A kid just a couple of months past his 16th birthday has a tough enough time adjusting to a new country. For Luis Sardinas, a fresh-faced Venezuelan who signed with the Texas Rangers in 2009, things got a lot more difficult in a hurry.
In 2010 and again in 2011, the fleet-footed shortstop underwent surgery on both shoulders, adding to the culture shock.
"It's very hard for a guy 16 years old [to leave home]," said Sardinas, rated No. 7 on the Rangers' Top 20 Prospects list. "Now it's OK. I have experience"
Manager Jason Wood of the Arizona Fall League's Surprise Saguaros appreciates the struggles Sardinas has encountered and conquered.
"There's a lot of factors," he said. "You think about a 16-year-old kid, 17, 18, whatever, leaving home in Venezuela, coming over here to the States, getting adjusted to the environment and then also a couple other factors, too.
"He's been injury-plagued the last couple years, that's why this is his first full season ... so I think he's making that adjustment. He's maturing each year dramatically, taken great steps forward in that, and he's going to be fine."
The switch-hitting Sardinas hit .291 for Class A Hickory in 2012 and stole 32 bases. He sees his stint with the Saguaros in the AFL as an opportunity to both continue to strengthen his shoulders and prove to the Rangers he should be on their radar screen as a shortstop and not a second baseman.
"I played shortstop for five years, and it's more comfortable for me," he said. "At Hickory, they tried me at second, but I like shortstop more."
Wood said Sardinas will play shortstop throughout the Fall League season.
While Sardinas continues to mature and work his way through the organization, first baseman Chris McGuiness, coming off a quality season at Double-A Frisco, appears to be on the cusp of taking a big step. He hit .268 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs for the RoughRiders.
McGuiness, recently named the Fall League's co-player of the week, said the quality of competition will help him sharpen his skills.
"We've faced a lot of good talent already," he said. "Always heard about the Fall League being the top prospects, best of the best, so it's been good, only going to get better."
Wood said he would not be surprised if McGuiness gets a long, hard look by the organization.
"In our system, I believe production has a lot to do with you playing in the big leagues," he said. "You get a guy on the corner like Chris, plays first base and is able to drive in runs and hit some home runs and do things he's capable of doing, anything's possible.
"There's a lot of Mitch Moreland in him. I make that comparison."
McGuiness, who played three years at The Citadel, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round (408th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He landed with Texas in the July 2010 trade that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Boston.
McGuiness said he never looked at his Draft position as either a motivating factor or a negative, although he admits a top pick probably gets more chances to both succeed and fail. He looks at his own situation from a broader perspective as well.
"It's a chance," he said. "You're all on the same playing field. If you hit and put up numbers, you're going to move on. If you don't, you're not going to make it."
Rangers hitters in the Fall League
Leury Garcia is the club's 20th-ranked prospect. Garcia plays the type of game needed for someone of his diminutive stature (5-foot-7, 153 pounds). A Fall League returnee, he had a productive year at Frisco, appearing in 100 games with a .292 batting average. His speed served him well, as he swiped 31 bases and legged out 11 triples.
Kellin Deglan, a former first-round selection (22nd overall) by the Rangers in 2010, spent the last two seasons in Class A Hickory. He appeared in 92 games this year, hitting .234 with 12 home runs. He also struck out 96 times in 92 games (320 at-bats).
Rangers pitchers in the Fall League
Jimmy Reyes is a left-handed reliever with seven saves and a 14-5 record in his Minor League career. A seventh-round pick (226th overall) by Texas in 2010, the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder posted a 6-3 record and collected three saves with Myrtle Beach last season, striking out 71 in 66 1/3 innings. In one game, Reyes pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, combining with Nick Tepesch for a no-hitter.
Ryan Rodebaugh has recorded 23 saves since he was a 15th-round selection (226h overall) in 2010. The right-hander played with Frisco this season and won three games to go along with five saves, appearing in 37 contests. His Minor League career ERA is 2.34 over three seasons.
Ben Rowen had a long way to climb after the 2010 Draft: He was a selected in the 22nd round (676th overall). This past season in Myrtle Beach, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-handed reliever came up with quality performances, posting a 5-0 record with 19 saves and an ERA of 1.57. He limited opposing hitters to a .201 batting average.
Joe Van Meter has started and relieved since he was a second-round selection (74th overall) in the 2008 Draft, notching nine wins and nine saves in three seasons with the organization. He played collegiately at Virginia Commonwealth and was a first-team all-conference pick.