Time for a little bit of everything.
ESPN.COM'S TOP 100 PROSPECT RANKINGS
Coming on the heels of Wednesday's glowing appraisal of the Texas Rangers' award-winning farm system from distinguished ESPN.com prospect guru Keith Law was Thursday's utterly astonishing prospect ranking blowout, which comprised Law's Top 100 prospect rankings for the 2009 season, Top 10 prospects by organization and by position, and an extensive chat session packed with nuggets of wisdom.
Included below for your perusal are Law's Top 10 Rangers prospect rankings, along with footnotes on where they placed on the Top 100 prospects list and the Top 10 prospects by position list wherever applicable, and very concise snippets from Law's assorted scouting reports (which are only available in their entirety to ESPN Insider subscribers), designed to give you a brief, yet ambrosial taste of Law's superb analysis while averting the potential consequences of republishing large swathes of subscription-only material:
1. Neftali Feliz, RHP (No. 4 MLB, No. 1 RHP)
"Coming from a low 3/4 slot, Feliz has some of the easiest velocity you will ever see, mostly 94-97 mph but dialing up and down a little as needed. He turns his change-up over well, especially considering his arm slot, and gets good fading action on it, so it's not surprising that his strikeout rate against left-handed hitters was 28 percent higher than it was against right-handed hitters."
2. Justin Smoak, 1B (No. 15 MLB, No. 2 1B)
"Smoak is legit from both sides of the plate, centering the ball extremely well and showing power both to pull and to the opposite field. His path to the ball is short and he sets up almost loaded, with a short move backwards serving as his trigger."
3. Derek Holland, LHP (No. 21 MLB, No. 4 LHP)
"His velocity has since increased; he was 88-91 mph the following spring, then was 90-93 in the summer of '07 in Spokane. By the middle of 2008, he was already in Double-A, sitting 93-95 and touching 98, with natural bore and cut to the pitch and uncanny command."
4. Martin Perez, LHP (No. 37 MLB, No. 6 LHP)
"He already has a solid-average fastball and plus curveball with good depth, with excellent command of both pitches, something unusual in a pitcher his age."
5. Elvis Andrus, SS (No. 39 MLB, No. 4 SS)
"Down the road, once he's old enough to stay up past the seventh inning, he should be a top-of-the-order hitter, hitting for average and getting on base while adding value with his speed."
6. Michael Main, RHP (No. 64 MLB)
"His changeup continues to improve and he projects to have three average or better pitches by the time he reaches the majors."
7. Taylor Teagarden, C (No. 70 MLB, No. 5 C)
"He does have raw power and a good solid base at the plate, but it doesn't matter how good everything looks mechanically if you're not recognizing pitches enough to make contact more than two-thirds of the time."
8. Max Ramirez, C (No. 77 MLB, No. 7 C)
"He'll never be better than fringe-average overall [defensively]; he has an average arm, but his footwork is messy and his release is slow."
9. Julio Borbon, CF (No. 85 MLB, No. 10 CF)
"Borbon sets up high but gets down into hitting position quickly, with good balance through his swing, keeping his bat in the zone long enough to hit for power; when he doesn't get his hands down quickly enough, though, his swing path heads downward and he hits the ball on the ground."
10. Engel Beltre, CF
BEN SHEETS, 2009 LONG ISLAND DUCKS ACE ... OR NOT
"Well, I know the Mets looked long and hard at [Sheets] and are afraid of his medicals, and I think that's what's happened with a lot of teams [...] He was down with the Rangers [on Wednesday] [...] I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in Texas, and I know that [team president] Nolan Ryan really likes him and [pitching coach] Mike Maddux really likes him, but I think that's probably the most likely landing spot at this point (Peter Gammons, ESPN.com, speaking with ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning on Thursday)
J.D. & NOLAN
If you haven't yet read Richard Durrett's exhaustive Q&A with general manager Jon Daniels, you should probably do yourself a huge favor and check it out pronto:
What would you have changed about the way you told Michael Young about the switch to third base?
There's not much I would have changed. I'm sorry that it obviously hurt Michael the way it did. That was never the intent. I have a ton of respect for the guy. But I think any other way of presenting it wouldn't have been 100 percent honest and truthful. Some of the characterizations and words used to describe the presentation by people in the media could not be further from the truth, but I have no interest in getting into that. He's entitled to have any sort of reaction. He's earned that. He worked hard to make himself into a Gold Glove shortstop.
Looking back on it, I probably wouldn't have had Ron [Washington] in the meeting. It put Ron in a bad spot. The manager has a different relationship with the players than the front office. Mike has spoken with Ron and there's no issue, but that's something to consider for the future.
What have you learned in your first three seasons as GM?
From the club standpoint, the big thing is how important it is to keep a long-term view on things. There really are no shortcuts. How important it is to really invest in your people, invest in the infrastructure of this thing. That's what's going to make us good for a long time.
As for the impregnable Nolan Ryan, Victor Rojas of the MLB Network briefly sat down with the second-year club president to talk -- what else? -- pitching and prospects:
[Direct link available here.]
Additionally, FSN Southwest will premiere a new 30-minute In My Own Words installment featuring Ryan -- hosted by the perpetually underrated John Rhadigan -- at 10:00 p.m. CST on Sunday evening. The show is scheduled to re-air several times before Opening Day, but one gets the sense from Ray Buck's glowing episode review in the Friday morning edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that this will be must-see television the first time around.
Baseball Think Factory's Dan Szymborski has released his always anticipated 2009 ZiPS projections for the Rangers, and suffice it to say that the 2009 major league product will be hard-pressed to crack 75 wins if the majority of these player forecasts stand up. Nelson Cruz (.282/.354/.531, 31 HR) and Josh Hamilton (.293/.366/.526, 28 HR) fared perhaps the most favorably among the offensive contingent, while the pitching staff ... well, you can see for yourself. We'll play around with these some more a little bit later.
Owner Tom Hicks has reportedly engaged in tentative discussions with representatives of the Al Kharafi family -- whose head, Nasser, is the 48th-richest man in the world -- to sell Liverpool FC, valued by Forbes as the fourth most valuable soccer franchise in the world -- with an approximate value of $1 billion, excluding debt -- behind only Manchester United, Real Madrid and Arsenal in April 2008.
According to NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman, Japanese right-hander Kazuo Fukumori reportedly suffered from a herniated disc during at least a portion of the 2008 season and underwent surgery in October to have the damage repaired; though the 32-year-old reliever isn't suffering from lingering discomfort at this point, he'll begin spring training in the Rangers' minor league camp.
Said Fukumori of his plight: "In the state that I'm in now, I won't get a contract to play anywhere next year. I want to be promoted to the majors, and then attract calls from Japanese baseball too next off-season." Yeah, we'll see how that goes.
Per Richard Durrett, the Rangers will unveil their new home, road and alternate uniforms at 11:30 a.m. CST on Friday.
If you're an amateur Pitch f/x geek like me, Dan Brooks's start-by-start Pitch f/x tool is ... well ... the best website you've already heard of that I didn't even realize existed. Wow.
Beyond the Box Score has churned out stat-powered looks at the last days of Eric Hurley and the acquisition of Omar Vizquel, which certainly takes the wind out of the Hurley injury timeline I was contemplating writing. Nevertheless, I'll find the time to fire off some thoughts on that debacle in the next day or two.