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March 24, 2009

Rest In Peace, John Brattain

Too soon.

Posted by Lucas at 10:52 PM

March 20, 2009

Spring Training Photos, Day Three

Note: These and other photos on this website may be used only for non-commercial purposes and with attribution.

Slideshow of 40+ pictures here.

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Kyle Ocampo


Wilmer Font



Warmer Madrigal



Vicente Padilla



Joey Butler



(couldn't identify)


Posted by Lucas at 01:53 AM

March 19, 2009

Spring Training Photos, Day Two

Note: These and other photos on this website may be used only for non-commercial purposes and with attribution.

Slideshow of 30+ pictures here.

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Jacob Kaase


Kasey Kiker



Josh Lueke



Carlos Melo



Guillermo Moscoso



Michael Schlact


Posted by Lucas at 11:32 AM

March 18, 2009

Spring Training Photos, Day One

Note: These and other photos on this website may be used only for non-commercial purposes and with attribution.

Slideshow of 40+ pictures here.

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Ryan Falcon


Wilmer Font



Martin Perez



Evan Reed



Ryan Tatusko



Ryan Schlecht and Leonel de los Santos



Leonel de los Santos



Edward Martinez



Guillermo Pimentel



Ron Washington


Posted by Lucas at 01:54 AM

March 17, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects #10-#18

In parentheses: position, age on 4/1/09, highest level achieved, Jamey’s ranking)

18. JOSE VALLEJO (2B/SS, 22.6, AA, Jamey’s #18) – We’ve all seen enough “toolsy” players fail to develop as hoped that the description sometimes feels perversely derisive. Vallejo was justifiably lauded for his tools and deserved prospect consideration despite lines of .234/.289/.284 and .269/.326/.327 in two seasons at Clinton. Vallejo batted .353/.413/.515 in his first 17 games in Bakersfield, better than any comparable period in his career. The Cal league deserves partial credit, but Vallejo had clearly taken a major step forward. He would finish with 11 homers after tallying only four in the previous three seasons combined. Over the past two seasons he’s posted 89 steals versus only seven caught. He’s also working out as a shortstop. Whether he’ll hit enough to warrant a full-time job is still in doubt, but he might become an awfully good utility player. Vallejo Bound for: AAA.

17. TOMMY HUNTER (RHP-starter, 22.7, MLB, Jamey’s #19))– Hunter threw 188.2 innings last year (including playoffs), more than anyone in the organization (minors or Majors) by a healthy margin. Having pitched over 130 innings between Alabama and Spokane in 2007, the increase in workload was large but not Feldman-esque. Though 6-3 with a trunk like a sequoia, Hunter nevertheless succeeds mostly with excellent control and plenty of grounders. That’s not to say he’s a finesse pitcher; Hunter’s fastball consistently exceeds 90 and misses a fair number of bats. Hunter didn’t belong in the Majors so soon and was blasted in his three appearances, but on the bright side, I think the episode revealed Texas’s belief in his maturity and toughness. The Rangers wouldn’t have brought him to Arlington if they thought being roughed up would wreck his confidence. Hunter confirmed that view by pitching well after returning to Oklahoma. Bound for: AAA rotation.

16. KASEY KIKER (LHP-starter, 21.4, high-A, Jamey’s #15)– For several reasons, Texas’s #1 pick from 2006 didn’t receive much notice last year. Assign partial blame to his location. Kiker spent the entirety of 2008 in Bakersfield. The Blaze play in one of pro baseball’s worst facilities, attendance is understandably poor, and the local paper stopped covering them after the first week of the season. (Indeed, via a link to the Newberg Report, the team itself used me as its de facto beat writer for most of 2008. That’s fine, but it underscores the lack of coverage.) Thus, players who spend the entire season there toil in relative obscurity. Also, Kiker missed portions of the season with fatigue and shoulder soreness, he didn’t repeat the gaudy numbers of his first full season, and folks like Feliz and Holland deservedly commanded more attention. In truth, Kiker actually lost little ground statistically. His homer rate barely budged despite the move to a hitter-friendly league. He struck out over 21% of opposing batters, 7th best among the 41 Cal League hurlers to log at least 90 innings. Given his occasional wildness in the past, his most notable achievement might have been his 7% walk rate, well under the league average. Still, 2008 was a mild disappointment. In response, Kiker has bought wholeheartedly into Nolan Ryan’s conditioning directive. Bound for: The AA rotation, soon if not immediately.

