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Getting A Bit Ahead Of Ourselves: What The Rangers' 2012 Rotation Likely Looks Like Post-Hunter

For 2011, Koji Uehara simply takes Tommy Hunter's spot in the Rangers bullpen, but one side effect of the deal that Jon Daniels certainly considered is that Hunter is no longer a part of the picture for the 2012 rotation. That's made slightly more significant by the fact that C.J. Wilson will be a free agent after this season and is a pretty prime candidate to leave for big money.

Even if Wilson does depart, the remarkable stability of the Rangers' 2011 rotation (none of the five have left the rotation for a DL stint or demotion, which is unheard of in Arlington) means that Texas probably only has to replace one starter. Colby Lewis will be on a team option season, while Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando will be under team control for another 3-5 years. That stability combined with a big season of development for upper level pitching prospects keeps the Rangers on solid ground even with Hunter going and Wilson potentially following him.

If Wilson does leave, Hunter would have been a top candidate to fill that remaining starting role. Since he's gone, the battle for that spot figures to be fought by Scott Feldman (who will be owed $6.5 million plus a $600,000 2013 buyout), Eric Hurley, any major league veterans brought in through free agency, and a group of quickly advancing prospects.

That group is led by two high end prospects each on the Round Rock (AAA) and Frisco (AA) staffs. Top prospect Martin Perez, who Baseball America recently labeled their No. 6 prospect in baseball was recently promoted to Round Rock. While that places him just one stop away from the major leagues, at 20 years of age he's needed 42 starts at AA and looks like he'll need a fair amount in AAA after his slow start (28 hits and 12 ER in his first 13.1 innings). Neil Ramirez jumped Perez earlier in the season by making a temporary leap from Class A to AAA permanent by pitching so well. Ramirez figures to be a top 100 prospect in postseason rankings as well. 

Perez and Ramirez can be thought of as high upside stuff pitchers who have improved their finer points, while Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland are already among the most polished pitching prospects in AA despite having just 18 starts between them at the level. Erlin was ranked No. 34 on BA's midseason list, and Wieland's incredible 11:1 K:BB ratio in High A and impressive AA showing have jumped him not only high in prospect ranks but into several midseason trade discussions.

The progress of that quartet of starting prospects not only gave the Rangers the confidence to deal Hunter, they will play a factor in the club's approach to negotiations with Wilson and subsequently their 2012 rotation.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.