August 2009

My bad.

My
bad, times two:

 

1.
I wrote three days ago that Julio Borbon would probably go back to AAA once
Nelson Cruz was ready to return to the active roster.  Umm, no.

 

2.
I am terrible at watching Jason Jennings pitch. 
Not since 2007 Jamey Wright have I had a more difficult time watching a
Rangers pitcher than I’ve had watching Jennings
the last three months.  I get that he’s a
warrior, but I can’t do it any more.  The
oversimplified book: lay off the breaking ball diving out of the zone, make him
throw strikes, and crush those.  Good
grief, Jason Grilli, get your rehab work in at Frisco and come back.  Jennings
can’t be given the ball in close games.

 

There
are two players on this roster I just can’t watch any more, and I can’t even
bring myself to mention the second one. 

 

Every
contending team in baseball is going to lose a bunch of games over the next six
weeks, and tonight’s was just one of those for Texas. 

 

But
that’s a really, really tough loss.

 

Matt Purke does not sign.

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One game.

 

One game is how far up Texas
is on Boston in
the Wild Card standings.

 

One game is how much Ron Washington is over .500 as a big
league manager, for the first time.

 

One game is what Kevin Richardson’s big league career is now
comprised of, and it was a heck of a night. 
Catching Tommy Hunter for the ninth time in his career (including three
times in Oklahoma City in 2008 and five times as a RedHawk in 2009), he squeezed
the 27th out and met Frankie Francisco on the mound to set off a
round of daps and chest bumps, which has to be what any minor league catcher
dreams of doing when he gets to The Show. 

 

The 28-year-old also contributed two hits, the first of
which greeted Twins reliever Bobby Keppel as he entered the game and the second
of which greeted Matt Guerrier as he came into the contest.  Richardson
was 1 for 5 lifetime off Keppel dating back to last year, when the two teed it
up in the Pacific Coast League several times. 
His one hit came last July 7 (a night on which Richardson caught Hunter,
incidentally), a line drive single to center field, not unlike the ball he hit off
Keppel tonight, a ball that ended up relayed in the dugout for safe keeping.

 

One game is what 19-year-old lefthander Matt Purke has yet
to play professionally, and it will now be at least two years before that happens.  And that saddens me.  I don’t know exactly what Texas offered or exactly what Purke’s family
wanted, but you can bet the kid just left more than $3 million on the table.  Several reports suggest it was $4
million.   

 

And he did it on a night when Richardson, 10 years older and never drafted,
contributed to a major league win, eight years into a pro career in which he
has probably earned something like two percent of the amount that Purke had to
have turned down tonight.

 

I’ll restate that.

 

I bet the amount of money the high school pitcher Matt Purke
refused tonight was close to 50 times more than the total amount of money that big league baseball player Kevin Richardson
has earned in his eight years in pro ball.

 

That’s sad. 

 

And an absolutely crazy decision by the player, as far as I’m
concerned.  The odds of Purke increasing
his draft value over the next two years at TCU are far outweighed by the odds
of him seeing his draft value decrease, for any number of reasons. 

 

So Purke loses something like $4 million, which he could recoup,
or not, in a couple years.  The Rangers
lose the rights to sign the 14th player selected in June, but will
get the 15th pick next summer (no player chosen ahead of Purke
failed to sign by tonight’s deadline, other than Kansas City’s Aaron Crow, to
whom the deadline does not apply) in addition to whatever pick Texas ends up
with due to its 2009 finish – which means the compensatory pick for Purke will end
up being the better of the Rangers’ two first-round picks in 2010 (though they could
forfeit the later one by virtue of a winter signing of a Type A free agent
offered arbitration by his 2009 club).  If
Marlon Byrd goes elsewhere, that probably means an extra supplemental first-rounder
for the Rangers as well.

 

But whatever.  June
2010 is a thousand years away.  Tomorrow,
Matt Purke will walk into an orientation session at TCU while Kevin Richardson,
a warrior who has grinded for eight years in
spite of
the money, suits up in a big league clubhouse. 

 

I’m going to put Purke out of my mind for now, until he toes
the hill against the University of Texas in the spring and then until pick 14A
comes up for Texas in June and presents the Rangers with an opportunity to take
another blue-chip talent with greater aspirations to play pro ball for an
organization that should be in consistent contention by time he’s ready for the
big leagues.