15. OMAR POVEDA (RHP-starter, 21.5, high-A, Jamey’s #17)– Much of what I said about Kiker applies to Poveda: He spent the entire year in Bakersfield, missed nearly two months, and didn’t have the season hoped of him. Poveda’s 25% SO rate led Cal League qualifiers, but he also struggled with his control for the first time. He did show enough, and promised enough, to merit placement on the 40-man roster this winter. Poveda is a prominent exception to the “needs a changeup” descriptor applied to many young pitchers. His is already refined, whereas his fastball and slider aren’t quite there yet. Bound for: Just like Kiker, the AA rotation, soon if not immediately.

14. NEIL RAMIREZ (RHP-starter, 19.o9, short-A, Jamey’s #12) – Short-season Boise carries its games live on the net, so I was able to watch Ramirez at his best last August. In three innings, Ramirez fanned four (three on devastating curves) and featured a low-to-mid 90s fastball that consistently stuck in the bottom of the strike zone. Ramirez struck out 28% of opponents on the season. Alas, he also occasionally exhibited some of the worst control in the system, walking nearly one of every six batters. He was a rookie, so that’s not a problem yet. Huge upside, long journey. Bound for: Hickory rotation.

13. WILFREDO BOSCAN (RHP-starter, 19.4, short-A, Jamey’s #13)– Boscan and Ramirez aren’t polar opposites, but they’re sure not twins. How in the world does an 18-year-old in the Northwest League post 6.3 strikeouts for every walk? Relative to league average, Boscan’s 3.9% walk rate was the best in the organization (including relievers). His command of his fastball, change and curve is the envy of players ten years his senior. Many pitchers of that ilk are soft-tossers with ceilings below AA, but Boscan has surpassed 90 on the gun and might gain a little more as he reaches full maturity. Bound for: Hickory rotation.

12. JULIO BORBON (CF, 23.1, AA, Jamey’s #11)– I was something less than enraptured by Texas’s selection of Borbon in the 2007 draft. His skill set made (and makes) him almost certain to make the Majors, but in what role? Borbon displayed tremendous contact skill and speed in his three seasons at Tennessee. His modest power was acceptable for a center fielder, but his inability to take pitches was a serious problem. I feared he’d end up a guy who offered a .280 batting average and little else. In his first full season, he’s lessened those concerns, if not eliminated them. First, he maintained his contact and even thumped seven homers while reaching AA. Then, though he’d walked as little as ever during the regular season, his Arizona Fall League performance was a revelation: 17 walks in 104 plate appearances resulting in a .404 OBP. That’s just a data point, just a fraction of his regular-season appearances, but he’s now shown the potential to develop into a genuinely effective and well-rounded leadoff hitter. Bound for: Oklahoma City. No less than a cup of coffee in September. Maybe a whole pot.

11. BLAKE BEAVAN (RHP-starter, 20.2, low-A, Jamey’s #10) -- What would you reasonably expect from a brash American flamethrower dealing with velocity loss? I’d fear (if not outright expect) overthrowing and a dismal walk rate. To his immense credit, Beavan took the opposite route and focused hard on his control. Making his professional debut in full-season ball, he walked only one of every 24 batters faced and posted a 2.37 ERA (and 3.11 RA). Better still, word on the street is that his speed inched back up in fall instructionals. If he fully regains his velocity while maintaining his control, well… Texas did draft Beavan before Michael Main. Expect his placement outside the top ten to be a one-year anomaly. Bound for: Bakersfield.

