Rangers Instructional League Notes (9/21)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers' Fall Instructional League club played an intrasquad game that featured 19 different pitchers and 28 position players on Tuesday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from the contest.

The Texas Rangers' Fall Instructional League club split into two and played a 9.5-inning intrasquad game on Tuesday afternoon. The teams used one pitcher per half inning, meaning 19 pitchers were used during the contest.

Texas will officially kick off its instructs schedule against Oakland on Wednesday afternoon in Surprise.

Rangers Home 4 – Rangers Road 3

1. Jurickson Profar, SS (0/4, K)
2. Jake Skole, CF (0/1, BB, K)
3. Jared Hoying, LF (1/4, 3 K)
4. Josh Richmond, RF (1/2, BB, RBI)
5. Tom Mendonca, DH (1/3, BB, 2 RBI, K)
6. Christian Villanueva, 3B (1/4, RBI)
7. Jared Bolden, 1B (2/2)
8. Jorge Alfaro, C (0/2)
9. Jonathan Roof, 2B (0/2)

Luis Sardinas, SS (1/2, 3B)
Kendall Radcliffe, CF (0/2, 2 K)
Tomas Telis, DH (2/2, 2B)
Brett Nicholas, C (0/1, K)
Santiago Chirino, 2B (0/1)

• Christian Villanueva turned 19-years-old this past June and he entered the year with only eight games of professional experience. But that didn't stop him from hitting .314 with 17 extra-base hits in 51 Arizona League games this season.

Villanueva––who is also a plus defender at third––simply knows how to hit. The Mexico native has a good-looking right-handed swing, and he brought home a big run on Tuesday by reaching out and lining a two-strike fastball into center for a single. He has gained plenty of strength this season and flashes excellent gap-to-gap pop that should eventually translate into home run power.

• While Jorge Alfaro's .221/.278/.291 slash line in the Dominican Summer League may seem like a disappointment on the surface, he comes to Fall Instructional League as a clearly more advanced player than he was during Spring Training. The physically mature 6-foot-2, 185-pound backstop still puts on an impressive display during BP, but now he is able to go the other way with authority when asked.

The 17-year-old made a couple strong, accurate throws to second base in the game. He gunned down Jhonny Gomez with a perfect throw in the second inning. At the plate, Alfaro rolled over a Martin Perez changeup for a double play in his first at-bat and flied out to the warning track in left field on a Nick McBride hanging curveball his second time up.

• Shortstop Luis Sardinas was listed at 6-foot-1, 150-pounds when he signed last summer. Though he is still rail-thin, he has added some strength and is gradually showing more power in batting practice and game situations. Sardinas has quick hands and flashed it when he turned on an up-and-in fastball from Abel De Los Santos and crushed it for a leadoff triple to the wall in right field in the top of the eighth.

• Tomas Telis scuffled early in the Arizona League season as he made his return to game action after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He understandably lost some bat speed early on and looked generally uncomfortable at the plate.

But the switch-hitter came back strong late in the season as his bat speed and confidence returned. Telis, who is hitting the ball with more authority than last season, went 29-for-70 (.414) in August with four doubles and two home runs. He walked three times against just two strikeouts.

Telis is still limited to a DH role as he continues in his throwing program. He was making throws to second base while standing behind home plate during Tuesday's workout and should be catching again by the start of the 2011 campaign.

Luis Parra: 1 ip, 3 h, 2 r, 0 bb, 0 k (12 pitches – 7 strikes)
David Perez: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 1 k (15 pitches – 6 strikes)
Nick Tepesch: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (10 pitches – 7 strikes)
Luke Jackson: 1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 2 bb, 2 k (22 pitches – 11 strikes)
Shawn Blackwell: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (15 pitches – 10 strikes)
Steven McKinnon: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 0 k (17 pitches – 7 strikes)
Michael Thomas: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (9 pitches – 8 strikes)
Ryan Rodebaugh: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (11 pitches – 9 strikes)
Joe Van Meter: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (15 pitches – 8 strikes)

• Young right-hander David Perez may be the most intriguing projection arm in the Rangers' system. At 17-years-old, the long-armed hurler stands 6-foot-5 and has plenty of room for physical maturation. He flashed an 89-91 mph fastball with some action on Tuesday along with one 74 mph curveball.

The Dominican Republic native already throws strikes and shows strong fastball command down in the zone. Once filled out, he should at least sit in the low-90s while touching the mid-90s with some regularity. Perez is a pitcher that could be a household name within a couple years.

• Luke Jackson shook off some cobwebs in his first inning of professional baseball, as he threw 11 of 22 pitches for strikes and walked a pair of batters in his inning. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound prospect had firm action on an 87-90 mph fastball and a mid-70s curveball that had tight, late drop.

Jackson picked up his first strikeout by blowing a fastball past DH Drew Robinson. He finished the frame with another punchout when he froze lefty Braxton Lane on a big-bending curveball. While Jackson was far from sharp, his raw talent was evident.

• Righty Ryan Rodebaugh flew under the radar as a 15th-round pick from Kennesaw State and a reliever in Spokane. The 21-year-old posted a 3.33 ERA with nine walks and 34 strikeouts in 24.1 innings with the Indians this season.

Rodebaugh breezed through his frame on Tuesday, jamming a hitter for a weak groundout to first and getting a pair of swinging strikeouts. He had excellent command of a low-90s fastball, struck out Hanser Alberto with a slider, and got a swinging strike with an 81 mph changeup that had excellent sink and dive.

