Seven of the club's pitchers were included in Lone Star Dugout's top 50 Rangers prospects rankings. Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso would have been included had he been with the organization before the list was produced. Also, five position players made the list.
1) Hunter back in Frisco.
Tommy Hunter was thought to be polished for his age when the Rangers drafted him in 2007, but nobody expected him to reach the Major Leagues in his first full season. After starting in Bakersfield and soaring through the system last season, Hunter begins his 2009 campaign in the bullpen with Double-A Frisco. The big right-hander still needs to work on developing his changeup and keeping his fastball down in the zone. Hunter is also coming off a groin injury in Spring Training, and he should move back to the starting rotation once he gets more innings.
2) Smoak begins in Double-A.
Justin Smoak played in just 14 regular season games last season, all coming with Single-A Clinton. But Smoak was perhaps the most advanced hitter in all of the 2008 MLB Draft, and the Rangers had him break camp with Double-A Frisco this year. Regardless of how well Smoak hits, he'll probably stay in Frisco for the entire first half. However, with just Royce Huffman and Scott Thorman blocking his path in Oklahoma City, the former first round pick should at least finish the year in Triple-A.
3) Repeating outfielders.
All four of Frisco's outfielders played in Frisco last year, and three of them spent a significant chunk of the season with the ‘Riders. The outfielders -- Craig Gentry, Dustin Majewski, Steve Murphy and Chad Tracy -- are all talented, but they are hurt by a crowded Oklahoma City outfield. An excellent defender, Gentry played 18 games in Triple-A last year, and he would likely be the first outfielder promoted this season. At 27-years-old, Majewski is still looking for his first Triple-A opportunity despite a strong season with Frisco last year.
Three stories to follow
1) The middle infield sitaution.
For their entire professional careers, Marcus Lemon has played shortstop and Jose Vallejo has been a second baseman. But the Rangers made a few adjustments over the offseason. Because Vallejo has plus range and a plus arm, the Rangers had him taking ground balls at shortstop over the offseason. Lemon may be best suited as a utility player down the line, and while he is smooth at shortstop, his range there is limited. Lemon played second base at instructs and in Spring Training, and he will probably play second base occasionally with Frisco this season.
2) Whittleman looks for breakout season.
As he mentioned during a Spring Training interview, the 2009 campaign is extremely important for John Whittleman. The 22-year-old third baseman comes off a season in which he hit just .257 with eight home runs between High-A and Double-A, but he still has the raw talent to put it all together. A breakout season in '09 could have Whittleman in Arlington before the season is over.
3) The talented bullpen.
Practically all of Frisco's bullpen arms have an opportunity to contribute in the Major Leagues at some point. Right-handers John Bannister, Andrew Laughter and Guillermo Moscoso are particularly talented, and all could be with the Rangers at some point this summer. With a fastball that can reach triple digits, Jose Diaz isn't bad either.
One to watch
The Texas Rangers acquired right-hander Guillermo Moscoso from the Detroit Tigers in the Gerald Laird trade. The 25-year-old Moscoso has a good fastball with outstanding life, a great splitter, and a usable breaking ball. If he remains in the bullpen [he started in place of Michael Schlact on Sunday], Moscoso could be with the Rangers at some point this summer.