Rangers Minor League Notes – Beavan ticks up

FRISCO, Texas – Starting pitcher Blake Beavan allowed three runs, including two homers, in five innings on Tuesday afternoon, but there were some positive signs in his fastball and slider. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at all four pitchers in the game.

Frisco RoughRiders 1 – Arkansas Travelers 8

Blake Beavan: 5 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 1 bb, 3 k (80 pitches – 57 strikes)
Ryan Falcon: 1.1 ip, 3 h, 4 r, 1 bb, 1 k (28 pitches – 16 strikes)
Tanner Roark: 0.2 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 1 k (13 pitches – 6 strikes)
Tanner Scheppers: 2 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 bb, 3 k (34 pitches – 22 strikes)

• Overall, the Travs played long ball against Frisco on Tuesday, hitting four home runs. Two of the round-trippers came off starter Blake Beavan, who surrendered three runs on five hits in five innings of work. Beavan threw 80 pitches, walking one and striking out three.

FASTBALL – Easily the most promising part of the game for Beavan. The right-hander consistently sat between 91-92 mph, hitting 93 quite a bit throughout the game. He also bumped 94 a handful of times, which he hadn't previously done in any start since signing in 2007. Beavan generally worked at 88-92 mph last season, and his average fastball was right about 90.

Overall, Beavan's fastball command was still very strong. He worked the ball down and on the corners, and the heater had solid natural life, running to the armside. He was able to get in on the hands of both lefties and righties to force weak contact or freeze them looking. Two of the strikeouts were well-placed 91 and 92 mph fastballs on the inner-half to lefties.

The 21-year-old got into trouble in both the fourth and fifth, when he left a pair of fastballs up in the zone and allowed two home runs. The latter homer was a particularly bad pitch, as he left a fastball up and slightly in to lefty Brian Walker, who crushed it for his second homer of the day. The home run came on an 0-2 count following two swinging strikes.

One of the things Beavan must improve this season is his ability to put hitters away–he simply gave up too many 0-2 hits last season. However, if he can sustain the improved fastball velocity with the above-average command, he will be tougher to hit this year.

SLIDER – While Beavan was up a tick velocity-wise with his fastball, he was also up with his slider. In fact, even in Spring Training outings, Beavan has been consistently throwing his slider harder than last season. In 2009, his slider looked more like a curveball at times, and it had some loose and lazy break at 76-80 mph.

So far this year, Beavan isn't throwing any sliders below 80 mph. The pitch is ranging between 80-84 mph, and he throws most of them around 82-84. He gets a little more break on the sliders around 80 mph, but the harder ones are a bit sharper. Even at the higher velocity, Beavan's slider doesn't look like a swing-and-miss pitch, but it is definitely more effective in keeping the ball off the barrel. He has confidence in the pitch and can throw it for strikes in any count.

Beavan induced just five swinging strikes out of 80 pitches. They came on two fastballs [both at 91], two sliders [one for a strikeout] and one changeup.

CHANGEUP – Beavan's changeup is still his second-best pitch, and barring something drastic, it will likely stay that way in the long run. However, it wasn't on Tuesday. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound pitcher struggled to command it through the outing, and he only used it seven times. After Beavan found he didn't have much feel for it early on, he threw it sparingly the remainder of the game.

The first five changeups Beavan threw resulted in one single and four balls. All five pitches were up–the final four were up and out of the zone. He began to find the feel for it at the end of the outing, though, throwing one for a swinging strike and one for a popout to short.

When Beavan throws his changeup well [which he does more often than not], the pitch has excellent sink, diving under bats and causing lots of ground balls with a few swinging strikes mixed in. He caught the final hitter of the outing out in front on the change, and that forced the popup.

• Ryan Falcon entered the 2010 campaign with a 2.98 career earned-run average over 184 innings between short-season Spokane and High-A Bakersfield. The definition of finesse lefty, Falcon has an 82-86 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. The change helped him limit righties to a .223 average with 43 strikeouts in 148 at-bats last season.

However, after Tuesday's performance, Falcon has now allowed six runs in his first 2.2 Double-A innings. The 25-year-old simply doesn't appear to be trusting his stuff right now. His stuff may not work at the upper levels, but there's only one way to find out. Usually a plus command guy with all three of his pitches, Falcon has been falling behind hitters, forcing him to throw fastballs over the plate. He surrendered a grand slam to outfielder Clay Fuller on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh inning.

• After Fuller's grand slam had cleared the bases, the RoughRiders called on Tanner Roark with one out in the seventh. Roark finished out the frame, getting a groundout, a walk and a strikeout swinging. The Illinois native sat around 90 mph with his fastball, and he flashed both his 68-71 mph curve and 77-ish mph slider. Roark finished the frame with a swinging strikeout on his big-breaking curveball.

• Fireballing prospect Tanner Scheppers worked the game's final two innings. He didn't throw a fastball below 95 mph in the eighth inning, but that's not really anything new–Scheppers generally sits between 95-98 mph when working out of the bullpen.

Scheppers got three strikeouts in the game–all swinging and on breaking balls. He appeared to be mixing in his hard slider in addition to the knee-buckling curveball. More than anything, though, Scheppers seems to be focusing on the development of his changeup, which is clearly a fourth pitch right now. Scheppers threw a few changes at 85-86 mph, and only one came in the vicinity of the strike zone.

It would certainly be nice if the California native were able to hammer down a changeup, but he doesn't particularly need it. With a plus [bordering plus-plus] fastball and two strong breaking balls, the need for Scheppers to develop a change–even if he starts–isn't quite as strong.

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