Beltre never stops working

Outfielder Engel Beltre, 17, received a promotion to short-season Spokane this past season after batting .310 with four home runs in 22 games with the Rookie level Arizona Rangers. Lone Star Dugout features the young prospect, who recently finished playing with the Rangers' instructional league team in Arizona.

When the Rangers acquired 17-year-old outfielder Engel Beltre from the Red Sox in late-July, he had one goal for the remainder of his debut professional season.

"Short-season Class-A, that's my goal for this year," Beltre told Lone Star Dugout in early-August. "I want to finish over there and post some good numbers so next year I can begin in a better level."

At the time, the goal may have seemed lofty. Beltre batted just .208 with the GCL Red Sox in 34 games. Though he had belted five home runs, the young slugger struck out 44 times in only 125 at-bats.

Beltre was able to turn it around almost instantly after joining the Rangers' system. Playing with the AZL Rangers – Arizona's equivalent of the GCL – Beltre hit .310 with four triples and four home runs in 84 at-bats. The numbers earned him an impressive OPS of .971.

The outstanding performance earned the left-handed centerfielder a promotion to the short-season Spokane Indians for the final nine games of the season. Being just 17-years-old, Beltre understandably struggled at the plate during his short stint, going 8-for-38. Still, the native of the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was happy to earn the promotion.

"I felt good when they moved me up," said Beltre. "I was happy with myself and all of my family was happy too. I was just trying to do the thing I'm doing right now – getting better everyday."

After taking a quick break in both New York City and Santo Domingo – where he splits his time over the offseason – Beltre joined the Rangers' instructional league club in Arizona. He performed well and finished with a bang, as he belted home runs in each of his last two instructs games.

Beltre, who walked 22 times and punched out 75 times in 65 games this past season, says he worked to refine his plate discipline during instructs.

"We're working on my approach right now," replied Beltre. "We're trying to get better."

Rangers' minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger is impressed with Beltre's raw talent, but he agrees Beltre must continue to work on his approach.

"He's very, very, very talented," said Boulanger of Beltre. "He still makes mistakes, but he's 17-years-old. He'll swing at a ball over his head or a breaking ball in the dirt sometimes. If you talk to him, you'll realize he doesn't really have a plan. He was probably going to swing at that pitch no matter what.

"He makes mistakes, but the more he plays, that stuff will go away. He's got power. If he was in the States, he'd be a senior in high school. I've got to believe that if he was coming out in the draft this year – they might take a pitcher or two real high – but he'd have to be one of the first five, six or seven guys picked."

Beltre shared an outfield with fellow centerfield prospects Julio Borbon and David Paisano for much of the instructional league. Because of the overcrowding, Beltre was often forced to play in left and right field. However, that was not a problem for the young prospect.

"I've always been a centerfielder," said Beltre, "but here they put me in left and right. But I don't care. I just want to play baseball, so that's not a problem. I'll play everywhere. If they put me at first base, I'll play. I don't care."

Though he already has impressive power – Beltre's nine home runs would have been second in both the Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues – the 17-year-old is still raw physically. Standing 6-foot-1, 169-pounds, Beltre plans on hitting the weights over the offseason.

"I'm just trying to get a little bit stronger by doing some lifting," he said. "I'm getting better than when I was in Boston."

Beltre plans on joining the Rangers' Dominican instructs team about halfway through their camp in November. The outfielder says he will stay hard at work while at the club's complex in San Pedro de Macoris.

"I'm going to wake up every morning around seven, go to the stadium, practice, run, and throw," said Beltre. "I never stop. I never stop playing baseball."


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