ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' farm system is not enjoying the same reputation as it has in previous years under general manager Jon Daniels.
As recently as 2016, MLB Pipeline ranked the farm system third overall among Major League clubs.
The Rangers are no longer in the top 10 and most rankings have their system in the bottom half among Major League teams. But Daniels said that is going to change as the Rangers have made a concerted effort over the past year to restock their farm system. Pitching has been a high priority.
"I think we are going to be perceived by the industry a year from now as taking a really big jump for a variety of reasons," Daniels said. "One is so much of our best talent both in quality and quantity of players are at the lower levels. When these guys go out and perform at full-season clubs or are sitting at [Double-A] Frisco or higher, that will resonant even higher and make a meaningful difference in perception."
The quality of an organization's farm system can fluctuate from year to year depending on the fortunes of the Major League club. MLB Pipeline lauded the Rangers at the beginning of 2016 for having five players among the Top 100 Prospects: outfielders Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara, and pitchers Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz.
Gallo and Mazara are now in the Rangers' lineup while Brinson, Tate and Ortiz were included in 2016 mid-season trades for Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran.
The Rangers have three players ranked on the latest Top 100 Prospects list: pitcher Hans Crouse (No. 85), outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez (No. 88) and Cole Winn (No. 89). Those three and others illustrate why Daniels feels the farm system will be held in higher regard a year from now.
Crouse, a second-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, has pitched in just five games at Class A Hickory. Martinez, signed out of Cuba, was at Class A Short-Season Spokane last year and Winn, the club's top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, has yet to make his professional debut.
"The reality is that talent will be the same as it is next year," Daniels said. "But when guys get a chance to settle into the organization and perform at full season levels or higher, it will be viewed a lot differently. We feel pretty good about it.
"Honestly it would not shock me if we have a chance to be viewed as a top 10 system a year from now."
How do the Rangers get back there?
Here are some factors to watch:
Left-hand turn at Frisco
The Rangers are likely going to have three intriguing left-handed starters at Double-A in Brock Burke, Taylor Hearn and Joe Palumbo. Burke and Hearn were both acquired in trades last year while Palumbo is showing great signs of a strong return from Tommy John surgery. This should be an impressive trio to track.
Out and out outstanding
A big strength of the farm system are the outfielders, including Martinez and Bubba Thompson, the club's top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, who had a terrific year at Hickory. Then there is Leody Taveras, the switch-hitting outfielder who has been considered the Rangers' top prospect in recent years. He didn't make the Top 100 Prospects list this offseason after a couple of mediocre offensive years. That may be the result of the Rangers pushing him at a young age, but he just turned 20 and he still has considerable talent.
Jose Trevino was pushing for a Major League job last season until undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He should be at Triple-A Frisco, but the Rangers have some promising catchers in the lower levels of the system including Sam Huff and Yohel Pozo.
Where's No. 1?
Thompson is off to a good start but he is just one of four players taken by the Rangers over the past three years in the MLB Draft. The others haven't taken off. Cole Ragans, No. 1 in 2016, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and he is not expected to be back until June. Shortstop Chris Seise, a first-rounder in 2017, missed all of last season because of rotator cuff surgery. Winn, being brought along slowly like other young pitchers, should pitch somewhere this season.
Young and right
The top young pitchers in the lower part of the system are right-handed. Two to watch are Crouse and Tyler Phillips, who was the Rangers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, but the club is hoping for breakout years from Jason Bahr, A.J. Alexy and others.
Rebuilding the Dominican
The Rangers have been a force in Latin American scouting during Daniels tenure, but they have slipped in recent years. They are building a new state-of-the-art complex in the Dominican Republic this summer and that should help.
The Rangers have talented position players in the system, but no player has really separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Maybe it will be one of the outfielders or maybe somebody unexpected. Maybe it will be first baseman Tyreque Reed, who was the No. 8 pick in the 2017 MLB Draft out of junior college. Over 464 Minor League at-bats, he hit .289 with 23 home runs, 82 RBIs, a .374 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage.