Rangers Minors Players of the Month: June

Lone Star Dugout announces Triple-A Round Rock slugger Chris Davis and Single-A Hickory pitcher Nick Tepesch as its Texas Rangers Minor League Players of the Month for June 2011.

Player of the Month: Chris Davis, 3B/LF, Round Rock

While Davis was pretty much the clear choice for player of the month, there were some very strong performers deserving of recognition. They included three of Davis' Round Rock teammates––Brian Barden (.358/.413/.701), Joey Butler (.364/.406/.565) and Esteban German (.338/.395/.514). Barden, of course, exercised the July 1 opt-out date in his contract and became a free agent.

Then there were Frisco's Tom Mendonca (.375/.451/.635), Myrtle Beach's Leury Garcia (.342/.397/.459), Hickory's Alejandro Selen (.313/.424/.667) and the DSL's Luis Marte (.351/.375/.519). Garcia was named the Carolina League's player of the month for June.

In other words, there were plenty of options in June. But Davis stood above the rest.

The 25-year-old played the entire month at Triple-A outside of a three-day stint in which he filled in with the Rangers. Davis appeared in 21 games, going 30-for-83 (.361) with four doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. He drew six walks and struck out 24 times.

Davis' overall numbers this season are staggering. He has 20 round-trippers in 38 overall games, including 17 in his 27 contests at Dell Diamond. Because of his time spent in the major leagues so far this season, Davis doesn't have the necessary plate appearances to qualify among the PCL league leaders. But Davis is currently slugging at an .842 clip. The highest qualifying slugger in the circuit right now is Reno's Wily Mo Pena––at .726.

Both the Pacific Coast League and Round Rock's Dell Diamond are certainly hitter-friendly environments, but Davis is slugging laps around anyone else in the circuit while showing power to all fields.

He is also learning the ropes in left field. The native Texan appeared in 11 games at left field during June, plus three contests so far in July. With David Murphy scuffling in the majors––plus the Rangers having their major league corner infield spots filled––he could give the Rangers another option during the season's stretch drive.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound lefty slugger has elite raw power. He has the pop to consistently mash home runs in any major league ballpark. But he also strikes out at a high rate. In Triple-A this year, Davis is whiffing in approximately 28 percent of his plate appearances.

In an interview earlier this season, Davis said he has learned to cope with the strikeouts by accepting them along with the heavy power numbers.

"I'm not going to be a guy that's going to go out there and have two strikeouts to every walk," he said in April. "I'm going to strikeout a lot. That's who I am. I think one of the biggest things was coming to terms with that. It was thinking that it's okay to strikeout 150 times if you're still hitting over .300 and driving in runs."

The Rangers hope Davis can continue producing just like he has in his short major league sample this season. In 21 big league games, Davis has a high strikeout rate but holds a .269/.333/.481 slash line while playing solid defense at both corner infield positions.

Only time will tell whether Davis remains in the Rangers' organization or gets used as trade bait before this year's deadline. At this point, it seems clear that the Rangers aren't looking to just give Davis away––they feel he could potentially contribute to the big league club.

June Round Rock (AAA) .361 83 4 10 28 16 1/1 6 24 .418 .795

Honorable Mention: Brian Barden (Round Rock), Tom Mendonca (Frisco), Leury Garcia (Myrtle Beach), Alejandro Selen (Hickory), Luis Marte (DSL Rangers)

April: Ryan Strausborger, OF, Myrtle Beach
May: Leonys Martin, OF, Frisco

Pitcher of the Month: Nick Tepesch, RHP, Hickory

When the Texas Rangers selected University of Missouri product Nick Tepesch in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, they certainly liked his raw talent. Although Tepesch never quite posted the results to match his pure stuff in college, the Rangers gave him a $400,000 signing bonus––approximately third-round slot money.

Because Tepesch didn't sign until the mid-August deadline last year, he didn't pitch in a game until fall instructional league. And he didn't log an official professional inning until he worked with Single-A Hickory to begin the 2011 regular season.

Since entering the Rangers' organization, Tepesch has made steady progress and was Hickory's most dominant starting pitcher last month.

In six starts during June, the 22-year-old righty went 3-0 with a 2.23 earned-run average. He logged 36.1 innings, gave up 28 hits, walked nine, and struck out 37. Tepesch also kept the ball low in the zone––he induced nearly 2.3 groundouts per airout in the month.

Although Tepesch never quite harnessed his stuff in college, he never had a big issue with walks. The 6-foot-4 hurler came into spring training throwing strikes with all four pitches (click for spring training report), which included an 88-92 mph fastball, a mid-80s cut-slider, a mid-80s changeup, and a low-80s curveball.

None of Tepesch's pitches––at the time––were really put-away offerings. But he was locating and getting hitters out.

Now, Tepesch's stuff continues to tick up as the season progresses and he gains both strength and confidence. In recent outings, Tepesch is sitting in the low-90s with his fastball and has touched up to 96 mph. Some scouts put solid-average grades on Tepesch's cut-slider earlier this season. But now he's throwing the pitch a bit harder, adding sharpness and making it more of a put-away offering.

While Tepesch showed the ability to touch the mid-90s––if not higher––at times in college, he never had success with the plus velocity. He struggled to command his fastball before settling in around the 88-92 mph range as a junior, when his results began to improve. But it appears Tepesch is learning to throw quality strikes at the higher velocity this season.

As the stuff has improved, so have the prospect's strikeout numbers. He has 71 strikeouts (with 19 walks) in 86.2 innings for the season. But in June, he was less hittable and fanned more than a batter per inning (37 in 36.1 frames).

The righty is a three-year college product who put together his best month of the season in June. He has the following line in his first two July starts––13 ip, 16 h, 3 r, 1 bb, 9 k. If Tepesch continues his success––while showing improved stuff––for much longer, he could get a crack at High-A ball at some point during the second half.

Month Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
June Hickory (A) 3-0 36.1 28 9 37 2.23

Honorable Mention: Scott Feldman (Round Rock), Justin Miller (Frisco), Barret Loux (Myrtle Beach), Ryan Rodebaugh (Hickory), Aliangel Lopez (DSL Rangers)

April: Neil Ramirez, RHP, Myrtle Beach/Round Rock
May: Joe Wieland, RHP, Myrtle Beach

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