 

Solid win tonight, against a good team needing victories itself
and on a night when a number of our pitchers were far from their sharpest.  I doubt anyone in that clubhouse knows who Purke
is, including Richardson, who, if given the choice between going back to find $4
million on the table at age 18 and the Gonzaga-Pulaski-Clinton-Spokane-Clinton-Frisco-Oklahoma
City route that has taken him to this night in Arlington, wouldn’t even think
twice, I’m guessing. 

 

Richardson
sets the example for an organization full of kids fighting to realize a dream,
no matter whether they arrived as a first-rounder or a free agent, an instant
millionaire or the grateful recipient of a signing bonus that amounted to a plane
ticket to Surprise.  His persistence, and
the big league reward he’s earned for it, should resonate throughout this deep,
deep system of ballplayers with aspirations of their own.

 

Best wishes to Matt Purke, whenever it is that I think about
him next.  It won’t be Tuesday night,
when I’m at Rangers Ballpark to take in former 30th-rounder Scott
Feldman, who has two fewer wins this year than the big league leader, against former
13th-rounder Carl Pavano, who has made nearly $50 million playing
baseball.

 

Meanwhile, Purke will be getting settled in his dorm room
and making plans to hit West Berry
Street sometime this week to buy a Horned Frogs
hoodie, some purple sanitary socks, and an Economics 101 textbook.

 

 

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Business: Purke.

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It’s a secondary story right now – a massive (and not
unwelcome) departure from what we’ve been used to around here – but the
negotiating period for the 2009 draft closes tonight at 11 p.m. Central in most
cases (the Rangers’ supplemental first-rounder, Tanner Scheppers, being a key
exception). 

 

There has been a methodical series of optimistic reports
since Draft Day regarding the Rangers’ chances of signing top pick Matt Purke,
the lefthander from Spring Klein
High School, but last night
ESPN’s Keith Law ran this note:

 

“The Rangers are not optimistic
about signing first-rounder Matt Purke, who will probably head to TCU and
reenter the draft in 2011 as a draft-eligible sophomore.  The two sides are
still more than a million dollars apart.”

 

Now, there are still plenty of reasons to believe that
this will get done, in much the same vein as last year’s 11th-hour
deal with first-rounder Justin Smoak that had hit reported snags in the final
days. 

 

One, Purke is advised by SSG (Select Sports Group), a
Houston-based agency owned in part by Nolan Ryan’s business partner Don
Sanders. 

 

Two, Purke reportedly held off from attending freshman
orientation at TCU yesterday, ensuring that he wouldn’t shut talks with the
Rangers down (reporting to college would extinguish his eligibility to sign) -
though orientation evidently continues today, and Purke is in town.
 

 

Three, part of the reason Purke has been in town is so
that he could submit to a club physical over the weekend.  Purke (who reportedly
met with Ryan) passed his physical, getting that step out of the way as the two
sides go into today’s effort to finalize a deal. 

 

The bigger, more immediate story tonight is Tommy
Hunter-Francisco Liriano, of course, as Texas
comes off a series with Boston that was one pitch away from a Rangers
sweep and nonetheless ended with the Rangers atop the Wild Card standings, but
the Purke situation is big.  Consider this two-month period in
2007:

 

May 20, 2007:
Rangers sign Derek Holland for fourth-round money 50 weeks after taking him in
the 25th round – and one week before his negotiating window would
have slammed shut and he would have transferred from Wallace State-Hanceville
Community College to Arizona State
University

 

June 7, 2007:
Rangers draft Julio Borbon in supplemental first round (35th
overall)

 

July 31, 2007:
Rangers acquire Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz from Atlanta in the Mark
Teixeira trade

 

That was just two years ago.  The addition of those 18-,
19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds – a juco pick, a college pick, a Class A teenager,
and a rookie-level teenager – to the system were, in some cases, praised
immediately, and in others, mentioned nowhere but a local minor league
newsletter or two. 

 

That’s not to say those moves were overlooked, or
dismissed.  But even the most homeriffic, Rangers-centric among us couldn’t have
imagined that, as soon as Saturday night, August 15, 2009, that quartet would
key what some are calling this club’s biggest win in five
years.

 

The player development train doesn’t slow down, not even
for a pennant race, and today is a really big day on both
fronts.

 

We’ll keep you posted with Purke-related news flashes
today and tonight, as warranted.

 

 

===========================================================

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter  @newbergreport


 

Patriotic.

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Boston.

