Rangers Instructs Report (10/8)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Texas Rangers' Fall Instructional League squad dropped a 7-4 decision to the San Diego club on Thursday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout has a detailed report from the game, which featured Tanner Scheppers, Jurickson Profar, and Richard Alvarez, among others.

Starting lineup

1. Jurickson Profar, SS
2. Oduber Herrera, 3B
3. Tom Mendonca, DH
4. Miguel Velazquez, RF
5. Doug Hogan, C
6. Clark Murphy, 1B
7. Ed Koncel, DH
8. Teodoro Martinez, LF
9. Santiago Chirino, 2B
10. Chris Garcia, CF

Ruben Sierra (LF), Guillermo Pimentel (CF), Leonel De Los Santos (C) and Tomas Telis (DH) also saw action off the bench.

The game's pitchers were Tanner Scheppers, Shawn Blackwell, Justin Jamison, Richard Alvarez, David Perez, and Johnny Gunter.

Padres 7 - Rangers 4

• Tanner Scheppers started the game with a bang. Obviously Scheppers will be getting some innings against elite competition in the Arizona Fall League, but he's getting a few outings under his belt before the Rafters begin play next week. In Scheppers' first outing [which occurred last week], he tossed a scoreless inning and his fastball sat between 95-98 mph.

Scheppers has been mid-upper-90s at instructs.
On Thursday, the former Fresno State Bulldog made quick work of the Padres hitters, retiring six of the seven batters he faced. He got four strikeouts [two fastballs, one curveball, one slider], a groundout to third, and a flyout to center. San Diego's lone baserunner came on a slow chopper that never left the infield.

While Scheppers didn't have the upper-90s gas in his second outing, he worked anywhere between 88-94 mph. He sat comfortably around 93-94 mph once he got going, and his fastball had some heavy armside run. His 79-80 mph hammer curveball is a legitimate plus pitch–in fact, it's most likely the best curveball in the Rangers' system. He got former Rangers unsigned draft pick Nate Freiman to punch out on a sharp 83 mph slider. Scheppers has two effective power breaking balls in his arsenal, though he prefers the curve.

If Scheppers performs well in the Arizona Fall League, he is likely to start the 2010 season with Double-A Frisco. The 22-year-old's polish and high ceiling make him one of the top few prospects in the Rangers' system without throwing a pitch in an official game.

• The young Rangers instructs hitters were faced with the difficult task of going up against left-hander Aaron Poreda, who pitched in 14 Major League games this season. Predictably, Poreda made many of the Rangers' hitters look silly. The Padres pitchers combined to hold the Rangers scoreless until the seventh inning.

• Sixteen-year-old leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar, going up against the 6-foot-6, 240-pound, 23-year-old with big league experience, took a high fastball and poked it into centerfield to start the game for the Rangers.

Unfortunately, aside from an infield single later in the game, that would be by far Profar's best moment of the game. He made a mental mistake by not sliding into third base when trying to tag up on a fly ball to right field–he was gunned down with an excellent throw. He also bobbled a couple of balls in the infield, including dropping a line drive at him.

In the early morning workouts, Profar was clearly the best player on the field. The Curacao native carried himself as a confident leader [even as a 16-year-old], and he showed off his outstanding range and rocket arm while taking ground balls for well over 30 minutes. But when the game began, Profar appeared raw and had his struggles. Whether it was simply an off day or the norm, only time will tell. However, judging by the early reviews from Rangers officials, coaches, and Profar's teammates, he has been perhaps the most impressive position player in camp thus far.

Blackwell's changeup is already showing progress.
• Houston-area product Shawn Blackwell, the club's 24th round pick in the '09 draft, signed just before the mid-August deadline for a reported $300,000 bonus. At 6-foot-5, 195-pounds, Blackwell is a big guy with some projection.

The right-hander pitched the third and fourth innings on Thursday, getting mixed results. Blackwell–who generally works in the upper-80s–flashed a mid-80s fastball with some movement, a big mid-70s curveball, and a changeup. Blackwell threw his changeup a handful of times with good results. Although the pitch wasn't a priority in high school, he appears to have a relatively advanced feel for it. Blackwell had solid command in his first inning [strikeout on fastball, flyout to warning track in left field, groundout to first base], but he struggled after getting a strikeout on a changeup to begin the fourth.

• The Padres began to get some separation from the Rangers when Justin Jamison entered the game. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound righty isn't short on raw talent, but he simply appears tired after going through the high school season, the AZL, and now instructs. Jamison touched 93-94 mph over the summer, but he mostly worked around 87-90. On Thursday, his velocity dipped into the mid-80s and he struggled with command.

After getting a strikeout on a curveball and a popup to shortstop, Jamison walked three consecutive hitters and eventually allowed all three runs to cross the plate. The 18-year-old high school product from Ohio flashed some potential with the AZL Rangers this summer, but he is very raw. In 13.1 innings this year, Jamison gave up just nine hits while fanning 15, but he also walked 23 batters.

