T.R. Sullivan, MLB, January 3, 2014
A movement that was really started by former general manager Tom Grieve and scouting director Sandy Johnson in the mid-1980s and lost steam at the turn of the millennium could reach a new level for the Rangers on Opening Day 2014 after the free-agent signing of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Assuming that Yu Darvish–second in American League Cy Young Award voting last season–is the starting pitcher, the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup could have players representing eight World Baseball Classic countries.
In addition, the Rangers’ lineup could have just three players born in the United States. That includes right fielder Alex Rios, who was born in Alabama but grew up in Puerto Rico and plays for them in the Classic. The other two USA-born players are first baseman Prince Fielder and designated hitter Mitch Moreland.
The 2014 Opening Day lineup projects to include catcher Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), second baseman Jurickson Profar (Curacao), shortstop Elvis Andrus (Venezuela), third baseman Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic), center fielder Leonys Martin (Cuba), Darvish (Japan) and Choo (South Korea) in left.
That would represent a massive change from Jon Daniels’ first year as general manager in 2006. The Rangers’ lineup on Opening Day that year consisted of 10 players born in the United States, none of whom were African-American.
The transformation in diversity reinforces the Rangers’ goal of acquiring players from every possible venue through both amateur and professional scouting. Besides being willing to compete at the top of the free-agent market for players like Beltre and Choo, the Rangers over the past eight years have greatly increased their time, effort and expenditures in Latin America and the Far East.
In addition to the projected Opening Day lineup, 10 of the Rangers’ top 20 prospects as ranked by MLB.com are from Latin America.