open up the shortstop position for Drew Meyer in the future or do you see the Rangers either trading for one or someone else in their system being the shortstop of the future?

Allan Simpson: Everything depends on how Soriano works out at shortstop in spring training. If he must move to center field, the Rangers almost certainly will need to make a trade to fill shortstop for the next couple of years. Meyer is presently the only real option in the system at short, but is ticketed for Double-A this year. Frankly, I think his maximum value is at shortstop. He has excellent middle infield instincts, range and a strong accurate arm and those tools won't be maximized in center, if he eventually plays there. He also doesn't hit for the power desired in an outfielder.

 Q:  Jon from Peru asks:
Hi Allan: I wanted to ask you about a couple of guys who played at Clinton last year. What does the organization think of Juan Senreiso? He looked raw, but promising with a number of tools. Also, what type of ceiling does Kameron Loe have? He seemed to dominate both Class A levels.

Allan Simpson: Senreiso may have the best raw tools of any player in the Rangers system and could be a dynamite talent if it all comes together--a Sosa or Cansecon type talent. He has exceptional raw power. But he has almost no instincts for hitting and makes no adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He wasn't put on the Rangers 40-man roster in the offseason because the Rangers knew no one would take him. As for Loe, he had a breakthrough season in 2003 and made himself a prospect again. At 6-foot-9, he's all arms and legs in his delivery. It's tough for hitters to pick up the ball. He touches 90, and scouts say there's more in there. He should move quickly because he's the best strike thrower in the system.

 Q:  matt pickme from hawaii asks:
gotta question about Lizahio Baez...does he project as anything and if so what is his ceiling?Is he in the top 30?thanks

Allan Simpson: Baez had a breakout year in 2003 in the Arizona League, leading the league in RBIs. But he's not very athletic or disciplined at the plate, and he reverted to his old ways at the plate during the Rangers instructional league program in the Dominican. He's just adequate in the outfield. Given all that, he didn't crack the Rangers top 30 list.

 Q:  Adam from Texas asks:
I thought Erik Thompson (who seems to be flying under the radar) should have been in the top 10 list. How close was he? What is his ceiling? And who would you compare him to, among current major leaguers?

Allan Simpson: He was No. 15. Mainly, it's a factor of his size (5-11, 180). He throws on a flat plane and needs to get better life on his fastball to compensate for that. He also needs to get a better feel for his changeup and better depth to a slider that is otherwise an excellent pitch. But he's got a power arm (up to 95) and is an amazing strike thrower. In his career, he's walked only 22 in 195 innings. He also has Tommy John surgery in his past and the Rangers will finally turn him loose for the first time this season, probably in Double-A.

 Q:  Michael from North Richland Hills, Texas asks:
Assess the current state of the Rangers minor league pitching. Is there reason for hope on the horizon?

Allan Simpson: The immediate future isn't bright, unless Juan Dominguez makes a better impression against big league hitters in spring training than he did in a couple of late season starts in 2003. He's got two plus pitches--fastball and changeup--but big league hitters teed off on his flat slider. We ranked 18 pitchers among the organization's top 30 prospects, but almost everyone else is at least a year away. From last year's draft, Wes Littleton and John Hudgins will be on the fast track but Tommy John surgery has stalled Ben Kozlowski and C.J. Wilson, two of the system's three best lefthanders.

 Q:  Mike from Dallas asks:
Hello Allan, the Rangers have 2 first round picks in the draft this year including the 10th overall pick, I am hoping for one of those top 5 college pitchers to fall to the Rangers but I've heard that they could all be gone even as early as by the 5th pick, as the resident BA draft guru how do you see the top 10 projecting out right now, not just on talent but what these teams may likely do, I know BA is ranking Greg Golson as the 10th best draft prospect right now but how likely is he is Texas pick w their desperate need for pitching ? Thanks

Allan Simpson: This draft should be made to order for a team like the Rangers since it is top-heavy in pitching--especially college pitching. I would be surprised if they don't jump on two college pitchers in the first round. They have the 10th and 30th picks. Golson may be the 10th-ranked prospect, but I just don't see him in the Rangers mix at all, even if he is from Texas. We'll save the rest of the top 10 picks and the clubs most likely to take them for another chat.

 Q:  Brett from University of Georgia Alum asks:
Rob Moravek was taken in the 10th round by the Rangers in 2002 and I was able to see him pitch in Pulaski after I graduated and moved to Texas. He pitched some solid Rookie ball but I never saw him or heard about him this year...1) What happened to him? 2) Is there any ceiling to him at this point?

Allan Simpson: He left the organization after an encoraging start to his career and is presently on the Rangers restricted list.

 Q:  Chris from Huntsville, AL asks:
In what order would you rank Danks, Greg Miller, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, and Adam Loewen?

Allan Simpson: I ranked the lefthanders in this order: Kazmir (7th overall in my top 100), Miller (10th), Loewen (11th), Hamels (12th) and Danks. Keep in mind that the first four have been in the game a year longer than Danks, a product of the 2003 draft. Given another year's experience, Danks could make a quantum leap forward. He's mature and very athletic, and has got great stuff--fastball up to 93 and a knee-buckling curve.

 Q:  R.C. Cook from Carrollton TX asks:
Why did Kameron Loe and Erik Thompson not crack the Top 10?

Allan Simpson: We had questions on these two earlier. Thompson was No. 15, Loe No. 17 on our top 30. In Thompson's case, the knock is his size; in Loe's case, he doesn't throw hard enough. But both throw strikes all day long and should be in Double-A this year. From there, they could move quickly and it wouldn't be a surprise to see either up with the Rangers in the second half.

