FanShot

Keith Law on Rangers Farm System

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He ranks each farm system. Here are his thoughts on Texas: 1. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have far and away the best farm system in the game right now, with impact prospects, lots of depth (particularly in very young pitching) and plenty of prospects close enough to the majors to help the big league club in 2009 and 2010. What is most impressive about the restocking of Texas' farm system is that the additions have come from across the board. Texas has been one of the most aggressive bidders on talent in the international market, landing Martin Perez, Wilmer Font, Wilfredo Boscan and Esdras Abreu. The Rangers also have integrated their international scouting with the rest of their baseball operations -- for most teams, it's still a separate fiefdom -- and have acquired several top international prospects in trades a year or so after missing out on them as free agents, including Neftali Feliz, Engel Beltre and Carlos Melo. Having one person, A.J. Preller, heavily involved in both international and pro scouting has made this integration easier, and the Rangers also use adviser Don Welke heavily in both areas. In addition, they have been aggressive in the draft under scouting director Ron Hopkins, signing several players who fell due to bonus demands and giving them above-slot bonuses that were appropriate to the players' talents, including Justin Smoak and Robbie Ross in 2008 and Julio Borbon and Neil Ramirez in 2007. And the Rangers have worked the trade market to add prospects, cashing in Mark Teixeira for a huge package that included Feliz and Elvis Andrus, flipping Kenny Lofton for Max Ramirez and more recently dealing Gerald Laird for Melo and Guillermo Moscoso. GM Jon Daniels has implemented a clear and consistent philosophy for baseball operations, centered on building pitching depth with an emphasis on upside, a tacit acknowledgment that pitching in Arlington requires better stuff or a stronger constitution than pitching in Seattle or Oakland. The integration across departments -- amateur scouting, pro scouting, international scouting and player development -- is still unusual in baseball, although the success of similar efforts in Boston and Tampa Bay is causing more teams to reevaluate their organizational structures. Whether this translates into major league success for Texas largely will come down to the young pitching: Can these pitchers succeed in the Rangers' ballpark, and can they stay healthy? If so, the wave of arms coming through Texas over the next five years will give the Rangers the best chance in their history to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

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