|Ben Snyder||LHP||L/L||6'2||225||07/20/85||CON (SF)|
|Wes Bankston||1B/OF||R/R||6'4||215||11/27/83||LOU (CIN)|
|James Tomlin||OF||R/R||6'0||183||08/12/82||CHA (LAD)|
1) Kasey Kiker goes back to Frisco.
Despite placing second in the Texas League with 120 strikeouts in 126 innings last season–and posting a 3.86 ERA while allowing just 108 hits–Kiker will begin the 2010 campaign back in the rotation at Double-A Frisco. The Rangers want Kiker to become more consistent with his command. While he was dominant at times, the southpaw also issued 66 walks [third in the league] and plunked 17 batters [first in the circuit by a longshot]. Even when Kiker struggles to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters, he is never very hittable thanks to a heavy upper-80s, low-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss changeup. This season will be the first time Kiker has repeated a level, so it'll be interesting to see if he can become more of a strike thrower. He'll almost certainly finish the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
2) Plenty of pitchers move up the ladder.
Frisco's pitching staff is stacked with high-profile prospects like Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers, but a number of under-the-radar guys from Bakersfield also made the roster. Righties Evan Reed, Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko and lefties Richard Bleier and Ryan Falcon will begin the season in the Texas League. Reed is a particularly interesting reliever, as he is armed with a four-seam fastball that reaches the mid-90s and has plenty of natural movement. The 24-year-old got plenty of ground balls and racked up 65 strikeouts in 48.2 innings with the Blaze last summer. Bleier, the club's sixth-round pick in 2008, will open the season in the rotation. The Florida native is a strike-throwing sinkerballer with a strong three-pitch mix, and he logged a 2.85 ERA while walking four and striking out 28 over his final seven appearances [41 innings] in 2009.
3) Ben Snyder stays in Double-A.
The Rangers often leave pitchers in Frisco when the front office and developmental staff wants to get an extended look at them, as the park is relatively close to Arlington. This may be the case with Snyder, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Giants that didn't make the big league roster, but the Rangers were able to keep via trade. Snyder struggled against Major League hitters in Spring Training, but his arm angle and fastball-slider combination helped him limit fellow lefties to a .146 average at Double-A Connecticut last season. Though he is outstanding against left-handers, Snyder must work on his fastball command and changeup against right-handed hitters. Righties battered him this spring, and they hit .296 off him last year.
1) Which hard-throwing hurler will win the race to the big leagues?
Tall, flame-throwing righties Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando both impressed Rangers brass during Spring Training, and both figure to reach the Major Leagues at some point in 2010. But which one will get there first? Ogando is already on the 40-man roster, while Scheppers isn't, but Scheppers also appears to be more polished. Scheppers has a four-pitch arsenal [fastball, curveball, slider, changeup] and Ogando comes with three pitches [fastball, slider, splitter]. While the Rangers view Scheppers as a starting pitcher in the long run, they will likely monitor his workload closely this season, and if he sees Arlington this summer, it will most likely be coming out of the bullpen, where Scheppers can throw his fastball between 95-98 mph with a hammer curve. A definite full-time reliever, Ogando also works in the mid-to-upper-90s with promising secondary stuff, but he is a bit more raw in terms of command, particularly with the slider and splitter.
2) What will become of Blake Beavan?
As a 20-year-old at Double-A Frisco last season, Blake Beavan had a lot of success, logging a 4.01 ERA in 89.2 innings. However, he was also hittable and didn't miss many bats. Beavan fanned 34 with the ‘Riders, and he struck out just six total hitters in six starts during the month of July. The strike-throwing Metroplex native should get more strikeouts while repeating the level–he had 51 in 73.1 innings during the first half in Bakersfield last summer. Beavan has pinpoint control of his upper-80s, low-90s fastball, slider and changeup. His changeup has the makings is becoming a plus pitch. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound hurler was famous for his mid-90s fastball in high school, but he sits right around 90 mph these days. Even if his velocity stays the same, Beavan still has an opportunity to become a solid Major League pitcher. Of course, he is just 21-years-old in the Double-A Texas League, and there is plenty of time for Beavan's stuff to take another step forward.
3) Where will Marcus Lemon play?
Originally drafted as a shortstop in 2006, Marcus Lemon played his first three professional seasons at the position before sliding over to second with Double-A Frisco last summer. The prospect played 77 games at second versus just 38 at short with the ‘Riders. With a logjam of middle infielders in Triple-A [Hernan Iribarren, Esteban German, Gregorio Petit], Lemon will begin another season in Frisco, and he could find himself playing one more position–centerfield. The RoughRiders don't have many outfielders, and only James Tomlin has the ability to play centerfield. Lemon saw some time in center both during the Arizona Fall League and during Spring Training. As Tomlin was a late scratch from the lineup in Tuesday's Triple-A/Double-A exhibition game at Rangers Ballpark, Lemon took over and played nine innings in center. The move could benefit him well not only because of his skillset, but also because the Rangers appear to be breeding him as a future utility player.
One to Watch
Evan Reed – The former third-round pick became a late-inning reliever last season, and he had his breakout as a prospect. Reed posted a 2.96 ERA in 48.2 innings, yielding 44 hits while walking 28 and striking out 65. The righty still has a few improvements to make–he must refine his command and secondary stuff. However, with a 91-95 mph fastball [usually sitting around 93-94] with plenty of natural, late movement, Reed has one of the organization's best heaters. He began to throw his slider for strikes more often as a reliever last year, and he began throwing a hard splitter late in the season. The organization likes Reed as a back-end relief prospect, and he'll get his first extended taste of Double-A in 2010.