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Driver's Ed

It may be time to look at the kids

Sombody's gotta win, right?
Sombody's gotta win, right?
Robert Cianflone

Welp, it may be time. There always comes a time. Time to take that learner’s permit out onto the highway. You gots to do it sometime, right? Who the hell knows what’s going to happen. You could cause an 18-car pileup. But I doubt it. What’s likely to happen is you’re going to piss your pants a bit, the person sitting in the passenger seat is going to need a stiff drink tonight, and the other cars, instantly sensing your nubile abilities will attempt to torment you into the far right lane…where you probably belong. But you’ll get through it, right? Or you won’t and you’ll be a crappy driver for a long time.

Are the Rangers there now? Are they in a position to roll the dice on some of their vaunted youth and let them drive on the highway? I think so. I look to two factors, the way the free agent/trade market has rounded out thus far, and, perhaps more notably, the near simultaneous maturation of a batch of prospects. In most cases, these prospects are far from ready for starring roles, but can they contribute while earning their stripes? We’ll see. It’s uncertain. Actually one of the aspects I enjoy most about following prospects is the uncertainty. But I realize that’s not what most fans enjoy. It’s hard to convey, especially given the way dorks like me extol the exploits of certain prospects, the learning curve that is Major League Baseball. It’s hard as hell. Big leaguers are mind-bogglingly better than nearly every player in the minor leagues. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s true. A question I get at least 10 times a year is something like “how many homeruns would Josh Hamilton hit in Frisco?” I usually say “probably 75 in 140 games”. Make no mistake, they are that good up there. But everybody has to come from somewhere, right?

Both Jon Daniels and Wash have recently indicated there’s gonna be a bit of a youth movement. The entire point of a farm system is to develop dudes who can contribute at the big league level. They’re not all going to be stars, but they obviously have to be able to hold their own. Texas has a pack of prospects whose names you know, that fit this bill. Does Leury Garcia get a shot at the utility role earlier than expected? Is Engel Beltre the 5th OF option on the 2013 roster? Can either Justin Grimm or Martin Perez win the 5th rotation spot that seems to be there for the taking? Hell, what if they both spit the bit in Spring Training or get hurt and Chad Bell goes 4-0 for the big league team while in Arizona. If the bullpen stays as it is right now, are Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez in the mix for a position there? Or do they lose out to wonky-delivery, Rule 5 pickup Coty Woods? Does Joe Ortiz and his LOOGY-ness wear the pink backpack when the team breaks camp? None of these guys are top of the line, can’t miss prospects. That one can’t miss guy you’re thinking of? I hope he’s a regular starter and even he is going to struggle. I just said the game is mind-bogglingly hard and no one team will ever figure out how to develop fleets of reinforcements who end up as All-Stars. But a good system produces producers. Texas has a better-than-good system. Using rookies generally, understandably, scares the crap out of the public, and you never know exactly what a kid will do until he’s put in the position a few times. But you can have a pretty good idea where to put the expectations. The names above are not going to be first division starters right now, but can they contribute to wins for Texas? Some of them will, others won’t. All of them could use more seasoning in the minor leagues, but someone’s going to step up. They’re going to step up in Spring Training and win a spot on the 25-man roster. As it stands right now, there is opportunity on that roster. Some kid is going to take it.

Pitchers and catchers report in about 60 days.