10. ERIC HURLEY
(RHP-starter, 23.5, MLB, Jamey’s #14) – Ugh. Bound for: Rehab.

Posted by Lucas at 11:48 PM

March 14, 2009

Off to Surprise

Engel Beltre, 21 March 2008, Surprise, AZ

Posted by Lucas at 12:26 AM

March 10, 2009

Let My Voice Soothe Your Soul

Rangers Podcast In Arlington invited me to do another podcast thingee with Jamey Newberg of the Newberg Report and Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball.

Posted by Lucas at 03:10 PM

March 07, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects #19-#27

27. THOMAS DIAMOND (RHP-starter, 26.0, AA, Jamey’s #30) – Diamond lost 2007 and much of 2008 to Tommy John surgery. Before then, he featured a monster strikeout rate (27%) and some monster control issues (12% BB rate). Development of an offspeed pitch to accent his powerful fastball remains a critical problem. Diamond has switched between a curve and slider on several occasions. As reported by Mike Hindman, he’s back on the slider this spring. Bound for: You heard Mr. Daniels suggest that Diamond might make the active roster a while back. I doubt it. Actually, I wouldn’t terribly mind another visit to AA to prove a semblance of control with his revamped repertoire. He’s likely headed for AAA.

26. CARLOS PIMENTEL (RHP-starter, 19.3, short-A, Jamey’s #28) – Four of Texas’s top 26 prospects should anchor the low-A Hickory rotation come April. Though 17-year-old Martin Perez deserved attention for being the only non-adult in the Northwest League, he overshadowed Pimentel, the league’s third youngest player. Pimentel’s walk rate increased and his strikeout rate declined in his second year in the US, but he more than held his own against a bunch of former college juniors. Opponents mustered only a .235 batting average against him… when they made contact. 20% of the time, they struck out. Bound for: Hickory.

25. TIM MURPHY (LHP-starter and reliever, 21.9, low-A, Jamey’s #22) – The rookie Murphy missed plenty of bats with a money curveball and excelled at inducing weak contact. As in his UCLA days, Murphy occasionally took the mound without much control, but he finished with three consecutive sharp outings in Clinton. The following stock statement applies to 80% of the pitchers on this list: “Murphy’s future role depends on his ability to develop a changeup.” Bound for: Bakersfield’s rotation. He and the previous year’s 3rd rounder, Evan Reed, might be teammates.

24. JOE WIELAND (RHP-starter, 19.2, rookie, Jamey’s #20) – In rookie ball, where plenty of talented but raw pitchers have no idea where the ball is going, overmatched batters can at least keep the bat on their shoulders and hope for a walk or HBP. Opponents attempting that “strategy” against Joe Wieland found themselves slinking back to the dugout in short order. Wieland walked fewer than 5% of opposing batters, never more than one in any of his 13 appearances. He also fanned 27%. Baseball America, which has a serious crush on him, indicated his fastball could eventually separate him from his Texas draft mates. Bound for: Spokane’s rotation. BA suggests Hickory, but it’s a tight fit. Assuming the quartet of Perez/Boscan/Ramirez/Pimentel collectively jump from Spokane to Hickory, only one spot remains. I count six candidates for the final spot, and I might be missing someone. Still, a visit to Hickory, if not a full season, is within reach.

23. ROBBIE ROSS (LHP-starter, 19.8, has not pitched, Jamey’s #24) – Ross took full advantage of his leverage and signed at the last second for the largest second-round bonus in last year’s draft. Like Matt Harrison, Ross reportedly has a better feel for his secondary pitches (slider, change) than most high schoolers. Bound for: Blake Beavan signed late and skipped short-season ball; might Ross do the same? I doubt it, and as noted, Hickory’s not lacking for starters. Thus, his first taste of pro ball should come more than a year after being drafted.

22. MITCH MORELAND (1B/OF, 23.6, low-A, Jamey’s #21) – After a lackluster Spokane debut, Moreland’s 2008 OPS+ of 166 trailed only Max Ramirez in Texas’s full-season leagues. Moreland hit for average and power, drew plenty of walks, and didn’t even strike out that much. Moreland didn’t see a minute in the outfield between Ian Gac’s departure and Justin Smoak’s arrival, which should give you some idea of his long-term position. The lefty also threw a couple of innings last season and worked from the mound at Fall Instructionals. Bound for: Bakersfield’s outfield if Smoak or Gac is there, 1B if not.

