This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.
The Rangers system may not be overflowing with big stars these days, although that's partly a byproduct of the front office's intent to find some missing pieces (Cliff Lee, for example) to their World Series journey last fall. Several of the club's former top prospects are in different uniforms this winter, although the organization still possesses talent at the lower levels.
Triple-A Oklahoma City won the Pacific Coast League's Southern Division with 73 wins while Double-A Frisco also had a big year, leading all of Double-A in attendance after taking the Texas League South Division crown in the first half of the year. Class A Advanced Bakersfield finished last overall in the California League's North with 63 wins and was then left behind when the Rangers moved their affiliation to Myrtle Beach this past fall.
By contrast, Class A Hickory managed a trip to the South Atlantic League playoffs and then signed a two-year extension with Texas through 2012. The Rangers are sending manager Tim Hulett back to Class A Short-Season Spokane in 2011 after he helped the team reach the Northwest League Championship Series. The Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers won the West Division, eventually falling in the postseason.
Rangers organizational All-Stars
Catcher -- Zach Zaneski, Hickory (85 games): Zaneski hit .310, showed moderate power and was able to get on base -- he hit .431 against lefties and featured a .380 on-base percentage. He's 24, though, and may have been playing a little below his skill level at Class A, but in a weak position for Texas, he stands out.
"Zaneski had a nice year," said Scott Servais, the Rangers' senior director of player Ddvelopment. "But he's a little old for the level he was at."
Servais, a catcher in the Majors from 1991-2001, said he was more impressed with Jose Felix, a Mexican backstop whose defense overshadowed his batting stats -- he hit .278 with three homers and 37 RBIs. The Rangers named him Defender of the Year.
"He's far superior defensively, he probably goes to Major League camp this spring and could be in line for Double-A or Triple-A by the end of the year."
First base -- Andrew Clark, Spokane (63 games): Let's give some love to the rookie, who was drafted out of Louisville this June after turning down the Cubs and Brewers in the previous two Drafts. Cited for pitch recognition in college, Clark hit .295 with 41 RBIs and a .401 OBP in 63 games for the Tribe. He hit .315 against righties and .289 with runners in scoring position.
Servais disagreed, though, citing Chris McGuiness, who was traded to Texas in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal and appeared in 34 games with the organization. It would be a little unfair to award McGuiness for the year he put up primarily in the Boston system, although it was a great season -- he hit .284 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs. His 19 longballs would have led the Rangers' system.
Second base -- Davis Stoneburner, Bakersfield (103 games), Frisco (10 games), Oklahoma City (two games), AZL Rangers (two games): Stoneburner really got the scenic tour of the Rangers farm system in 2010, appearing at just about every level. The Rangers have transitioned him from short to second, which Servais said has allowed him to focus on hitting a little more.
"He's relaxed a little more and focused on his offense a little bit," Servais said. "He played in the [Arizona] Fall League with some higher-level guys and held his own. He'll get some time in Major League camp, he's projected to go out to Double-A."
The James Madison alum hit .289 with 16 homers, 60 RBIs, 17 steals and a .362 on-base percentage.
Shortstop -- Leury Garcia, Hickory (89 games), AZL Rangers (six games): Garcia is a little guy -- 5-foot-7 and just 153 lbs -- but he possesses some serious speed, leading the Rangers system with 51 steals. (Esteban German swiped 50 at Triple-A, giving Texas some base-stealing threats for the future.) Garcia, a switch-hitter, is a singles hitter -- he had only 14 extra-base hits all year -- but he's got, according to Servais, the best infield arm in the system. He finished the year batting .273 with 24 RBIs.
"He missed about three-and-a-half weeks, so his numbers could have been better," Servais said. "He's a tremendously toolsy player, he can really throw. He's the best infield arm we have in system and he's probably the fastest. He brings a lot to the table. He's still working on switch hitting, and defensively, he needs to slow the game down -- he makes a lot of careless errors."
