Wrapping Rangers Minor League Camp

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers' minor league camp wrapped up on Saturday with an abbreviated intrasquad game. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations on the minor league rosters and from the final days of spring training.

  • Over the course of the next week, I'll continue posting plenty of notes, observations and stories from spring training. Currently on the schedule: notes from the final days of minor league spring games, a wrap of the Rangers' major league camp, an exclusive two-part interview with Rangers minor league field coordinator Jayce Tingler, in-depth breakdowns of the organization's four full-season rosters, and a feature story/interview/video on LHP Miguel de los Santos.

  • The Rangers' four full-season minor league rotations should be as follows, in no particular order:

    Round Rock: RHP Mark Hamburger, RHP Greg Reynolds, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Neil Ramirez, and LHP Zach Jackson or RHP Derek Hankins

    Regardless of whether Jackson or Hankins begin the year in the starting rotation, both pitchers are likely to log innings in both roles this season. They're versatile Triple-A veterans.

    The Rangers will be looking for Ramirez, 22, to improve after a spotty camp in which he never seemed quite in-sync with his mechanics. Although his changeup looked fine, Ramirez's peak velocity wasn't quite as good as last season, and he appeared to be casting his curveball in his delivery, causing it to come out a bit loopy and not as sharp.

    Hamburger had been a reliever his entire professional career until late last year at Round Rock, when he had success in a spot-starting role. The righty doesn't have a particularly deep arsenal, but he locates his low-to-mid 90s fastball well enough to have success while mixing in a splitter and slider.

  • Frisco: LHP Miguel de los Santos, RHP Jake Brigham, RHP Justin Grimm, RHP Barret Loux, RHP Carlos Pimentel

    Both LHP Tim Murphy and RHP Wilfredo Boscan had their innings stretched out in camp, and they could work as either starting pitchers or in a piggyback/long relief role. It seems likely that the Rangers will develop Murphy as a starter once again, as he was prior to the 2010 campaign. The club raised his arm slot back to it's initial spot after dropping it to a low three-quarters angle when he moved to the bullpen two years ago.

    Brigham, who moved to the bullpen during the second half of last season, pitched five innings in his final spring game and is going back into a starting role. Although there has been talk of de los Santos ultimately transitioning to relief, he also pitched five innings in his last spring training appearance.

    Myrtle Beach: RHP Cody Buckel, RHP Nick Tepesch, RHP Roman Mendez, RHP Kyle Hendricks, RHP Wilmer Font.

    These five starters were initially reported by the Dallas Morning-News' Evan Grant, but it's a bit more complex than only five starters. The Rangers also stretched the innings of LHP Chad Bell and RHP Randy Henry in camp. While Bell could bounce between the bullpen and rotation this season, the organization has expressed interest in developing Henry as a starting pitcher. It will be interesting to see how the innings are divided with basically seven starters on the pitching staff. There could be a piggyback role with Font, who is returning from Tommy John surgery and still rebuilding his arm strength.

    Hickory: RHP Luke Jackson, RHP Jerad Eickhoff, LHP Victor Payano, LHP Will Lamb, RHP Santo Perez, LHP Andrew Faulkner.

    Grant also listed these six pitchers in the rotation. But, once again, there are more starting candidates than spots. LHP Chris Hanna, RHP Nick Martinez, RHP Nick McBride, RHP Randol Rojas, and perhaps even RHP Phil Klein could all find their way into the rotation at some point in the season.

    Eickhoff, 21, is moving into a starting role after pitching out of the bullpen during his debut summer last season. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has a 90-94 mph fastball––touching a tick higher on occasion––to go along with a cutter, curveball, and changeup. He was the Rangers' 15th-round pick out of junior college last year. The increased innings as a starter will provide a good opportunity for Eickhoff to develop his three secondary pitches. His curveball and cutter in particular show some promise, though they're on the raw side.

    While McBride only worked in short relief during camp, he had––by far––his most impressive spring training to date. The tall righty looked like he could be turning a corner, locating a 90-93 mph fastball down in the zone to go along with an improved breaking ball (an 80-82 mph slider; he had previously thrown a curve) and a passable low-80s changeup.

  • The Rangers' depth of plus defensive middle infielders creates a problem––but it's no-doubt a good program to have. Expect to see lots of mixing and matching in the infields this season, particularly at Single-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco.

    Jurickson Profar and Leury Garcia are expected to flip between shortstop and second base for the RoughRiders this season, and outfielder Ryan Strausborger may even get some looks at second, as he did both at instructs last year and in camp this spring.

