I'm going to look at left handed pitching in the organization in a vacuum here first, then as incorporated in the pitching as a whole. This was a huge area of weakness as recently as spring 2007, but it is another that has been bulked up organizationally since then. If I had to characterize which areas of the organization Jon Daniels has clearly placed an emphasis, catcher and left handed pitching would be the first two to come to mind. In the last 2+ years, a first round pick in '06 was used on a lefty (Kiker), the last big money DFE was signed (Holland), the deadline deals were littered with them (Harrison, B Jones, Gabbard), the top lefty in Latin America was brought in (M Perez), and three of the top six picks in the '08 draft were used on them (Ross, Murphy, Bleier). The team seems to have bought into the smaller, athletic lefty as a viable profile, as Kiker, Perez and Ross all measure 6-0 or less and required significant resources to acquire.
Texas (MLB) - Matt Harrison, Kason Gabbard, CJ Wilson, Bill White
Oklahoma - AJ Murray, Michael Ballard, John Rheinecker
Frisco (AA) - Derek Holland, Beau Jones
Bakersfield (A+) - Kasey Kiker, Zach Phillips, Glen Swanson, Ryan Falcon
Clinton (A) - Tim Murphy, Michael Kirkman, Michael Ortiz
Spokane (A-) - Martin Perez, Richard Bleier
AZL (RK) - Gueris Grullon, Miguel de los Santos
Top LHP prospects:
1. Derek Holland - huge year, stuff took a great jump, hope he can handle the innings
2. Martin Perez - just read the last week on LSB
3. Kasey Kiker - I think that his season was a little better than it looks, stuff wasn't downright electric though
4. Robby Ross - good stuff, good brain, will be fun to watch next season
5. Tim Murphy - ones of these athletic guys who hasn't been dedicated to pitching for all that long, solid lefty stuff and could move pretty fast
Top LHP prospects in baseball (loosely ordered):
David Price TB, Madison Bumgarner SF, Brett Anderson OAK, Brian Matusz BAL, Aaron Poreda CWS, Brett Cecil TOR, Derek Holland TEX, Gio Gonzalez OAK, David Huff CLE, Danny Duffy KC
Top LHP organizations:
1. Tampa Bay - Scott Kazmir, David Price, JP Howell, Trever Miller, Jake McGee
2. New York Mets - Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, Billy Wagner, Scott Schoeneweis, Jon Niese
3. Chicago White Sox - Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Matt Thornton, Aaron Poreda
4. Cleveland - Cliff Lee, Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez, Scott Lewis, Jeremy Sowers, David Huff, Tony Sipp, Chuck Lofgren
5. Los Angeles Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw, Hong Chih Kuo, Scott Elbert, Joe Beimel, Eric Stults
Where the Rangers fit:
It's all about potential here. The Rangers have the best set of top flight lefty prospects in baseball to go with Harrison and Wilson. Only Kiker has been in professional baseball for two years, so it will take some time for that group to impact the major league club. Beau Jones is one of the more interesting lefty reliever prospects in baseball and could join Wilson to provide a nice 1-2 punch in the pen, and Joseph Ortiz held his own in one of the most aggressive assignments in baseball at age 17 in a full season league. The Rangers have also signed some live arms in Latin America (including Gueris Grullon and Vicente Escobar) who haven't emerged like Perez and Ortiz, but have the talent to add to the quality depth next season.
Harrison looks like a good candidate for the rotation. I still see him as an inconsistent guy who averages out to about a fourth starter, but, hey, Texas can use that. Wilson will be in the mix late in games but might have permanently lost his closer job. Gabbard, Murray, White, Ballard and maybe even Rheinecker will compete for roster spots, but the interest will surround Holland, who dominated more and more as he moved up and doesn't figure to last much longer in Frisco.
Kiker will start in Frisco and should spend more time there, though he could be quite tempting as a relief supplement if the big club is having a good year. Murphy will probably open a level behind him in High A and, like Tommy Hunter and Evan Reed in 2008, could see AA. He should be joined by Ortiz, who will presumably be the youngest player in the league at 18. Perez will lead a talented rotation in the new Hickory affiliate, and Richard Bleier should join him somewhere on that staff. Michael Kirkman had a big retrenching year, as he regained his control, and he should be in one of the full season rotations as well. And Robbie Ross will probably contend for a spot in Hickory, but may wait until May or so even if he does win a spot there, to keep his innings manageable in his first pro season. One of the most interesting things to watch on an organizational level in 2009 will be how this set of lefties progresses.