Name: Marcus Lemon
Position: Second Base/Shortstop
DOB: June 3, 1988
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 4th round
The first portion of this article originally appeared on November 25, in an interview with Lemon after the conclusion of his Arizona Fall League season. The original link can be found between the feature story and the scouting report.
No other player in the Rangers' system enjoyed the outstanding start Marcus Lemon had to the 2009 season.
After eight games at Double-A Frisco, Lemon was 17-for-29 [.586] with four doubles and a triple. He was the clear pick for the season's first Texas League Player of the Week award.
Unfortunately, he wasn't able to sustain that success throughout the season.
On the heels of a breakout 2008 offensively–in which he batted .295 with 30 doubles and eight homers fro High-A Bakersfield–Lemon struggled for much of the season in Frisco. The 21-year-old seemed to lose steam as the season progressed, and he batted just .209 in 187 second half at-bats.
For the season, Lemon ended up hitting .262 with 19 doubles, five triples, one home run, and a .659 OPS.
The 2009 campaign wasn't all negative for Lemon, as he made significant strides as a defensive player. Because the young Elvis Andrus appears to have the Rangers' shortstop position locked down, Lemon saw significant action at second base this past season.
Although Lemon's range and arm strength both seemed to improve by a slight tick in '09, he is still likely better suited for second base down the line. The Florida native has the ability to play multiple positions [and he even experimented with center in the Arizona Fall League], but he is largely a middle infielder.
The Rangers sent Lemon to the Arizona Fall League a few weeks after his season with Frisco came to a conclusion. Lemon began the campaign with the Rafters playing somewhat sparingly, but he gradually earned more playing time with his dominant offensive performance.
In 18 games with Surprise, Lemon went 23-for-67 [.343] with three doubles, two triples, and four home runs. He belted all four homers in his last eight games, including three in the final four.
Over the past three seasons, Lemon has shown the ability to turn on an inside pitch and take it over the fence, but his home runs have been relatively few and far between. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound left-handed hitter is known for his solid all-fields approach and above-average plate discipline–not for his pop.
Lemon finished the 2009 season with 12 round-trippers in 396 career professional games. Then, playing against the best competition of his career, he popped four in eight games.
The power surge may not be all that significant down the road. Lemon is extremely unlikely to develop into a 20 home run hitter in the Major Leagues. However, the Fall League stint certainly proved that he has the ability to hit against elite competition.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (February 25, 2010)
Fall League a satisfying conclusion for Lemon (November 25, 2009)
Sizing up the middle infield prospects (September 28, 2009)
Rangers assign six to Fall League (August 30, 2009)
Lemon making transition to second (March 19, 2009)
Batting and Power: Lemon has made strides in his all-around game at each of his stops up the Rangers' organizational ladder, but he has really begun to improve as a hitter. While Lemon's walk totals have decreased in each of his three full seasons [58, 46, 42] and he has become a more aggressive hitter, he still has excellent strike-zone discipline and pitch selection.
After a great start in Frisco last season, Lemon fell off and finished with just a .262 batting average and little power. But he was dominant in the Fall League, flashing plenty of power. Whether or not he can sustain that offensive success in 2010 obviously remains to be seen.
The former fourth-round pick is getting stronger as he matures, and his power has developed, although his game will never be centered around power. Lemon has some home run pop on the inner-half of the plate, when he can use his quick hands to turn on a pitch. He also has an advanced approach, often going with the pitch and serving the ball up the middle or two the opposite field.
Base Running and Speed: The infielder isn't particularly speedy–and he's not a major stolen base threat–but he has gradually improved on the base paths over the last few seasons. Now an above-average base runner, Lemon is solid when it comes to reading pitchers, taking the extra base, and going from first to third on base hits. Lemon stole just 12 bases in 26 attempts with Clinton in 2007, but he swiped 7-of-11 with Frisco last summer.
Defense: After playing every game in his first three professional seasons as a shortstop, Lemon made the switch to second base last season. The prospect played 77 games at second and 38 at shortstop for Double-A Frisco. Lemon has fringe-average tools across the board at second base, including range, arm and hands. A hard-worker, Lemon has improved his hands, and he made some definite progression defensively last season. He posted a career-best .968 fielding percentage at second with the ‘Riders last year.
Projection: Lemon probably doesn't profile as an every day player in the big leagues, but he has an opportunity to carve out a solid career as a utility player. Particularly with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus holding down the Rangers' current middle infield, Lemon is unlikely to start there in the near future. But the utility job is up for the taking, and Lemon is an intelligent, versatile player. He could be a guy that comes off the bench, plays a few positions [particularly second, shortstop, and center], and provides a decent bat with discipline.
2010 Outlook: Lemon has progressed one level per year at the full-season levels, and that should continue in 2010. He struggled down the stretch with Frisco last season, but his outstanding Fall League performance should warrant a crack at Triple-A Oklahoma City out of Spring Training this year. Lemon was recently added to big league camp, and he has an opportunity to reach the Majors as a utility man at some point this season, but he is extremely unlikely to break camp with the club.
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