Minor League Players of the Month: April

Lone Star Dugout announces Oklahoma outfielder Nelson Cruz and Clinton right-hander Kennil Gomez as its minor league players of the month for April 2008.

Player of the Month: Nelson Cruz, OF, Oklahoma

Although the Rangers' minor league system is known for its pitching, the bats stole the show during the season's first month. There were a handful of outstanding performances at each level, but Cruz has been arguably Minor League Baseball's most dominant hitter thus far.

Many onlookers were encouraged when Cruz put up a .352/.428/.698 line in 44 games with Triple-A Oklahoma last summer, but even that does not approach what Cruz did in April.

The 27-year-old outfielder batted .380 with nine home runs in only 78 at-bats. Cruz drew a league-leading 25 walks over that span. In fact, the slugger currently leads the Pacific Coast League in runs scored (29), home runs (11), RBI (29), walks (25), and stolen bases (10).

The stolen base mark is particularly intriguing considering that Cruz attempted only six steals in 140 games between the majors and minors in 2007.

After Cruz hit just .235 in 96 games with the Rangers last season, he was dropped from the club's 40-man roster. Cruz was recently passed over when the Rangers called up Brandon Boggs, who was already on the 40-man, when they needed an extra outfielder.

Because the former Brewers prospect has struggled to find consistency over parts of three Major League seasons, nobody is quite sure how to digest his exceptional Triple-A numbers. But one thing is certain: if Cruz continues producing like he did in April, he will get another shot in the Majors. Whether or not that opportunity comes with the Rangers remains to be seen.

April 2008 Oklahoma (AAA) .380 79 5 9 27 26 9 25 14 .537 .785

Honorable Mention: Max Ramirez (Frisco), Jose Vallejo (Bakersfield), Ian Gac (Clinton)

Pitcher of the Month: Kennil Gomez, RHP, Clinton

Gomez has a perfect 4-0 record.
On a pitching staff that included seven of the Rangers' top 50 prospects during parts of April, Kennil Gomez entered the season as an afterthought.

But that is no longer the case, as the 20-year-old righty has forced his way on to the prospect map in a hurry.

Gomez works with three strong pitches. His 88-90 mph sinker allowed him to induce twice as many groundouts as flyouts in April. The youngster's excellent curveball helped him rack up 23 strikeouts in 29 innings. His changeup let him limit the left-handed opposition to a paltry .119 batting average.

Overall, the 6-foot-3 hurler posted a practically spotless month. He surrendered just 19 hits and walked only two batters in the 29 innings.

With a 4-0 record and a 1.55 ERA, the right-hander has quickly become the ace pitcher on what appears to be the Midwest League's most talented team.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
April 2008 Clinton (A) 4-0 29.0 19 2 23 1.55

Honorable Mention: Doug Mathis (Oklahoma), Warner Madrigal (Frisco), Andrew Laughter (Bakersfield)


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