Rangers Minor League Notes (3/20)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Although the game wasn't pretty at times, the Rangers' High-A club brought home a one-run victory over the Padres on Saturday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from another day on the back fields.

Bakersfield Blaze 3 – Lake Elsinore Storm 2

1. Danny Lima, 2B (1/3, HBP)
2. Jason Ogata (1/4, RBI)
3. Vin DiFazio, C (0/2, K, BB)
4. Miguel Velazquez, CF (0/3, 2 K, BB)
5. Cristian Santana, LF (1/2, BB)
6. Matt West, 3B (1/2, 2B, BB, RBI)
7. Robbie Alcombrack (1/1, 2 BB)
8. Clark Murphy, 1B (1/2, K)
9. Travis Adair, SS (1/3, BB)

Alison Perez, C (0/1)
Ed Koncel, 3B (1/1)
Leonel De Los Santos, DH (1/2, 2B, K)
Michael Ortiz, 1B (0/1)
Guillermo Pimentel, RF (0/1)

• Saturday's High-A game didn't have much flow, as the Padres pitchers consistently fell behind in counts and failed to find the strike zone. They walked seven batters in the game–almost all in the middle innings–and plunked one more.

• Jason Ogata and Clark Murphy were the only two hitters not to reach on a walk or a HBP. Both of them singled in the game.

• Miguel Velazquez isn't exactly small and he doesn't look like a burner, but he played centerfield on Saturday and did an outstanding job. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect flashed the strong arm that lets him profile as a corner guy, but he also did an excellent job of going back on balls and tracking them without issue. Velazquez covered plenty of ground in center, once ranging all the way back to the wall to catch a hard-hit ball.

Offensively, the 21-year-old doesn't appear to get cheated much. When he swings, he swings hard. The first hard swing ended in a broken-bat flyout to left field. Velazquez showed his strength a little bit by still hitting the ball hard out to the outfield despite the shattered lumber. He also struck out swinging twice [including three straight swings-and-misses in his final at-bat] and was intentionally walked once.

• Velazquez was intentionally walked to load the bases for Cristian Santana, who struck out swinging in a four-pitch at-bat. Overall, the slugging outfielder had a rather nondescript day. He picked up a weakly hit infield single to shortstop before being picked off first base. He was also gunned down at home while trying to score from first on a double–he'd reached base by walking in four pitches.

Santana was playing left field, and he still doesn't cover much ground out there. He allowed a popup to land in front of him with Braden Tullis on the mound–it was a ball that should've been caught by a left fielder. While Santana still has a decent arm and he can catch balls in his vicinity, he has well below-average range.

The Dominican Republic native still puts on an impressive show in batting practice–and he may be a bit stronger, as his lower half is even thicker than year's past [although it isn't all 'good' weight]–but he appears to have the same game-time issues with pitch recognition and defense.

• Matt West struggled with pitch recognition in '09, when he batted just .234 with 136 strikeouts at Single-A Hickory. But he has much more raw power and offensive skills than his numbers show because of those troubles. West looked improved on Saturday, going 1-for-2 with a double and a walk.

In West's first at-bat, he hit a sinking liner into centerfield for an F8. He hit another sinking liner to center in his second at-bat, but this time it got by the defender and resulted in a double. West had an outstanding at-bat in his final plate appearance, fouling off a number of pitches before working a bases-loaded walk on a full count.

• Robbie Alcombrack, a catcher that spent his 2009 season in independent ball, worked in the High-A game as a designated hitter and looked disciplined at the plate. He had a perfect day, going 1-for-1 with a single to left field and a pair of walks, including one on a full count.

• Leonel De Los Santos entered the game as a late-inning replacement at designated hitter, and he had a couple plate appearances. In his first at-bat, he laced a double down the left field line, turning on a fastball and crushing it. However, the next time up, ‘Macumba' swung and missed at three consecutive breaking balls inside of the strike zone.

• Right fielder Guillermo Pimentel has plenty of tools–good speed, strong arm, raw power–but he is very, very raw. Pimentel dropped a high pop fly late in Saturday's game–one thing he has had trouble with in the past. The Dominican Republic native also has an excellent arm, but he doesn't yet know how to use it. In his only plate appearance of the game, he swung at the first pitch and got on top of a fastball for a routine groundout to third base.

