Rangers Minor League Notes (3/19)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Frisco RoughRiders dropped a 6-2 decision to the Mariners Double-A squad on Friday, but there were a number of intriguing things to see, particularly on the mound. Lone Star Dugout has notes from another day in minor league camp.

Frisco RoughRiders 2 – West Tenn Diamond Jaxx 6

1. Engel Beltre, CF (0/1, HBP, SB)
2. Kyle Rhoad (0/4, 3 K)
3. Tom Mendonca, DH/3B (1/4, 2B, 2 K)
4. Doug Hogan, C (0/2, K)
5. Eric Fry (1/2)
6. Mike Hollander, 3B (0/2)
7. Andres James, SS (1/2, K)
8. Jared Prince, 1B (0/3, BB)
9. Edward Martinez, 2B (1/2, K, SB)

Erik Morrison (2/2, SB)
Jake Kaase (1/2, K)
Zach Zaneski, C (0/2)
Mike Bianucci (0/2)
Davis Stoneburner, SS (0/2)
Jared Bolden, 1B (0/2)

• The Frisco offense struggled on Friday, collecting only two runs on one extra-base hit. The RoughRiders didn't square up many balls in the game, as even most of the singles were bouncers that worked their way through the infield. However, that the offense struggled isn't particularly surprising considering only a handful of the hitters have experience above Low-A ball.

• After Engel Beltre laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit on Thursday, he tried to do the exact same thing with the first pitch he saw on Friday. Unfortunately, the pitch came in and drilled Beltre on the foot. He limped to first base and was checked out, but the centerfielder remained in the game.

In fact, on the very next pitch, Beltre took off and stole second base with ease. He advanced to third as the catcher's throw sailed into centerfield. Through two games, Beltre is putting pressure on the defense and changing the game with his legs even more than years past.

• Outfielder Kyle Rhoad, the Rangers' 33rd round pick in last year's draft, has plus speed [he stole 50 bases in 56 attempts between college and Spokane last season]. But he hit just .232 in 53 games with the Indians, and now he is facing Double-A pitching. Rhoad was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts [two swinging, one looking] in the game, although he did nearly beat out a routine ground ball to third base.

• Tom Mendonca started the game as the designated hitter, but he moved to third base about halfway through. The Mariners pitchers appeared to have a scouting report on Mendonca–he got a steady diet of breaking balls and changeups throughout the game, rarely seeing a fastball. He never got a hittable fastball in any of his four at-bats, and he finished by going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and a double.

Right now, Mendonca appears to be an outstanding mistake hitter. Whether it's a fastball or a hanging breaking ball, if it's left up in the zone and over the plate, Mendonca will likely at least crush it to the wall, as he has shown in the first two games.

But the Fresno State product is also swinging and missing a ton, chasing breaking balls out of the zone and getting out in front on changeups. He swung and missed six or seven times in his first three at-bats on Friday.

Defensively, Mendonca's range and hands appear to be as-advertised–they look like plus tools. His arm strength is excellent, but in each of the last two games, he has made somewhat wild throws to first, causing Jared Bolden to switch his foot placement across the bag to catch the ball.

• Former LSU Tiger Mike Hollander started the game at third base, where he played the second half of Thursday's game. He was 0-for-2 at the plate, flying out to right field and reaching on a slow-rolling E5. The 24-year-old struggled offensively in 2009, batting just .242 in 94 games for Single-A Hickory. However, he is fun to watch in the field due to his outstanding hands and plus arm strength. In both games, Hollander has made some nice picks at third base followed by a rocket throw to first.

• Second baseman Edward Martinez was one of the more impressive performers on Friday. The Dominican Republic native made an outstanding defensive play early in the game, as he ranged toward the second base bag to snag a grounder, set his feet, and made a strong through to first to record the out.

Offensively, the 21-year-old was 1-for-2 with a single, a stolen base, and a strikeout. Both at-bats came against former University of Texas hurler Kenn Kasparek.

• Erik Morrison continues to be the most impressive hitter currently playing with the Frisco club. Morrison didn't hit the ball particularly hard on Friday, but he put together a couple nice at-bats and went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a stolen base. The Kansas product has done a good job of fighting off pitches with two-strikes before driving the pitch he likes.

• In both games thus far, Mike Bianucci has been swinging early and often. He broke his bat on a first-pitch flyout to right field in his first plate appearance of the day, and he grounded into a 6-4-3 double play his second time up.

• First baseman Jared Bolden made a couple more sparkling plays at first that showed his polish and athleticism there, but he also committed an error on a ground ball right at him. The former Virginia Commonwealth star was 0-for-2, but he lined a ball right to first base for a game-ending double play in a lefty-lefty matchup.

During batting practice last season, Bolden consistently squared up balls and lined them into all gaps. However, in games, he had a tendency to pull out with his front foot, leaving him unable to square up balls over the plate and unable to hit balls on the outer-half. He was doing the same thing on Friday, although the pitch he lined was on the inner-half, and he was able to get to that ball.

The 23-year-old is athletic and an excellent defender, and he has the tools to right the ship at the plate. It's too early to give up on him, but the 2010 season is incredibly important for the Virginia native.

