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03/09/2008 10:00 AM ET
Rangers not about to rest on laurels
Bevy of top prospects headed for Arlington in near future
Chris Davis' game-winning homer for Frisco tied him for the league lead with six dingers. (Melissa Wintemute/


The future success of every Major League team lies in its Minor League system. With that in mind, each preseason, takes a top-to-bottom look at all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent draft picks.

Depth, depth and more depth are the three ways to describe the Texas farm system.

The Rangers have pitchers, catchers, infielders, bat boys, ticket takers, salespeople, well, you get the idea. Texas' farm system is stocked and the players who comprise it should be arriving in Arlington soon. If they don't make it to Texas, it's probably because the Rangers have used some of their many chips to acquire immediate help at the Major League level.

"We have the kind of depth that makes it easier for us," Director of Minor League Operations John Lombardo said. "It gives us some things that we're able to do. We are very pleased with the system we have, but we're not going to rest on our laurels."

Here's a closer look at what the Rangers have coming up through the ranks in 2008.

10 Spot
Ten prospects to watch out for in 2008:

Elvis Andrus, SS
Andrus won't turn 20 until August, but he's already played three seasons at four different levels and excelled at each. He's one of the game's most watched prospects simply because of what he's been able to accomplish at such a young age. Andrus combined to hit .257 last year, splitting time between the Class A Advanced Carolina and California leagues. But he hit .300 for Bakersfield after the trade that sent him from Atlanta to Texas.

He's already racked up more than 1,100 professional at-bats and the corresponding experience that is well beyond his years. It's still too early to tell if he can be a .300 hitter at a higher level (his career average is .266), but he does have speed -- 40 steals a year ago -- that will help him at the plate.

From a defensive standpoint, he's a gem and can anchor any infield. Andrus has the attitude to be a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. It should be fun watching the parts continue to come together, most likely this season at Double-A Frisco.

"He's everything that's been advertised," Lombardo said. "At 19, he has the makeup that's more advanced. It's unbelievable. He's got supreme defensive skills and his bat is on the rise. For him to do what he's done at a young age is amazing.

"The guy's hero is Derek Jeter. He wants to be a leader and take a franchise on his back. He doesn't want to be a flashy, undisciplined player. He wants to be the face of a franchise for all the right reasons. And he's got all the ability in the world to do that."
Video: Elvis Andrus profile
Audio: Andrus cracks a three-run homer

Here are a few players on the brink of breaking into the Major Leagues:

David Murphy, OF -- The Red Sox's first-round pick in 2003, Murphy made a slow climb through the ranks before the trade that sent him to Texas last summer. He had appeared in 23 games over two seasons for the Red Sox before the deal but really seemed to take to the big leagues in Texas. Murphy appeared in 43 games for the Rangers, hitting .340 with 14 RBIs in 103 at-bats.

He'll turn 27 this year, so the clock is working against him. While there are no guarantees of making the Major League roster when the season opens, Murphy figures to help Texas at some point. He's got some gap power and is adequate defensively. Whether those skills translate into a full-time job in Arlington remains to be seen.

Eric Hurley, RHP -- The time is coming for Hurley, the club's 2004 first-round pick, to make the move to the big leagues. If he follows his current developmental path, that moment could come early this season. He split last year between Frisco and Oklahoma, pitching better at the former locale. While he'll probably be back in Triple-A to begin the season, a strong Spring Training and a quick start in the Pacific Coast League might force the club's hand.

Chris Davis, 1B
Davis wasn't 2007's biggest surprise, but he was among the top eye-openers after finishing second in the Minor Leagues in homers (36) and RBIs (118). He had a monster season split between Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, putting himself squarely in the spotlight as the 2008 season approaches. He'll likely begin the year at Frisco but should be up in Oklahoma before long if he continues to produce at this pace.

He strikes out a great deal (once every 3.3 at-bats), a problem that plagues many young sluggers, but can improve with experience. Since the former fifth-rounder (2006) has a mere 748 professional at-bats on his resume, there's plenty of time to work on the flaws in his approach.

The Rangers moved him to first base this spring because they believe he has a brighter future on the right side of the infield.

