Scouting Rangers Prospect #24: Omar Beltre

While right-hander Omar Beltre has legitimate big league stuff, he has had trouble staying on the field and will miss at least half of the 2011 season. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 29-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Omar Beltre
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: August 24, 1981
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2000 International Free Agent

Staying on the field has been Omar Beltre's biggest challenge since he was allowed back into the U.S. early last spring.

After being slowed by a tender elbow during Spring Training last year, Beltre played catch-up and eventually shipped off to Triple-A Oklahoma City in time for opening day.

But the tender elbow was only the beginning of Beltre's troubles. He landed on the DL around mid-season with discomfort in his side. Then, just before he was set to earn his second big league call-up, Beltre injured his ankle on September 1 and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Now, on the first day of 2011 Spring Training, the Rangers have announced that Beltre was diagnosed with spinal stenosis––a genetic disorder that results in narrowing of the spine.

That Beltre has the disorder is purely bad luck. While spinal stenosis is somewhat common for those age 60 and over, it's extremely rare for a 29-year-old like Beltre.

The Rangers have announced that Beltre will undergo surgery on February 22. The timetable for his return would appear to be cloudy, as the issue isn't commonly dealt with by athletes. However, Rangers Assistant General Manager Thad Levine estimates that Beltre will be able to resume baseball activities in six-to-eight weeks.

It's been a long and unorthodox journey for Beltre, who signed for a reported $600,000 all the way back in 2000. After being stranded in his native Dominican Republic for five full seasons due to a marriage fraud scandal, Beltre finally pitched in the major leagues last season. And now he has another obstacle to overcome.

If healthy, Beltre has proven that he has the stuff to make an impact in Arlington. The hurler posted a 2.65 earned-run average at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. In 85 innings, he yielded just 69 hits while walking 38 and fanning 85.

Also See: Beltre, Ogando allowed back in States (February 1, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 12, 2010)
Breaking down the Oklahoma City Redhawks (April 8, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (April 8, 2010)
Beltre shows polish (June 30, 2010)
Seven teams, seven sleepers (December 26, 2010)

Prospect Video:

Omar Beltre induces a popout from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Splitter, Changeup.

Fastball: Beltre's fastball typically sits between 91-94 mph and touches 95-96 on occasion. It's an all-around plus pitch, with heavy late life to go along with the plus velocity. Beltre showed above-average command during his time at Spring Training and Triple-A last season, consistently working down in the zone and elevating only when necessary. The combination of velocity, movement, and command led to 1.7 groundouts per flyout with OKC, and he surrendered only two homers in 85 innings.

Perhaps due to adrenaline, the right-hander appeared to be overthrowing a bit during his two big league starts. As a result, he fell behind in counts, the fastball floated up in the zone, and he was hittable despite the plus velocity. Beltre should be able to command his fastball just fine once he settles in at the big league level.

Other Pitches: Beltre's top secondary offering is a plus mid-80s splitter that features sharp drop with some cutting action. He can miss bats with the pitch and uses it against both left- and right-handed hitters. The splitter helped him limit lefties to a .211 average (26-for-123) in Triple-A last season.

His low-80s slider is a fringy pitch that can flash average potential but remains inconsistent. Though he made it a primary focus last season, the pitch often breaks out of the hand, causing it to lose sharpness and float out of the zone. Beltre also mixes in the occasional straight changeup.

Projection: Beltre has an outside chance of sticking as a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, but he likely profiles best as a hard-throwing reliever that can live off his fastball-splitter combination. Staying healthy in general will be the key for Beltre, and his arm must also prove it can bounce back on short rest if he's to be a reliever. The 29-year-old is obviously physically developed and has mature stuff. If he can stay on the field, he'll earn a full-time spot on the Rangers' pitching staff.

2011 Outlook: After being diagnosed with spinal stenosis––a genetic disorder that results in narrowing of the spine––Beltre will undergo surgery on February 22, and a realistic timetable for his return is unknown at this point. Rangers Assistant GM Thad Levine told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Beltre will resume physical activities after six-to-eight weeks of rehab. Although there's no telling when he'll be back on the mound and pitching in games, he is expected to miss at least half the season.

When Beltre returns to game action, he will most likely settle in with Triple-A Round Rock. His role––whether it be starter or reliever––would seem to be up in the air right now. He has the stuff to help the big league staff in 2011, but only time will tell whether he'll be healthy enough to do so.

ETA: 2011.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2000 GCL Rangers (RK) 5-4 61.0 54 15 44 3.54
2001 Pulaski (RK) 6-3 69.1 56 23 83 3.38
2002 DNP – Injury --- --- --- --- --- ---
2003 Clinton (A) 3-3 49.0 46 11 27 2.39
2004 Stockton (A+) 4-5 58.2 60 24 47 2.45
2005 DSL Rangers (DSL) 5-4 72.1 51 13 94 1.62
2006 DSL Rangers1 (DSL) 2-3 66.0 42 7 80 1.23
2007 DSL Rangers1 (DSL) 2-0 30.2 22 6 38 1.17
2008 DNP --- --- --- --- --- ---
2009 DSL Rangers2 (DSL) 0-0 7.1 5 3 10 0.00
2010 Oklahoma City (AAA) 3-9 85.0 69 38 85 2.65
Texas (MLB) 0-1 7.0 9 7 9 9.00

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