Blake Beavan: 1 ip, 3 h, 2 r, 0 bb, 2 k (20 pitches – 16 strikes)
Kennil Gomez: 1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 0 k (11 pitches – 8 strikes)
Tyler Tufts: 1 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (17 pitches – 11 strikes)
Wilfredo Boscan: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (10 pitches – 9 strikes)
Martin Perez: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (15 pitches – 10 strikes)
Andrew Doyle: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 2 k (11 pitches – 7 strikes)
John Slusarz: 1 ip, 4 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 0 k (25 pitches – 14 strikes)
Yoon-Hee Nam: 1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 0 k (15 pitches – 8 strikes)
Justin Miller: 1 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 3 k (23 pitches – 15 strikes)

• Frisco's pitchers weren't as sharp on Friday as they were on Thursday, but they still weren't too bad overall. Though a few of the guys showed shaky command, the mid-game trio of Wilfredo Boscan, Martin Perez and Andrew Doyle was absolutely lights-out.

• Blake Beavan attacked early and often with his 88-91 mph fastball in the first inning of the game. For the most part, Beavan located his fastball well, which featured some nice sink and armside movement. He did leave one up to the leadoff hitter, which resulted in a double to right field.

Beavan's changeup made great strides in 2009, and it definitely appears to be the better of his two offspeed pitches. The 80-81 mph pitch has excellent sink and fade. It's a deceptive offering that is at least average now and should be above-average down the line. He threw a handful of sliders between 77-80 mph, but the pitch was inconsistent.

The right-hander got his strikeouts–one looking and one swinging–on a pair of fastballs, registering at 87 mph and 89 mph, respectively. He also flashed an excellent pickoff move to first to nail a runner, showing quick feet, a fast release, and an accurate throw.

• Kennil Gomez was his usual self on Friday. He tossed a quick 11-pitch inning, and all his pitches showed outstanding natural movement, although his command wasn't the best. Gomez left a fastball up to the first hitter, and the result was a triple to straight-away centerfield. He then got three consecutive groundouts to second base to finish off the frame.

• University of Indiana product Tyler Tufts had a bit of a breakout between Single-A and High-A last season, as he posted a 2.84 ERA with just 12 walks and 66 strikeouts in 73 relief innings. The 6-foot-3 hurler throws his fastball in the upper-80s, low-90s, and the excellent natural sink makes him a ground ball machine.

Tufts was trying out more of a pure sinker on Friday, which had even more sink and run than his usual fastball, and the pitch ranged between 83-85 mph. He threw eight of the mid-80s sinkers and five normal fastballs, sitting at 87-91 mph. He got a pair of strikeouts in the frame–one looking on a sharp slider and one swinging at an 87 mph fastball to end the inning.

• Wilfredo Boscan was extremely sharp in the fourth inning, needing just 10 pitches [nine strikes] to breeze through the frame. His fast arm produced an 87-90 mph fastball with outstanding sink and run. Boscan threw just one changeup [83 mph for a called strike], and the pitch profiles as a plus offering due to its excellent deception and movement.

In the past, Boscan has struggled with his third pitch–the curveball. But the Venezuela native flashed his best curveball to date on Friday, throwing three rather sharp ones between 65 and 73 mph. Boscan's big-breaking curves resulted in one called strike, one foul ball and one popup to third base.

• Although Martin Perez wasn't at his best on Friday, it was basically impossible to tell from the results. The southpaw didn't have his best command or pure stuff in the inning, but he tossed a perfect frame on 15 pitches. Perez worked between 89-96 mph–though the 96 mph fastball sailed well beyond the catcher's head and nailed the backstop. His fastball command was slightly erratic.

The 18-year-old threw two changeups–at 82-83 mph, both for balls. He mixed in three 77-78 mph curveballs–one for a ball, one foul ball, and one hanger that resulted in a flyout to left field. Perez got a strikeout looking on a well-placed 92 mph heater.

That Perez can still retire Double-A hitters with relative ease without his best stuff is encouraging. Of course, it's also easier to do so when you're a lefty that can bump 96 mph.

• Andrew Doyle continued the string of 1-2-3 innings with one of his own. He got a strikeout on an 81 mph changeup, a first-pitch flyout to left on a fastball and a strikeout on a hard slider. Doyle worked between 87-90 mph with his heavy fastball, which features a lot of sink and a bit of run.

• The last three pitchers of the day–John Slusarz, Yoon-Hee Nam and Justin Miller–all had trouble with command.

• The velocity was there for Slusarz, who was working between 89-91 mph, but his fastball was up in the zone and he recorded just one swinging strike out of the 25 pitches he threw. The former UConn pitcher surrendered a home run followed by three singles in his inning.

• Justin Miller is one of the system's more intriguing relief arms because he often sat in the 93-94 mph range–reaching the mid-90s–with a promising slider last season. Though Miller is raw in terms of command, he has the tools necessary to become a late-inning relief prospect.

The same thing rang true in the ninth inning of Friday's game, as Miller gave up a first-pitch homer on an 89 mph fastball that stayed up and over the plate. In fact, Miller, Nam, and Slusarz [the last three pitchers of the game] all gave up home runs to the first hitter they faced–all on belt-high fastballs over the middle.

The Fresno State product was a bit of a mess to the first three hitters he faced, throwing 11 pitches [5 strikes] and allowing a homer, a hard single, and a full-count walk. His fastball often wasn't near the strike zone and his slider 81-84 mph slider didn't have much break.

But Miller settled down to right the ship and strike out the last three batters he faced. His fastball sat around 87-91 mph with improved location, and his slider was missing bats. In fact, Miller threw five 78-84 mph sliders to the last three hitters he faced, resulting in two foul balls, two swinging strikes and one called strike. He got his strikeouts on an 81 mph slider [looking] and two fastballs at 90 and 91 mph, respectively [both swinging].

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