But in December, Texas announced the signings of shortstop Corey Seager to a 10-year deal and second baseman Marcus Semien to a seven-year deal, leaving a logjam of highly touted prospects at those two positions, headlined by Smith and Foscue.
“My immediate reaction was that I should probably get an outfielder's glove and try to find a new position,” Smith joked last month at Globe Life Field. “I’m pretty comfortable moving around though.”
And he wasn’t too far off. Too much depth is a good problem to have for any organization, but the Rangers are trying to evaluate how to utilize it.
After conversations with general manager Chris Young and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, Smith and Foscue knew their paths to the big leagues would require a bit more versatility.
And while both Young and Daniels emphasized that the two won’t move off the middle of the infield permanently at this point in time, that versatility and adaptability will be key going forward in their careers.
“Obviously, the landscape of our middle infield has changed,” Young said. “And they're cognizant of that. So I think that they understand their path to the big leagues may take a different route than it was originally scripted. These guys are winning players who want to help our team and get to the big leagues any way they can. While we initiated the conversation, these guys have embraced it completely, and I think it speaks for their makeup and their character.”
Daniels noted that both guys handled the situation maturely and professionally and were eager to do what is needed to be done for themselves and the organization.
At the start of the Rangers’ Minor League minicamp, Smith did end up getting that outfielder's glove and has taken reps at shortstop, third and in the outfield. Similarly, Foscue is sticking in the infield and taking grounders at second and third base. Both played third base at different points in college, but Smith has never played outfield before and is excited for the challenge.
“I'm pretty realistic,” Smith said. “I know what's going on up the middle with the Rangers, so as badly as I would love to play short or second, I probably need to have that extra position in my bag to where if I need to play somewhere else, I can do it. I've always believed that I was a really good shortstop, but I kind of always had in the back of my mind that I could probably play other positions, too.”
“I don't care [about moving around the infield],” Foscue added. “I think it helps my value as a player if I can play different positions. I can play third and second in the big leagues, or whatever it is, that's gonna make my value go up as a player. I'm more than willing to learn how to play third base at a high level.”
Because there was no 2020 Minor League season, both Foscue and Smith played their first full seasons of professional ball this past summer. Both are clearly important parts of the Rangers' future, whether that’s in the middle of the infield or elsewhere.
Smith, who was one of four prospects in the Joey Gallo trade with the Yankees, slashed .309/.429/.535 across four Minor League teams in 2021. Foscue, a 2020 first-round pick by the Rangers, slashed .275/.371/.590 between the Arizona Complex League Rangers, High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco.
Daniels noted that while increasing their versatility is important, he doesn’t want to hinder the top prospects' development at the plate or even at their core positions by doing so. But less than a week into camp, both feel confident so far in their reps across the diamond as they prepare for the coming season.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to play well to be in the big leagues, whatever position I'm at,” Foscue said. “It's not like I was gonna have an easy way to the big leagues. So I'm gonna have to hit my way there. I'm gonna have to be an all-around great player to get to the big leagues and stay there. So for me, it's just like control what I can control -- and that's getting better every day and just trying to learn things.”