21. WILMER FONT (RHP-starter, 18.9, rookie, Jamey’s #16) – Had I written prospect previews last year, I could have recycled Font’s. Font missed almost all of 2008 with shoulder and knee problems and remains exactly what he was a year ago: a huge, flamethrowing, very high-upside pitcher with a very long way to go. Like another pitcher of whom you might be aware, Font has reached triple digits on the gun. He actually displayed reasonably good control of his fastball as a 17-year-old in rookie ball in 2007. Bound for: Font may be the best reason to pay attention to Spokane this year. I’m dying to see how he fares against stiffer competition.

20. GUILLERMO MOSCOSO (RHP-starter, 25.4, AA, not around for Jamey) – Moscoso didn’t pitch professionally until the age of 19. For various reasons including injuries, he’s never pitched more than 90 innings in a season and has only 389 total at the advanced age of 25. Still, Texas wants to keep him in a starting role for now. He thrives on a respectably speedy and exceptionally lively fastball. Reviews of his offspeed stuff are less enthused, but he controls his repertoire well: Moscoso has a career 5% walk rate and 27% strikeout rate. Bound for: AA rotation. If Texas does convert him to relief, he could visit Arlington this season.

19. WARNER MADRIGAL (RHP-reliever, 25.0, MLB, not ranked by Jamey) – No, the Angels didn’t forget to tender the next K-Rod a contract back in 2007. They did lose what looks like serviceable reliever. Madrigal plowed through AAA for three months and received “the call” in early July. Ignore his grievous debut (6 runs in 1/3 inning) and you have a 1.23 WHIP and an opposing line of .237/.301/.382 in 35.2 innings. Not bad for someone who took up pitching in 2006. Bound for: Having options may land Madrigal in AAA in April unless he forces Texas’s hand.

Posted by Lucas at 12:16 PM

Texas Rangers Prospects #28-#36

36. CLARK MURPHY (1B, 19.3, rookie, Jamey’s #29) – Baseball America suggested that Murphy regressed as a high-school senior. Nevertheless, Texas made a slight reach (based on scouting rankings) to select him, gave him a bonus slightly above slot, and even agreed to pay his college tuition. Murphy rewarded Texas by leading the rookie Rangers in average (.358) and slugging (.526) among players with at least 20 games. Texas might experiment with him in the outfield, but he’s a first baseman in the long run. Bound for: A good spring could land him in Hickory. Certainly no lower than Spokane.

35. JOHN WHITTLEMAN (3B, 22.1, AA, Jamey’s #38) – Whittleman can take a pitch like nobody else. In the entire minor leagues, only Kansas City’s Kila Kaaihue has bested Whittleman’s 175 walks and 16% walk rate during the past two years. Frustratingly, the other aspects of his game are in a holding pattern. Since tearing up Clinton in the first three months of 2007, Whittleman is batting .240 and slugging .372. He also continues to commit an unsettling number of errors. 2009 will be Whittleman’s 5th season, and his most critical. Bound for: Frisco. Later on, Texas will have to figure out what to do with Whittleman and Travis Metcalf on the same team.

34. CRISTIAN SANTANA (COF/C[?], 19.8, low-A, Jamey’s #27) – Did any uninjured Texas prospect have a more disappointing season? Last February, Santana was a hard-hitting catcher yet to turn 19. By September, he was a left fielder trying to fill the foot-wide hole in his swing. The Rangers shifted Santana to the outfield last spring, a move I believed temporary at the time. He did catch sporadically around midseason, but in July he was pulled from a game in the second inning and never caught again. Worse still, he struck out at an alarming 32% rate and rarely walked. On the upside, he’s still 19 and crushed low-A pitching when he made contact. Bound for: Probably Bakersfield, despite the shaky full-season debut. Maybe some remedial work in Hickory first. A little better pitch recognition will land him on the Cal League All-Star team.

