Name: Tanner Scheppers
DOB: January 17, 1987
Acquired: 2009 Amateur Draft, Supplemental 1st Round (44th overall)
Ever since Tanner Scheppers threw his first pitch at 2009 Fall Instructional League, he has been regarded as one of the top arms in a pitching-rich Texas Rangers system.
Scheppers has the stuff of a top-five overall pick, but concerns regarding the health of his shoulder––which caused him to miss Fresno State's national title run in 2008––scared many teams away.
As of right now, it appears the Rangers got Scheppers as a bargain, signing him to a $1.25 million bonus as the 44th overall selection in last summer's MLB Draft.
Obviously, whether or not Scheppers can stay healthy remains to be seen, but his stuff has been nothing short of dominant thus far.
Before the draft, the right-hander made four starts for the independent St. Paul Saints, yielding seven earned runs and striking out 20 in 19 innings pitched.
A couple months later, he got his first affiliated professional action at Fall Instructional League, logging a few innings before the Arizona Fall League began. At the AFL, Scheppers yielded seven runs on nine hits in 11 innings, walking four and fanning nine.
In five of Scheppers' seven outings, he was dominant, giving up just one hit over eight scoreless innings, walking two and striking out seven. In the other two appearances, however, he gave up seven earned runs in three total frames.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound hurler continued to impress in Spring Training, pitching in both ‘A' and ‘B' games. In four ‘A' game appearances, he pitched 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out three.
Although Scheppers could join the Rangers' big league bullpen by mid-season, he is currently getting his first professional experience at Double-A Frisco.
Scheppers is off to an outstanding start out of the RoughRiders' bullpen, tossing six innings and allowing just one run thus far. He has yielded just two hits while walking zero and striking out nine.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes – Beavan ticks up (April 16, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes – AAA/AA at RBiA (April 8, 2010)
Scheppers continues to impress (March 11, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 10, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 4, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (February 11, 2010)
Sizing up the right-handed starters (December 23, 2009)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Danny Clark (November 7, 2009)
Prospect Video: Tanner Scheppers gets Chad Tracy
Tanner Scheppers strikes out Justin Smoak
Harrison, Scheppers, Mathis, Feliz warm up
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: Scheppers' fastball is truly one of the best in the minors, grading as at least a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He generally works between 95-98 mph when coming out of the bullpen. Scheppers may not throw quite that hard consistently as a starter, but he has yet to start since signing with the Rangers.
The right-hander will occasionally dip to the 93-94 mph range, and while he gets a bit more movement at the lower velocities, he also has the ability to blow his fastball by hitters in the upper-90s when necessary.
Scheppers' command could use a little bit of work––it projects as above-average, but it's just about average at present time. He has some very sharp days, but he also has trouble spotting the fastball at times. If there is one criticism, Scheppers may work up in the zone a bit too much, and that's when he gets hit. Still, the pitcher is very new to pro ball, and he'll only get better.
Other Pitches: The 23-year-old has arguably the best breaking pitch in the Rangers' system in his plus two-plane curveball. A true big-breaking power pitch, Scheppers typically throws his curve around 80 mph––sometimes a bit lower, and sometimes a bit higher. He can throw the pitch for strikes, he can backdoor it, and he can also bury it in the dirt to chase strikeouts.
Scheppers also has a hard slider between 82-85 mph in his arsenal. The pitch is effective, and he can get strikeouts with it, but he only brings it out on occasion, in part due to the shoulder troubles. Since joining the Rangers' system, the prospect has made his 85-86 mph changeup a focus. The change is clearly his fourth offering at this time, and he often struggles to throw it for strikes.
Projection: Consider Scheppers a starting pitching prospect for now. The Rangers are being careful with their prized prospect, bringing him along slowly and as a reliever for the time being. If he reaches the majors this season, it will almost certainly be out of the bullpen.
However, with such a deep repertoire, the Rangers ideally view Scheppers as a starter, and his health is the only issue. With a deep four-pitch repertoire, the prospect has top-of-the-rotation potential if he can remain healthy.
Should Scheppers eventually land in the bullpen full-time, he could be a dominant closer with the fastball-curveball combination, and his slider and change would work as usable show-me offerings. Even if Scheppers doesn't bring the changeup along, his already deep repertoire makes the pitch less important––in the end, he may not really need it, even if he starts.
2010 Outlook: Scheppers is beginning the season––and his professional career––with Double-A Frisco, but he should see some Major League time this season. While Scheppers isn't yet on the 40-man roster, it shouldn't matter. He has proven to have the stuff and polish necessary during the Arizona Fall League, big league Spring Training, and early on with Frisco.
Given the Rangers' early relief troubles this season, the righty is certainly one of the club's top in-house solutions. Though Scheppers may pitch in Triple-A at some point, there is a good chance he won't see Oklahoma City before he reaches the majors this season. The Rangers may choose to call Scheppers up directly from Frisco when they feel it is time.