Rangers Instructional League Notes (9/27)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Surprise club posted a dominant 10-1 victory over Glendale in Tuesday's Advanced Instructional League game. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from the contest, which featured a number of top Rangers prospects.

Surprise 10 – Glendale 1

An offense comprised of five Rangers and four Royals pounded out 10 runs en route to a dominant victory over the White Sox/Dodgers-led Glendale squad in Tuesday's Advanced Instructional League contest.

The following report covers the five Rangers position players and seven pitchers that appeared in the game.

Jurickson Profar, SS (4/5, 2B, 2 RBI)
Mike Olt, 3B (1/5, 3 K)
Vin DiFazio, C (0/2, 2 BB, K)
Jared Hoying, CF (2/4, 2B, 2 RBI, SB, 2 K)
Jared Bolden, 1B (4/4, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI)

• Though he isn't officially on the Advanced Instructs roster, Jurickson Profar got the nod to play shortstop for the Surprise club on Tuesday. He's only 17-years-old, but it certainly wasn't evident from his performance in the game against much older competition.

Profar was a spark plug for the offense, going 4-for-5 with a double and two RBI. He put together five excellent plate appearances. The Curacao native looked like a natural hitter––he chased balls in the strike zone, made consistent strong contact, and didn't try to do too much. His hand speed and physical maturity for his age allow him to turn on some balls with authority.

Overall, the bottom line on Profar's game is his incredible maturity both offensively and defensively. As a hitter, he knows his game and executes it well. In the field, he shows strong instincts with a quick first step.

• Third baseman Mike Olt is undoubtedly the most impressive player in batting practice, as he flashes staggering power to all fields. But he has a few holes to correct in game situations. Olt struck out 77 times in 69 games with Spokane this past summer, and he was pulling off pitches on the outer half early in Tuesday's game, leading to three punchouts.

With plus raw power and an above-average glove, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound UConn product is already the top third base prospect in the Texas organization. He has a nice mixture of good range, hands, and a strong arm. Olt was named the Rangers' minor league defensive player of the month in August.

• Power and plate discipline have never been an issue for catcher Vin DiFazio, who racked up 26 extra-base hits and 36 walks in his 59 games this season. The 24-year-old is one of the strongest hitters in the system, but he doesn't have great bat speed––one issue that will likely hurt his batting average and strikeout numbers at the upper levels.

• Outfielder Jared Hoying is a bit of a mystery at this point. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound prospect was named Northwest League MVP after an outstanding summer, and he has the intriguing tools (bat speed, athleticism, and arm strength) to match. However, his swing––which doesn't incorporate much of his lower half––will need plenty of work in the future.

Hoying struck out 70 times in 62 games at Spokane, and he fanned in his first two plate appearances in Tuesday's game. He recovered with two line-drive hits––a single and a double––in his final two plate appearances.

A shortstop for much of his college career, Hoying was the Indians' every day left fielder and played in center on Tuesday. He moves around well but is still adjusting in terms of getting reads and jumps. The 21-year-old is also learning how to throw more like an outfielder rather than a shortstop––he doesn't yet get maximum carry behind all his throws despite good arm strength.

• Since joining the organization as a ninth-round pick in 2008, Jared Bolden has been regarded as an excellent defender at both first base and centerfield––but not much of a hitter.

Bolden has definitely struggled to produce much with the bat. He batted only .219 with seven extra-base hits in 62 games at High-A Bakersfield this season. The left-hander did hit .294 with much-improved power after he returned to Hickory.

The 23-year-old appears to be building on his success in Hickory thus far at instructs. Bolden is hitting the ball with more authority, and he was a perfect 4-for-4 with a double and a triple on Tuesday afternoon.

More importantly, Bolden has the tools to succeed offensively. He has fast hands and some lift in his swing. The tools have shown up in recent batting practice sessions.

The primary issue in past years has been his ability to keep his front foot square to the pitcher's mound in game situations––a problem that was cutting off nearly all of his power. But Bolden is doing a better job of staying square and lining the ball into the gaps. If he continues to do the same, he could be a breakout player in 2011.