The 6-foot-0, 165-pound hurler's delivery is a little Huston Street-esque with a high leg kick and glove tuck. He doesn't appear to have overpowering stuff but with command of three decent pitches, he is an intriguing relief prospect worth watching.

1. Ryan Strausborger, CF (0/3, K)
2. Leury Garcia, SS (1/3, 2B, K)
3. Oduber Herrera, 2B (3/4, RBI, K)
4. Mike Olt, 3B (1/3, 2B, BB)
5. Vin DiFazio, C (0/2, BB, RBI)
6. Drew Robinson, DH (0/3, BB, 2 K)
7. Jhonny Gomez, 1B (1/1, BB, RBI)
8. Jordan Akins, RF (0/3, K)
9. Braxton Lane, LF (0/3, 3 K)

Hanser Alberto, SS (0/1, K)
Guillermo Pimentel, CF (0/1)
Kellin Deglan, C (0/1, K)
Alinson Perez, 1B (0/1)

• Indiana State product and 16th-round selection Ryan Strausborger displayed some intriguing skills on Tuesday, though he didn't reach base during the game. The 22-year-old used his above-average speed to make a nice play in centerfield, and he showed some pop by turning on a Tepesch fastball and hitting it well out of the park but just foul.

Strausborger started and finished slow with Spokane this summer but he flashed some promise with a monstrous August. In that month, he hit .330 with five doubles, three triples, two homers, and 11 stolen bases.

• Second baseman Oduber Herrera led the way for both clubs with three singles in four trips. The left-handed hitting prospect has very quick hands that allow him to turn on plus fastballs with authority. The 19-year-old also has strong plate discipline and pitch recognition––he doesn't often expand his zone.

As a defender, Herrera has rapidly improved over the last two seasons. He has the pure range and arm strength to play shortstop, though the presence of Garcia, Profar and Sardinas has pushed him over to second. He profiles as an above-average defender at second down the line but still must refine his fundamentals.

• Third baseman Mike Olt is standing out at instructs in part because of his excellent strength. The UConn product put on a show during batting practice on Monday, crushing balls out of the ballpark to all fields. He showed some more pop during Tuesday's game with a double that one-hopped the wall in left field.

Cody Buckel: 1 ip, 2 h, 2 r, 2 bb, 0 k
Martin Perez: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (7 pitches – 6 strikes)
Victor Payano: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 3 k (12 pitches – 9 strikes)
John Kukuruda: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (7 pitches – 6 strikes)
Nick McBride: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (12 pitches – 9 strikes)
Richard Alvarez: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (8 pitches – 7 strikes)
Geuris Grullon: 1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 2 k (19 pitches – 13 strikes)
Abel De Los Santos: 1 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 1 k (17 pitches – 10 strikes)
Kevin Johnson: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (17 pitches – 12 strikes)
Randol Rojas: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 0 k (15 pitches – 7 strikes)

After a layoff between the minor league regular season and Fall Instructional League, the pitchers are just getting their arms fired up again and were largely––and understandably––rusty on Tuesday. Many hurlers weren't working with their usual velocity or didn't have the sharpness to the breaking stuff that they would in mid-season or even mid-instructs form.

• Starting pitcher Cody Buckel highlighted the rustiness when he walked two hitters and surrendered two runs in the first inning. The California native worked at 92-94 mph (touching 95) with a mature mid-70s curveball in his AZL outings but came out on Tuesday throwing at 87-91 with a low-70s curve.

Intrasquad outing aside, Buckel showed polished plenty of polish with his short late-season rookie ball outings this summer. He will likely sit in the 89-92 mph range as a starter, but he has command, movement, and a curveball that is arguably already one of the best in the system. It's obviously early, but he should have an opportunity to pitch in Hickory next season, a la Robbie Erlin this year.

• Top prospect Martin Perez is only attending instructs for two weeks, as he gets set to return home to Venezuela, where he will be the opening day starter for the Navegantes del Magallanes winterball club.

Perez worked a quick inning, throwing six of seven pitches for strikes. He surrendered a leadoff seeing-eye single before getting a double play and a groundout to second. He threw three fastballs at 91 mph, three curveballs, and one changeup.

• Victor Payano is plenty raw, but there is also plenty to like about a 6-foot-5 southpaw that can command his fastball at 17 years of age. Payano breezed through his inning, striking out Profar, Skole, and Hoying with perfectly placed fastballs at 87 mph. In both warm-ups and during the game, he appeared to slow his body down on the offspeed stuff, and the one curveball he threw come out in the low-60s and well out of the strike zone.

• Twenty-eighth round pick John Kukuruda coughed up six runs on eight hits with the Surprise Rangers late this summer. But he didn't show any sign of struggle during his intrasquad inning. The 6-foot-4 Sacramento native disposed of Richmond, Mendonca and Villanueva on seven pitches, throwing six strikes.

Kukuruda threw four fastballs at around 88 mph, one 74 mph curveball for a called strike, and two 80-81 mph changeups. He threw the changeup with confidence to the lefty Mendonca, getting a called strike and a rollover groundout to first. He pounded the lower half of the strike zone with all three pitches in the abbreviated frame.

For more information on the 2010 Fall Instructional League, check out this thread on our subscriber-only message board.

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