33. PEDRO STROP (RHP-reliever, 23.8, AA, not around for Jamey) – “Three swing-and-miss pitches,” claimed Colorado roving pitching coordinator Jim Wright in Baseball America. The former shortstop entered pro ball a year after Warner Madrigal but converted to pitching a few months earlier. In 2007, while Madrigal was dominating the Midwest League, the year-younger Strop fanned 32% of opposing batters in the higher California League. He’s already suffered a strained ligament and stress fracture in his pitching elbow. Bound for: Extended Spring Training, then Frisco.

32. FABIO CASTILLO (RHP-everything, 20.1, low-A Jamey’s #26) – Entering 2008, Castillo was a raw, exciting pitcher with some pretty lousy statistics. That assessment hasn’t changed. At times, Castillo was as dominant as any Lumberking hurler – witness his seven strikeouts in three scoreless innings last April. At other times, he was, shall we say, combustible: four walks, six hits and six runs in a 2.2-inning start last May. Though the final results weren’t pretty, he had plenty of strong outings that point to a promising future. Keep in mind that Castillo was the youngest of 11 Lumberkings to start at least two games last year. Bound for: Feels like a repeat is in order. Hickory to start.

31. GREG GOLSON (CF, 23.6, AA, not around for Jamey) – Among the position players in my top 72, Golson is the 7th-oldest overall and the oldest to sign out of high school. Nevertheless, “toolsy” and “raw” are still apt descriptors. Like John Mayberry, Golson has steadily advanced through the minors without easing concerns about whether he can play at the highest level. On the upside, he posted career best in walks and OBP in Double A last year. On the downside, having 34 walks and a .333 OBP as career bests is pretty sad. Bound for: AA if Texas wants to keep him in center, or AAA flanking Julio Borbon.

30. DOUG MATHIS (RHP-starter, 25.8, MLB, Jamey’s #25) – Despite outrighting him this winter, Texas thinks highly of Mathis: assignment to AAA in 2007 after only 10 innings in AA, a big-league camp invite in 2008, a Major League call-up in April, and two late-inning appearances in tight contests to kick off his MLB career. The original AAA assignment threw him for an emotional loop (by his own admission); he’s handled everything else with aplomb. Mathis later matched C.C. Sabathia for six innings in Cleveland before succumbing to shoulder inflammation in June. He’s much more about command than power and is likelier to fashion a career in relief. Bound for: AAA rotation.

29. KENNIL GOMEZ (RHP-starter, 21.0, low-A, Jamey’s #23) – In October 2007, I asked Don Welke which relatively unknown player should be on my radar. He said Kennil Gomez. (Actually, he said “Kendry” Gomez while pointing him out to me. Close enough.) Gomez quickly confirmed Welke’s opinion by receiving a mildly surprising assignment to low-A after only 53 professional innings, then walking just three of his first 130 batters faced. Gomez features a sinking fastball, curve and change, all of which are relatively advanced for his tender age. Persistent shoulder soreness ended his season in July. Bound for: Bakersfield. A few more innings in Hickory wouldn’t shock me, giving his injury, but 88 very strong low-A innings in 2007 should be sufficient to advance.

28. MARCUS LEMON (SS/2B, 20.8, high-A, Jamey’s #32) – Mostly for the better, Lemon became a different hitter in 2008. In his first 59 games, he had 13 extra-base hits and 35 walks. In his last 59 games, he had 29 extra-base hits and 11 walks. The power spike was impressive, especially for a 19-year-old and the 3rd-youngest hitter in the Cal League. The July stretch of 88 consecutive plate appearances without a walk was baffling in light of the impressive patience he’d shown throughout his career. Notably, he didn’t strike out more often in the second half, so his swing-happiness didn’t affect his contact rate. Lemon is facing a switch from shortstop to second base. Bound for: Frisco.

Posted by Lucas at 12:14 PM