"It was a comfort factor," Lombardo said of the move. "We have a pretty good third baseman in the big leagues and we have some solid depth with some good, young defensive infielders. And, more than anything, we think this is going to be Chris' best position. We think he has a chance to be an average to above-average first baseman. He likes to play there and we don't have a ton of depth at first base in our system."
Audio: Davis belts a grand slam
Audio: Davis strokes another slam

Monday, Feb. 25Chicago Cubs
Tuesday, Feb. 26Milwaukee Brewers
Wednesday, Feb. 27Cincinnati Reds
Thursday, Feb. 28Astros and Pirates
Friday, Feb. 29St. Louis Cardinals
Saturday, March 1Baltimore Orioles
Sunday, March 2Tampa Bay Rays
Monday, March 3Boston Red Sox
Tuesday, March 4Toronto Blue Jays
Wednesday, March 5New York Yankees
Thursday, March 6Los Angeles Angels
Friday, March 7Seattle Mariners
Saturday, March 8Oakland Athletics
Sunday, March 9Texas Rangers
Monday, March 10New York Mets
Tuesday, March 11Atlanta Braves
Wednesday, March 12Philadelphia Phillies
Thursday, March 13Nationals and Marlins
Friday, March 14Cleveland Indians
Saturday, March 15Kansas City Royals
Sunday, March 16Minnesota Twins
Monday, March 17Detroit Tigers
Tuesday, March 18Chicago White Sox
Wednesday, March 19Colorado Rockies
Thursday, March 20Arizona Diamondbacks
Friday, March 21Los Angeles Dodgers
Saturday, March 22San Francisco Giants
Sunday, March 23San Diego Padres

Taylor Teagarden, C
The former third-round pick recovered from successful Tommy John surgery with a splendid 2007 at Bakersfield and Frisco, combining to hit .310 with 27 homers and 83 RBIs. He's improved greatly as a hitter since the Rangers drafted him out of the University of Texas and should continue to make strides this season, whether he's back in Frisco or promoted to Oklahoma.

Defensively, he's probably solid enough to catch in the Major Leagues right now. He's used to big games and pressure situations from his days in college -- the Longhorns were a fixture in the NCAA playoffs -- and knows how to handle a tight spot. Teagarden is regarded as a clubhouse leader, and that will also be of benefit as he moves up this year.

Despite the fact that Texas acquired Jarrod Saltalamacchia last season, the Rangers have no plans to move Teagarden from behind the plate.

"There's no reason for him not to stay behind the plate," Lombardo said. "He's an excellent receiver. He calls a good game, has good intangibles, good feet and a good arm. We'd be foolish at this point to move him from behind the plate.

"Time will tell how it all plays out with all the depth at catching. Next to pitching, catching is the most valuable commodity, and goodness knows you keep guys behind the plate as long as you can. Eventually, they'll force our hand, but until then, let them keep going. It's a good problem to have. And he's a very mature catcher. It's an interesting package between his bat and his catching skills."
Audio: Teagarden tees off

Kasey Kiker, LHP
Though Kiker was chosen in the first round out of an Alabama high school in 2006, some considered him more of a second- or third-rounder. When he had a rough time in his first summer in Spokane, those questions didn't go away. But the Rangers preached patience and told everyone to wait and watch.

Kiker responded with a splendid sophomore season in the Midwest League, going 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 20 starts. He struck out 112 over 96 innings, walked only 41 and held opponents to a .237 batting average. Because of his size (he's 5-foot-10) there are questions about his durability -- the same kind of questions that surrounded Scott Kazmir when the Mets drafted him in the first round a few years back. Like Kazmir, though, Kiker's attitude and approach outweigh any durability issues, and he should flourish this year in the Cal League.

"There are a lot of different shapes and sizes in the game," Lombardo said. "If anyone wants to complain about Billy Wagner, let them. I'm not saying he's going to be Billy Wagner, but he leverages the ball, he's got an above-average changeup and his breaking ball is on the rise. Look at what he was able to do last year.