 

papi.jpg

 

Tea.

teagarden2.jpg

               
               
               
   Photo courtesy of the great Brad Newton

 

Party.

 

A.L. WILD CARD
STANDINGS

 

TEAM            
W       
L          GB

Texas  
           
66       
50        ?

Boston            
66       
51        0.5

Tampa
Bay      
63       
54        3.5

 

 

  

Are we there yet?

Imagine that you were flipping through Baseball
America
this past winter, or your Newberg Report Bound Edition, or any of
the other local or national rankings of the Rangers’ top 10 or 20 or 30 or 72
prospects. 

And someone suggested to you that four of the players right at or near the top
– Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Julio Borbon, none of whom
had reached AAA, let alone the big leagues — would factor in heavily, along
with Taylor Teagarden, in a crisp win over Boston in front of a sellout crowd
in Arlington, bringing Texas to within half a game of a playoff spot.  On August
15
.

Even the most optimistic among you: Would you have believed them?

What we saw last night was a big, heaping helping of evidence of why Baseball
Prospectus’s Joe Sheehan, like plenty of others, said this before the 2009
season got underway:

It’s very tempting to see the Rangers as a surprise team this year, what
with a confluence of young talent on the way and a front office that is turning
the team over to its youth.  [They'll] be my pick to win the West in 2010.
 And 2011.  And 2012.

Those four rookies — those five, really — each bring something to this team
that we haven’t seen in a long time, if ever. 

And they’re all bringing it — in the Webster’s sense and in the baseball sense
– at the same time. 

In 2009.

Just like they will in 2010.  And 2011.  And 2012.

We’ve been saying “Buckle up” in this space for a long time
now.  There’s a long, kick-*** road trip underway. 

Are we there yet?

No, kids, please stop asking.” “Know what?  We’re
getting real close.”

Borbon streak.

Remember when Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter
for Boston in
his 2007 rookie season, and was taken out of the rotation right
afterwards?  I do, and I remember thinking how sickening it was that there
was a team with so much depth that they could get a no-hitter out of a rookie
pitcher and treat it like a spot start.

Julio Borbon, despite tonight’s 4 for 5 with two RBI, four stolen bases,
and two runs, is probably going to go back to AAA once Nelson Cruz is healthy.

Probably.

He’s our Buchholz, in a way. 

And a much better baserunner.

This was one of those games when I imagine Derek Holland sat in the dugout, saw
his former Frisco teammates Borbon and Elvis Andrus do their thing back to back
all night, and turned to whoever was next to him and said: “Yep.”

And when Andrus and Borbon, backing Holland
up defensively, watched him do his thing into the seventh inning, and said to
themselves: “Yep.”

Texas 7, Boston
2 doesn’t exactly erase Friday night’s hurt, but it does bring the Rangers back
to within a half-game of the Red Sox in the Wild Card chase, with the rubber
match of the series tomorrow afternoon.

I haven’t had this good a time as a baseball fan since 1999. 

Boston 8, Texas 4.

The knock on Stephen McGee at A&M — once he finally got the chance to quarterback a real offense in his senior year — was that he had a tendency to hold the ball in the pocket a second too long.  Don’t have to go off the scouting reports any longer — that potentially devastating hole in his swing showed up with flying colors Thursday night, huh?  (We’re taking your calls.)  Ain’t got no problems until you have third-string quarterback problems.

Unless you have closer problems. 

That was a painful baseball loss, all things considered. 

The faintly silver lining is that it’s mid-August, and the fact that a ninth inning like that could hurt that bad this late in the season sure beats Stephen McGee water cooler talk to get through your sports day.

And of course, one loss is one loss, a lesson this resilient team has taught us many times in 2009.

There are developing concerns, at catcher and at two other spots in that bullpen, to go along with a few massive production issues offensively, but again, despite a fairly identifiable list of things about this club that are impaired, if not broken, there’s still a chance in front of a couple hopefully packed houses tonight and tomorrow to finish this series atop the AL Wild Card standings.  Don’t underappreciate that mid-August chance.

Let’s go, Derek.

Are you ready for some baseball?

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You know what rocks?  Watching
the first pre-season football game and thinking, after the third penalty in the
first quarter, “Get outta my way.” 

 

Love the NFL, but hate exhibition football games, and this
year it feels great that the pre-season isn’t a necessary bridge between
anything.  Boston’s
coming to town, a half-game up on Texas
in the Wild Card chase.  There’s some
crucial mid-August baseball to be played.

