Rangers Minor League Roundup – 4/29

The Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and Single-A Hickory Crawdads broke out the power bats on Sunday, combining for 22 runs. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at all of the day's minor league action in the Texas Rangers' system, including a look at the hot hitting of Frisco shortstop Jurickson Profar.

Feature Player: Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Frisco

With two singles in five at-bats, Double-A Frisco shortstop Jurickson Profar didn't have a particularly flashy game on Sunday. But he's quickly turning the corner after a slow start.

The slow start was almost to be expected. The Rangers' top prospect was born in 1993 and turned 19 in February. After winning South Atlantic League MVP honors last season––as an 18-year-old––Profar skipped High-A Myrtle Beach and jumped directly to the upper levels.

The Curacao native began his 2012 campaign in a 2-for-26 slump through his first seven games. But he extended his current hitting streak to 11 contests on Sunday and is hitting .328/.368/.607 in 15 games since that slow start. He's 20-for-61 with five doubles, three triples, and two homers, including five walks and nine strikeouts.

Profar is flashing a bit more power in the early going this year. The switch-hitter has noticeably added bulk to the upper half of his body, and it's showing in the power numbers. He recently recorded an extra-base hit in seven consecutive games.

When asked how Profar has developed since the 2011 season, RoughRiders hitting coach Jason Hart was quick to point out the prospect's extra strength.

"He's definitely gotten stronger," Hart said in a recent interview. "He can hit the ball a little bit harder and a little farther. He has still got the same heart at the plate. He's going to compete his butt off in every at-bat. And he wants to win. He wants to win the battle every day."

Even during his slow opening week, Profar never appeared overmatched by the much older Double-A pitching. He was perhaps a little more aggressive than normal early in the year, looking to jump on early-count fastballs more often than he would when fully comfortable at the plate.

It's not a surprising approach given the fact that Double-A pitchers throw a lot more strikes––and more quality strikes––than Low-A pitchers. Despite his polish, Profar still hadn't seen a ton of advanced pitching coming into this season.

But Profar, who has phenomenal pitch recognition skills given his age and projects to draw his share of walks at any level, appears to be settling in as he progresses. He has worked four free passes in his last five games, giving him nine walks (with 16 strikeouts) in 22 Double-A contests.

Although Profar continues to see the bulk of his action at shortstop, he has played four games at second base this month. The Rangers want to increase his versatility while also giving toolsy middle infielder Leury Garcia some reps at shortstop.

Profar has been fine defensively when ranging to balls to his left or right. He has above-average range with quick reflexes, smooth actions, and a plus arm.

Scouts are plenty happy with his bat and that aspect of his defense so far this season, but some have pointed out that he does struggle with balls hit directly to him at times. He's been a little inconsistent in reading hops, letting sharply hit grounders play him too often. Profar's four errors this year––three fielding––have come on similar balls. It's not a major red flag given his age, but it is an area for improvement.

And if that's Profar's biggest issue as a 19-year-old in Double-A ball at this point, one would have to think the Rangers are plenty satisfied with his opening month.

AAA: Round Rock 4 – (@) Oklahoma City 9
L - Reynolds (1-3)
HR - Kata (2)
10-14, 6.0 GB

Express starter Greg Reynolds (4.45 ERA/.272 BAA) was cruising along until the fifth inning, when he faced 10 hitters and surrendered six runs. Overall, the former first-round pick allowed eight runs––seven earned––on 10 hits in 5.1 innings. He walked two and struck out two while throwing 50 of his 77 pitches for a strike.

The Round Rock hitters had difficulty getting much going against Oklahoma City soft-tossing command specialist Dallas Keuchel, who scattered eight hits and allowed one earned run in 6.1 innings.

Third baseman Matt Kata (.283/.361/.472) brought home one of the Express' runs with a solo home run––his only hit in five at-bats.

Catcher Dusty Brown (2/4, 2B) and second baseman Yangervis Solarte (1/5, 2B) both doubled. Solarte extended his hitting streak to 10 games. After a rough start, the switch-hitter has gone 17-for-40 (.425) with three doubles, three homers, and only one strikeout over that 10-game span.

Brad Nelson (1/3, 2 BB) singled and walked twice while Julio Borbon (2/4) had a pair of knocks, raising his batting average to an even .200.

Right-hander Derek Hankins (3.24 ERA/.297 BAA) finished the game for the Express by allowing one run in 2.2 innings. The 28-year-old scattered five hits and a walk, striking out one.

Player of the Game: 3B Matt Kata
5 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 .283

AA: Frisco 10 – Corpus Christi 3
W - Loux (5-0)
HR – Olt (6), Hawpe (3), Strausborger (1)
14-9, 2.0 GU

The ‘Riders plated double-digit runs for the second time in three days in Sunday's 10-3 thrashing of Corpus Christi. After belting three home runs in the game, Frisco as a club ranks second in the Texas League with 23 round-trippers in 23 contests.

Red-hot left fielder Ryan Strausborger (.291/.349/.418) was 3-for-5 with his first double, his first home run, and three RBI. Since coming out of a deep slump earlier this week, the speedster has recorded multi-hit efforts in five of his last six games.

Strausborger had a reputation as a streaky hitter at High-A Myrtle Beach last season. That's also been the case during the first month of the 2012 campaign. After going 2-for-28 with 14 strikeouts during a recent seven-game stretch, he is 12-for-28 without a whiff over his last six contests.

