Rangers Prospect #37: Warner Madrigal

Despite his disappointing big league results in 2009, right-hander Warner Madrigal still has potential to be an impact reliever with the Rangers. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 25-year-old with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Warner Madrigal
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: March 21, 1984
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: Signed to minor league contract in November 2007

Without a doubt, Warner Madrigal had a disappointing 2009 season.

After pitching relatively well for the Rangers [4.75 ERA in 36 innings] in just his second full season as a pitcher in 2008, Madrigal failed to take the next step forward in the following season.

In 12.2 relief innings with the Rangers last summer, Madrigal surrendered 14 earned runs on 18 hits, walking 12 and striking out five.

And while Madrigal certainly didn't get it done at the big league level, there is still plenty of reason for hope.

Believe it or not, the 6-foot-0, 200-pound right-hander made drastic improvements to his game last season.

During his time at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Madrigal showed more advanced fastball command than he had in the past. He attacked the strike zone often–with quality strikes–and used both the slider and splitter as put-away pitches late in the count.

Madrigal's split-finger pitch also showed major improvements throughout the season, in just his second year of throwing the pitch full-time.

But in the Majors, for whatever reason, Madrigal couldn't carry over the same success. His raw stuff is more than good enough to get big league hitters out. In Triple-A, his command was plenty good.

Because the stuff and command was there for most of the 2009 campaign–and because it didn't carry over to Arlington–many of Madrigal's issues on the mound may have been mental.

The Dominican Republic native often fell behind in the count early, forcing him to either throw fastballs over the plate or walk the hitter. It's perhaps the only way to explain Madrigal's struggles [especially compared to '08 with the Rangers] when he clearly made improvements as a pitcher.

Still, it's too early to give up hope. Although Madrigal will turn 26-years-old by opening day, the 2010 season will be just his fourth full year on the mound. He will almost certainly get more opportunities to stick in the Texas bullpen this season, and he has the stuff to become a reliable reliever.

Also See: Sizing up the right-handed relief prospects (November 4, 2009)
Rangers Minor League Mailbag (October 6, 2009)

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Splitter.

Fastball: Madrigal's fastball generally sits in the 92-94 mph range, and he has the ability to dial it up to 95 and 96 mph at times. While he has excellent velocity, fastball command is certainly the name of the game for Madrigal. During his stint in the big leagues last year, Madrigal often either failed to throw his fastball for strikes early in the count or left it up and over the plate.

In Triple-A, Madrigal was a different pitcher. He consistently pounded the bottom-half of the zone and both corners with his heater. When Madrigal throws quality strikes with his fastball and gets ahead in the count, it allows him to set up the slider and splitter to put hitters away. When he fell behind in the Majors, he wasn't able to use the solid secondary stuff as effectively.

Other Pitches: The reliever throws a slider and a splitter, and both pitches have shown swing-and-miss potential over the last two seasons. Both pitches clock around the low-to-mid-80s. Madrigal's slider was his put-away pitch through the minor leagues, and it may still be considered his best offspeed offering. However, the pitcher's splitter improved quite a bit in 2009, and he began going to it nearly as often [and much more than '08] to get outs. While Madrigal's fastball-slider combination have always made him successful against right-handed hitters, his splitter helped him retire lefties as well. After left-handers batted .289 against him at Triple-A OKC in '08, they managed just .232 off him last summer.

Projection: The 25-year-old still has an opportunity to be a strong seventh-inning man, and he has the ceiling to be a primary setup man someday. However, Madrigal clearly must right the ship. To date, he has spent most of his big league time working in mop-up duty, and he often worked multiple innings in 2008. But if Madrigal can prove successful and carve out a consistent role in the Majors, it'll likely be in a short-relief setup role.

2010 Outlook: Madrigal will have the opportunity to compete for an opening day bullpen spot in Spring Training. With a strong performance, he has a legitimate chance to earn a place on the 25-man roster, as there should be one or two right-handed relief spots up for grabs.

Regardless, even if Madrigal starts the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, he should see significant big league action this year. The 2010 campaign will be extremely important for Madrigal, who was extremely disappointing with the Rangers last season. If Madrigal is unable to capitalize on his Major League opportunities this season, his time on the 40-man roster could be running short.

ETA: 2010.

2003 Provo (RK) .369 279 28 9 51 75 2 12 58 .394 .581
2004 Cedar Rapids (A) .275 91 3 2 10 10 1 7 24 .330 .396
2005 Cedar Rapids (A) .247 405 21 15 53 43 6 22 90 .288 .420
2006 Cedar Rapids .235 115 1 4 13 11 1 5 28 .273 .348
Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2006 AZL Angels (RK) 2-1 11.0 10 3 12 4.09
2007 Cedar Rapids (A) 5-4 61.0 44 23 75 2.07
2008 Frisco (AA) 1-0 15.2 11 8 18 1.72
Oklahoma (AAA) 0-0 20.1 20 8 25 3.98
Texas (MLB) 0-2 36.0 36 14 22 4.75
2009 Oklahoma City (AAA) 2-2 49.0 42 11 48 2.57
Texas (MLB) 0-0 12.2 18 12 5 9.95

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