 

Scott Feldman allowed two of the first three Cleveland hitters to reach
base in the first inning yesterday, one more to reach in the second, and the
first two to get on safely in the third, and in the fourth, and in the
fifth.  He wasn’t at his sharpest, but he
got better as the situations got tougher, and held the Indians to nothing but a
first-inning score over six frames. 
MUTRIHOF is now 8-1, 3.50 on the road, and 12-4, 3.90 overall.  He’s tied for third in the league in wins
even though he didn’t start a game until April 25. 

 

Check this line out: 6.2 innings, one run, one hit, no walks,
13 strikeouts.  Who does it belong to?

 

Neftali Feliz as a big leaguer.  Yes: 20 outs, 13 on strikes (including a run
of seven straight, tying a Nolan Ryan franchise record).  Exactly 100 pitches, 71 for strikes – and not
all of the 96-101 variety.  He’s getting
his breaking ball over and his changeup, too. 
Seriously: no walks for the 21-year-old?

 

No walks?

 

We’ve been told that Feliz made strides this season in AAA in
holding runners.  Hard to know yet how
accurate those reports are.  The only baserunner
Feliz has had to work with was lumberjack Jack Cust, who reached on an infield error
in Feliz’s second appearance.  (The one
hit Feliz has allowed was an Adam Kennedy home run.)  As for Cust, he never got the chance to move
off of first base, as Feliz proceeded to strike Kurt Suzuki out on four pitches
and get Tommy Everidge to fly lazily to short right field on one pitch. 

 

Tell you what: If you don’t have a 2009 Bound Edition, I’ll
discount it the rest of this month to $20 – a buck for every spectacular big
league out Feliz has recorded.  How can
you resist this cover?

 

NR09_FrontCover.jpg

 

Think about how many years those two former Frisco teammates
in the foreground are going to be core members of the Rangers staff.  Yum.

 

Josh Hamilton: 4 for 4 yesterday, 9 for his last 10.  Since I suggested on August 7 that he was on
the verge of breaking out, he’s hitting .520/.556/.840 in 25 at-bats. 

 

On July 10, Hank Blalock drew a four-pitch, third-inning walk
off Seattle
starter Brandon Morrow, completing a six-hitter sequence that inning in which the
Rangers did this: walk, walk, home run, single, foulout, walk. 

 

It was Blalock’s last base on balls.  In his 117 at-bats since that date, he has 26
hits (.226 average), including a triple (and five doubles and five homers), 32 strikeouts,
three grounded-into-double-plays, and reached-on-error.  But not one single walk in those 28-plus games.

 

Chris Davis since his option to AAA: .321/.409/.542.  In 131 at-bats, he’s drawn 19 walks and gone
down on strikes 31 times, less frequently than Blalock.  (Yes, it’s AAA pitching, but I think it’s key
to recognize that Davis
is not only walking and hitting for average and slugging, but he’s making
contact at an acceptable rate.) 

 

In Justin Smoak’s 141 AAA at-bats, he’s drawn 22 walks and
fanned 31 times.  A three-game hit streak
(4 for 11 with three walks) has lifted his slash line to .220/.325/.340. 

 

The Rangers’ season-long 10-game road trip got off to an
ugly start – losing the first three games in Oakland
- but the club rebounded to go 5-5 on the trip by winning series in Los Angeles and Cleveland.  Solid.

 

Is Ian Kinsler ready to be activated?  That determination is up to the medical folks
and the front office, and minor league rehab statistics are just about
worthless, so don’t fret the nine hitless plate appearances, but it might be
worth noting (not from a health standpoint but for a glimpse at where his approach
is) that his seven outs (supplemented by one walk and one hit-by-pitch) looked
like this: strikeout, groundout to shortstop, popout to shortstop, and four
flyouts to center field.

 

Kinsler’s return to action this weekend is reportedly more
likely than Nelson Cruz’s.

 

ESPN’s Buster Olney predicts Texas
will place the prevailing claim on Oakland
righthander Justin Duchscherer when the A’s run him through trade waivers this
month.  In the 31-year-old’s August 9 AAA
rehab start, he threw four scoreless innings, scattering two singles and a walk
while fanning three and throwing 42 of 55 pitches (76 percent) for strikes.  Yesterday the A’s gave him an Arizona League
start, in which he blanked a squad of Giants teenagers on four singles and no
walks over five frames, striking out three. 
Whether traded or not, he’s reportedly been pronounced ready to return
to a big league mound.

