With the minor league season ending, I’m going to run through a review of the organization on a position-by-position basis and give a brief look at how it stacks up against the rest of baseball. First up, first base.
Texas (MLB) - Chris Davis, Hank Blalock, Frank Catalanotto
Oklahoma (AAA) - Nate Gold
Frisco (AA) - Chad Tracy
Bakersfield (A+) - Ian Gac
Clinton (A) - Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland
Spokane (A-) - Dennis Guinn
AZL (RK) - Clark Murphy, Michael Ortiz
Top 1B prospects:
1. Justin Smoak - easily the best in the system once he signed and Davis reached 130 MLB ABs
2. Mitch Moreland - I’m a little hesitant to get too excited based on conservative assignment
3. Clark Murphy - .358/.435/.526 start for 5th rounder in 95 AZL ABs
4. Chad Tracy - finally living up to offensive expectations in AA
5. Ian Gac - control of the strike zone fell apart in Bakersfield
Top 1B prospects in baseball (loosely ordered):
Lars Anderson BOS, Matt LaPorta (LF) CLE, Freddie Freeman ATL, Logan Morrison FLA, Eric Hosmer (status in doubt) KC, Justin Smoak TEX, Brett Wallace (3B) STL, Angel Villalona SF, Beau Mills CLE, Chris Marrero WAS
Top 1B organizations:
1. St Louis - Albert Pujols, Brett Wallace
2. Boston - Kevin Youkilis/David Ortiz, Lars Anderson
3. Houston - Lance Berkman
4. Detroit - Miguel Cabrera, Jeff Larish
5. Minnesota - Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee
Where the Rangers fit:
If Davis stays at first base, the Rangers have a solid middle of the pack major league situation with the potential to join that elite group quickly. Davis, as a 22 year old rookie only two years out of junior college, would have the 11th best EqA among major league first basemen if he had enough plate appearances to qualify among the leaders. Smoak could give the Rangers one the three best 1-2 combos of under-30 first basemen in the game.
As mentioned most recently here, the Rangers corner infield situation for next year is way up in the air, and much of it relies upon how the club decides to proceed with Davis. If management decides to open 2009 with Davis at third base, the situation will be far from defined. Hank Blalock could stay in the first base picture, Max Ramirez and John Mayberry Jr. could be considered for position changes, Davis would be an ever-present threat to return to the position upon, say, an Elvis Andrus promotion, and even Smoak might not be too far from joining the fray. If Davis does open as the first baseman, the situation at this position figures to be much more secure and - at least until Smoak is ready - static.
Aside from Smoak, who will probably open in Bakersfield with a midseason jump to Frisco very possible, Moreland will face another year of being pushed to the side by Smoak and will look to further legitimize his standing. It will be interesting to see whether Murphy’s bat forces a jump to the Midwest league and whether he can become a prominent prospect, adding to the system’s positional depth.
The question over whether Smoak should be moved to add major league pitching will probably begin to be asked around deadline time next season, but with so many options arising on that plate, I think it’s more important for now to see how he continues to adjust to professional baseball.