THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 18, 2007

A quick bundle of notes on some of the minor leaguers who have gotten off to excellent starts, with this repeat message: they won’t all wear the home whites in Arlington. But the idea is still to get as many of them as possible into a position to help Texas win.

Some will never reach the big leagues. But even among those there could be a Guillermo Mercedes, the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League coach who was traded 12 years ago to Cleveland for lefthander Dennis Cook, a key component of the club’s bullpen in its 1996 playoff season.

Some will get to the big leagues with other organizations. Aaron Harang, John Danks. Michael Young and Frankie Francisco, on the flip side. Some may debut as Rangers but establish themselves somewhere else. Adrian Gonzalez. In the other direction, Robinson Tejeda.

Some will make it here, and maybe in a big way, like Ian Kinsler.

But remember that Texas signed off on a deal that would have put Kinsler (and Erik Thompson) in Colorado in July of 2004, only to have Rockies outfielder Larry Walker veto the trade.

So as you look over the following, try to resist imagining the next Kinsler (because those don’t come around every decade) or even the next Wes Littleton. Just appreciate the fact that they’re producing, which can help in a number of ways.

As Scott Lucas points out this morning, the Oklahoma bullpen has pitched 32 innings this season and has yet to allow a run. Not even an unearned run. Francisco has walked one in four hitless frames, punching out a staggering nine. A.J. Murray has been perfect in four innings, fanning four. Littleton has set two hitters down on strikes in 6.1 innings, scattering four hits. Significantly, Ezequiel Astacio has yet to issue a free pass in six innings, striking out five and permitting two hits in that span. Willie Eyre has fanned eight in 6.1 scoreless frames, allowing only two hits, and absurdly, he’s probably no closer than the number five option to help the big league squad among RedHawks relievers.

Right-handed power pitchers Francisco Cruceta (eight walks in 11 innings) and Alfredo Simon (six walks in 13.1 innings) need to correct that column, but in two starts each, their bottom lines look good. Cruceta has an ERA of 0.82, permitting only three hits and fanning seven, while Simon’s is 2.70, with nine strikeouts and six hits allowed.

Outfielder Victor Diaz is smoking the ball, hitting .409/.471/.614 with 10 RBI in 12 games. Jason Botts sits at .205/.314/.318, but he’s picking it up. Nate Gold was hitting .194/.293/.306 before a fractured finger forced him to the disabled list.

Frisco righthander Eric Hurley is 2-0, 0.98 in three appearances, allowing two runs on 11 hits and two walks in 18.1 innings, punching out 16 Texas Leaguers. Out of the bullpen, independent league import Ken Chenard has allowed one hit in seven scoreless frames, walking three and fanning nine.

First baseman Emerson Frostad — whose name comes up a lot when Jon Daniels is asked to talk about minor leaguers who are coming in under the radar — is hitting .343/.395/.600 in 35 at-bats. The organization has moved him back to the infield after a one-year look behind the plate, a decision that Daniels says was made because of the depth that the club has built system-wide at catcher. Outfielder Steve Murphy is hitting .356/.420/.489.

The pitching stories at Bakersfield, at least from a statistical standpoint, are Edinson Volquez’s 0-1, 15.75 line (14 runs on 10 hits and eight walks in eight innings over two starts; eight strikeouts) and minor league Rule 5 addition Kendy Batista’s first 11 innings, over a start and two relief appearances: two runs on six hits and no walks, 10 punchouts. The 25-year-old Batista had apparently thrown only 15.1 innings of organized ball since 2001. Nice scouting.

Blaze catcher Taylor Teagarden (.367/.558/.667, 13 walks and six strikeouts in 30 at-bats) and outfielder Brandon Boggs (.303/.477/.576) are raking.

Clinton righthander Omar Poveda and lefthander Glenn Swanson are each 2-0, 1.64 in two starts. Poveda has scattered six hits and three walks in 11 innings while fanning nine, while Swanson has allowed seven hits and a walk in 11 frames, striking out eight. Southpaw Broc Coffman has given up one run on eight hits and two walks in 10 innings, striking out 11, and a couple undrafted lefthanders signed last summer are dealing out of the bullpen. Tim Gudex has punched out 11 hitters in seven scoreless frames, permitting three hits and a walk, and Jared Locke has fired four hitless innings, walking one and fanning four.

Reliever Nate Fogle retired.

Outfielder Grant Gerrard has been the club’s best hitter, putting together a .375/.462/.531 line with three stolen bases in 32 at-bats, but just as encouraging has been third baseman Johnny Whittleman’s start. He’s hitting .310/.459/.414 in 29 official trips after a disappointing 2006 season with the LumberKings.

Oklahoma infielder Tug Hulett’s father, ex-big leaguer Tim Hulett, has been hired to manage Short-Season A Spokane. Hulett replaces Andy Fox, whom the Marlins added to their big league coaching staff in March. Former big league pitcher Carlos Pulido will serve as Spokane’s pitching coach.

The Rangers have signed 29-year-old lefthander Onan Masaoka, who appeared in the big leagues with the Dodgers in 1999 and 2000. He’ll get into game shape in extended spring training.

The Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League signed catcher Jason Torres. The Lincoln SaltDogs of the independent American Association released righthander Randy Truselo.

Truselo was the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2000, which illustrates part of the point of this report. There will be premium draft picks who never make it, and 17th-rounders who could end up winning an American League Player of the Week Award in the first month of their second big league season. There are players named in this report who could become household names with other organizations.

The idea for the Rangers, as with any other organization, is that some of these players either turn into integral parts of a Texas playoff team, or become key chips in trades that allow the club to add veterans that fit that description.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

1 Comment

Would someone please explain to Mr. Newberg that the Rangers farm system is really in sorry shape right now. You would think that after reading this they were as good as the farm systems for one of three teams in Southern California. Other than Eric Hurley and Frank Francisco, who in this report will ever have a serious impact the ML level for the Rangers. Most were cast off by other teams. Botts has already cast off by the Rangers

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