"It doesn't matter if a guy is 4-foot-2 or 6-foot-8. I've seen guys who are 6-foot-7 that can't leverage the ball. Just because you're 6-foot-5 doesn't mean you can pitch. Anyone who doesn't think he's not going to be a good pitcher because he's not 6-foot-5 doesn't know the game."
Audio: Kiker gets his ninth K

Blake Beavan, RHP
Last year's top pick signed just before the deadline and didn't have a chance to pitch in the organization until the fall. He's big (6-foot-7), strong and brings mid-90s heat. Beavan can be overpowering and by all accounts has a bit of a mean streak that should further enhance his mound presence.

"He's got a very aggressive streak, but it's good aggression," Lombardo said. "Maybe he needs to get it reined in at times, get it honed in and focus that energy or meanness if you want to call it that. But it definitely can be an asset on the mound. He does have the repertoire to be a power pitcher and use that to his advantage."

Omar Poveda, RHP
The Venezuelan native is making a steady climb through the system, having split last season between Clinton and Bakersfield. He was 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA in the Midwest League but didn't fare as well in the Cal League, going 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA. Still, his fastball is effective in the low 90s and his off-speed stuff, particularly his change, is impressive.

Poveda may find the going rough again in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but he's an intelligent workhorse who should be able to work through problems. He may not get the attention that some of Texas' other pitching prospects get, but he's certainly worth watching closely.

"He's continuing on a natural progression," Lombardo said. "And, hopefully, he'll get to the Double-A level this year. I don't see any reason he can't get to that point. He has a solid three-pitch mix and he's improved every season he's been here. With that type of repertoire and makeup, we feel he can be a Major League starter."
Audio: Poveda strikes out 12

Max Ramirez, C
The well-traveled backstop finds himself starting 2008 with his third team in as many years. While all that movement might hamper some players' development, Ramirez seems to take it all in stride. He's a .304 career hitter and combined to hit that mark last year at Class A Advanced Kinston of the Carolina League and Bakersfield of the Cal League after the Rangers acquired him from Cleveland. He had career highs in homers (16) and RBIs (82).

Expect him to start this season at Frisco and don't expect the Rangers to make him trade bait for the third time in as many seasons. He's got great value but is faced with the prospect of playing behind Saltalamacchia and Teagarden. He has played some third base, but his ultimate position remains to be seen.

"He's a fantastic hitter with raw power and a knack for putting the bat on the ball," Lombardo said. "He really works hard at it. He also has the ability to catch and we're going to give him the opportunity to do that. We'll give him every opportunity behind the plate because he hasn't shown us a reason not to. He just wants to play baseball."
Audio: Ramirez doubles in a pair
Audio: Ramirez goes deep

John Mayberry, OF
Mayberry certainly has power. He hit 30 homers and drove in 83 runs last season at Bakersfield and Frisco. Unfortunately, he also struck out 126 times (once every 3.9 at-bats), hit just .235 and had an OBP that hovered around .310.

Through three seasons, Mayberry has proven to be Dave Kingman-esque in his all-or-nothing approach at the plate. Throw in the fact that he hasn't overwhelmed anyone with his play in the outfield and questions remain about his future. Still, the Major Leagues are full of average outfielders who can hit for power and a middling average, so Mayberry may be just fine in the long run.

"I don't think feast or famine is necessarily who he is," Lombardo said. "He'll probably be your typical power hitter. That power profile is that he's going to swing and miss from time to time. And he does have some holes that need to be corrected. But it's not feast or famine. Is he a guy that's going to win batting titles? Probably not. But he's a guy that has a lot of potential to hit home runs in the big leagues."
Video: Mayberry delivers an RBI single
Audio: Mayberry goes yard

Neftali Feliz, RHP
The Dominican native signed with the Braves as a free agent in 2005 and was pitching very well for them before he was shipped to the Rangers as part of the Mark Teixeira deal. He's got an explosive fastball (mid- to high-90s), a better than 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has held opponents to a .198 batting average in 81 professional innings (including the Dominican Summer League).

"He's the easiest 97 to 99 you'll ever see," Lombardo said. "It's like he's out there playing catch. He's got the makings of a decent repertoire. He hasn't been pitching all that long and [the Braves] did a good job of protecting him. But the ball just explodes out of his arm. He's just effortless."
Audio: Feliz's cut fastball notches a K

Mike Main, RHP
The 24th selection in last year's draft made 10 starts last year in the Arizona and Northwest leagues, where he combined to go 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA. He held opponents to a .219 average and flashed the mid-90s fastball that many teams coveted prior to the draft.

