Tepesch wants to refine offspeed stuff

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Much like fifth-round pick Justin Grimm, 14th-round selection Nick Tepesch brings a big arm with plenty of potential to the Texas Rangers system. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21-year-old University of Missouri product.

When right-hander Nick Tepesch elected to attend the University of Missouri out of high school, he immediately garnered comparisons to recent Tigers prospects like Max Scherzer, Kyle Gibson, and Aaron Crow.

Though the comparisons may have been unfair to Tepesch, he does have similar raw potential. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound hurler has an ideal pitcher's frame to go with a strong, loose arm––two components that allow Tepesch to immediately pass a scout's eye test.

Tepesch always had first-round potential because of his arm. In fact, many believe he would have been a high pick out of high school had it not been for his seven-figure asking price.

But the right-hander struggled in his first season as a full-time starter at Mizzou, posting a 6.27 earned-run average in 84.2 innings as a sophomore in 2009.

Tepesch came into his junior campaign in 2010 as the default leader of a young Tigers pitching staff. He stepped up to the challenge––particularly in Big 12 play. While he still had some inconsistencies, Tepesch worked at least into the seventh inning in all 10 of his starts in conference play.

The 21-year-old surely helped his draft stock during the season's stretch drive, as he tossed a complete-game shutout with nine strikeouts against Nebraska. Then, with a number of scouts and crosscheckers looking on at the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City, he worked a complete-game victory against No. 1 Texas.

On the season, Tepesch led the Mizzou club in most pitching categories with a 4.20 ERA in 98.2 innings. He yielded 108 hits while walking 27 and striking out 75.

Tepesch slid to the 14th round––where the Texas Rangers were able to snag him––because his potential and ability to return to school for his senior year allowed him to command a decent bonus.

As Tepesch mentions below, he struggled to make a decision between signing a professional contract and returning to school for his senior campaign. But, in the end, Tepesch signed for a $400,000 bonus––generally early third-round money.

The Blue Springs, Mo., native won't pitch in a game until Fall Instructional League, but he brings his four-pitch repertoire to the Rangers system. Tepesch has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops out in the mid-90s, a curveball, a changeup, and a cutter.

Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the prospect during a Surprise Rangers workout in Arizona.

Jason Cole: Take me back to the draft. What was it like getting drafted?

Nick Tepesch: It was great getting drafted. It was what I've always wanted to do. I was extremely happy. As far as the organization goes, I've heard nothing but great things about the organization. I'm just ready to get going.

Cole: The manager here in Arizona is Jayce Tingler, who used to play at the University of Missouri. Did you know him or any of the other Mizzou guys in the system?

Tepesch: I met Jayce this winter at a camp. I was working at the camp and he was actually helping out there too. I kind of got to know him over that camp. But other than that, I had never met him before. Just watching him here, he knows what he's doing and knows what he's talking about.

Cole: Talk to me about the decision to sign. When you were drafted and on the few days after, did you think there was a chance you'd be signing?

Tepesch: One day I'd lean one way, and then the next day I'd lean the other way. It came down to one of the last days there. I really talked it over with a lot of people, and it seemed to be the best thing to do.

Cole: How nice was it when you were able to finally make the decision and move on?

Tepesch: It was great just because I didn't have to worry about where I was going to be at––if I'd be down here, if I'd be back at school, or what I would be doing. It was just kind of a weight off my shoulders. I'm enjoying my time here.

Cole: Tell me about your first experience in pro ball. What has it been like so far?

Tepesch: It has been good. I'm just working out, throwing, conditioning, and doing PFP here and there. I'm just doing as much work as I can to try and get better. I mean, I haven't started playing yet, but I'm ready for instructional league.

Cole: How much are you looking forward to getting back on the mound and in a competitive situation at instructs?

Tepesch: It'll be great to be back on the mound and be in a game situation. I haven't been in a game situation since the end of May. It'll definitely be a change.

Cole: Can you talk a little about you as a pitcher? What do you have in your repertoire?

Tepesch: I throw a four-seam and a two-seam. And I have a changeup, a curveball and a cutter.

Cole: How long have you had the cutter for?

Tepesch: Since my freshman year of college.

Cole: Did you throw that and the changeup very often in college? Or were you mostly fastball-breaking ball?

Tepesch: I threw my cutter and changeup more than I threw my curveball, I would say. But it just kind of depended on the day. I use my cutter as kind of a––not necessarily an out-pitch––but it's more of a ground-ball pitch. And then my changeup––it's still improving. I mean, it has got a long way to go, but I feel like it's one of my better pitches.

Cole: What were your thoughts on your junior season at Missouri?

Tepesch: I started off kind of rocky, but as the season went on, I got better and better. That's one thing that, no matter where I'm playing at or what level, I just want to be able to improve from start-to-start and get better and peak at the right time. I just want to always try to get better, and that's what I took away from that season.

Cole: During the course of your college career, how did you feel you improved and developed as a pitcher?

Tepesch: Mentality––the mental side. I was learning all the stuff that it takes to be a pitcher. Coming out of high school, I was mainly a hitter and a first baseman. I never really knew what it took to be a pitcher until I got to college.

Cole: It seems like a lot of big-time arms have come from Mizzou in recent years. Guys like Max Scherzer, Kyle Gibson, and Aaron Crow. Tell me about playing at a school that has gained a track record of producing high-caliber pitchers.

Tepesch: It was great because those guys would come back to school. You'd get to see them, talk to them, and learn from them while they were playing there. It was a great experience.

Cole: Is there any part of your game that you really want to focus on here and at instructs?

Tepesch: Just overall––I want to make everything better and maybe be a little more consistent with my offspeed pitches. I want to do the best I can.

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