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March 07, 2009

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 March 7, 2009 12:14 PM