Name: Craig Gentry
DOB: November 29, 1983
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 10th round
Craig Gentry's climb up the Texas Rangers' organizational ladder has been a gradual one, but he now has an opportunity to seize a spot as a reserve outfielder on the big league roster.
After being selected in the 10th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, the Arkansas native spent only one full season at the lower levels. However, over the last three years, he has played nearly all of his games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Even when Gentry posted a .273/.331/.374 slash line at the A-ball levels in '07, he remained an intriguing prospect because of his speed and defensive skills. He broke out as a legitimate future big league option two years later after hitting .303/.378/.418 in 127 contests with Frisco.
In fact, Gentry's production with the ‘Riders that season earned him a 40-man roster spot and a September call-up to Arlington. The outfielder appeared in 11 games and went 2-for-17 at the plate.
Gentry played in only 89 games between the Triple-A and major league levels last season due to a mixture of injuries and his reserve role with the Rangers. He began the year at Triple-A but was recalled in late-April after Nelson Cruz was placed on the disabled list. Gentry was briefly sent back down in mid-May before returning on June 1.
During his time with the Rangers in 2010, Gentry appeared in 20 games––starting nine––and went 7-for-33 with one walk, 11 strikeouts, and one stolen base. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound prospect saw the bulk of his action against left-handed starting pitchers.
The club had its reasons for preferring Gentry against left-handed pitching. Over the last two seasons, his minor league stats show that he may see the ball better out of a lefty's hand. Gentry has drawn 28 walks while striking out only 21 times against southpaws. Facing righties, he has 50 free passes and 90 punchouts.
The former Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder finished his season with Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, aggressive play in the outfield led to a few dings and ultimately ended his season early. Gentry suffered a season-ending broken wrist after running into the outfield wall against Las Vegas on August 13.
The injury caused him to miss out on a September call-up and an opportunity to get on the postseason roster as a base running specialist––that job went to Esteban German during the ALDS.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (April 8, 2010)
Batting and Power: Gentry has been best known for his base running and defensive skills since being drafted in '06, but it was ultimately his improvement with the bat that allowed him to climb the ladder and reach the big leagues. Early in his pro career, Gentry could put the bat on the ball but was too often overaggressive at the plate. Despite being a top-of-the-order hitter, he wasn't working counts and letting himself see driveable pitches.
His breakout came at Double-A Frisco in '09, when he began showing increased patience. Even when he wasn't walking, he was seeing more pitches and putting himself into better hitter's counts. The adjustment allowed him to show more power in game situations. Gentry must, however, settle in at the plate in the big leagues. He has appeared jumpy in the limited action, resulting in one walk and 11 strikeouts in 35 plate appearances with Texas last season.
If he stays patient, he can be a passable contact hitter. He also has the strength and lift in his swing to run into a ball now and then. Gentry likely won't hit enough to play every day at the big league level, but if he settles in, the bat could help keep him on the roster as a reserve.
Base Running and Speed: Gentry has above-average speed, checking in around the 60-65-grade range on the 20-80 scouting scale. His speed plays up due to excellent base running skills, which are arguably best in the Texas system. After an injury limited him on the base paths in '08, a fully healthy Gentry swiped 49 bags in 55 tries at the Double-A level. He is also a strong first-to-third runner.
Defense: The 27-year-old is an above-average defender at all three outfield spots due to his solid skill-set across the board. In addition to his plus arm strength, Gentry knows his arm well, often making accurate throws and hitting the cutoff man. His strong instincts, accurate first step, direct routes, and speed give him above-average range and make him a good fit for center field. Gentry has spent the majority of his professional career in center, though he also has the arm strength and accuracy to handle both corner spots when necessary.
Projection: Most likely a reserve outfielder, Gentry has an opportunity to provide value to a big league club through his ability to run the bases and play all three outfield spots at a high level. While he hasn't yet earned a full-time major league roster spot, he should have the opportunity to do so.
The Rangers' solid outfield depth––and mixture of sluggers, speedsters, and defenders––works against Gentry's bid to become a mainstay on the Texas roster. He may be an ideal fit for a National League bench, where pinch runners and defensive specialists are used more often.
2011 Outlook: Gentry will fight for a job as a big league reserve outfielder in Spring Training. It may be an uphill battle, though, with four outfielders––plus Mitch Moreland––already considered locks for the opening day roster. With options remaining, Gentry is perhaps most likely to begin the season at Triple-A Round Rock, but he should also be the first outfielder called up in the event of an injury.
|2007||AZL Rangers (RK)||.273||11||0||0||1||4||2/2||1||3||.385||.273|
|2010||Oklahoma City (AAA)||.309||259||7||4||35||43||12/17||29||47||.393||.413|
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