|Robbie Ross||LHP||L/L||5'11||185||06/24/89||DNP (Signed late)|
|John Slusarz||RHP||R/R||6'3||185||06/17/09||DNP (Injured)|
1) Joseph Ortiz resurfaces.
After an outstanding state-side debut with Single-A Clinton last season—in which he posted a 1.97 ERA over 32 innings—Ortiz began '09 with Single-A Hickory. The 5-foot-7 southpaw pitched in six innings, giving up four earned runs on 11 hits before being placed on the disabled list. The 18-year-old has been at the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona ever since mid-April. Ortiz has been pitching in games there, and now he will apparently pitch in Spokane. The native of Venezuela was named our 45th-best prospect in the Rangers system over the offseason because of his polish and his upper-80s, low-90s fastball and advanced slider. If Ortiz is healthy, he may not be in Spokane for very long.
2) ...as does Miguel Alfonzo.
The 21-year-old spent his entire 2008 campaign with Clinton, batting .235 with 11 doubles and five home runs in 89 games. Alfonzo has been playing in Extended Spring Training all year, and he'll also report to Spokane. The outfielder split his 2007 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona League, and he skipped over Spokane the first time around. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Alfonzo is a talented line-drive hitter, but he is still raw. Like David Paisano last season, Alfonzo will take a step back this year, and he certainly has the talent to recover with a breakout summer. At 21, Alfonzo is still young enough to be considered a prospect if he bounces back from a rough '08.
3) Solis gets his shot in Spokane.
Third baseman Emmanuel Solis has been a disappointment ever since he signed for north of $500,000 in 2006. He debuted with the AZL Rangers in '07, hitting just .205 with no home runs and 57 strikeouts in 166 at-bats. The Rangers sent him to the Dominican Summer League the following summer, where he flashed some power by hitting seven home runs in 55 games. However, Solis hit just .244 with a .318 on-base percentage. This summer, the Rangers are sending him to Spokane—his highest assignment yet. The 19-year-old [Solis turns 20 in June 29] is still young, but it may be sink-or-swim time for him.
Three stories to follow
1) The big-bonus pitching trio.
The Rangers drafted Kyle Ocampo in 2007 and Matt Thompson and Robbie Ross in 2008. The club went over slot to sign all three hurlers, as their combined reported bonuses totaled over $2.4 million. None of the pitchers have played in professional games outside of the Rangers' complex in Arizona. Ross, a lefty, was the Rangers' second-round pick last season. Ocampo has outstanding stuff, but he is still raw on the mound. The same is true of Thompson, who already has one of the best curveballs in the system, and his fastball consistently sits in the low-90s.
2) Clark Murphy.
Murphy opened his first full season as a surprise addition to the Hickory roster. But after hitting just .218 with little power [six doubles, zero home runs in 110 at-bats] in his first 33 games, the club sent him back to Arizona. The 19-year-old should be a bit more comfortable in the Northwest League. The left-handed hitting Murphy has loads of raw power, and he's expected to get back on his feet with the Indians this summer.
3) New highly drafted players.
To open the season, eighth-round pick Braden Tullis will be playing with the Indians. When they sign, second-rounder Tom Mendonca and fourth-round pick Andrew Doyle should also be in Spokane. Tullis should pitch in the starting rotation with Spokane. An excellent athlete, Tullis works off his upper-80s, low-90s sinker. He was 9-2 with a 1.56 earned-run average at Skagit Valley Community College as a freshman this year, giving up just 55 hits in 75.0 innings.
One to watch
Reinier Bermudez signed with the Rangers early last season after he defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. A passport situation kept the right-hander in the DSL for the remainder of the 2008 season. Bermudez, who recently turned 24, posted a 2.15 ERA with the DSL Rangers last year, giving up just 18 hits in 46 innings. He walked 24 and struck out 67. The pitcher threw up to 96-97 mph last summer, and he consistently works in the low-to-mid-90s. Bermudez had some struggles in Extended Spring Training earlier this year, but because of his age, the Rangers are sending him to Spokane. Though Bermudez is raw, he has a big-time power arm out of the bullpen and he's a talent worth keeping an eye on.