Sizing up the right-handed pitching prospects

In this FREE feature article, Lone Star Dugout analyzes the Rangers' top right-handed starting pitching prospects. Which have the highest upside? Which ones are ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

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Highest Ceiling

Eric Hurley: The former first round pick probably doesn't have the highest ceiling in the organization, but he is certainly the safest bet to become a solid major league starting pitcher. Although Hurley has a strong three-pitch repertoire, it's his outstanding mound presence that makes him the system's top prospect.

Hurley possesses a low-90's fastball that gains velocity as the game progresses. It typically worked its way up into the 92-94 MPH range by the third or fourth inning. The 22-year-old also has an above-average slider and a developing changeup. Hurley's vulcan changeup currently rates as average, but it has made great strides in each of the last two seasons. It could eventually develop into a third above-average major league offering.

Michael Main: With great stuff and a solid work ethic, Main has a legitimate chance to become the organization's top prospect by this time next year. The Deland, Fla., native flashed an explosive fastball that sat between 93-95 MPH during his professional debut this summer. His curveball was inconsistent at times, as he didn't always get on top of it, but it has the makings of a plus pitch. Main's changeup was sparingly used in high school, but the Rangers feel it will develop into an above-average offering as he gets more experience with it. In addition to his outstanding abilities on the mound, Main was also rated by scouts as an elite centerfielder out of high school. He went 8-for-30 as a designated hitter with the AZL Rangers this season, but the Rangers feel his future is on the mound.

Blake Beavan: The Irving native has yet to play in a professional game, but he certainly has one of the highest ceilings in the system. Beavan's height (6-foot-7) and power fastball-slider combination make him quite the intimidating presence on the mound. Beavan's impressive fastball consistently checks in anywhere between 91-96 MPH. The 18-year-old's hard slider, which ranges between 82-85 MPH, would qualify as his strikeout pitch. As is the case with most high school pitchers, his changeup is not very developed and it has been a focus of his over the past few months.

Fabio Castillo: Castillo is arguably the top international talent to sign with the Rangers since revitalizing their efforts in Latin America in 2004. The 18-year-old held his own at short-season Spokane in 2007 against guys who were – for the most part – advanced collegiate hitters. The native of the Dominican Republic flashed a power repertoire that included a hard fastball-slider combination. The big hurler also uses a changeup, which is currently an inconsistent pitch.

Neftali Feliz: Feliz, 19, was yet another young member of the Spokane pitching staff. The hard-throwing righty's biggest issue was with command, but the raw stuff and loose arm he displayed was among the league's best. Feliz works around the mid-90's with a fastball that can top out in the upper-90's. Like fellow flamethrower Wilmer Font, both of his secondary pitches need refining, but his arm makes him incredibly intriguing. Feliz worked as a reliever with Spokane in 2007, but he is expected to become a full-time starting pitcher next season.

Font's fastball hit 98 MPH this summer.
Wilmer Font: At first glance, it is hard to believe the 6-foot-4 Font is just 17-years-old. Born in May of 1990, Font's body and fastball are both well developed for his age. Inconsistent command and control caused Font to have a 4.53 ERA in his first professional season, but he displayed the tools that make him a candidate to be a future front-line starter. Font's fastball ranged anywhere between 90-98 MPH and consistently sat in the mid-90's. His changeup has a long way to go, but it currently rates as his second best pitch. Font's curveball remains a work-in-progress and he struggled to consistently get on top of it with the Rookie level AZL Rangers.

Closest to Majors

Armando Galarraga: Up until this season's Texas League All-Star break, Galarraga had been classified as a disappointment since being acquired in the Alfonso Soriano trade in December 2005. The native of Venezuela went 1-10 while battling with arm fatigue in 2006 and then posted a 5.40 ERA in the first half of '07. Coming out of the All-Star break, Galarraga suddenly turned into the player the Rangers thought they were acquiring. The 25-year-old, who had been working in the upper-80's, sat in the 91-94 range with his power sinker. His slider – which has always been an average-average pitch – continued to complement his fastball. Galarraga's changeup will decide what role he works out of in the majors. If he is able to stay healthy, Galarraga should at least have a solid career out of the bullpen with a power sinker-slider combination. If he is able to develop his changeup, he could become a middle-to-back of the rotation starter.