 

Baseball America‘s
Jim Callis, asked in an ESPN chat session who he’d choose among Derek Holland, Boston’s Clay Buchholz, and Houston’s
Bud Norris, said Holland
was his guy.  Between Martin Perez and Boston’s Casey Kelly, Callis
chose Perez.

 

In a BA survey of
Texas League managers, Frisco skipper Mike Micucci was voted as the league’s
top manager prospect and outfielder Craig Gentry was ranked as the circuit’s
best baserunner.

 

According to Callis, the bonus that Texas
agreed this week to pay fifth-rounder Nick McBride, a high school righthander from
North Carolina,
was $325,000, nearly double MLB’s recommendation for that slot and the
second-highest fifth-round bonus paid in the league so far.  Twenty-four of 30 fifth-round picks have
signed.

 

The media won’t help you, but see if you can convince some
of your buddies that three days of watching the local sportscasts show highlights
of Wade Phillips’s catatonically bemused dumb-face and listening to the talk
shows discuss Dallas’s swing-and-miss tackles and blocks and pass “coverage” and
undisciplined everything is a stunningly bad choice, when they could instead watch
Josh Hamilton try to keep this tear going, and Derek Holland attempt to make it
two gems in a row and three of four, and Neftali Feliz take the home mound for
the first time.

 

Time to find out if the Rangers, who have won six of their
last seven series, can make it seven of eight, pitting Kevin Millwood against Boston’s
Jon Lester tonight, Derek Holland against Brad Penny on Saturday, and Dustin
Nippert against Junichi Tazawa on Sunday. 

 

If they succeed in doing so, the Rangers will hold down the American
League Wild Card spot going into four at home against Minnesota next week.

 

 

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Big Game Hunter.

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Want another piece of evidence that it’s a new day and age for
Rangers baseball?  The club’s number seven,
eight, and 10 starters in 2009 (Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, and Dustin Nippert)
have started the club’s last three games. 
In those starts, they’ve thrown 22.2 innings – 21.2 of which were
scoreless.  All told (including Nippert’s
five-run third on Tuesday), that trio struck out 23 hitters in those 22.2
innings, walked three, and allowed only 15 hits (13 singles and two
doubles).  They averaged 13 pitches per
inning (12 if you take out the bad Nippert inning), and threw 70 percent of
their pitches for strikes. 

 

Rare has been the season when Texas didn’t need well over 10 starters this
deep into the year.  Even rarer, I suspect,
has been a year in which the reinforcements have been this good.

 

Since Hunter joined the Rangers rotation for good on June 28,
he leads the American League with a 1.97 ERA (over eight starts).

 

Repeat: Since June 28,
Tommy Hunter leads the AL
in ERA.

 

The Rangers lead the American League with eight shutouts.  Are second in the league in team ERA (4.15).  Have issued the third-fewest walks (360).

 

On August 7, I wrote: “I’m getting less and less [worried]
about Josh Hamilton.  He’s been squaring
up for about a week now, even if his 5 for 20 stretch doesn’t leap off the
page.  He’s going the other way,
reminiscent of 2008, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up with an August
that looks more like last season’s Josh Hamilton than the version we’ve seen
this season.”

 

Two more doubles and a single for Hamilton last night – two of the hits going
to the opposite field – and he now sits at .359/.435/.538 for the month of August. 

 

Frame of reference?  Hamilton had only one
month in 2008 with as high a batting average (September’s .366), only one month
with as high an on-base percentage (September’s .443), and only two months with
as high a slug (April’s .604 and May’s .617). 

 

And another thing: Hamilton
has more walks this month (six) than strikeouts (five).  He’s never had a month like that before in
the big leagues.

 

Over the last five weeks, eight of 10 runners that Jason Jennings
has inherited have come around to score.

 

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Texas
and Tampa Bay have been among the most aggressive clubs
in terms of claiming players on revocable August waivers, mostly hitters in the
Rangers’ case.  To date, none of the
claims have been awarded, as the clubs floating the players have pulled each of
the players back. 

 

In a note that may or may not be related, ESPN’s Buster
Olney reports that the Mets pulled Gary Sheffield back a couple days ago after
he was claimed by an unidentified club.

 

Once a player is placed on August waivers and pulled back,
he cannot be traded for the duration of the season.

