Breaking down the Bakersfield Blaze

The Bakersfield Blaze have a talented roster in 2009, headlined by a pair of former first round picks in right-handers Blake Beavan and Michael Main. Lone Star Dugout takes an in-depth look a the club's opening day roster.

The Bakersfield Blaze have begun their 2009 season, and they have one of the most talented pitching staffs in all of Minor League Baseball to go along with a collection of hitters with solid power potential.

The Rangers' High-A affiliate opens the season with 13 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders, and three outfielders. Five Bakersfield pitchers were included in Lone Star Dugout's top 50 Rangers prospects.

Name Pos B/T HT WT DOB 2008 Club
Blake Beavan RHP R/R 6'7 210 01/17/89 CLI
Ryan Falcon LHP R/L 6'0 195 08/27/84 BAK
Adalberto Flores RHP R/R 6'7 227 11/04/86 CLI
Brennan Garr RHP R/R 6'2 190 02/22/84 FRI
Kennil Gomez RHP R/R 6'3 170 04/08/88 CLI
Michael Kirkman LHP L/L 6'4 195 09/18/86 SPO/CLI
Michael Main RHP R/R 6'1 170 12/14/88 AZL/CLI
Tim Murphy LHP L/L 6'2 190 05/07/87 SPO/CLI
Zach Phillips LHP L/L 6'1 200 09/21/86 BAK
Evan Reed RHP R/R 6'4 225 12/31/85 CLI/BAK/FRI
Tanner Roark RHP R/R 6'2 220 10/05/86 AZK/BAK
Ryan Tatusko RHP R/R 6'5 200 03/27/85 CLI
Corey Young LHP L/L 6'2 175 12/30/86 SPO

Name Pos B/T HT WT DOB 2008 Club
Jose Felix C R/R 5'10 198 06/28/88 CLI
Elio Sarmiento C R/R 5'11 202 06/20/86 AUG/SJO

Name Pos B/T HT WT DOB 2008 Club
Ian Gac 1B R/R 6'3 240 08/10/85 CLI/BAK
Mauro Gomez 1B R/R 6'2 190 09/07/84 BAK
Jonathan Greene 3B R/R 6'0 200 09/16/85 CLI
Matt Lawson 2B R/R 6'0 195 11/18/85 CLI
Mitch Moreland 1B L/L 6'2 230 09/06/85 CLI
Renny Osuna 2B R/R 6'0 172 04/24/85 CLI/BAK
Davis Stoneburner SS R/R 6'0 175 01/14/85 CLI/BAK

Name Pos B/T HT WT DOB 2008 Club
Engel Beltre CF L/L 6'1 169 11/01/89 CLI
Joey Butler RF R/R 6'2 210 03/12/86 SPO
Tim Smith LF L/L 6'3 225 06/14/86 CLI

Three surprises

1) Phillips and Reed in the bullpen.

The Blaze have an incredibly talented starting rotation, and unfortunately that has caused a couple of talented pitchers to move to the bullpen this season. Both hurlers could benefit from the switch to the ‘pen by moving though the system quickly. Zach Phillips, a lefty, has a good two-seamer to go with an above-average curveball and an underrated changeup. Evan Reed, the Rangers' third round pick in the 2007 Draft, has a great pitcher's frame and he works between 92-94 mph as a reliever. If his slider continues to improve and he stays in the ‘pen, Reed could be a late-inning relief prospect.

2) Brennan Garr moving down.

Garr has been one of the Rangers' most promising relief prospects for the last couple of years, but he has officially taken a step back. The right-hander missed some time in 2008 because of arm troubles, but he returned and finished the season on a high note with Double-A Frisco. However, Garr had a very rough Spring Training, causing the Rangers to send him back to High-A Bakersfield, where he has not pitched since mid-2007. If Garr returns to form with the Blaze, the Rangers probably won't hesitate to re-promote him, but this current stint in Bakersfield could make or break his professional career.

3) Michael Kirkman.

Kirkman's inclusion in the Bakersfield rotation isn't much of a surprise, but because he's been on-and-off the field so much during his four previous professional seasons, the lefty may be the most forgotten about talent in the organization. Kirkman has a good upper-80s, low-90s fastball to go with a solid assortment of offspeed stuff. The 6-foot-4 sotuhpaw proved to be over his past control issues with Clinton last season, and he could be primed for a breakout season in 2009.

Three stories to follow

1) Corey Young's movement.

Left-handed reliever Corey Young could easily become the Rangers' first 2008 draft pick to reach the Major Leagues. Young, who throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, has a plus curveball and is incredibly tough on left-handed hitters. The Seton Hall product had an outstanding Spring Training [he didn't allow a single baserunner] and the Rangers probably won't be shy about moving him quickly, especially since there is a shortage of lefty relievers in the organization.

2) Tim Murphy: This season's Tommy Hunter?

While Young is likely the Rangers' most polished reliever from the 2008 draft class, Tim Murphy is probably the most developed starter. A former UCLA Bruin, the 21-year-old Murphy has a low-90s fastball and a good curveball. The Hunter comparison may not be fair -- Murphy is highly unlikely to watch the Majors this season -- but he has an excellent chance to be in Frisco before the first half is over.

3) The health of Kennil Gomez.

Gomez missed much of the second half last season with a shoulder issue, but after some much-needed rest and rehab, the 21-year-old was able to avoid surgery and break camp in the Bakersfield rotation. The Rangers may want to keep a watchful eye on Gomez's workload this season, and the sinkerballer's progress with the Blaze will be interesting to watch. If he is fully healthy, and stays healthy, Gomez should have little problem with the California League.

One to watch

Tim Smith is exactly the type of player that could have a breakout season in the California League. The 6-foot-3 outfielder has a solid approach, above-average raw power, and decent speed. Smith could potentially bat .300 with 20-25 home runs and 15 stolen bases if he spends all season in the Cal League.

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