Doug Mathis: The Missouri product entered the organization as a college pitcher with middling stuff whose strongpoint was command. He has since worked hard to develop above-average stuff. Mathis uses four pitches, but his best is an upper-80's, low-90's sinker that gave him a 2.08:1 groundout-to-flyout ratio in 2007. The 24-year-old also goes to battle with a changeup, a slider, and a curveball. All three pitches showed promise during the season, but were inconsistent. His changeup may have been his most reliable offspeed offering. Mathis started and finished strong, but battled back injuries in the middle of the season, leading to a 6.59 ERA in June and July. The 6-foot-3 hurler profiles as a back end of the rotation starter at the next level.

Mendoza pitched well for the Rangers in September.
Luis Mendoza: Mendoza didn't garner much attention when he was traded for Bryan Corey, but his stint with the Rangers in September surely opened a few eyes. A 23-year-old native of Mexico, Mendoza rebounded from a disastrous Double-A season in 2006 to post a 15-4 record with Frisco this past year. Mendoza's 8-0 first half record was largely a product of great run support, but he showed improved mechanics and stuff in the second half. The right-hander works primarily off a low-90's sinker that he commands exceptionally well. His curveball and changeup are both average offerings and there is debate over which pitch is better. Mendoza's secondary stuff may relegate him to the bullpen in time, but his sinker should at least make him a decent major league pitcher.

The "Sleepers"

Tommy Hunter: The Alabama product was the fourth pitcher selected by the Rangers in the 2007 draft despite going 54th overall. Because Hunter was picked behind three high-ceiling high school hurlers, he may be a bit overlooked. Hunter has a very good low-90's fastball to go with what some believe is already a plus curveball. The Rangers feel Hunter's changeup will develop into a third plus pitch. Hunter checks in at about 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, but he is plenty athletic for his size. The 21-year-old split his time between the bullpen and rotation in college, but he will be a starting pitcher in professional baseball.

Carlos Pimentel: Don't let Pimentel's 5.53 ERA fool you – he had a 3.50 earned run average entering his final two starts of the season and had been even more impressive than fellow 17-year-old phenom Wilmer Font. The right-hander racked up 59 strikeouts in 42.1 innings with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers. Pimentel also showed impressive control for a young kid playing in the states, as he issued just 17 walks. The 6-foot-3 pitcher throws a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. According to Pimentel, he sat in the low-90's with his fastball during the AZL season.

Jorge Quintero: Quintero was signed along with Font, Pimentel, and left-handed pitcher Geuris Grullon in the summer of 2006. While Quintero is not as well-publicized as the other three – and his ceiling isn't quite as high – he is currently the most advanced pitcher of the group. The 20-year-old native of Venezuela throws a sinking fastball anywhere between 88-93 MPH. He also mixes in a curveball and a changeup, both of which currently rate as average. Quintero is physically mature and showed solid command during his time with the AZL Rangers in 2007. He earned a late-season promotion to High-A Bakersfield and surrendered only three earned runs in 9.1 innings.

Schlact is a breakout candidate for 2008.
Michael Schlact: Schlact's numbers on the surface aren't overly impressive, but his last two seasons have been more about development than results. The 6-foot-8 sinkerball specialist used his time in Bakersfield to develop his four-seam fastball and slider. While Schlact's upper-80's sinker and changeup are still solid pitches, he often went with his low-90's four-seamer and slider in tough situations with the Blaze. Schlact, 21, was "unleashed" after a late-season promotion to Double-A Frisco. He was impressive in six starts and could be primed for a breakout season in 2008.

Bobby Wilkins: The sixth round pick is yet another prospect lost in the fold of a deep 2007 draft for the Rangers. Wilkins, who turned 18 in late-August, has a low-90's fastball that occasionally tops out around 94 MPH. He also uses a curveball and an advanced changeup for a high school pitcher, though Wilkins says his changeup is currently his third pitch. Wilkins missed a couple of weeks during his debut with the AZL Rangers because of arm fatigue. He returned closer to full strength near the end of the season and is currently participating in the instructional league.