Third baseman Mike Olt (.250/.351/.536) also went 3-for-5 with a double and a home run, his team-leading sixth long ball of the year. DH Brad Hawpe (.321/.459/.554) had two singles, a home run, and a walk in five plate appearances. Hawpe also scored four runs in the game.

The three-through-seven hitters in the Frisco batting order all had three hits apiece, combining to go 15-for-23 on the afternoon. First baseman Chris McGuiness (3/5) and right fielder Jared Prince (3/4) singled three times.

Switch-hitting shortstop Jurickson Profar (.253/.323/.483) extended his hitting streak to 11 games with two hits in five at-bats.

Engel Beltre went without a hit in five trips, dropping his average to .256.

Starting pitcher Barret Loux (1.63 ERA/.265 BAA) earned his fifth victory in as many Double-A starts on Sunday, as he limited the Hooks to two runs in six innings. The 6-foot-5 prospect scattered six hits, walked one, and struck out eight.

Loux has the following stat-line through five Texas League starts––27.2 ip, 27 h, 5 r, 8 bb, 28 k. He has yet to surrender a home run and hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his five outings.

Lefty Joe Ortiz yielded a solo round-tripper for the only damage against him in two innings. Sinkerballing righty Johan Yan (0.87 ERA/.158 BAA) closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, getting three groundouts on 10 pitches.

Player of the Game: LF Ryan Strausborger
5 2 3 1 1 3 0 0 .291

A+: Myrtle Beach 1 – (@) Potomac 2
L - Mendez (1-3)
12-10, 2.0 GB

The Pelicans and Nationals combined for seven hits and three runs in a Sunday afternoon pitcher's duel that took only an hour and 53 minutes to complete.

Hard-throwing prospect Roman Mendez (6.04 ERA/.263 BAA) bounced back nicely from one of the worst outings in his career, as he worked a season-high 6.2 innings. Mendez allowed two runs on four hits, walking three and striking out nine.

The 21-year-old has 27 strikeouts and nine walks in his first 25.1 frames at the High-A level.

Left-handed reliever Jimmy Reyes (3.24 ERA/.214 BAA) finished the game for Myrtle Beach by retiring all four batters he faced, striking out two.

For the second consecutive game, the Pelicans left the tying run on base in the top of the ninth inning. Nationals pitcher Matt Swynenberg ultimately went the distance for his first-career complete game. He gave up just a single run on three hits.

First baseman Brett Nicholas (.255/.296/.412) was 1-for-3 with a double, his third two-bagger in as many nights. Nicholas also had the Pelicans' only extra-base hit of the game.

Teodoro Martinez (1/4) and Yefry Castillo (1/3) also singled.

After going 0-for-4 on Sunday, centerfielder Jake Skole is batting just .227/.318/.307 in his first 21 games with 10 walks and 21 strikeouts. The former first-round pick has been a bit better of late, though, hitting .282 over his last 10 games.

Player of the Game: RHP Roman Mendez
6.2 4 2 2 3 9 0 6.04

A: Hickory 12 – Charleston 3
W - Eickhoff (3-2)
HR - Deglan (3), Grayson (2)
15-8, 1.0 GB

Five of the nine hitters in the Crawdads lineup recorded multiple knocks on Sunday, while two players even got four-hit efforts.

Shortstop Hanser Alberto (.369/.396/.476) had four singles––and three RBI––in five at-bats. The 19-year-old is proving to be a consistent producer in the middle of the Hickory batting order. Through his first 20 full-season games, Alberto has 10 multi-hit efforts with five walks and nine strikeouts. He has also stolen five-of-six successfully.

Third baseman Drew Robinson (.269/.364/.448), who appears to be heating up quickly, was a perfect 4-for-4 with a double, a walk, and two runs batted in.

After starting slowly, Robinson has become red-hot over his last eight games––11-for-28, three doubles, two home runs, five walks, and 11 runs batted in.

Kellin Deglan (.263/.311/.526) was 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, and a base on balls. Deglan is beginning to show more game power, with four extra-base hits in his last three games and nine in 16 contests this season.

And, of course, leadoff man Chris Grayson (.408/.511/.697) had a single, a double, a home run, and a walk in five plate appearances.

The 22-year-old leads the South Atlantic League in batting average (.408) and on-base percentage (.511). His .697 slugging percentage currently ranks third. Grayson has hit safely in 18 of his 20 games this year, and he's reached base via hit or walk 19 times.

After yielding three runs in the first inning, starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff (3.71 ERA/.212 BAA) kept the talented Charleston lineup off the scoreboard through the remainder of the game.

Eickhoff worked a career-high seven innings, surrendering three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three.

The 21-year-old righty had allowed three runs through four batters faced. He then settled down to retire 18 of the final 22 hitters he saw.

Nick Martinez (3.86 ERA/.246 BAA) gave up a double in two otherwise blank innings to close the game. Though he didn't strike out a batter on Sunday, the Miami native still has 22 punchouts (with three walks) in his first 14 innings.

Perhaps the only negative from Sunday's action in Hickory came from centerfielder Jordan Akins, who was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. Akins (.225/.247/.366) has one walk and 30 whiffs in his first 71 official at-bats.

The Crawdads' .434 team slugging percentage through 23 games ranks second to only Asheville, which plays its home games in the league's most hitter-friendly ballpark.

Player of the Game: LF Chris Grayson
4 3 3 1 1 2 1 0 .408

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