"He's everything you want from a young power pitcher," Lombardo said. "He's headstrong, determined and poised beyond his years. He has a feel for pitching and a reputation for being as good, if not better, than most in our system. He doesn't have Neftali's arm, but he has the making of an above-average fastball that really impresses."
Audio: Main's third K

Under the Radar

Brennan Garr, RHP
A 2006 ninth-round pick from Northern Colorado, Garr played a great deal of third base in college. The Rangers, however, thought he was more capable of making his mark as a pitcher, and last year he showed why. Garr appeared in 41 games at three levels, going 0-3 with a 2.03 ERA and five saves. He struck out 75 and walked 32 over 62 innings while allowing three homers. He reached the Texas League, where he appeared in six games for Frisco.

"So many people are not talking about this guy who we're increasingly getting higher on," Lombardo said. "He's a guy who didn't pitch a lot in college, so he has a fresh arm. He's very intriguing."
Audio: Garr's third K

German Duran, 2B
The Rangers stocked infield of the future includes Duran, who continued his steady climb last season by hitting .300 with 22 homers and 84 RBIs in the Texas League. He added 32 doubles and 11 steals, making him a very valuable piece of the Texas organization's puzzle. Equally impressive was the fact that he cut down on his strikeout ratio from once every 5.1 at-bats in 2006 to once every 6.2 at-bats in 2007.

He followed up his season with a strong Arizona Fall League performance and should get the starting nod at second base in Oklahoma this year. His 15 errors were second-most among Texas League second basemen, an indication that the development of his bat may be ahead of his glove. If he continues hitting and puts up another monster year in the PCL, don't be surprised if he reaches Arlington this summer.

Duran, who can also play third base and corner outfield, has the "best swing path in the organization," according to Lombardo.
Video: Duran goes solo
Video: Duran on his HR Derby win

2007 Draft Recap

Top pick Blake Beaven signed late and didn't pitch in the regular season, though he got in extensive work during the instructional league. ... RHP Michael Main had shoulder problems in high school but worked through them and had a splendid senior season. He was assigned to the Arizona League and had a 1.42 ERA in five games, earning a bump to Spokane of the Northwest League, where he went 2-0 with a 4.70 ERA in five games. ... OF Julio Borbon was a sandwich pick (35th overall) but probably would have gone higher had he not missed much of the season with a broken ankle. He had 37 at-bats after signing, splitting time between the Arizona and Northwest leagues. He was unimpressive, hitting .189 with four strikeouts and a .250 OBP. ... RHP Neil Ramirez, the 44th overall pick from Kempsville High in Virginia, signed at the deadline and didn't see any game action. ... RHP Tommy Hunter, the 54th overall pick from Alabama, got in slightly ahead of Ramirez, early enough to go 2-3 with a save and a 2.55 ERA in 17 2/3 innings for Spokane. ... IF Matt West (second round, Bellaire High, TX) hit .301 with 17 RBIs in 103 at-bats in the Arizona League. ... There's nothing funny about RHP Andrew Laughter (10th round, Louisiana-Lafayette). He had 11 saves and a 2.03 ERA in 26 appearances for Spokane. Laughter didn't allow a homer in 31 innings. ... RHP Bobby Wilkins (sixth round, Valhalla HS, Calif.) was 0-4 with a 5.25 ERA in 10 Arizona League games (six starts). ... RHP Evan Reed (third round, Cal Poly) was 1-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) at Spokane and Clinton. Opponents hit .143 against him.


Organizational Player of the Year:
So many choices, so little space. The Rangers have a plentiful system, but the player who seems most capable of being a game-breaking producer at this point is Chris Davis. He simply hits and hits and hits.

Cy on the Farm (Organizational Pitcher of the Year):
Neftali Feliz seems to have all the attributes necessary to succeed. He'll probably start the season in the Midwest League, where he should pitch like a man among boys.


"He fared very well in instructional league and learned some valuable lessons. There are some things you can do in high school that you can't do here. More than anything else, he's learning how to pitch. In high school, he was able to get away with [having] one or two pitches." --Lombardo on Beaven.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.