• Right fielder Miguel Velazquez had a very rough day at the plate, striking out a couple of times against left-handers Poreda and Will Startup. Velazquez is said to have a bit of discipline, but he certainly didn't show it on Thursday. Poreda and Startup had him flailing wildly on offspeed stuff. On the bright side, the Puerto Rico native showed an excellent arm from right field and he moved around very well.

• Left fielder Teodoro Martinez is a small guy–maybe even shorter than the 6-foot-0 that the Rangers left him at. The 17-year-old signed for $100,000 last summer, and he is already showing some promise. Martinez has plus speed and he looked to have some bat control with a fairly advanced approach. The Venezuela native picked up a couple of base hits on Thursday by simply hitting the ball where it is pitched. In his professional debut with the DSL Rangers this summer, Martinez batted .276 with as many strikeouts as walks [19] and 34 stolen bases in 42 attempts.

Sierra was catching up to fastballs on Thursday.
• The most improved player since the regular season appears to be Ruben Sierra. The left fielder entered the game in the late innings, and he put together two solid at-bats.

Sierra drove in the Rangers' first run of the game with a well-struck sacrifice fly to center in the seventh inning. He cut the Padres lead to 7-4 when he nailed a line-drive single up the middle in the ninth. Sierra made solid contact twice and, while his swing appears to be the same, his timing looks much, much better than it did during the AZL season.

• Second-round pick Tom Mendonca had a rather nondescript day at the plate, getting just a ground ball single up the middle while swinging and missing his fair share of times. But word around instructs is that Mendonca has been consistently putting on an impressive power display in games. Those who have been around instructs for most of the schedule swear Mendonca has been the team's best hitter.

• Late in the game, Tomas Telis–hitting left-handed–turned on an inside fastball and deposited it over the right field fence for a solo home run. Over the last few years, the Rangers have had little problem producing outstanding defensive players from the Latin American market, but few–if any–have developed offensively.

Telis should be the one that develops offensively. The switch-hitting backstop has rare hand-eye coordination and his hit tool is outstanding. He's also got a bit of raw power–the 18-year-old belted 12 doubles, five triples, and four homers between the AZL and Spokane this summer. And, of course, he hit another home run on Thursday in his only at-bat.

• Right-hander Richard Alvarez, who turned 17-years-old near the end of the AZL campaign, worked a scoreless inning. He induced a flyout to left field on a righty-righty changeup, walked the second batter, got a groundout to second, and then a groundout to third on a first-pitch curve.

Although he got two outs on offspeed pitches, Alvarez appears to be focusing on establishing his fastball at instructs. Alvarez has a very advanced curveball and changeup, and he showed a tendency to get shy away from his fastball in tough times. Alvarez's fastball sat in the mid-80s on Thursday, just a bit lower than it was in Spring Training and rookie ball.

• It's always fun to see recent July 2 signings come over and play in Fall Instructional League just a few months later. That was the case with David Perez, who is an extremely intriguing 16-year-old. Perez got $425,000 to sign and at 6-foot-5, 200-pounds, he has a very projectable body.

Perez pitched two innings, sitting in the mid-to-upper-80s with an upper-70s slurvy breaking ball that showed some promise. He looked outstanding in his first inning, working down in the zone and getting a groundout to short, a flyout to right field, and a flyout to center on just five or six pitches. Perez struggled in his second inning, giving up a handful of singles after an error by shortstop Jurickson Profar.

• Johnny Gunter, who was invited to instructs after Justin King was sent home following surgery, had a quick 1-2-3 inning while working between 88-91 mph on the fastball. Gunter is generally low-to-mid-90s, but it's not shocking to see his velocity a down a bit after getting out to Arizona late and firing up his arm again.

Instructs Notes

• First baseman Michael Ortiz is out, likely for the remainder of instructs, with a rib injury. Ortiz and Clark Murphy were the only first basemen invited to instructs, so Ed Koncel is seeing some time at first as well.

Emmanuel Solis was also getting work at first base, but he appears to be a full-time pitcher now. Solis threw bullpen sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, and he worked out with the pitchers on Friday. The word around instructs is that Solis has hit 94 mph off the mound. He turned 20-years-old on June 29.

Wilmer Font and Martin Perez went home last week because of their high innings count during the season. The Rangers wanted them in Surprise for the first couple of weeks, but they were told they wouldn't be there for the entire camp.

• Catcher Vin DiFazio is by far the strongest hitter at instructs. The New Jersey native puts on a power display in batting practice, crushing balls into both gaps. With a lot of young players that have yet to fill out at camp, DiFazio absolutely stands out.

• The Rangers had a very light workout on Friday with no game. In fact, the pitchers played a hitting game on the field before playing ultimate frisbee as a conditioning workout. They return to action on Saturday morning against the Royals in Surprise.

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