March 2015 marked the fifth consecutive time that I’ve traveled to Arizona for spring training, the second time as a member of Baseball Prospectus, and the first as a member of the prospect team. My perspective and reasons for going have evolved over the years as my knowledge and interest in baseball have continued to grow. Originally attending purely as a fan, the past three years have been more about getting out to the backfields to see guys I wouldn’t be able to see in my area the rest of the year.
In that respect it’s been largely successful. Arizona, while much further away than Florida, provides far more accessibility and shorter distance between ballparks. It’s fairly easy to go to one backfield to see BP/fielding drills in the morning, and then head to another for a minor-league or B game. This isn’t impossible in Florida, but is certainly a more difficult setup to accommodate. The point of all this rambling is that over these past few years, I’ve been able to add to my mental database of minor-league players and systems, giving myself a reference point of what organizational depth and impact talents look like at different stages throughout their careers.
To that end, my biggest takeaway from this year’s trip is about organizational depth. Not in regards to players who embody the term (non-prospects) but rather in reference to the varying gaps in talent depth between different teams. Sure, this can be assessed through things such as organizational talent rankings, but to see it play out in front of you is another thing altogether. While I was able to see a bunch of teams in Arizona (Brewers, Cubs, Royals, Rangers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Mariners) I spent the most time in Surprise, checking out the Rangers. Part of this was because they opened their minor-league camp before everyone else, but part of it was because there was just so much to see. You could go to the backfields there and not know who was going to be playing in what game, but be absolutely certain you were going to see some serious talent on display.
Given how many players were spending time in MLB camp because of how early in spring training it was, it’s amazing the number of legitimately interesting players one could view on the backfields in Surprise. Sure, every team has some number of guys who are of interest. But having the ability to see so many teams in such a short time period puts the depth that the Rangers have accrued in stark contrast to most everyone else. (Minnesota, Boston and maybe Houston and Atlanta are all also deep, but also in Florida.) To be able to view Yeyson Yrizarri, Ti’Quan Forbes, Jairo Beras, and Josh Morgan in their Low-A game; Evan Van Hoosier, Ronald Guzman, Travis Demeritte, and Michael De Leon in the High-A game; Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Ryan Cordell, Luke Jackson, Jose LeClerc, Andrew Faulkner, Michael Choice, and Anthony Ranaudo in the upper levels. And that’s not including guys like Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Jorge Alfaro, and Joey Gallo, who were spending time in the big-league camp, or guys like Jake Thompson, Luis Ortiz, and Yohander Mendez who I just didn’t see throw. Again, on some level, every org has guys like this. Interesting, but flawed. But no one else that I saw had the same volume of these types.
This isn’t meant to be yet another BP article that waxes poetic about the Rangers, though I know that’s something of a tradition. But when approached about writing something to recap our experience in Arizona—to offer some sort of takeaway—the item that dominated my memory was the visual confirmation of organizational depth in Texas.
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