Rangers Minor League Notes (3/22)

SURPRISE, Ariz. – A pair of tall, projectable hurlers in righty David Perez and lefty Victor Payano turned in solid innings of work in Tuesday's Low-A game. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from the contest.

Hickory Crawdads 7 – Kane County Cougars 11

1. Teodoro Martinez, CF (0/3, sac bunt)
2. Jurickson Profar, SS (2/4, RBI)
3. Jake Skole, LF (1/3, K)
4. Josh Richmond, RF (1/4, 2B, RBI, K)
5. Andrew Clark, DH (0/2, K)
6. Christian Villanueva, 3B (0/5, K)
7. Michael Ortiz, 1B (2/4, K)
8. Ryan Strausborger, DH (2/4, SB)
9. Carson Vitale, C (2/2, 2B, RBI)
10. Jonathan Roof, 2B (2/2, RBI)

Johnathon Moore, C (1/2, K)
Guillermo Pimentel, LF (1/2, 3B, RBI)
Jhonny Gomez, DH (0/1, BB, K)
Edwin Garcia (1/1, RBI)
Tomas Telis (0/1)

• Jurickson Profar once again did his usual thing against the Royals' Low-A club, smacking two singles and playing smooth defense at shortstop. Profar looks especially good in going toward the hole (third base side) to backhand hard ground balls. The Curaco native collected two more singles in four at-bats––one from the left side and one from the right. He got a two-out, two-strike RBI single early in the game by pulling a fastball with a hard grounder just out of the first baseman's reach.

• Outfielder Jake Skole's strength is evident when watching him in batting practice, but he isn't squaring up balls with much consistency in games right now. While the 19-year-old has good bat speed, he doesn't appear to be swinging it with much confidence in game situations. His trigger appears to be a bit hesitant, causing him to bloop and pop the ball into the air on hittable pitches.

Skole has the necessary tools for success. He isn't extremely advanced, though he also isn't very raw considering his football-heavy background and lack of playing time (due to the ankle injury) in high school last season. But he may not produce much in the way of statistical results for the next year as he continues to develop his game.

• As outfielder Josh Richmond mentioned in his recent interview, he wants to work on improving his pitch recognition in regards to breaking balls. He was slow to pick up a curve from Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi in the second inning and popped it into center. Later in the contest, Richmond flashed the strength and bat speed by lining an inside fastball off the left field wall for a double. He didn't hit a round-tripper, though, ending his streak at three consecutive games with a homer (including two in one game).

• Third baseman Christian Villanueva is struggling at the plate so far in camp. His timing appears to be off, and he is having trouble recognizing secondary stuff out of the hand. The early issues shouldn't be much reason for worry. While Villanueva doesn't quite have elite offensive projection, he has good bat speed, a smooth swing, and advanced upper-body strength. He's still likely to open the season as the everyday third baseman at Single-A Hickory.

The Mexico native hasn't let the struggles at the plate carry over into the field, where his instincts, quickness, and smooth hands continue to stand out amongst his peers. In the first inning of Tuesday's game, Villanueva made a barehand snag on a bunt before making a strong throw to first to nail the runner with ease.

• A streaky hitter and a bit of a fringe prospect, outfielder Ryan Strausborger offers some intriguing skills with plus speed and a little bit of pop. The 16th-round pick out of Indiana State batted .241/.302/.299 in July with Spokane last summer before hitting .330/.405/.505 in August. He swiped 21 bags in 25 attempts over 64 games for the Indians.

Strausborger, 23, had two singles (one opposite-field, one line-drive to center) in four at-bats against Kane County on Tuesday. He got into Thursday's big league contest as a ‘JIC' player, working in center field and going 0-for-2 with a flyout and a double play groundout.