    In Hickory, the Rangers will be juggling Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, and Hanser Alberto. While Odor may be the everyday second baseman with Sardinas and Alberto seeing most of their action at shortstop, all three have the ability to play either position and will likely do so. The Rangers also gave Alberto some action at third base in camp––Drew Robinson is expected to be the regular guy at the hot corner.

    Alberto dropped some weight this past offseason and improved his defensive profile at shortstop. There was initially some question as to whether he'd be able to stick at the position, but his range improved to go along with at least a solid-average arm at short. The Dominican Republic native was excellent in camp last year but had an up-and-down summer in Spokane.

  • Converted outfielder Jon Edwards impressed early this spring by showing above-average velocity with a sharp curveball. But like all converted players, injury issues are always a question––as the Rangers recently learned with fireballing closer Matt West. Edwards was shut down late in camp with a minor arm injury and will be at extended spring training at least for now. Left-hander Richard Bleier was also shut down during the last week of camp and is expected to remain at extended for the time being.

  • Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler says there will be approximately 22 pitchers starting out in extended spring, meaning they will basically have to field two clubs on some days in order to get everybody enough innings. Some of the more notable arms starting out at the complex include LHP Kevin Matthews, RHP David Perez, RHP Connor Sadzeck, RHP Matt Thompson, and RHP Jose Valdespina.

    Matthews and Sadzeck may not be in Surprise for long. A former first-round pick out of high school, Matthews is likely to take a path similar to what Cody Buckel and Luke Jackson did last year. He should pitch in extended for about a month before shipping out to Hickory. Sadzeck will continue to work on his mechanics at the complex, but he should be with a full-season club before long, as well.

  • David Perez, Matt Thompson and Kyle Castro all struggled during camp and are staying back at extended. Although, with Castro, he likely would be starting in Surprise regardless of his spring performance.

    Perez continues to struggle with his mechanics. The issue appears to be more mental than anything––his fastball is working anywhere between 85-91 mph, and his curveball is a bit softer (though it still has good shape) than it was last season. There are times within outings when Perez is getting on top of the ball and staying within his mechanics. When he does that, he locates down in the zone at 89-91 mph with a good curveball. But he's often getting on the side of everything, and that's when he works mostly between 85-88 and is wild, missing to the armside.

    Despite the current problems, Perez is still only 19-years-old. The tall prospect repeated his delivery with consistency at extended spring last year, when he pounded the lower half of the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball that touched up to 98. The key now is getting Perez back in-synch both mentally and mechanically to get that type of stuff out of his arm once again.

    Thompson, 22, walked 80 batters in 88.1 innings at Hickory last season––just a year after he'd issued just 23 walks in 129.1 frames at the same level. The velocity isn't an issue for Thompson, who is working at 88-91 mph, and his curveball is still pretty sharp. Like Perez, he can stay on top for a handful of pitches at a time and looks fine. But at other times, he's still cutting the ball, causing it to get away from him with extreme side-to-side misses. The Rangers' player development staff say the Metroplex native is making progress and getting closer, but he's not there yet. Thompson began the spring by pitching in the bullpen and in live batting practice sessions before getting a few game outings late.

    Castro, the Rangers' third-round pick out of high school last summer, had similar issues in that he wasn't getting on top of his stuff. The Sacramento-area product appeared very methodical in his delivery, and he was also cutting his fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s. After having trouble with mechanics––leading to velocity and control problems––for most of this spring, he seemed to do a better job of just letting it fly in his final side session of camp.

    The projectable right-hander touched up to 93 mph in high school while spinning a promising curveball, and he threw strikes while working at 89-91 mph after signing last summer. As is the case with many young pitchers, confidence in mechanics––and learning how to fix them when things go wrong––often becomes an issue. That seems to especially be the case with Perez and Castro.

  • With a lot of players coming into camp on both the major and minor league sides, there were, inevitably, going to be quite a few cuts. The following players were released during spring training:

    LHP Joe Beimel, 1B/OF Jared Bolden, RHP Cody Evans, RHP Kenny Gomez, LHP Geuris Grullon, 1B Brad Hawpe, 1B/OF Conor Jackson, INF Andres James, RHP Colby Killian, OF Braxton Lane, RHP Jorge Marban, RHP Jon Meloan, 1B Clark Murphy, OF Efrain Nunez, INF Renny Osuna, OF Kendall Radcliffe, C Chris Robinson, LHP Sam Robinson, INF Jonathan Roof, RHP Doug Salinas, OF Orlando Sandoval, OF Ruben Sierra, RHP Tim Stanford, LHP Mitch Stetter, RHP Mason Tobin, LHP Fabian Williamson

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