 Q:  Adam from Cincinnati, Ohio asks:
I have heard reports of a Soriano for Reyes deal in the works. I know Mark, Jose, and Hank aren't considered prospects anymore...but how would you rank Jose, Mark, Hank and Reyes in order?

Allan Simpson: A Reyes-for-Soriano trade makes a lot of sense, since both are playing out of position for their current clubs. Reyes would be a perfect fit for the Rangers. He, along with Teixeira and Blalock, were top-of-the-scale prospects before reaching the big leagues. Reyes is the best defender, Blalock the best hitter and Teixeira the best power hitter of the three. Given the premium on hitting, I'd rank them Teixeira, Blalock, Reyes in that order.

 Q:  Adam B. from Cincy asks:
Is Adrian another Sean Burroughs waiting to happen?

Allan Simpson: I'd be more inclined to compare Gonzalez to Mark Grace or even Rafael Palmeiro, because of the position, but there are similarities to Burroughs as a hitter. Gonzalez is a very polished hitter with Gold Glove potential at first base. His power is just starting to come. Now that he appears to be over the wrist injury that hampered his 2003 season, I can see him having a big 2004 year. He should start in Triple-A but could be in Texas after another 200 minor league at-bats.

 Q:  R.C. Cook from Carrollton TX asks:
Jim Callis made the assertion (in Friday's Mariners chat) that Texas has the worst farm system of the four A.L. West teams. Do you agree with that statement, and if so, why? I see more depth and overall quality in the Rangers' system than in Seattle's (especially in the lower levels), so I don't entirely understand where Jim was coming from there. Maybe the apparent lack of blue-chippers outside of Gonzalez and Danks?

Allan Simpson: The Angels system is clearly No. 1 in the division, but there's not much to separate the other three teams. All are middle of the pack organizations. Personally, I'd give the Rangers a slight edge over the Mariners and A's, but that sentiment is not shared in the office. The Rangers system appears to be deeper than the others, though it may lack frontline players beyond the two you mentioned.

 Q:  Kris from Burlington asks:
Why move Teixeira from first for Gonzalez? Is it because Gonzalez cant play anywhere else while Teixeira is athletic enough to play rightfield next year? Thanks

Allan Simpson: Gonzalez can't run, limiting him to first base. Teixeira likely will never be a Gold Glover at first, like Gonzalez can be, and Teixeira is athletic enough to play on an outfield corner.

 Q:  Brad from Devil Rays Digest asks:
What is Gerald Laird's ceiling? Can he hit enough to be a solid regular, or will he become more of a backup? Would Dan Wilson be a fair comparison? Thanks for taking my question.

Allan Simpson: Laird is ready to catch in the big leagues right now. He's always had a strong arm and now it's accurate, too. He runs a game well. The big question is his bat, though he held his own in a brief trial with the Rangers last year. There's some question whether he can do it on a daily basis. He should back up Einar Diaz this season. Comparisions to Wilson are fair.

 Q:  Tim from Miami asks:
Hey Allan, Grady Fuson is known to prefer drafting college prospects but isnt afraid to take a HS player if the right one comes along like John Danks last year, do you think he would have interest in this years top prep pitcher Nick Adenhart if he somehow fell to #10 this June considering what a great talent he is and the Rangers desperate need for quality arms, what are the chances Adenhart gets by Cleveland at #6 or Baltimore at #8 which to me look like the 2 teams who may have most interest in him that pick ahead of the Rangers ?

Allan Simpson: You're right, Grady does prefer college players. But he has made an exception for Eric Chavez, Jeremy Bonderman and Danks. Adenhart is the No. 1 ranked high school pitcher this year and he'd be foolish not to consider him if he's still available at No. 10. I think they'll go with a college arm because of the more pressing need to get someone there quickly.

 Q:  Jamey Newberg from Dallas asks:
Looking forward to getting the Prospect Handbook. Question: If Erik Thompson were 6'3", would he be as anonymous a prospect as he seems to be?

Allan Simpson: The Prospect Handbook is going in the mail as I write this. I think it's safe to say that Thompson would be near the top of the Rangers list if he was 4-5 inches taller and didn't have a history of injuries in high school and junior college.

 Q:  JJ from Columbia, SC asks:
When do you think that Drew Meyer will crack the Ranger's lineup? Do you project him as a premeire leadoff type of guy or is it too early to tell?

Allan Simpson: I'd say Meyer will be in Texas sometime during the 2005 season. He's scheduled to play at Double-A this year. His success there, along with resolving the shortstop picture in Texas, will determine how fast Meyer gets there and what his eventual role will be.

 Q:  Kris from Burlington asks:
How is Ben Kozlowki's recovery coming along? Where would you project him in a big league role? Thanks

Allan Simpson: The Rangers will have him in spring training but are hoping he can begin pitching again in May, probably in Double-A. Assuming he fully recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Rangers see him as a No. 2 or 3 starter. He has a plus fastball and breaking ball, and the Rangers were hoping to see him refine his changeup in 2003 before he went down with his arm injury.

 Q:  Sammy Patel from Carol Stream, IL asks:
How does Josh Rupe the pitcher the Rangers got in exchange for Carl Everett from the Chisox fit into the Rangers Future plans, is he a rising prospect ready to blossom in the upcoming season.

Allan Simpson: We'll make this the last question of the afternoon, even though we still have many on the board. Thanks for tuning in. Rupe was a key player in the Everett trade and ranked No. 10 overall. He's got three good pitches, an ideal pitcher's frame, good arm action and projects as a future starter. He just needs experience and should start the season at high A Stockton. He could move quickly.