Rangers Minor League Notes (3/19)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Myrtle Beach Pelicans earned a victory on Saturday behind six total scoreless innings from Joe Wieland and Nick Tepesch. The offense was powered by Josh Richmond's two-homer day. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from the High-A contest.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans 6 – (@) Wilmington Blue Rocks 2

1. Jurickson Profar, SS (2/4)
2. Jake Skole, CF (1/4, 2 RBI)
3. Tomas Telis, C (1/3)
4. Josh Richmond, RF (2/3, 2 HR, 2 RBI)
5. Andrew Clark, DH (2/4, 2B, RBI)
6. Christian Villanueva, 3B (0/4, 3 K)
7. Jhonny Gomez, DH (0/3, BB)
8. Ryan Strausborger, LF (1/2, 2B)
9. Clark Murphy, 1B (1/3, BB, K)
10. Jonathan Roof, 2B (1/4, K)

Kellin Deglan, C (0/1, BB, K)
Guillermo Pimentel, RF (0/1, K, RBI SF)
Teodoro Martinez, CF (1/2, SB)
Yefry Castillo (0/2)
Edwin Garcia (1/1, 3B)
Carson Vitale (0/1)

• Outfielder Josh Richmond is one of the more intriguing position-player prospects in the organization, and he was profiled in this interview/feature on Saturday morning. Later that day, Richmond went 2-for-3 with a pair of solo home runs.

The Louisville product has some raw talent in his solid 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. His above-average arm strength allows him to fit in right field, where his good athleticism and slightly above-average speed should enable him to play passable defense. He can play center field in a pinch, though he's almost certainly to be more of a corner guy in professional ball.

Richmond's strength gives him above-average raw power, and it came out in Saturday's contest against the Royals. In his first at-bat, he just barely got under a 3-1 fastball up and over the plate and popped it up to shortstop. But he didn't miss the ball in his final two plate appearances. Richmond led off the fourth with a first-pitch homer to left field, and he went yard two innings later on a 2-2 count––both pitches were fastballs over the plate that he punished.

As the 21-year-old mentioned in the linked interview, he wants to improve his ability to recognize breaking balls out of the hand. Pitch recognition is probably the weakest point of Richmond's offensive game right now, but if he can improve it, the good strength and bat speed could translate into above-average game power.

• With an opposite-field single to lead off the game and a line-drive hit-and-run single to center on a 2-2 count, switch-hitting shortstop Jurickson Profar did his usual thing on Saturday. Profar, 18, has shown excellent bat control from the left side over the last few days, hitting singles to all fields while not trying to do too much with the pitches he's given.

In the field, Profar put on a clinic during Thursday's High-A contest, making a handful of backhand stops followed by setting his feet and making the strong throw to get a runner. While he didn't have quite the same opportunity on Saturday, he made the routine plays look routine, which is impressive for any 18-year-old shortstop.

• Christian Villanueva had a rough day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a groundout to second followed by three consecutive punchouts. However, he made up for it with his play in the field, showing quick reflexes in stabbing a couple of sharply struck ground balls. He also made a nice barehand snag and throw on a slow roller in front of him.

The 19-year-old Mexico native is likely to begin the season as the regular third baseman at Single-A Hickory. He batted .314/.365/.431 with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers last season while flashing an above-average glove and advanced instincts at third base.

• Outfielder Teodoro Martinez (playing in left field) entered during the second half of the game and flashed his intriguing throw and run tools almost immediately. On an excuse-me swinging single to left field, ‘Cafesito' gunned down the runner at second with a pinpoint throw to the bag. He also beat out an infield single in the hole at shortstop before stealing second base a couple pitches later.

Joe Wieland: 3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (38 pitches – 24 strikes)
Nick Tepesch: 3 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 3 k (37 pitches – 26 strikes)
Kyle Ocampo: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (13 pitches – 6 strikes)
Johan Yan: 1 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 1 k (18 pitches – 12 strikes)
Michael Thomas: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 0 k (18 pitches – 10 strikes)

• Joe Wieland started the contest with a clean three scoreless innings, yielding just one single, walking none, and striking out two. After the outing, the 21-year-old said he'd been sick and hadn't been able to keep any food down, but he certainly looked to be at full-strength while on the mound.

Wieland threw his fastball anywhere between 87-93 mph, sitting comfortably in the 89-90 mph range. He threw plenty of strikes with the pitch, which had a little armside run and sinking action. If there's a nitpick about his fastball, it's that he drifted up in the zone a bit too often with it and must tighten his within-the-zone command. Working up in the zone at times caused him to yield 67 hits in 59 innings at High-A Bakersfield last season. Wieland has a repeatable delivery, though, and he profiles for future plus fastball command.

After the 6-foot-3 hurler's mid-season 2010 promotion to Bakersfield, his strikeout rate increased as he began to throw the curveball more often. He showed a future plus curve on Saturday, throwing it at 74-78 mph with plenty of depth and a little two-plane break. He commanded the pitch well, tossing it for strikes eight out of 11 times and getting three swings and misses, two called strikes, and a flyout.

The prospect mentioned in an offseason interview that he'd like to do a better job of refining his changeup this season, saying he'd also like to mix it in against right-handed hitters. Of the 38 pitches he threw, Wieland dropped three changeups at 82-83 mph (two to righties) and got a called strike and a flyout.

• Through his three-year career at the University of Missouri, Nick Tepesch showed potential first-round talent but inconsistent results. Despite his above-average stuff, he posted a career 5.11 ERA and surrendered 250 hits in 213 innings. Tepesch has never had trouble throwing strikes, but it was his command within the zone that left him hittable.

In the first inning of Saturday's contest, the righty threw nine pitches (eight strikes) and nailed his spots with four different offerings––an 88-92 mph fastball with some life, an 85 mph cut-slider, an 85 mph changeup, and an 81 mph curveball. Although Tepesch wasn't quite as sharp in the other two frames, he still looked promising. The hurler threw strikes and missed bats with all four of his pitches at times.

It's difficult to get an accurate handle on his offspeed stuff after one outing because all three secondary pitches looked usable, and one didn't really stand out above the rest. He recorded his three punchouts on an 81 mph curve (looking; broke over the outer half to the lefty), 86 mph cut-slider (swinging to a righty), and an 88 mph fastball (swinging to a lefty).

Tepesch shows a tendency to throw the fastball and curve to both left- and right-handed batters, but he clearly prefers to use the slider to combat righties while going to the change against lefties. If he's able to command the fastball like he did on Saturday, his ability to throw four pitches for strikes should allow him to breeze through the lower levels.

• Kyle Ocampo's command was far from sharp on Saturday, but he managed to work a 1-2-3 inning while only throwing six of his 13 pitches for strikes. He retired the first two hitters after falling behind 2-0 and induced a 2-1 groundout to the final batter. The California native threw his fastball at 86-89 mph.

• Sidearming sinkerballer Johan Yan was also erratic. In his lone frame, he uncorked a couple wild pitches with his 83-87 mph fastball and began the outing with a four-pitch walk.

After struggling to produce much in the way of velocity or command from his over-the-top arm slot in '09, the former third baseman dropped down to a sidearm angle during extended spring training last season. He began working at 84-88 with tons of sink while mixing in a good 72-75 mph slider. In 43.1 frames between Spokane and Hickory last season, Yan posted a 2.70 ERA while inducing nearly two groundouts per flyout. He walked only 13 while striking out 38.

• Another position player-turned-pitcher that appeared on Saturday's game was former catcher Michael Thomas, who joined the Rangers organization in last season's Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade. The 22-year-old generally throws strikes with an 87-89 mph fastball and an upper-70s slider.

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