 

Ian Kinsler was hit by the third pitch of the game in his first
rehab effort for Frisco last night.  He
moved to second on a walk and to third on a walk, and scored on a double play
ground ball.  Kinsler walked in his
second trip.  He popped out to shortstop his
third time up, and flew out to center after that.  He played second base and made several plays
without incident before being lifted after the top of the seventh.  (Not a health issue.  Likely just a stamina concession, a ramp-up.)

 

Lefthander Martin Perez got the start in the game, making
his AA debut in a 10-9 RoughRiders loss that saw Frisco score five times in the
ninth.  It wasn’t pretty.  In what was his worst outing as a pro, Perez allowed
three runs in the first, one in the second, and three in the third before exiting
with two outs.  The 18-year-old permitted
eight hits (including one home run), a walk, and a wild pitch, fanning three.  Two Drillers baserunners stole second on his
watch.

 

It doesn’t change Perez’s blue-chippiness.  And the silver lining is that the Rangers -
for the first time, really – get the chance now to see how the mature teenager
responds to a little baseball adversity.

 

Brandon McCarthy’s Oklahoma
City rehab outing last night: three scoreless innings,
three singles, one walk, two strikeouts. 
Sixteen pitches per inning, 69 percent for strikes. 

 

The best Pacific Coast League fastball, according to league managers
in a Baseball America poll?  Neftali Feliz’s, of course.  The league’s best defensive first baseman:
Justin Smoak.

 

Kevin Youkilis will not appeal his five-game suspension by
the league for charging the mound against Detroit
and, as a result, will miss the entire weekend series with the Rangers in Arlington.

 

The Rangers signed North Carolina
high school righthander Nick McBride, the club’s fifth-round draft pick in June,
persuading him to forgo a scholarship to East Carolina
University.  Texas has now signed each of its first nine
picks with the exception of first-rounder Matt Purke, whose deadline to sign is
Monday, and supplemental first-rounder Tanner Scheppers, whose deadline will reportedly
be one week before next June’s draft.

 

Scheppers’s agent, Greg Genske, reportedly told clubs the 22-year-old,
who is working out in California,
would be auditioning for about a half dozen Japanese teams.

 

Yet one more way I’m not exactly like Nolan Ryan: In a July Dallas Morning News chat session, Ryan
said he threw a softball 309 feet in high school.  I threw a softball 295 feet my sophomore year
in college.

 

(Oh, and since about a dozen of you asked after the confusing
open to my Sunday report – no, I didn’t reinjure my shoulder.  I’ll be indebted if you’ll just join me in
praying for a spot of short-lived, heavy rains this Sunday morning [not enough
to endanger that afternoon's Rangers-Red Sox finale, of course].  If our concerted effort can make something
out of that puny 10 percent chance and we can get my league’s best-of-three championship
washed out, I’ll be able to play when it’s rescheduled.) 

 

(Thanks.)

 

Milwaukee
recalled outfielder Jason Bourgeois as part of its dramatic slew of roster
moves yesterday.  The 2000 Rangers
second-rounder debuted in the big leagues last year, getting three White Sox
at-bats.  Colorado purchased righthander Adam Eaton’s
contract from AAA Colorado Springs, where he’d gone 3-3, 2.67 in 10 starts and
two relief appearances.

 

San Diego
released righthander John Hudgins.  Florida signed righthander Esteban Yan and Baltimore signed
outfielder Freddy Guzman to AAA contracts. 
The Mets released righthander Brandon Knight so he could accept a deal
to play in Korea.

 

Hudgins, an early Newberg Report favorite, was the Rangers’
third-round pick in 2003, Grady Fuson’s second draft for the club.  Fuson, who had also used an Oakland pick on
the righthander three years earlier (when Hudgins was coming out of high school),
praised the Stanford ace from day one as a pitchability and command monster, a
smart pitcher whose modest low-90s radar gun readings worked because of his
mound savvy and his ability to pound the strike zone with all his pitches and
chew up innings. 

 

In his first full minor league season, Hudgins dashed
through the system, jumping from High A to AA to AAA and promptly looking like
he’d be a hit from that pitching-rich 2003 Rangers’ draft class, along with
John Danks and Wes Littleton (and 30th-rounder Scott Feldman, of
course).

