When the Rangers hit the playoffs at the end of the 2015 season, only two of the nine starting position players (counting the DH) were homegrown: Mitch Moreland and Rougned Odor. And only one backup player: Hanser Alberto.
Out of fourteen position players on their playoff roster, only three were drafted and developed by the Rangers.
So much for that vaunted farm system.
Everybody else come from somewhere else. Fielder from Detroit, Napoli from Boston, Beltre from free agency, Hamilton from Los Angeles, Andrus from Atlanta (while he did spend a couple of years in the Rangers system, that was after a couple of seasons in the Braves system; he wasn’t grown as much as he was re-potted), DeShields from Houston, Choo from free agency, Chirinos from Tampa Bay. Even the backups (Gimenez, Stubbs and Venable) were shipped in.
So, while the perception is that the Rangers have had this world-class farm system in the Jon Daniels era, the reality suggests otherwise. There is a systemic inability in the Rangers organization to develop major-league-caliber players.
It seems Jon Daniels has a great PR machine. And a lousy player development machine.
Overall, in ten years, only one of Jon Daniels’s first round draft picks has made any sort of impact for the Rangers—pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez—and it can be described as marginal so far. Julio Borbon, Tommy Hunter, Justin Smoak, Tanner Scheppers, and Mike Olt contributed very little while in a Rangers’ uniform. Truth be told, Chi Chi hasn’t contributed all that much. But he did have a few noteworthy games to start his career, and he is still in the Rangers system, so there is hope.
A couple first-rounders seem to be bubbling up on the surface: Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo. Time will tell, though, if they, as well as Gonzalez, will contribute in any significant way to the major league club. Past history suggests otherwise.
Okay, forget first-round picks. The Rangers haven’t had success with many of their other Daniels position player picks, period—only Odor, who he drafted in 2011, and Moreland, who he drafted in 2007.
By comparison, look at the Kansas City Royals. They won the World Series with four of their nine starting positions being homegrown. And three of their bench players.
The Royals drafted Alex Gordon in 2005, Salvador Perez in 2006, Mike Moustakas in 2007, and Eric Hosmer in 2008. That’s four impact players drafted four years in a row (three of them first-rounders).
The Royals, like the Rangers, made it to back-to-back World Series. The Royals, unlike the Rangers, won one. The Royals, unlike the Rangers, have the ability to get big-league production from their draft picks. The Royals, unlike the Rangers, have no crippling long-term contracts hanging over their heads, soon to flatten them like a falling safe in a comic strip.
Three of the four pitchers who logged starts for the Mets in their five World Series games this October were homegrown: Matt Harvey (drafted in 2010), Jacob deGrom (2010), and Steven Matz (2009). Two of the four Rangers starters against Toronto were home grown: Derek Holland (2006) and Martin Perez (2007). It’s not so much the difference in numbers that is telling as it is the difference in talent.
And dollars spent.
The New York Mets’ 2015 opening day payroll was $101.1 million. Kansas City’s was $113.6 million.
Texas’s was $142.1 million.
Houston, who came within one game of tying Texas, made the playoffs with six home-grown starting position players and rotation pitchers—Jose Altuve, George Springer, Rookie of the Year winner Carlos Correa, Jason Castro, Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers—and an opening day payroll less than half that of the Rangers at $70.9 million.
That’s why Profar’s health is so important to the Rangers. He is one of the few bright spots in their mostly barren and vastly under-performing system. Actually, he is the only one even close to ready to step onto a major league roster, and he might not even be able to do that physically. Brinson looks very promising, as does Nomar Mazara, but they are not expected to be ready this season. Gallo and Gonzalez still have a lot of baking to do. Gallo a whole lot more. Then there’s Ryan Rua.
So there is hope on the horizon. After ten years of Jon Daniels, the Rangers finally appear to have something to look forward to in homegrown talent. Eventually the law of averages catches up to every organizations.
But let’s face the facts: The Rangers’ farm system under Daniels has been totally inept at developing a catcher in his entire ten-year tenure. It has no first baseman anywhere in the system ready to step in and take over, so it’s Moreland for at least one more season or get that production from outside the system. Brinson is not ready in center to take over should Delino DeShields prove to be a fluke. There’s no right fielder if Choo disappears for months at a time as he so often does. Nobody is ready to take over in left when Hamilton goes down. And the level of pitching prospects can generously be described as threadbare.
While the Rangers have earned the reputation for having a great farm system, the reality is that it has yet to turn out much in the way of staying power in Arlington lately.
True, Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan were turned into Cliff Lee. But Smoak and Beavan, both first-round Jon Daniels picks by the way, didn’t materialize for their major league teams either. And, yes, you can argue that some of that talent turned into Cole Hamels. But that is the entire point of this.
If the Rangers intend to continue being competitive and improve the team, they have to trade for or buy the talent they are unable to develop on their own.
And since they are unable to develop their own, they don’t have a whole lot of available attractive talent to trade. So that means they have to buy.
That is the Jon Daniels difference.
Watch out for that safe.