2013 Rangers: Worth waiting for?

Mike Stanley

Mike Stanley came up with the Rangers but had his best years with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees (a 26-homer 1993 with New York, when he was 13th in the MVP voting; a 24-homer 1996 with Boston; and a 29-homer 1998 with Boston and Toronto). He also had the bad fortune to be a Yankee in 1995 and 1997, losing divisional series with New York in the only two years in a six-season stretch when they won four World Series. Stanley hit 187 career homers and batted .270; his lifetime .827 OPS included three years where it topped .900. Career WAR was 18.6, with a best of 4.5 in 1993.

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: There’s a reason 24-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus’ contract runs out after 2014 and may not be renewed. Andrus is a good, young, shortstop, but Jurickson Profar is a better one. Profar is 20 and from the island of Curacao, off the South American coast. Last year the island sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Braves. It’s a good bet major-league teams who aren’t scouting the island — who knew proficiency in Dutch would be an attribute for a baseball scout? — will be making more of a commitment. Profar homered on the first of his 17 big-league at-bats last year — he hit 14, walked 66 times, stole 14 bases and batted .281 as a 19-year-old in AA. None of this is a surprise to anyone who watches the Little League World Series — Profar’s Curacao team won in 2004 when he was 11, and lost in the finals in 2005 when he was 12.

What is this man doing here? The Rangers only signed veteran Derek Lowe in the aftermath of 21-year-old Martin Perez’s fractured arm. To which we can only ask: Why bother? If Lowe’s sinkerball was dropping as rapidly as his career path, he might still be effective. He led the National League in losses in 2011 with 17 and lost 10 of his 21 starts for the Indians before they released him in 2012. Haters should have known as soon as the Yankees signed Lowe last summer, they weren’t winning. Lowe’s ERA hasn’t been less than 5.05 since 2010, and hasn’t been less than 4.00 since 2008, his last good season. Forget about Lowe’s two shutout innings Friday. He’s 39 and will turn 40 on June 1. Rangers’ fans can only hope he’s not celebrating as a Ranger.

What he said: Rangers manager Ron Washington: “I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.” What he meant: “Are we still talking about Game 6? Or are you asking me how we blew the AL West last year.”

Outlook: The Rangers have lost star players to free agency in each of the last two years — pitcher C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton to the Angels and damaged-goods catcher Mike Napoli and pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Red Sox — and it’s bothered them far less than memories of the World Series they had won but didn’t.

Of course, it’s easy to be frugal when your farm system is rich, and the Rangers’ is (are you listening Elvis Andrus?). Consider these next-generation Rangers:

  • Profar is the consensus top prospect in baseball. He may start the season in the minors, but will probably be up for good the first time Adrian Beltre strains a hamstring.
  • Leonys Martin is a 25-year-old Cuban centerfielder who is a career .323 minor-league hitter. How long can Craig Gentry hold that job (in the interest of fairness, Martin has a harder time going from first to second by the stolen base than he did going from Cuba to the U.S. He’s been thrown out 20 times in 49 attempts).
  • Mike Olt slugged .579 in AA last year, but can’t play for the Rangers because he’s a third baseman, like Beltre. Olt will have to play first base or DH to get at-bats.
  • Perez is a soon-to-be 22-year-old Venezuelan who might have made the starting rotation but for his injury. In five minor-league seasons his potential has always been greater than his production (4.23 ERA, 540 innings, 568 hits, 462 strikeouts), but he reached the majors as a 21-year-old last summer. His injury might make Alexi Ogando, a reliever in 2010, a starter in 2011 and a reliever in 2012, a starter again.
  • Cody Buckel is a 20-year-old pitcher who fanned 159 in 144.2 innings; Luke Jackson has the name of two of former pro basketball players and the stuff of a big-leaguer — he fanned 146 in 129.2 innings.
  • Third baseman Joey Gallo is a 19-year-old first-round pick in 2012 who slugged .733 in 150 Rookie League at-bats.

    There’s no reason to spend millions on every salary when investments are returning prospects. Of course, the Rangers’ problem isn’t philosophy so much as completion.

    Last year, in its own way, was as embarrassing as 2011. Which is worse: to lose a World Series when a strike away, or a division by being swept away? (We opt for the former.)

    It seems a distant memory that the Rangers were favored to return to the World Series as late as last September. Perhaps there’s less suffering by such an early collapse.

    Hamilton will be missed, but the Rangers led MLB in runs scored last year. They can spare a few. They can’t spare innings though — both Ogando and Robbie Ross, staples of the bullpen in 2012, might start in 2013. And Neftali Feliz, who started last year, might return to the bullpen, if he ever returns from injury. We’re not sure which is more traumatic.

    The Rangers may not be as good as the last couple of years, but not just because of Hamilton’s departure. They’re short of pitching, and patching up the rotation by borrowing from the bullpen might hurt both.

    Still, there’s plenty of talent, and with all the youth, just as many options. We’re not so sure about persistence.

    Team song: Alanis Morissette: Incomplete

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