8 Reasons Texas Rangers Prospects Can Make Up for Loss of Free Agents

Lance ReavesContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2013

8 Reasons Texas Rangers Prospects Can Make Up for Loss of Free Agents

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    If Rangers fans were unfamiliar with the team's top prospects, this offseason has probably changed that.

    The departure of key players and a failure to sign high-profile replacements have placed a significantly bigger burden on guys like Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Leonys Martin.

    All is not lost, however. These players deserve the opportunity to earn their place within the organization. The Rangers don't necessarily have to sacrifice a year to do this, either.

    Here are some reasons their prospects can make up for the players they lost. 

Blue-Chip Prospects Ready to Make an Impact

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    A common perception is that Texas has let its best players fly the coop while they rummage though the trash looking for spare parts to replace them.

    Not the case. The Rangers prospects are hardly spare parts. Three of them—Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Martin Perez—are some of the highest-ranked young players in baseball.

    The Rangers farm system has been ranked in the top 10 for some time now and is frequently noted for its depth and star potential.

    Of course, prospects are no sure thing, but these blue-chip prospects have little left to prove in the minors. It's time to see what they can do in the majors. 

Fresh Legs

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    Including the playoffs, the Rangers have played 520 games the past three seasons with basically the same group of players. 

    Those two consecutive runs to the World Series definitely looked like it took a toll on the team mentally and physically down the stretch in 2012.

    Along with the additional rest from an early playoff exit, the prospects replacing the Rangers' departed players gives them some needed fresh legs.

    Whether it’s extra energy on the field or enthusiasm in the locker room, these young players offer a needed boost.

Speed

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    The Rangers got away from some of the things last year that made them successful the previous two years. One area in particular is their base stealing.

    In 2011, Texas finished fifth in baseball with 143 stolen bases and a 76 percent success rate. That number plummeted in 2012, when they finished 24th in the league with 91 stolen bases and a 67 percent success rate.

    This needs to change next year, and there’s a good chance it will.

    What the Rangers are losing in power, they are gaining in speed with the expanded roles of Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin. In addition to stealing bases, these youngsters can also potentially stretch singles into doubles, doubles into triples and so on.

    Speed can create runs, and the team now has more of it in 2013.     

Return of Small Ball

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    It seems like the Rangers lost a bit of their identity in 2012. This continues the theme of how they abandoned some of what made them so successful offensively in 2010-11.

    Ron Washington is a big proponent of small ball, and it’s a lot of fun to watch when it’s clicking on all cylinders.

    Bunting, hit and runs, squeeze plays and double steals are all creative ways to manufacture runs. Players like Profar and Martin—in addition to Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Craig Gentry—have the skill sets to make these plays work.

    For at least the first half of 2013, Rangers fans should see an increase in small ball. The team can no longer sit back and wait for Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli to crack a three-run homer and break the game open.     

Motivation

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    By continually holding on to their top prospects, Jon Daniels and the front office have shown a great deal of faith in their farm system, in particular Profar, Olt and Perez.

    These prospects have been afforded a unique opportunity to establish themselves as young players on a team that plans to compete for a championship.

    Naturally, this gives them much to prove next year.

    They should not only want to prove they belong in the big leagues, but also to validate the faith the front office showed in them.

How Prospects Can Improve the Rotation

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    The production the Rangers are losing is difficult but not impossible to replace.

    In the rotation, the team needs a fifth starter until Colby Lewis is ready to return.

    Scott Feldman filled that role for a large portion of last season and finished 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA. There was also Roy Oswalt, who was banished to the bullpen during the least productive season of his stellar career. He finished 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA.

    For now, it looks like Martin Perez is a leading candidate for the fifth spot until Lewis returns. Other names include Justin Grimm and perhaps Robbie Ross.

    They are young and still unproven, but their predecessors did not set the bar very high a year ago. 

How Prospects Can Improve the Lineup

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    Then, there is the offense.

    Despite leading the league in runs scored a year ago, there are still areas where improvement is not completely out of reach.

    For example, Mike Napoli hit 24 home runs in 2012 in 352 at-bats, but he also hit just .227 and struck out 125 times in an injury-riddled season. In addition to A.J. Pierzynski, prospect Mike Olt is a candidate to hit 20-plus homers given a full season of at-bats.   

    Also, Michael Young’s -2.4 WAR from last season shouldn’t be very difficult for his replacement (likely Profar) to improve upon.

    Josh Hamilton’s 43 home runs and 128 RBI are a different story. There is no prospect in the system ready to replicate those numbers. The best the team can hope for is that his replacement—probably a platoon of Gentry and Martin—can improve on Hamilton’s strikeouts (162) and play more consistently (he hit .223 in June, .177 in July and .259 in September).   

Trade Bait

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    A great farm system also gives the Rangers a bevy of options in the trade market.

    While nothing has materialized to this point, there is still plenty of time between now and the 2013 trade deadline to weigh the options of moving their prized prospects for an impact player.

    They have done this in years past, like the Cliff Lee deal.

    This appears very quiet at this point. However, it is an option the team must keep open.