The Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals played a ‘B' game on Tuesday morning, and on the minor league side, pitchers began throwing live batting practice. Half of the minor league pitchers took the mound on Tuesday, and the other half went on Wednesday. After live BP, minor league games will begin on Thursday and last through April 1.
• At times last season, right-hander Pedro Strop was flat-out dominant. At others, he was leaving the ball up in the zone and unable to throw his offspeed stuff for strikes, leaving him largely ineffective.
Unfortunately, Strop has been the latter in camp so far. Though he has pitched just two innings [allowing two runs] in ‘A' games so far, Strop has also been struggling in the back-field ‘B' games. On Tuesday morning, the reliever had an inconsistent arm slot [he dropped down to full sidearm on one pitch] and command, leading to a two-run homer followed by a warning track shot off the back of Scott Podsednik.
The 24-year-old appeared to be working on his 79-80 mph slider, which was very inconsistent. He struck out Irving Falu with a filthy one that dove below the bat, but he had trouble throwing the pitch for strikes. Strop threw his fastball between 93-94 mph, which has been consistent in all his outings this spring. The issue isn't pure stuff–it's just command.
• With a 7-for-20 start and four walks versus two strikeouts in ‘A' games this spring, it's not exactly a shocker to hear that Mitch Moreland has been outstanding at the plate. But the Mississippi native got a chance to show off his strength during the game, when he got jammed inside on a swing but still pushed the ball all the way to the opposite-field warning track in left. Not many hitters can do that.
• Working solely from the stretch, right-hander Guillermo Moscoso had mixed results in his inning. He threw a scoreless frame, getting one strikeout and allowing a walk to Billy Butler and a double to Josh Fields.
Moscoso's breaking ball [some call it a curve, some call it a slider] has made major improvements over the last two years. The pitch is not only sharper, but he also commands it down in the zone much better than in the past. On Tuesday, Moscoso's breaking ball command was sharper than his fastball command.
• Jurickson Profar stepped into the cage for a live batting practice session against Double- and Triple-A veteran hurler Mike Ballard on Tuesday morning.
The match-up was intriguing, pitting the 17-year-old against the older pitcher with advanced offspeed stuff. Profar was able to hit the fastballs, but he struggled against the other stuff, putting an ugly swing on a changeup and chasing a few breaking balls in the dirt from both Ballard and Shawn Blackwell.
As of right now, Profar has a better-looking swing from the left side, as he has a tendency to overuse an inside-out approach as a righty, often not getting full extension. Still, the shortstop has the ability to drive the ball from both sides of the plate at times. That Profar is more advanced as a lefty is a bit interesting considering he is right-handed, but the prospect does get the majority of his at-bats from the left side.
Even in batting practice, Profar refuses to swing at a pitch he doesn't like. He takes many pitches that are not placed exactly where he wants them. Profar doesn't show much pop in batting practice right now, but he seems to have nice bat control and his pop will increase as his body matures. His plate discipline is not just rare for a player his age–it's pretty much unheard of.
• Shortstop Luis Sardinas' body isn't nearly as developed as Profar's currently is, but he may have more power potential. Sardinas was impressive from the right side of the plate on Wednesday, flashing some lift in his swing and driving balls deep into the gap. He appears to be more advanced from the right side than the left right now.
Because he is so slight of frame, Sardinas may struggle results-wise in his first couple seasons, but the talent is clearly there. If his swing and present pop are any indicator, he could project to hit for above-average power as his body develops over the coming years.
• Outfielder Esdras Abreu, the Rangers' biggest position-player July 2 signing in 2008, does not appear to be in camp. He received a sizable signing bonus but batted just .203 for the Dominican Summer League Rangers last season.
• Another DSL player, first baseman Jhonny Gomez, looks relatively advanced compared to the other young players around him. The 20-year-old is listed at 5-foot-11, 190-pounds, but he appears to be about two inches taller than that. He has been showing some power during batting practice, hitting some balls out of the park. Gomez batted .280 with nine doubles and one homer in 51 games last season.
• After an impressive stint at Fall Instructional League, Teodoro Martinez continues to impress in Surprise. The 5-foot-11 [on a good day], 155-pound outfielder has prototypical leadoff skills–plus speed, good bat control, and a decent approach. However, he also has some surprising pop during batting practice. The small 18-year-old [his birthday was Tuesday morning] can drive balls deep at times.
• Even though the minor leaguers have yet to play in games this spring, 16-year-old slugger Jorge Alfaro already appears to be the best catching prospect in the Rangers' system.
Alfaro has been extremely impressive on the back fields, showing outstanding strength for a youngster that is new to professional baseball. The Colombia native already socks the ball consistently in batting practice, often hitting it hard and up the middle on a line–he has drilled the 400 sign in centerfield at least once in each of the last three days.
Because Alfaro hasn't been catching for long, he will likely be understandably raw behind the plate, but his plus arm strength is a nice tool to start with. Alfaro is likely ticketed for the rookie-level Arizona League this summer, and it will be interesting to see how he performs. The backstop appears to have a high ceiling.
Watch Video - HD (Jurickson Profar vs. Mike Ballard in live BP)
Watch Video - HD (Jurickson Profar takes right-handed batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Oduber Herrera takes batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Jorge Alfaro takes batting practice)
Watch Video - HD (Luis Sardinas takes right-handed batting practice)
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