Rangers land Beltre with second chance

Though the Texas Rangers were unable to sign outfielder Engel Beltre as an international free agent last season, the club was able to acquire him in the Eric Gagne trade last month. Lone Star Dugout spoke with Beltre shortly after he made his debut with the Rookie League Arizona Rangers.

With the recent signings of top prospects such as Fabio Castillo, Cristian Santana, and Wilmer Font, the Texas Rangers have made no secret of their increased efforts to ink top Latin American talents.

Despite their recent success in both the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the club has missed out on a couple of top prospects over the last few seasons.

With perennial All-Stars Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne available at the trading deadline, the Rangers were able to use the 2007 deadline as a path to landing a pair of talented Latin American players they had once pursued as amateurs.

Just days after acquiring talented shortstop Elvis Andrus from the Atlanta Braves – who the Rangers nearly signed in early 2005 – they were able to land outfielder Engel Beltre from the Boston Red Sox.

Beltre, who signed with the Red Sox for a reported $575,000 in July 2006, says he had talks with the Rangers prior to last year's international signing day.

"In the Dominican when I was going to sign, they saw me at a tryout," said Beltre of the Rangers' international scouting team. "I saw A.J. [Preller] and a scout from over there. They're good people and I met them over there. They were just talking to me and tried to sign me, but I signed with Boston instead."

Listing his favorite player as Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Beltre once looked forward to being able to play alongside his idol. While he is understandably disappointed about being traded, the 17-year-old understands it is part of the game.

"I feel good and bad," said Beltre, "but that's baseball. I was shocked when they told me [I was traded]. I was surprised but I called my agent and he told me ‘that's ok'. I think it's a good thing for me to be here. I can go up real quick and I'm going to try and do my best."

Though Beltre was born in the Dominican Republic and currently resides there, he has also spent a great deal of time in the United States. The outfielder not only speaks English, but he even attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx for a period of time.

"I went to New York when I was 11-years-old," he said. "I was in high school and I played ball over there."

Many scouts and Major League executives believe Beltre has the potential to become a five-tool player. A centerfielder, Beltre is an advanced defender for his age. He possesses a strong arm and utilizes his above-average speed well, getting good reads on balls.

As a hitter, Beltre has already begun to show his power potential, as he has hit seven home runs in 45 games between the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League as a 17-year-old.

"I'm trying to get a pitch I can drive and be selective in the strike zone," said Beltre when asked about his approach at the plate.

While he was hitting just .208 with the GCL Red Sox, Beltre is off to a better start with the AZL Rangers. Through his first 11 games with the Rangers, the outfielder has hit .261 with two doubles, two home runs, and five walks.

Beltre says he would like to earn a promotion to Short-Season Spokane this season.

"Short-Season class A, that's my goal for this year," said Beltre. "I want to finish over there and post some good numbers so next year I can begin in a better level."

With the offseason fast approaching, the native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is looking forward to possibly getting the opportunity to play winterball in his home country.

"I think they're going to draft me in the Dominican Republic," he said. "But I don't know yet. My agent is going to be looking for it."

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