First baseman Andrew Clark was the most consistent hitter in the Texas Rangers' minor league system in both July and August. Through April, May and June, the University of Louisville product posted an on-base percentage north of .400. But, as a middle-of-the-order hitter in the Single-A Hickory lineup, he hit only three home runs in his first 64 games.
While Clark is a very patient hitter that draws plenty of walks, he also has a strong 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame that includes some raw power. Scouts knocked him early in the season for taking too passive of an approach.
The first baseman appeared to become a little more aggressive in July, and it immediately showed in the results. In 28 July games, he was 20-for-96 (.313) with eight doubles, eight round-trippers and 27 RBI. He still drew 20 walks versus 17 strikeouts.
Clark, who turned 24 in August, began this past month on a 19-for-44 (.432) tear at Hickory, including four doubles and another home run. The streak led to a mid-month High-A Myrtle Beach promotion.
The Indiana native made a quick impression in his first game with the Pelicans, as he went 2-for-4 with a single and a two-run homer. The High-A Carolina League is certainly a pitcher-friendly circuit, but he hasn't had much of an adjustment period despite jumping levels.
In 18 August games with Myrtle Beach, Clark was 18-for-57 (.316) with three doubles and two homers. His 20 walks (versus 10 strikeouts) led to a phenomenal .494 on-base percentage in the short sample.
The only blemish on Clark's stint with Myrtle Beach thus far are the errors at first base. After committing four in his first five games, he has one in his last 12 contests in the field.
Clark certainly has a feel for the strike zone, and his power has progressed along with his first full season. He has appeared in 123 games between the Low- and High-A levels this year, posting a .310/.430/.477 slash line that includes 28 doubles, 14 homers and 83 walks with 73 strikeouts.
The prospect is currently finishing his season with the Pelicans in the Carolina League playoffs. The Double-A level is often the true proving ground for most college products, and Clark––having just turned 24––should get a crack at the Texas League as the Frisco RoughRiders' first baseman in 2012.
|August||HIC (A)/MB (A+)||.366||101||7||3||19||16||0/0||24||17||.488||.525|
Honorable Mention: Brad Nelson (Round Rock), Renny Osuna (Frisco), Vin DiFazio (Myrtle Beach), Odubel Herrera (Hickory), Yefry Castillo (Spokane), Jeremy Williams (AZL Rangers), Alberto Triunfel (DSL Rangers)
April: Ryan Strausborger, OF, Myrtle Beach
May: Leonys Martin, OF, Frisco
June: Chris Davis, INF/OF, Round Rock
July: Andrew Clark, 1B, Hickory
Pitcher of the Month: Robbie Ross, LHP, Frisco
Although there were a number of pitchers in the Rangers' organization with excellent stat-lines during August, few were as impressive as Robbie Ross' given the circumstances. Ross earned the promotion to Double-A Frisco at the beginning of August, and he immediately became the RoughRiders' most reliable starting pitcher.
In fact, Ross was so strong in August that he was named Frisco's starting pitcher for Wednesday's opening game of the Texas League playoffs. He'll go against former teammate Joe Wieland, who was dealt to San Diego in the Mike Adams trade earlier this summer.
Ross made six starts with Frisco in August, going 1-1 with a 2.61 earned-run average. He logged 38 innings and yielded 33 hits while walking only five and striking out 36. The 22-year-old has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his Double-A starts. He has also pitched seven innings in three of them.
While there is little doubt that Ross is a major league-quality talent, he entered the 2011 campaign with questions regarding his ultimate role. Ross is on the small side at 5-foot-11, 185-pounds, and he has struggled to master the changeup as a third pitch in his arsenal.
But Ross may be answering those questions this season. The southpaw has been arguably the biggest workhorse in the Rangers' system, logging 161.1 regular season innings between the two levels. Of his 26 starts, he worked at least six innings 18 times.
The Kentucky native features a three-pitch mix that includes a lively 88-93 mph fastball, an 83-87 mph slider, and an 83-85 mph changeup. He induces plenty of ground balls––nearly 1.5 groundouts per flyout this season––with the help of the movement on his fastball.
All three of his pitches have cutting action, and it's perhaps one reason that he has struggled to master the changeup––a pitch that fades to the armside for most pitchers. The change has taken some steps forward this season and looks like a potentially usable third offering.
Even if Ross ultimately finds a home in the bullpen, his fastball-slider combination should help him miss bats while being tough on lefties. Fellow Double-A southpaws were 6-for-42 (.143) with 13 strikeouts against him in August.
Though Ross has never had trouble throwing strikes, he––along with his former teammate Wieland––learned the value of within-the-zone command at High-A Bakersfield last season. Pitching in the hitter-friendly circuit, he yielded 67 hits in 52 innings with the Blaze. This season, Ross is doing a better job of commanding his fastball low in the zone. He has permitted just six round-trippers in the 161.1 frames, including only one during his time in Myrtle Beach.
Ross figures to begin next season back with Double-A Frisco, but he may not be there for long. He could reach Triple-A Round Rock early in the 2012 campaign, and a major league call-up at some point next year certainly appears to be within reach.
Honorable Mention: Mark Hamburger (Round Rock), Justin Miller (Frisco), Miguel de los Santos (Myrtle Beach), Cody Buckel (Hickory), Chris Hanna (Spokane), Abel de los Santos (AZL Rangers), Jose Leclerc (DSL Rangers)
April: Neil Ramirez, RHP, Myrtle Beach/Round Rock
May: Joe Wieland, RHP, Myrtle Beach
June: Nick Tepesch, RHP, Hickory
July: Roman Mendez, RHP, Hickory
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