Annnnnnnd, 5-6-7-8, stretttchhhhh. Bend at the waist. Keep your feet on the ground, shoulder width apart. Reach as far as you can. Annnnd, hold. Hold. Hold it. Almost there. Annnnd, release. Inhale, 3-2-1, exhale, 3-2-1. Now repeat. Repeat until you feel your baseball muscles loosening. I don't expect mid-season form. We're just trying to get a little loose here; shake off the winter. We don't have stats, or box scores, or in-game meandering conversations with scouts to report. But that doesn't mean we can't get the minor league muscles loose. The calendar turned over, the winter leagues are wrapping up, the coaching staffs have been named, and we've almost safely run through the spiky gauntlet of bloated Hall of Fame hand wringing. Time to start thinking about the 2014 season of Texas Rangers minor league baseball.
-First things first, I'm booked to be out in Surprise March 22-27th. If any of you folks are gonna be out there, hit me up on Twitter and we'll cavort around the back fields together. By cavort, I mostly mean stand in one place and try to figure out if Jairo Beras has any idea what the hell he is doing. Maybe you can even tag along in the evening as I search for the Applebee's with the least intimidating people at the bar to enjoy some Potato Twisters.
-As for my time in Surprise, I'll make a list of "priority" things to see and even without having begun such a task, I can tell you "Watch Chi Chi pitch" is going to be #1 on the list. Sure, I've seen lots of tape and a few live webcasts, but the scouts I've spoken to tell me that ain't gonna cut it with this guy. (pun intended) It's the movement on the pill that's the allure with this kid, and I wanna see it with mine own eyes. An aggressive assignment seems imminent for Chi Chi, but so do some struggles. Nobody just cruises through the development life cycle. Do they?
-Texas set a record for international signings last year, spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion on teenagers. While JD and crew were bobbing their collective heads to Ludacris and making it rain all over the stages of Latin America, they were simultaneously giving MLB rule makers a double middle-finger salute with regards to their stupid rules and what-have-yous. Welp, time to see what the money beget. Yeyson has a kick-ass name to go along with what appears to be a kick-ass. I mean that thing looks big on video. I love a big bootied prospect, but you don't see a lot of shortstops with big booties. Not at 16 or 17 years old. Is he a 3rd baseman? Can he hit? Will I get to type "Yey, Yeah!" in a positive light for the next few years? We'll see. I had a scout tell me Jose Almonte was the biggest overpay of all the J-2 signings. If Jose turns out to be a stud, I'm gonna ask for the scout's World Series ring.
-Marcos Diplan, y'all. Is your moxie real, Marcos? Do you mind if I just call you "Moxie" Diplan? Is your fastball really showing signs of being able to sit in the mid-90s once you are, you know, fully grown? You gonna skip a step or two this summer? Maybe end up in Spokane? Are you about to come at me like a spider monkey? Love Ya!
-I am not a mechanically inclined fella. Wish I was, more than anything, I wish I was. That doesn't stop my relatives from buying me tools for Christmas. I have dozens of tools that I literally have no idea how to use. Am I Jairo Beras? Full-season ball means bus rides, away games, hotels, alarm clocks, temptations, freedom, discipline, expectations, challenges, failures, highs, and lows. Could be full season ball-time for Jairo. The tools are there, just gotta figure out how they all work.
-Travis Demeritte- you ready for full season ball? You see that list I made for Jairo?
-HELL YEAH, FRISCO! GETCHUR TICKETS NOW! IT'S GONNA BE A GOOD ONE. YOU ALREADY KNOW THE NAMES, BUT I'LL WHET YOUR PALATE ANYWAY: ROOGIE, SARDI, LUJAX, MARTINEZ, EICKHOFF, RUA, CLAUDIO. I EXPECT THEM TO BE JOINED BY ASHER AND EVENTUALLY (IF NOT FROM THE ONSET) BY CHI CHI AND KEONE KELA AND SAM WOLFF AND CODY EGE. AND I'VE HEARD YOUR RUMBLINGS FOR JORGE. NOT SURE ABOUT THAT ONE, IT SCARES ME, BUT WHATEVER. HE'LL BE THERE AT SOME POINT IN 2014. SIT BEHIND HOME PLATE FOR, LIKE, $20 OR SOMETHING. YOU CAN HECKLE ROOGIE FROM THERE- BUT I WOULDN'T SUGGEST IT.
-Speaking of Frisco, I'm thinking the Texas League is gonna have some names this summer. We'll prolly see Jonathan Gray bringing big time heat, Addison Russell bringing big time tools, and Austin Hedges bringing a big time Yadi-starter kit. Corpus might feature Puerto Rican wunderkind Carlos Correa and Guy Smiley doppelganger, Mark Appel. Also, remember Little Rock (LAA) has replaced their manager (formerly Tim Bogar: Ron Wash's new hug-man) with Phillip Wellman, who once did this: all of this:
Phillip Wellman blows up (via wdef)
-In case you hadn't heard, Spokane is going to use the Salish language logo on their outstanding unis this season. http://southeastspokane.kxly.com/news/sports-recreation/118191-spokane-indians-will-wear-salish-logo-season Best uniforms in the system, just got even better.
-What does 2014 have in store for the temporarily forgotten injured arms? Matt West, David Perez, Roman Mendez, and Kevin Matthews (Cody Buckel too, sort of). All had lots of buzz, all broke down. Are these guys fully rebuilt? Can't wait to find out.
-One of the baby horses is going to break out. Texas birthed a whole litter of yearlings last year and began raising them in the Hickory training stables. But one, maybe more, is going to begin to pull away from the others. Will it be Nick Williams, because hitters gonna hit? Will it be Gobbles Gallo because 80-grade power is Jordan Belfort-level persuasive? Could it be a healthy Condor Guzman because constant contact is really sexy? Nomar Mazara grows into his massive frame? Lewis Brinson stops swinging at the wind? I have no idea, but someone from that group is gonna break out. One of these yearlings is gonna be a colt this season.
-Speaking of horses, is someone gonna pony up the scratch to remove the "For Sale" sign from in front of the Rough Riders? Is the president of a division rival, and his father- said rival's former CEO, going to continue to own the Rangers' Triple-A club? Will there be more big league teams buying their minor league feeder systems? 2014, y'all.
So what I'm saying is that it's time to start to stretch. Get your baseball fibers firing a little. We're not ready to run, not even ready to trot, but we're definitely gettin' loose. Gettttinnnnn' loose. See ya soon, baseball.
Viva MiLB! Love Ya!