David Perez: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (9 pitches – 6 strikes)
Luis Parra: 1 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 0 k (11 pitches – 8 strikes)
Jorge Marban: 1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 1 k (14 pitches – 9 strikes)
Andres Perez-Lobo: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (17 pitches – 10 strikes)
Kevin Johnson: 1 ip, 3 h, 5 r, 1 bb, 0 k (20 pitches – 9 strikes)
Francisco Mendoza: 1 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 1 k (17 pitches – 10 strikes)
Victor Payano: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (15 pitches – 9 strikes)
Jose Monegro: 0.2 ip, 2 h, 3 r, 2 bb, 0 k (25 pitches – 15 strikes)
Michael Thomas: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (12 pitches – 9 strikes)

• David Perez's inning was so efficient that it was almost disappointing––and difficult to get much of an extended look at him. Perez recorded the first two outs on only three pitches (groundout back to the mound, bunt groundout to third) before getting a six-pitch strikeout to end a 1-2-3 frame.

The 6-foot-5 hurler, who has long limbs and an easy delivery, attacked opposing hitters with seven fastballs between 91-93 mph. He mixed in a pair of curveballs at 75-76 mph––one for a ball, one for a called strike––to the third hitter. Perez finished off the frame by getting good angle on a 3-2 fastball that he commanded low and on the outer half to a right-handed batter. He didn't throw any changeups in the short outing.

Playing in the Dominican Summer League last season, Perez posted a 1.41 earned-run average while recording 68 strikeouts against only eight walks in 70 innings. He excelled in large part because of his ability to throw three pitches for strikes (including an advanced curveball) and command his fastball down in the zone.

After working at 88-92 mph last season and bumping up to 95 at fall instructs, Perez appears to be gaining velocity. At full maturity, he could sit in the 92-95 mph range while touching even higher, and the advanced fastball command makes him all the more intriguing. He will likely begin the 2011 campaign at extended spring training before shipping off to short-season Spokane in June.

• Lefty Victor Payano has a similar build to Perez, though he may be even more long-limbed and lean than his 18-year-old Dominican counterpart. Although Payano's three-pitch mix isn't as advanced as Perez, there is just as much to dream on.

Payano improved as last year's Dominican Summer League campaign progressed, finishing with a 3.40 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. He had some trouble with walks early on but was filling up the strike zone by season's end.

In Tuesday's contest, Payano displayed advanced command and the ability to pitch (down in the zone and working both corners) with his 88-91 mph fastball that has plenty of room for growth due to his lean frame and quick, easy arm action. He hides the ball well, allowing it to jump on hitters and letting the velocity play up a tick.

During fall instructs last October, Payano's curveball and changeup both had good shape, but he was slowing his body down dramatically when throwing the secondary stuff. He wasn't doing that nearly as much on Tuesday, and the 71-74 mph curveball and 85 mph changeup both looked improved. He threw three curves in the game, including one that he dropped in over the outer half to a righty to record a strikeout looking.

• Righty Andres Perez-Lobo didn't get much press when he signed as the Rangers' 23rd-round pick out of a Miami high school last summer. The Florida International signee posted a 5.95 ERA in 19.2 relief innings with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in 2010. While the results weren't spectacular, he flashed solid velocity at times, running his fastball anywhere between 87-92 mph from a low arm slot.

On Tuesday, the 19-year-old worked a perfect frame, getting a pair of strikeouts (79 mph slider, looking; 93 mph fastball, swinging) followed by a groundout to third base. He commanded a 90-93 mph fastball low in the zone while mixing in a 76-81 mph slider and a changeup at 81-83 mph. Both secondary pitches showed promise and looked improved from last summer's pro debut.

• Another right-handed Miami native, Jorge Marban, signed with Texas as an undrafted free agent last summer. Marban played three years at Florida International University, and he capped off an underwhelming career by posting an 8.75 ERA with 23 walks and 21 strikeouts in 23.2 innings last season.

Despite the poor college results, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound reliever was dominant in last summer's pro debut. He logged 13 scoreless innings between the Surprise Rangers and Spokane Indians, yielding only six hits while walking six and fanning 20.

Marban, 22, yielded a run in Tuesday's outing, but he showed solid stuff and a fast arm out of a funky delivery. So far in camp, he has thrown his fastball at 91-94 mph and is showing the ability to spin a decent 77-80 mph slider that he commands pretty well.

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