Third base -- Chris Davis, Oklahoma City (103 games): The Major League veteran did reach Texas in 2010, but most of his year was spent at Triple-A, where he hit .327 with 14 homers and led the system with 80 RBIs. He's proven he can hit at both levels and play both first and third (he spent most of his time at third in 2010).
"Third base is one of our deeper positions at the lower levels," said Servais, who also mentioned prospects Christian Villanueva (.314 in 51 games in the AZL) and Michael Olt (.293 in 69 games in Spokane).
Engel Beltre, Frisco (47 games), Bakersfield (68): Beltre, 21, hit .300 with 15 doubles, eight triples, six homers, 49 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 115 games as the youngest position player in the system. The Rangers selected him as their top Minor League player.
"He's very young, and he's playing very well in Winter Ball now," said Servais. "He's a true center fielder. We get hit up for him all the time in trade discussions. He had a nice year."
Beltre, who was added to the 40-man roster earlier this month, was acquired from the Red Sox along with outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Kason Gabbard in 2007 in exchange for Eric Gagne.
Mitch Moreland, Oklahoma City (95 games): Rangers fans are familiar with the Mississippi State product after he appeared in 47 games with Texas before the playoffs. He authored a solid year at Triple-A, hitting .289 with a dozen homers, 65 RBIs and a .371 OBP.
"People saw him in the playoffs, and he's penciled in to be our first baseman in the big leagues," said Servais.
Jared Hoying, Spokane (62 games): The Northwest League Most Valuable Player transitioned from shortstop at the University of Toledo and hit .325 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in just 62 games for the Indians. He added 20 steals and batted .375 with runners in scoring position.
"He's an interesting player, a very good runner," said Servais. "He can throw, he transitioned to outfield well."
Designated Hitter/Utility -- Chad Tracy, Oklahoma City (78 games), AZL Rangers (one game): The 25-year-old had another typical year, hitting .261 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. His 17 longballs ranked second in the system.
Michael Bianucci is probably worthy of a pick here as well -- he led the system with 18 homers, but hit .258 with 114 strikeouts.
Right-handed starter -- Joe Wieland, Bakersfield (11 games), Hickory (15 games): "Joe had a good year, he was up and down, but he won," said Servais. Wieland, a 6-foot-3 native of Reno, Nev., went 11-7 with a 4.07 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 148 innings. His ERA isn't stellar, but perhaps a reflection of how thin the Rangers are with righties.
"He had a 14-strikeout game in the Cal League, but he kinda goes in spurts, back and forth," said Servais. "Joe has an opportunity to get to Double-A, and then you never know what happens."
Left-handed starter -- Michael Kirkman, Oklahoma City (24 games): The Rangers picked Kirkman as the organization's pitcher of the year. He finished 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 innings.
"He has four pitches -- a fastball 92-94 mph, a very good, hard breaking slider which he throws to lefties and then has it down and in on righties, that's where his strikeouts are coming from," said Servais. "He'll get an opportunity to pitch for us in the big leagues and make our rotation. We feel he's a starting pitcher, but he could go back into the bullpen. A huge year for him, and we really saw it coming in from last year. He had a lot of struggles early, lost a feel for the ball, and he was able to right the ship with the help of some of our pitching coaches. His confidence was the biggest thing."
Robbie Erlin, another lefty, went 6-3 with a 2.12 ERA at Hickory and made a case for the pick here as well.
"Erlin had a tremendous season, he has a chance to pitch in Double-A at 19."
Reliever -- Mark Hamburger, Bakersfield (37 games), Frisco (13 games): No longer just a Minors Moniker Madness favorite, Hamburger flashed his talent on the mound in 2010, leading the farm system with 21 saves.
"He made some adjustments. He's a hard throwing guy, but the ball is very straight, so he lowered his slot a litlle bit and got some sinking action to his fastball," Servais said.