Minor League Report: Philosophy
Organization looks to minimize free bases from the ground up
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers Minor League officials made a study of their six farm teams over the final three months of the 2007 season.The officials found when their clubs allowed five or fewer free bases in a game, those clubs won an astounding 91 percent of their games. They also found out that Major League playoff teams are the ones that allowed an average of less than five free bases per game. "We want that to be the identity of our organization, being good at not allowing the free base," Rangers farm director Scott Servais. "That's something we talk about with our players every day. Oakland's identity is high on-base percentage. The Angels are known for their aggressiveness and putting pressure on the other team. This is what we need to be known for." Servais said the free base comes in seven different areas: walks, hit batter, passed ball, wild pitch, balk, error and stolen base. "The biggest number is the walks," Servais said. "Baseball is the only sport that you have the ball on defense. These are things you can control." The top three teams in the Major Leagues in preventing free bases last year were the Indians, Red Sox and Rockies. The Twins averaged 3.6 per game in 2006 when they won a division title. The Rangers averaged 6.5 last year, third highest in the Majors. Manager Ron Washington fully supports Servais making that an emphasis for the Rangers. "All that does is give free opportunities to the other team," Washington said. Roberts shines: Ryan Roberts could be the Opening Day shortstop for Triple-A Oklahoma and stay there until Joaquin Arias is ready. He is a utilityman who can play multiple positions -- including the outfield -- and could be a valuable guy for the Rangers this year. He has also quietly made an impression in big league camp. Going into Friday's game, Roberts had 11 hits in 24 at-bats with two doubles and a homer. A career .268 hitter in the Minor Leagues, Roberts credits his work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in helping him get off to a strong start. "I think it's 50-50," Roberts said. "Fifty percent of it is knowledge and working with me and 50 percent of it is me applying it. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of stuff and how he explains it is easy to understand and easy to apply."
Who's No. 1: The 2008 season could be the last stand for infielder Drew Meyer, the Rangers' No. 1 Draft pick in 2002, who has fallen to the fringes of the organization. He played in five games at the Major League level in 2006 but spent all of 2007 with Oklahoma and hit just .213 in 72 games and 225 at-bats."I talked to him," Servais said. "I told him the scholarship has run out. He needs to compete and he understands that. He's come in here in the best shape I've seen since I've been here." Gold may have chance: The Rangers sent Nate Gold back to Oklahoma on Friday. He was just 3-for-16 in Cactus League games -- including a home run off Trevor Hoffman -- but seemed to leave a more favorable impression on the Rangers than in past springs. He will be the starting first baseman with Oklahoma, while Chris Davis is expected to start at Double-A Frisco. "Right now, Ben Broussard is the first baseman in Texas," Washington said. "Nate needs to go down and continue to do what he's doing. You never know what may happen. He didn't hurt himself up here. He got some big hits. He's a nice player." Class of '07: Engel Beltre, the prized young outfielder acquired from the Boston Red Sox last July in the Eric Gagne trade, had a nice start in his first Minor League game this spring, going 4-for-5 in an exhibition game. Most notable was a triple he hit off the center-field wall in one at-bat, then beat out a drag bunt in his next at-bat. He said it: "You have to have that kind of attitude that you belong. Every Minor Leaguer's goal is to be in the big leagues and be there a long time. If you don't have that mindset, then you don't belong." -- Davis
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.