Miguel de los Santos: 2 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (35 pitches – 23 strikes)
Tanner Scheppers: 1 ip, 2 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 1 k (23 pitches – 14 strikes)
Hector Nelo: 1 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (6 pitches – 4 strikes)
Ovispo de los Santos: 2 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (20 pitches – 14 strikes)
Trevor Hurley: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (19 pitches – 11 strikes)
Corey Young: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 0 k (27 pitches – 16 strikes)
Fabio Castillo: 1 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 0 k (20 pitches – 13 strikes)

Instructional league is a time for players to strengthen their weaknesses and focus on general development over current results. At times, players won't look quite ‘right' in batting practice because they may be trying out something they aren't used to. With pitchers, they'll often hold back their go-to strikeout pitch to work on a third offering.

That was the case with some of the arms on Tuesday. Miguel de los Santos' best pitch is a changeup, but he didn't use any in his two innings. On the other hand, Ovispo de los Santos appeared to be working on his changeup instead of the breaking ball he generally uses as his primary secondary pitch.

• Because Fabio Castillo just completed his fifth full year in the Texas Rangers organization, it doesn't feel like he's a young pup anymore. Castillo certainly looks the part of a physically mature veteran––he is now listed at a firm 6-foot-3, 238-pounds and appears every bit of that. But Castillo is only 21-years-old, and he now looks to have big-league potential.

Castillo showed steady progress throughout the season, both results-wise and stuff-wise. In his final 17 innings at High-A Bakersfield, the Dominican Republic native gave up zero earned runs on nine hits, walking six and striking out 26.

The performance earned Castillo a late-season promotion to Double-A, where his fastball began touching 97 mph. After working more in the 93-95 mph range with an 83-85 mph slider earlier in the season, Castillo has begun flashing 93-97 mph gas with an 87-89 mph slider late in the season and at instructs.

The reliever's plus fastball has some heavy late movement, but he can also still get erratic with it. He worked up in the zone and fell behind in counts during Tuesday's outing.

Castillo's upper-80s slider is much-improved from the one he was throwing earlier in the season. A true power breaking ball, the pitch has some late action to give it swing-and-miss potential.

The right-hander is Rule 5 eligible this offseason, and he would appear to be a heavy favorite to join the Rangers' 40-man roster. Though the command must be refined a tick, Castillo is showing big league stuff and isn't all that far from the majors. He was a late-season breakout arm that has developed into perhaps the system's top true relief prospect.

• Left-hander Miguel de los Santos got the starting nod in the game and tossed two scoreless innings on 35 pitches. He threw 27 fastballs and eight curveballs––no changeups.

De Los Santos' plus change was the pitch he had the most confidence in during the season, but he used Tuesday's outing as an opportunity to work on his 73-74 mph curveball. The breaking ball is an average pitch––overall, it's not bad for a third offering––but it could stand to be sharper.

The Rule 5-eligible hurler was a tick lower than usual on his fastball, sitting between 89-91 mph and touching 93 a couple times. He commanded the fastball well and threw his curve for strikes in the first inning but struggled to get it over the plate in the second.

De Los Santos––in addition to Fabio Castillo––is going to create a predicament for the Rangers this offseason. Both arms have premium stuff and could easily get snapped in the Rule 5 Draft if they aren't protected on the 40-man roster.

• While Tanner Scheppers was the best pitching prospect featured in Tuesday's game, he was also the shakiest. Scheppers surrendered a two-run homer when a White Sox hitter turned on a 93 mph fastball on the inner half.

The 23-year-old worked at 93-95 mph, touching 96 once. He didn't appear to be getting on top of his 78-81 mph breaking ball, as the pitch lacked its usual depth and sharpness. On the positive side, Scheppers was able to work on his 85-87 mph changeup, throwing it four times to left-handed batters. He induced a groundout to first base when a left-handed hitter rolled over the change of pace.

Scheppers remains one of the top pitching prospects in the system despite his recent struggles. Though he clearly ran out of gas and wasn't prepared for a September callup, he has a 95-98 mph fastball with the best breaking pitch in the system at full-strength.

• Ovispo de los Santos has always possessed a plus––bordering on plus-plus––fastball, and he officially broke out as a prospect this season with a 2.77 ERA between Spokane and Hickory.

De Los Santos worked two clean innings, with the only baserunner coming on a broken-bat single on a 98 mph fastball. He spent most of the outing working between 92-94 mph.

Like Miguel de los Santos, Ovispo (no relation) worked on his third pitch in the outing. The Dominican Republic native threw a number of 84-86 mph changeups––a pitch he didn't use with much at all in 2010––and induced one broken-bat groundout.

Secondary stuff is clearly the key for de los Santos. He has legitimate upper-90s heat with late action and his slider showed some improvement this past season. If the slider and changeup continue to develop, he could reach Double-A next summer.

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

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