Scouting Rangers Prospect #45: Mark Hamburger

After signing at a Minnesota Twins open tryout in 2007, right-handed reliever Mark Hamburger gradually ascended through the minors before reaching the big leagues late last season. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 24-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Mark Hamburger
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: February 5, 1987
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2008 trade from Minnesota for LHP Eddie Guardado

When the Texas Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Mark Hamburger in a trade for veteran lefty Eddie Guardado in 2008, Hamburger was best known for two things. First, his unique last name, which led to some creative advertisements in Round Rock last season. The other notable thing about the Minnesota native was that he'd signed via a Twins open tryout at the Metrodome. While an open tryout is something that most professional clubs hold, players are very rarely signed from them.

Hamburger joined the Rangers' organization in '08 with just over 50 innings of professional experience. At the time, he was regarded as an arm-strength relief prospect who flashed plus velocity at times but had an overall raw game.

The 6-foot-4 hurler gradually worked his way through the system––pitching in Low-A in 2009, High-A in '10, and finally the upper levels last season. He improved at each stop along the way, showing more consistent velocity while improving both his fastball command and secondary stuff.

After taking a big step forward in 2010, Hamburger began last season at Double-A Frisco. He wasn't with the ‘Riders for long, though, as he posted a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 relief innings. He yielded 11 hits while walking five and striking out 22.

The strong start earned the 24-year-old a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock. Upon joining the Express, Hamburger experienced some struggles for the first time in more than two seasons. He made seven appearances with the club in May and coughed up 13 runs on 18 hits in only 11 innings.

Hamburger quickly righted the ship, though. From June through the end of the minor league season, he posted the following stat-line––51.2 ip, 36 h, 14 er (2.44 ERA), 16 bb, 38 k. His ERA also improved to 1.67 in 32.1 innings after the Triple-A All-Star break.

While Hamburger's velocity was a constant last season, his fastball command began flashing plus more often, and it played a big factor in his breakout as a prospect. He also added––and gained confidence in––a split-changeup during the '11 campaign in addition to showing an improved slider at times.

Hamburger certainly showed physical improvement in 2011, but early in the year, he was quick to attribute his mental development and positive mindset as a primary key to his breakout 2010 season.

The former Twins farmhand completed an improbable run to the major leagues by getting his first big league callup last September. He made five relief appearances during the month and yielded four runs in eight innings, giving up five hits while fanning six and walking three.

Hamburger's best performance came in a 4-3 victory over the Angels on September 26, after Texas had already clinched the AL West title. The Rangers chose to rest starting pitcher C.J. Wilson after just two innings, and Hamburger picked up the slack by working 3.2 frames of one-run ball en route to his first big league victory.

Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 1, 2011)
Hamburger taking a positive mental approach (April 22, 2011)
RMLN – Ramirez, Davis making headlines (June 27, 2011)
Jason Cole talks September callups (August 29, 2011)
Texas Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Splitter.

Fastball: Hamburger's calling card is his above-average command of a 91-96 mph fastball, which has some late life. It's a pitch he relies on heavily out of the bullpen. The combination of plus velocity and command with movement makes his fastball a definite plus pitch, rating in the 60-65 range on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Other Pitches: The 24-year-old introduced an upper-80s split-change into his repertoire last season, and that––in addition to his developing fastball command––helped him take a step forward as a prospect. Though Hamburger didn't begin throwing the splitter until midseason in 2011, he quickly developed confidence in the offering, using it 25 percent of the time in his short major league stint. It's a pitch with some late drop that shows at least solid-average potential. His low-to-mid 80s slider, which has been inconsistent through his career, is a fringy third pitch that he can throw for strikes. Hamburger also breaks out a curveball on rare occasion.

Projection: Although he made four late-season starts in Triple-A last year, Hamburger projects as a reliever going forward. His secondary stuff isn't dominant, but his repertoire and stamina make him capable of eating multiple innings in middle or long relief. While Hamburger's lack of a consistent swing-and-miss offspeed pitch limits his ceiling out of the bullpen, his plus fastball and command should give him an opportunity to carve out a career as a big league middle reliever. He has the potential to become a bit more if his splitter continues to develop.

2012 Outlook: After finishing last season by logging eight major league innings in September, Hamburger will enter spring training in competition for a big league bullpen spot. He should be battling with arms like Yoshinori Tateyama and Cody Eppley for a right-handed middle relief job. If Hamburger doesn't make the opening day roster, he'll start the season at Triple-A Round Rock but figures to get some major league innings in 2012 either way.

ETA: 2012.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2007 GCL Twins (RK) 2-1 15.0 12 4 12 1.20
2008 Elizabethton (RK) 1-2 36.2 35 13 40 4.17
Clinton (A) 0-0 4.0 5 2 0 2.25
2009 Hickory (A) 2-9 66.1 79 25 55 4.75
2010 Bakersfield (A+) 3-2 45.2 38 18 49 1.77
Frisco (AA) 1-0 19.2 20 8 20 3.20
2011 Frisco (AA) 1-0 19.2 11 5 22 1.83
Round Rock (AAA) 7-4 62.2 54 20 48 3.88
Texas (MLB) 1-0 8.0 5 3 6 4.50

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