Need to Make Their Move

Thomas Diamond: It's too early to count the former first round pick out, but he will be 25-years-old when he returns from Tommy John surgery and has yet to show consistency at the Double-A level. Diamond's strong fastball – which sits in the low-90's and tops out around 94-95 on occasion – above-average changeup, and mound presence have never been in doubt. But the Louisiana native has struggled to consistently command his fastball and has yet to find a reliable breaking pitch. Though he led the Texas League with 145 strikeouts in 2006, he finished second in the circuit with 78 walks. Diamond is not yet throwing off the mound and figures to miss at least half the minor league season in 2008.

Josh Rupe: With legitimate big league stuff, the only thing holding Rupe back has been the health of his right arm. Armed with a four-pitch arsenal, Rupe would ideally reside in the starting rotation. However, because he has been unable to stay healthy, he has been relegated to the bullpen at times in the past. Rupe's best pitch is a hard sinker that sits in the low-90's. The sinker helped him post a 3.88:1 groundout-to-flyout ratio in 29 innings with the Rangers in 2006. Rupe also has a slider, a big curveball, and a changeup. None of the three are outstanding pitches, but they are all serviceable. Rupe missed most of the 2007 season after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. If he is able to stay healthly, he could land at the back end of a major league rotation.

The Jury is Still Out

Jacob Brigham: Brigham's struggles as a high school senior in 2006 caused him to fall down to the Rangers in the sixth round – 178th overall – of the draft. The Ocoee, Fla., native showed signs of returning to his old form with the AZL Rangers in 2006 and took another step forward this year with short-season Spokane. Brigham's fastball consistently reached into the 92-94 MPH range and he showed the makings of a plus big-breaking curveball. The righty also throws in a changeup for good measure. Brigham's stuff improved over the offseason, leading to struggles with control in his first half with the Indians. Brigham eventually harnessed his stuff and was able to cut his walks down in the last month.

Kyle O'Campo: Because O'Campo signed just before the August 15 deadline, he wasn't able to appear in any professional games in 2007. A former Cal State Fullerton signee, the Rangers were able to sign the California native after drafting him in the 13th round. The 19-year-old is armed with a fastball that sits in the low-90's and has reached up to 94-95 MPH. His advanced slider is arguably the best breaking pitch of any Rangers high school draftee from 2007. Like most top-flight high school pitchers, O'Campo didn't use his changeup much in high school, but he has said he wants to use his time in instructional league to develop his change.

Poveda showed improved velocity in Bakersfield.
Omar Poveda: The 6-foot-4 Venezuelan became a household name when he gave up just one earned run in five innings during a spot start at Double-A Frisco in 2006. The tall right-hander took another step forward while repeating the low Class-A Midwest League in '07. Poveda showed an upper-80's, low-90's fastball with Clinton, but he consistently sat in the 92-94 MPH range after a late-season promotion to Bakersfield. The 20-year-old has a plus changeup and his breaking ball showed improvement this past season. It projects to become at least an average offering in the future.

Neil Ramirez: Like O'Campo, Ramirez has yet to pitch in a professional game, but his raw stuff makes him an immediate prospect. The Virginia Beach native's best pitch is a low-90's fastball that topped out at 96 MPH in his senior year of high school. Ramirez has the makings of a plus curveball, but he must get more consistent with it. He also mixes in a changeup, which is a work-in-progress. The pitcher fell to the Rangers at 44th overall after a patchy high school season. One of the reasons for his inconsistent play was a mechanical flaw, which he is currently working to iron out at instructs.

Evan Reed: A closer at Cal Poly, the Rangers eased Reed into the starting rotation after he signed. The 6-foot-4 hurler responded well after being stretched out at short-season Spokane and promoted to Single-A Clinton. Reed tossed six innings of one-hit, shutout ball in his first start with the LumberKings. The 21-year-old has run into bouts with command in the past – one problem that originally had him relegated to the bullpen in college. Both Reed's command and control seemed good enough during his professional debut. His fastball can range anywhere between the high-80's to mid-90's, but it generally sits in the low-90's range. Reed also throws a slider and a changeup. The changeup is clearly his third pitch right now and its development may decide whether he is a starter or a reliever down the line.

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