Pictures from last Saturday (mostly): http://pix.scottlucas.com/txr/130323/pix.htm
Earlier sets in case you missed them: http://pix.scottlucas.com/txr/130318/pix.htm http://pix.scottlucas.com/txr/130322/pix.htm Quick Roster Thoughts
Texas has released several minor leaguers, most notably catcher Konrad Schmidt, an offseason waiver claim, and infielder Santiago Chirino, a semi-regular in Myrtle Beach during 2011-2012. The others were all pitchers, none of whom had more than a handful of innings above short-season levels. There will be many more, as Texas held onto nearly everybody over the winter.
By my rough count, I can fill the entire 25-man AAA squad with pitchers, and for most, AA isn't a viable alternative. This is a problem. In the next few days, management will have to make difficult decisions on whom to let go. The position-player side is less crowded; Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Engel Beltre can squeeze in comfortably.
Another logjam is the outfield at Hickory and Myrtle Beach. Hickory should receive three rookie-ballers from 2012 -- Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson, and Nomar Mazara -- plus holdover Jordan Akins and perhaps a 5th to be determined. 2011 supplemental 1st-rounder Zach Cone ought to be in Myrtle Beach, although he hasn't shown much this spring. (He didn't last spring, either, but performed capably in Hickory.) Texas also has to find a home for 2010 1st-rounder Jake Skole, who hit .185/.288/.260 at Myrtle Beach before his suspension and spent the last couple of weeks of 2012 in short-season Spokane.
2012 draftees Preston Beck (.251/.330/.352 in Spokane) and Royce Bolinger (.301/.340/.376) are candidates to bypass Hickory for Myrtle Beach. Bolinger in particular looked good with the bat while I was in Surprise. Skipping low-A isn't unusual for Texas's college-aged outfielders; Jared Hoying and Joey Butler did so in recent years. Texas also has to decide whether to bump 2011 13th-rounder Chris Grayson to Frisco. Grayson maintained his power and patience upon moving up from Hickory late last year, but his average dipped to .178. He has more of a batting dance than a batting stance. His entire body is in motion on every pitch, as if he's got a squirrel running around in his uniform. Still, he manages to square up much of the time.
Here and on twitter (@scottrlucas), I'll report the minor-league rosters as soon as I get them. Late-Week Recaps
As I mentioned on twitter last week, 1B Ronald Guzman (.321/.374/.434 in rookie ball) had surgery on his meniscus and will miss several weeks. 1B/C Joe Maloney (.251/.347/.448 in Spokane) might receive the bulk of playing time until Guzman recovers.
Despite his garish line (5+ IP, 12 H, 8 R) last Friday, recently anointed fifth starter Nick Tepesch made plenty of good pitches. His defense let him down some, and his mistakes were uniformly punished. Tepesch's fastball ranged mostly from 88-91 with a hard slider that veers into cutter territory, a curve and change. He's got little margin for error, but if he can keep the bullpen from warming up before the 5th, that will be sufficient for now. You've probably read that Texas was also considering Michael Kirkman. Kirkman has Major League stuff, without a doubt, but he's invariably looked better in relief. I'm glad he's still in the pen. I saw Kirkman throw three pure curves in a span of four pitches Thursday. That's a first for me. Traditionally, Kirkman attacks with a hard slider.
RHP Neil Ramirez looked much more confident than last March, when seemingly every pitch required an agonizingly slow reassessment of all moving parts. Also, his velocity was (mostly) back up to the mid-90's form of 2011. He'll be in Round Rock again, though perhaps not in the rotation. In shorter stints during March 2011, Ramirez looked MLB-ready with a fastball reaching the upper 90s and a low-80's power curve.
Regardless of whether he makes the Opening Day roster, lefty Joe Ortiz has justified his placement on the 40 with a solid spring. Ortiz dazzled statistically in Round Rock last summer with the exception of six homers in 32 innings, but I didn't see him as a September addition back then, just someone to watch. In general, his splits have been fairly benign, so at best he'll be more than just a lefty specialist.
Hulking righty WIlmer Font ranged anywhere from 89 to 97 MPH on a player's gun that seemed pointed at the catcher's feet much of the time. He couldn't bring his fastball below eye level early but eventually settled down. Font tends to take a while to ramp up to his prime velocity (96-98 last summer).
Highly regarded catcher Jorge Alfaro hit a couple of bombs during my week in Surprise. He might open 2013 in low-A Hickory again. Alfaro caught only 29 games last year and DH'ed or manned first base in 45 others because of hamstring trouble. I suspect he'll still spend a majority of the season in Myrtle Beach. Like Alfaro, 3B Joey Gallo hit better while I wasn't around. I mostly saw strikeouts. Gallo has a big swing, and the vertical span of his strike zone is roughly the height of Jose Altuve. He's going to look foolish at times, but he could also be the Sally League MVP.
Despite an unimpressive rookie-league campaign (.187/.224/.263), folks I talked to remain high on 19-year-old shortstop Luis Marte, who is probably Hickory-bound.
Would you believe Carlos Melo is still a Ranger? Acquired for Gerald Laird back in 2008, Melo has yet to succeed in a full-season league. Against an overmatched Canadian squad last Friday, Melo showed why he's still around, generating formidable movement on a 92-95 MPH fastball. Offseason signing RHP Brett Anderson (no, not that one) spotted a 90-92 fastball well in the same game. Anderson was Detroit's 2008 12th-rounder selection but didn't hit a lick as a third baseman and shortstop.
21-year-old Anyelo Leclerc rarely reached 90 on the gun but still befuddled hitters with a sinking fastball and curve last Thursday. Leclerc fanned 52 against only 11 walks in 49 rookie-league innings last year. Similarly, McClennan Community College product Eric Brooks succeeded with an 88-90 fastball and low-70's curve. At times, he's throw harder and emphasized a slider. Brooks spurned Texas A&M to join Texas as a 11th rounder last summer.
I saw righty Jon Edwards throw exactly one pitch, a 95 MPH heater. Another converted hitter, Edwards was signed out of the very independent Pecos League the previous offseason. Edwards struggled mightily to throw strikes last year but obviously cooks with gas.
2012 18th-rounder and Seton Hall alum Ryan Harvey impressed with a 94 MPH fastball and low-80's slider. 6'7" righty Phil Klein, a Hickory relief fixture who received a late promotion to Myrtle Beach, offered a 92-93 MPH fastball and 83 MPH slider.
All told, outfielders Lewis Brinson (29th overall selection last year) and Nick Williams (83rd) plus Jorge Alfaro had the best showings during my days in Surprise.
I know I'm losing you at over 1,000 words, so I'll stop here. If you want more, I dumped my twitter feed during last week onto rangers.scottlucas.com.
Newberg Report (newbergreport.com)