Chad Bell: 1.1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 1 k (29 pitches – 15 strikes)
Braden Tullis: 1.2 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (18 pitches – 12 strikes)
Ben Henry: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (12 pitches – 7 strikes)
Kyle Ocampo: 2 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 1 k (26 pitches – 19 strikes)
Jared Schrom: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (10 pitches – 7 strikes)
Edwin Escobar: 2 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 1 k (33 pitches – 19 strikes)

• Chad Bell got off to an excellent start on Saturday, relying heavily on his 87-88 mph fastball. Though he was up in the zone with it a bit, he worked the corners and induced three groundouts [two to second, one to third] on just 10 first-inning pitches.

Bell struggled a bit more in the second, as he walked a batter, had a hitter reach on an E4, recorded a strikeout, and yielded an RBI single. The southpaw was then pulled from the game due to his pitch count.

Overall, the 21-year-old didn't have his best command, and he–like most pitchers in early spring games–worked on establishing the fastball over the changeup and breaking ball. At the time Bell signed, he was regarded as a polished pitcher with above-average command of at least two pitches, so it will be intriguing to see how he bounces back.

• Braden Tullis' heavy 88-89 mph sinker and promising changeup have impressed the organization since he signed last summer, and he pitched well again in his first spring game. Tullis displayed his above-average athleticism early on, racing to first base on the first two hitters he faced for 3-1 putouts.

Like Bell, Tullis worked a bit too far up in the zone on Saturday, but he wasn't bit by it. After two quick groundouts, the righty allowed a popup single, got a popup to left field, a hard line-drive single to center, another popup to left field, and then slugger Cody Decker flew out to the wall in dead center.

Tullis also worked on establishing his fastball in the game, although he mixed in a few upper-70s changeups. The pitcher's change is so effective because he's not only able to throw it to both left- and right-handed hitters, but it also features the same heavy run and sink as his fastball, creating plenty of deception.

• Tall right-hander Ben Henry was sent to the Dominican Republic out of Spring Training last year in an effort to strengthen his arm and improve his velocity, which had dipped into the mid-80s. Henry appears to have gotten much of that velocity back this year, as he worked between 89-90 mph with improved command.

Because Henry is tall and comes over the top, he has had a tendency to leave his fastball up in the zone over the last few years. However, when he works further down–as he did on Saturday–he can get really good angle on his pitches. Of the 12 pitches Henry threw, he mixed in nine fastballs and three curveballs. He threw one excellent big-breaking curve for a swinging strikeout, and the other two resulted in a foul ball and a flyout to center.

• Kyle Ocampo pounded the strike zone, and he located almost all of his 88-91 mph fastballs well. However, as usual, Ocampo just left a couple up in the zone and they got banged into the outfield for base hits. In Ocampo's two innings, the outs he induced were all weakly hit–a popup to third, a groundout to second, a groundout to first, a broken-bat groundout to third, a strikeout, and a weak comebacker. A runner also reached on an error by second baseman Danny Lima.

All of those outs were recorded with the fastball, which has solid late movement and runs in on right-handed hitters. Ocampo breaks plenty of bats with his fastball, slider, changeup combination because they all move every well. His changeup–though he only used it a couple times–looks like a very promising pitch of its sink. He also mixed in a couple sharp sliders and a curveball, although he didn't have much command of either on Saturday.

• Jared Schrom pitched well in his first outing on Thursday, recording a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in a Double-A game. But he needed 19 pitches to get through the inning, walking one batter and allowing one hit.

The hurler was more effective on Saturday, throwing just 10 pitches [seven strikes] and keeping the ball down in the zone. Schrom recorded a strikeout looking on an 88 mph fastball before getting two groundouts [3-1, 4-3] on a pair of 87 mph heaters. He showed nice hustle and quickness, getting over to the first base bag on the ground ball to first.

• Edwin Escobar doesn't turn 18-years-old until late-April, and he pitched two scoreless innings in Saturday's High-A game, but the stuff wasn't as good as it was last summer. His fastball velocity was about the same, sitting between 87-90 mph. But Escobar's big curveball, which was a mid-70s pitch last summer, was suddenly loopy and around 68-70 mph. He threw five curveballs in the game–four for balls and one for a soft groundout to third base.

Daily Videos

Watch Video - HD (Martin Perez warms up)
Watch Video - HD (Edwin Escobar warms up)
Watch Video - HD (Kyle Ocampo pitches to Matt Vern)

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