Rangers Minor League Notes (3/8)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – A handful of Texas Rangers prospects saw action with the travel squad in Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from the spring training action.

• Although it's still early, right-hander Mason Tobin may be on his way to creating an interesting dilemma for the Rangers. In Monday night's outing against the Giants, Tobin hurled a scoreless inning, getting three groundouts. His first outing was similar––a 1-2-3 frame against Oakland with three groundouts induced.

The 23-year-old topped out at 93 or 95 mph on Monday night, depending on the radar gun. While the velocity is good, the fastball command has been even more impressive––particularly for a hurler that had missed much of the last two years due to injuries. Tobin has above-average velocity (he has reached up to 97 mph in the past), and his fastball gets lots of sink. So far, he's doing an excellent job of spotting it low and to both corners.

Because Tobin was selected in the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, he must make the Rangers' opening day roster to stay in the organization. He was initially considered a long shot––and likely still is––but he's showing promise and could put some pressure on the Rangers.

If Tobin doesn't make the opening day roster, the only way to keep him in the system would be to work out a trade with the Angels. However, Tobin is a nice arm with the potential to pitch at the back-end of a bullpen, and the Angels certainly realize that. It would be difficult to get a deal done, and he may end up costing a pretty penny. He'll be offered back to the Angels if he doesn't make the big league roster and a trade can't be made.

Hurley's fastball reached 92 mph.
Eric Hurley turned in an all-around decent second start of camp. The former first-round pick tossed three scoreless, hitless innings, walking two and striking out zero. He had a rough first inning, working at 86-89 mph and struggling to throw all three of his offerings for strikes. Hurley settled down, though, and pitched at 88-90 (topping at 92) with a nice 79-83 mph slider during the second and third frames.

Hurley, 25, appears to be even more of a ‘pitcher' than a ‘thrower' after sitting out two years due to injuries. While his fastball often missed up in the zone prior to the injuries, most of his misses were low on Tuesday. He also shows confidence and command in his slider, as he works it to both sides of the plate against right-handed hitters.

It'll be interesting to see how Hurley's velocity looks as he continues to build innings. By the end of the Arizona Fall League, he was sitting at 90-93 mph and bumping up to 94. His fastball is a bit straight and he doesn't get a lot of angle on it despite the 6-foot-4 frame, so good velocity to go along with the (so far) solid command will be all the more important.

Hurley is likely to begin the season in the Triple-A Round Rock rotation, but he is showing decent stuff with a feel for pitching and command––a combination that should enable him to help the big league club at some point this season.

• When speaking with scouts, shortstop Leury Garcia just might be the most polarizing prospect in the Rangers' system. Some evaluators see him as a non-prospect due to his small stature and relatively limited hit tool. Others view him as a potential big leaguer because of his elite package of range, arm strength, and speed.

The jury will likely still be out on Garcia for a couple years, but he did impress in Tuesday's big league game. The 19-year-old had a strong game, going 2-for-3 (one bouncer through the left side, one hard-hit single into right field) with a sacrifice bunt. On the defensive side, he made a nice play on a ball that appeared to be heading up the middle.

Garcia doesn't appear to be as tall as his listed 5-foot-10 height––he is likely more in the 5-foot-8 range. The prospect added some upper-body strength in the offseason, and he has done a better job of driving the ball in batting practice this spring. His size may prevent him from being an every day player, but the overall tools are intriguing.

Eppley had his sharpest stuff yet.
• Righties Cody Eppley and Ryan Tucker are leading the way in games pitched, with four appearances thus far. Though Eppley surrendered an unearned run against the Angels, he actually had his best stuff of the spring. The 25-year-old located his sinker between 86-88 mph, but it was his 78-80 mph slider that was especially giving hitters fits. He threw the slider six times (five for strikes) and got two groundouts and a swing and miss.

• Tucker also may have shown his best stuff yet, but he's still having problems with command. The former Marlins prospect yielded a run on two hits and a walk in one inning, raising his ERA to 8.10 through 3.1 innings. Tucker's fastball worked at 90-94 mph with some nice armside run and a little sink. But that has been the 24-year-old's scouting report for a couple years now––plus fastball, and trouble commanding it. Despite the solid stuff, he walked 41 and struck out 44 between rookie ball, High-A, and Triple-A last season.

While the offseason waiver claim of Tucker was a good idea for the Rangers, the hurler doesn't appear to have the same stuff or command that made him a former top prospect in the Florida system. He has always struggled to find a consistent breaking ball, but his fastball that touched up to 98 mph in the past caused many to consider him the Marlins' future closer.

With that said, Texas was able to pull Tucker through waivers and off its 40-man roster in December, so he'll remain in the organization after spring training. He is likely to begin the season in the bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock.

• First baseman Jose Ruiz has been one of the more intriguing stories this spring. The Cuban import continued to impress with his raw strength on Tuesday, going 1-for-4 with a double and another well-struck lineout. Even though he puts on impressive displays of power in batting practice, Ruiz posted just a .348 slugging percentage at Double-A last season. He followed it up with a .375 SLG in the Arizona Fall League.

The left-handed hitter must prove that he can turn his 5:00 batting practice power into legitimate game power. So far, he's showing some promise by lining balls in big league games. Ruiz has done a good job of hammering fastballs down in the zone over the last few games. He runs better than you'd expect at 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, seems to have a feel for a strike zone, and he appears to handle himself pretty well at first base.

Daily Videos

17 year old C Fernando Vivili takes batting practice from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Key minor league spring training dates:

March 6: Pitchers and catchers report
March 7: First workout for pitchers and catchers
March 11: Position players report
March 12: First full-squad workout
March 16: Intrasquad scrimmages
March 17: First games
April 1: Camp breaks

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