Name: Michael Schlact
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: December 9, 1985
Despite being officially listed at 6-foot-7, right-handed pitcher Michael Schlact grew an inch prior to the 2007 campaign. But Schlact's body wasn't the only thing to develop over the past year, as his four-seam fastball and slider both made great strides with High-A Bakersfield.
Typically a sinkerballer, the Rangers had Schlact hold back his best pitch in an effort to improve his four-seam fastball and slider when he joined the Bakersfield Blaze in 2006. Schlact says the Rangers told him to begin throwing his four-seamer instead of his two-seam sinker.
"I would say in Bakersfield I was probably 70/30 with my four-seamer," said Schlact in September. "I threw it a lot basically because that was what was going to get me moved up more than my results. They said ‘We want you to throw 70 percent four-seamers out of your fastball and we'll get you out of here.' Once I got to Frisco it was closer to 50/50."
The experiment led to some choppy results – as evidenced by his 5.89 ERA in two seasons with the club – but Schlact says he was pleased with the finished product.
"I really think that [my slider] got 100 percent better," said Schlact. "It was kind of a spinner last year; it didn't really do too much. It is not at its full potential yet in my mind, but it is definitely getting there. When I would throw it sometimes it would flash the potential."
Many pitchers have trouble adjusting to the hitter-friendly environments of the California League. A Cal League hurler must deal with everything from the torrid winds of Lancaster to the 354-foot centerfield wall of Bakersfield. This is especially true for a pitcher that must hold back his best pitch, as was the case with Schlact. In spite of all that, Schlact did his best not to think about it.
"When I first started thinking about it and I gave up a home run on a four-seamer," he said, "I would kind of be like ‘Ah man, if only I could throw the sinker there.' But the one thing the Rangers have harped with me is that it's all about the development at my age and that level. A home run is a home run regardless of the pitch. That was something I really tried not to think about too much."
After making 47 starts over two seasons, Schlact finally escaped Bakersfield last August. The tall righty was promoted to Double-A Frisco, where he made six regular season starts through the end of the season.
Though Schlact's final Double-A ERA of 5.08 is not much to write home about, his peripheral statistics (33.2 IP, 36 H, 8 BB, 23 K) were impressive. Included in his six starts was an impressive 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball against league champion San Antonio and eight strong innings versus the Midland RockHounds.
Perhaps the primary factor in Schlact's Double-A success was the Rangers allowing him freedom to throw all his pitches. The Georgia native explains that he was given more freedom with his sinker after the promotion.
"The plan I had with the Rangers was to throw my four-seamer when I was in High-A, he said. "Once I got to Frisco, they said ‘Hey look, you're in Double-A now. You can throw your sinker more, but don't forget about your four-seamer because it's still in development for you."
Repertoire: Fastball, Changeup, Slider.
Schlact features one of the best pitches in the system in an upper-80s sinker. The righty was not allowed to utilize his sinker as often over the last two seasons, as the Rangers had him focus on developing his low-90s four-seam fastball and slider. Both pitches have developed quite a bit, but they – especially the slider – still have a ways to go. Schlact also features a strong changeup. His changeup – along with the unleashing of his sinker – helped him limit left-handed hitters to a .222 average during his time with Double-A Frisco. Lefties batted .325 off him in Bakersfield last summer.
Projection: Schlact may be the biggest sleeper in the system after his last two seasons, which were sub-par statistically. Those numbers have caused him to drop off the radars of most observers, but because his best pitch was being held back, the stats weren't exactly indicative of his true potential. Schlact projects as a classic back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher who can give a team over 200 innings per season.
2008 Outlook: At 22-years-old, Schlact is still relatively young for the Double-A Texas League. The pitcher gave observers a glimpse of his potential with Frisco late in 2007 and he will look to continue that success in 2008. Because he is still young, Schlact is likely to spend the entire season at the Double-A level. Should he have success, a late-season promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma is not out of the question, but it would be unlikely.
|2004||AZL Rangers (RK)||1-1||30.2||32||9||22||3.52|