Name: Ryan Strausborger
DOB: March 4, 1988
Acquired: 2010 Amateur Draft, 16th round
The feature portion of this article was taken from an August 28 Q&A with Strausborger. This part has been updated with Arizona Fall League results and quotes from Myrtle Beach manager Jason Wood.
Prior to entering professional ball, Strausborger was a four-year starter at Indiana State University. He posted a cumulative .326 batting average during his career, including career-best .344/.411/.527 numbers with 30 extra-base hits and 41 steals in 46 tries in 2010.
Strong college results clearly don't always guarantee professional success. The outfielder posted a punchless .213/.292/.262 slash line during his first two months with short-season Spokane in 2010. He finished on a solid note, though, and batted .330/.405/.505 in 26 August contests.
Due to his inconsistent results at Spokane––including a .255 overall average in 64 games––Strausborger entered his first spring training likely ticketed for the Single-A Hickory outfield. But the 23-year-old forced the issue in camp with a strong performance, utilizing his plus speed and using an all-fields approach to get on base. Strausborger even earned action in one major league spring training game, entering as a substitute for Josh Hamilton in center field against the Padres.
Strausborger ultimately played his way into a High-A Myrtle Beach assignment last spring. He came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, batting .337 with some pop in April.
He was eventually named a Carolina League All-Star after a first-half performance in which he hit .305 with 30 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 69 games––certainly no small feat in the pitcher-friendly circuit.
After scuffling in July (.185/.274/.293), the 6-foot-0, 180-pound prospect heated up once again in August by hitting .313/.418/.410.
The overall result of Strausborger's first full professional season was solid yet somewhat inconsistent. Pelicans manager Jason Wood says it was certainly a challenge to keep his high-energy outfielder from wearing down during the year.
"He's so lean, quick, and fast-twitch that I had to keep an eye on him and give him as many breaks as I possibly could," said the Myrtle Beach skipper. "I knew it was his first full season, and he's such an aggressive ballplayer. He always plays with such an aggressive style that it took all I could to keep him from getting hurt, and he did a good job of that."
While Strausborger appeared to tire down the stretch of the 140-game regular season, he got a couple weeks of much-needed rest at home before returning to the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona. There, Strausborger participated in some fall instructional league action before joining the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League.
At instructs, the organization perhaps gave him a little taste of what's to come. An infielder early in his collegiate career, Strausborger eventually moved to the outfield. But the Rangers may take advantage of his versatility by grooming him as a super-utility type, and he saw some action in the middle infield at instructs.
Strausborger didn't play in the infield with the Surprise Saguaros of the AFL, but he did log multiple starts at all three outfield positions. Though his defense is a strong point, he stood out most for his bat in the notoriously hitter-friendly circuit.
In 21 games with the Saguaros, the outfielder went 24-for-73 (.329) with five doubles, a triple and two home runs. He drew two walks while striking out 15 times.
"He has got a little bit of power that kind of surprises you," Wood said. "He hits the ball on the ground and gets down the line very well. He stays out of the air, which is nice.
"At times, when he needs to drive the ball, he has been able to do that. What I saw that he was doing in instructional league was something that was pretty good––he was using the whole field, using the big part of the ballpark, and staying in the gaps. He actually bunted a few times, too, which is good."
Wood believes bunting is one thing Strausborger––with his plus speed––can improve for the coming season.
"I think one thing he needs to do a little bit more of is bunt," he said. "And I think that's something that will factor into his game a little bit more."
Also See: Strausborger finishing strong (August 28, 2011)
Tweeting Rangers Instructs (October 2, 2011)
Rangers Top Prospects, Top Tools (October 27, 2011)
ScoutTV: Ryan Strausborger Interview (October 28, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Wood (November 21, 2011)
Batting and Power: At his best, Strausborger uses an all-fields approach and keeps the ball on the ground, where he can use his above-average speed to get on base. Myrtle Beach manager Jason Wood says he'd like to see Strausborger develop the small-ball aspect of his game in 2012––specifically bunting for base hits more often. The right-handed hitter also shows some surprising power to the pull side with decent bat speed, allowing him to turn on balls on the inner half. While he has a fringy hit tool, his bat speed and approach are good enough that he shouldn't be overmatched at the upper levels.
Base Running and Speed: Strausborger has well above-average speed, rating as about a 65 or 70-grade runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. The raw speed helps him in both beating out infield singles and covering plenty of ground in the outfield. He's also a mature base runner with good instincts and figures to be a base stealing threat at any level. After swiping 21 bags in 25 attempts during the summer of 2010, he stole 31 bases in 43 tries at Myrtle Beach last year.
Defense: Strausborger was an infielder early in his collegiate career before moving to the outfield. Now an above-average defensive outfielder, he saw some action at second base during instructs last fall and could be groomed as a super-utility type who can play all over the diamond. Whether he can excel defensively in the infield remains to be seen, but he seemingly has the athleticism and arm to do so.
Strausborger spent most of his time in center field last season. His plus arm strength gives him the ability to play any of the three outfield positions at a high level. Though his range isn't elite, it's above-average, and his range plays up due to his solid instincts, which include a quick first step and good routes. He was named the Rangers' Minor League Defender of the Year for 2011 earlier this offseason.
Projection: Strausborger profiles as a future reserve outfielder––or utility player if he begins working in the infield––who can help a team through his speed and defense while contributing a little with the bat. He could be about a .250-.260 hitter with some pop in that role––but that's a shot-in-the-dark prediction given that he hasn't played above High-A yet.
Although he's not the exact same player as Craig Gentry, he has a similar skill-set and could eventually fulfill a similar role in the majors. Gentry's speed and defense are a tick better, but Strausborger might have a little more potential offensively. There's a good chance he'll at least reach the major leagues, and how much he hits should ultimately determine whether he's an up-and-down guy or a full-time fourth or fifth outfielder.
2012 Outlook: Double-A Frisco should be the destination for Srausborger out of spring training this year. It'll be worth following which positions he plays in 2012, as the club may begin giving him time in the infield in preparation for a future super-utility role. He turns 24 in March and will most likely spend the entire season in the Texas League, though a mid-season promotion to Triple-A wouldn't be totally out of the question if he's excelling.
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