Minor League Players of the Month: May

Lone Star Dugout announces Frisco catcher Max Ramirez and Clinton right-hander Neftali Feliz as its minor league players of the month for May 2008.

Player of the Month: Max Ramirez, C, Frisco

When watching Max Ramirez hit, it's hard to believe the Rangers were able to acquire him straight-up for a then-40-year-old centerfielder. Ramirez has done nothing but hit since joining the Rangers organization and May was no exception.

In the month, the 23-year-old batted .394 with nine doubles, seven home runs, and 23 RBI in just 99 at-bats. For the season, Ramirez leads the Texas League in on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.679) and home runs (14).

Is Ramirez trading in his catcher's gear for a first baseman's mitt?
In addition to his discerning eye and plus natural hitting ability, Ramirez has shown more power than most experts expected. Because his bat is so advanced, Ramirez could find his way to Arlington before the end of the summer. But the Rangers have a logjam of young catchers and all three [Teagarden and Laird especially] are more advanced defensively than Ramirez is. This has led the Rangers to give Ramirez a shot at first base.

With only one true first baseman [Chris Shelton] in the Majors, the Rangers appear to be looking for Ramirez, John Mayberry, or Chris Davis to step up and fill in at some point this season. Ramirez may be that guy, but he will have to improve defensively before he gets the call.

But even if the native of Venezuela doesn't get the call this season, he has to be the early frontrunner to win the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year award. It doesn't matter where he plays in the field – if Ramirez continues to hit like he did in May, there will be a spot for him in the big league lineup.

May 2008 Frisco (AA) .394 99 9 7 23 21 1 12 24 .465 .717

Honorable Mention: John Mayberry (Oklahoma), Julio Borbon (Bakersfield), Renny Osuna (Clinton)

Pitcher of the Month: Neftali Feliz, RHP, Clinton

It would be difficult to find a pitcher in minor league baseball who has been more dominant than Feliz over his last seven starts.

In six May starts, Feliz allowed one earned run. He gave up more than four hits just one time. Of his 19 hits allowed in 31.1 innings, four went for extra bases and none left the park.

The stories about Feliz's electric stuff – especially his mid-to-upper-90s fastball – have all circulated among Rangers fans by now. But the right-hander's outstanding arm and raw stuff is not the most impressive aspect of his game this season.

Feliz has kept the ball low in the zone and on the ground, as evidenced by the extra-base hit statistic. He has compiled an impressive 2.24-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio this season. He has also yet to surrender a home run in 52.2 innings pitched.

There were questions about the 20-year-old's control after he walked 12 in 15 innings with Spokane last season. Those questions were highlighted after a two-thirds of an inning, five-walk performance on April 12.

Since that disastrous start, the former Braves prospect has issued only 12 free passes in 45.1 innings. He walked eight in 31.1 May innings, a strong average of 2.3 per nine innings.

Feliz has been impressive this season and his 0.29 ERA in May is obviously out of this world. If he continues to produce at this level for the remainder of the season, he may just find himself sitting atop the system's top prospect lists in 2009.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
May 2008 Clinton (A) 3-0 31.1 19 8 32 0.29

Honorable Mention: Elizardo Ramirez (Oklahoma), Matt Harrison and Brian Gordon (Frisco), Jared Hyatt (Bakersfield)

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