Rangers Prospect #47: Michael Schlact

Michael Schlact didn't have a great 2008 campaign according to the numbers, but the right-hander continued to make progress, particularly with his sinker and slider. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 23-year-old pitcher with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Michael Schlact
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: December 9, 1985
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

For Rangers' pitching prospect Michael Schlact, the last few years have been more about development than immediate results. While the 2008 season was a disappointment for Schlact statistically – he was 7-11 with a 5.23 ERA at Double-A Frisco – he believes a great deal of progress was made.

"I thought the 2008 season was a huge success for me," Schlact said. "In the minor leagues, you can't necessarily look at numbers, but as far as progress, a lot was accomplished."

Despite the numbers, Schlact was actually solid for most of the season, with the exception of a dead arm period, which came during a five-start stretch in July. Over that period, he allowed 43 hits in 24 innings and had a 10.88 ERA.

The 23-year-old was put on the shelf to rest his arm for nearly three weeks. After returning, Schlact finished out the season on a roll, as he surrendered just seven earned runs in his last four starts. "The key to the dead arm rebound was just rest," he said. "I knew that the dead arm was starting because my mechanics started to change and my arm slot dropped. When that happens, the ball flattens out and location isn't as crisp as you would hope.

"When I rested my arm, I was able to focus solely on mechanics, making them repeatable, and letting my arm re-gain strength."

Schlact plans on preventing future dead arm periods by working even harder over the offseason.

"My offseason regimen will include more core exercises, shoulder exercises, and running," the pitcher said. "I truly believe that those three things will help me stay stronger, longer."

Known for his advanced sinker-changeup combination when he was drafted out of the Atlanta area's Wheeler High School in 2004, Schlact has worked tirelessly to develop his four-seam fastball and slider over the last couple of seasons.

Despite the addition of a four-seamer, Schlact still prefers to lean on the low-90s sinker.

"I truly believe that my sinker is my bread-and-butter," he replied. "I use it most of the time I throw a fastball, regardless of the count or situation. First pitch strikes and 0-2 counts are the exception."

Though Schlact is no longer throwing his four-seamer as often as he did in 2006 and 2007, he has begun using his slider with even more regularity.

"My slider is, and continued to be, a work in progress," said Schlact. "I feel that Terry Clark helped me tremendously with it. I went through a period where I couldn't throw it consistently, and we went back to just throwing it a lot more. Repetition is the only way to learn something and really get the grasp of it."

Now looking forward to a promising 2009 campaign, Schlact is almost ready to begin throwing off the mound again.

"I throw and work out with Brian Moehler of the Astros, and he really knows how to approach an offseason," he said. "We started throwing lightly on December 1 and gradually worked up from there. We have long tossed a few times and we'll be throwing off a mound in the next few weeks."

Next season will be Schlact's fifth full year in professional baseball. The right-hander has already set a couple of goals for 2009, including the ultimate for any baseball player.

"Every minor league player would hope for his shot in the big leagues," Schlact said of next season. "Along with that big goal, I would love to cut my walks in half and double my strikeouts. I believe I can attain this goal by being aggressive and going right after hitters each time out."

Also See: Rangers Q&A with Michael Schlact (March 24, 2007)
Hard work paying off for Schlact (June 14, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Michael Schlact (August 6, 2007)
Instant Analysis: Frisco at Tulsa (August 18, 2007)
Schlact developing strikeout pitch (September 27, 2007)
Scouting Rangers Prospect #38: Michael Schlact (February 5, 2008)
Schlact starts spring with strong outing (March 19, 2008)
Schlact gets results with slider (April 15, 2008)
Schlact back at full strength (August 25, 2008)

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball: The 23-year-old uses both a four-seam fastball and a sinker. After focusing on the development of his four-seamer with Bakersfield in 2006 and 2007, Schlact went back to relying on his bread-and-butter sinker for much of the 2008 campaign. Schlact's four-seam has solid velocity, sitting mostly in the 91-93 mph range, but his command of it remains somewhat inconsistent. Because Schlact works off his plus sinker, the four-seam fastball is generally used to chase strikeouts when he is ahead in counts.

Many pitchers use a two-seam fastball, which has both sink and armside run. However, Schlact's sinker is probably best described as a straight sinkerball. The pitch, which sits between 88-92 mph, just drops off the table. Schlact also displays excellent command of his sinker while pounding the bottom half of the strike zone with it.

Schlact displayed the ability to take over games with his sinker a handful of times in 2008, perhaps most notably when he limited the eventual Texas League champion Arkansas Travelers to one run on 86 pitches over eight innings last July 1st. When on top of his game, the Georgia native has hitters swinging early in counts and getting on top of sinkers, leading to lots of ground balls.

Other Pitches: Schlact features both a slider and a changeup. He used his time in Bakersfield to develop a slider in addition to working on his four-seamer. Schlact entered the Rangers' system as a largely a sinker-changeup pitcher, and the Rangers have made his development of an effective breaking pitch a priority over the past few seasons. Schlact's low-to-mid-80s slider continued to improve in 2008, but it's still a work-in-progress. The offering is solid-average when at its best, and it definitely has a sharper, bigger break than it did in '07, but the consistency from start-to-start isn't there just yet. The righty had an advanced changeup when the Rangers took him in the third round of the 2004 draft and it has developed into a reliable solid-average pitch.

Projection: Schlact has the raw stuff and body to become a dependable, durable starting pitcher. His excellent sinker gets plenty of early swings, allowing him to limit his pitch count. The continued development of Schlact's slider is the key to him becoming a starter at the next level. A reliable breaking ball would give the hurler a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch, which would help him while facing batters multiple times during games. Schlact could become a long reliever if starting doesn't work out, but his body and repertoire would be best utilized at the back end of a starting rotation.

2009 Outlook: Schlact will almost certainly open the 2009 season in the starting rotation at Double-A Frisco. The pitcher has started all 107 games he's pitched in over the last four seasons and that doesn't figure to change next summer. Schlact could very well become a relief pitcher down the line, but because of his 6-foot-8 frame, the Rangers will give Schlact every chance possible to succeed in a starting role.

Because he has already made 32 starts at the Double-A level over the last two seasons, a consistent first half could land him with Triple-A Oklahoma before season's end. Pitchers with big bodies often take longer to develop and Schlact turned 23-years-old in December. If he's going to have a breakout season, there is a very good possibility that it will come in 2009.

ETA: 2010.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2004 AZL Rangers (RK) 1-1 30.2 32 9 22 3.52
2005 Clinton (A) 10-7 168.1 184 37 90 4.17
2006 Bakersfield (A+) 4-13 138.1 178 61 81 5.86
2007 Bakersfield (A+) 5-7 115.1 133 42 59 5.77
Frisco (AA) 3-3 33.2 36 8 23 5.08
2008 Frisco (AA) 7-11 149.2 172 66 71 5.23

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