 

Tommy Hunter arrived in 2007 with some similarities in his
profile.  Strike-thrower.  Plus makeup. 
Chance to come quickly.  Hunter
was the Rangers’ fifth pick that summer, but as a supplemental first-rounder in
a pitching-heavy crop that boasted Blake Beavan, Michael Main, and Neil Ramirez
as fellow round one picks. 

 

Hunter made the same progression that Hudgins did in his
first full season, moving from High A to AA to AAA, but Hunter did him one
better, getting to Arlington for three late-season starts before a return to
the farm to start the 2009 season. 
Hudgins never did get to the big leagues with Texas, running into arm trouble in 2005, his
second full season.  He was traded in May
2006 to San Diego
- where Fuson was part of the front office by that time – along with fellow
2003 draftee Vincent Sinisi, in exchange for Guzman, who coincidentally joins Hudgins
four paragraphs up, along with a minor league pitcher named Cesar Rojas.

 

Hunter one-upped Hudgins by reaching a fourth level in his
first pro season, and he’s more than one-upped him in his second.  Hudgins split the 2005 season between AA and
AAA, the same thing Hunter had done in 2009 before returning to Texas for two
stints, the second of which is now six and half weeks old and won’t end until
the Rangers season is over.  Whereas Hudgins
hit a ceiling with the Rangers (and now with the Padres), Hunter has already
made it clear that the optimistic upside that the franchise suggested he had on
Draft Day may have sold him short.

 

That dude is a pitcher.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Martin Perez to AA.

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46

 

Since May
28
, in my weekly column for MLB.com I have judged someone other than
Neftali Feliz to be the Rangers’ number one pitching prospect. 

 

Lefthander Martin Perez – the Jerry West of the Newberg
Report email banner – is three years younger than Feliz, but he’s about to make
the same move that Feliz made just one year ago.

 

According to a press release just issued by the Hickory
Crawdads, the Rangers are promoting Perez from the Low
A club to AA.  He’s on his way to Frisco,
skipping High A Bakersfield.  The youngest pitcher in
the South Atlantic League is about to become the youngest player in the Texas League

- by about two full years.

 

While Perez doesn’t flash Feliz’s radar gun readings, the
18-year-old’s complementary offerings are more polished (certainly at a similar
stage in development).  He takes a plus (mid-90s) fastball, plus curve, plus
change, and an advanced idea to the hill, evoking comparisons (frequent, if
unfair) to fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana.  Texas has carefully managed Perez’s
workload with Hickory this year, prompting one opposing manager to tell Baseball
America
last week (as Perez checked in at number 10 on BA‘s weekly
“Hot Sheet”): “I’m glad he’s on that pitch count, because he’s scary.
 That helps everyone out a lot.”

 

That manager will be extra-happy this morning.

 

In Perez’s last 10 Crawdads appearances, he’s 3-1 with a
1.35 ERA, posting 45 strikeouts and 12 walks in 40 innings, having allowed 35
hits (.230 opponents’ batting average; one home run).  Overall, he’s at
5-5, 2.31 in 14 starts and six relief appearances spanning 93.2 innings, with
these numbers: 82 hits (.236), three home runs, 33 walks, 105 strikeouts, 1.58
groundout-to-flyout rate.  It’s not all that different from Feliz’s Low A
line with Clinton last year: 6-3, 2.52 in 17 starts spanning 82 innings, 55
hits (.193), two home runs, 28 walks, 106 strikeouts, 1.64 G/F.  Feliz was
nearly as dominant in his 10 AA starts, and it won’t surprise me if Perez
competes at the AA level right away – even though, again, Feliz was 20 when he
arrived in Frisco, and Perez is just 18.

 

Back on July 10 (and several more times over the following
three weeks), I wrote this: “For [Roy]
Halladay, I’d give up Feliz or Smoak, but not both.  Derek Holland and
Martin Perez are untouchable, for me.”  Texas named Perez its Minor League Pitcher
of the Month for July yesterday, but today’s announcement is a much bigger
deal.

 

The RoughRiders are on the road – in Tulsa for three and NW Arkansas for three -
before returning to Frisco for series against the same two clubs from August
19-24.  If Perez (who pitched just one inning on Friday) stays on a
five-day schedule, he’ll start against the Drillers tomorrow night.

 

To assume that Perez will stay on the same developmental
path as Feliz and reach Arlington
in 2010 is probably a stretch given his age, but he’s taken big steps this year
and the organization has now taken one itself with the blue-chip
lefthander.  It won’t be too long before he’s wearing the cap and colors
that you see him in at the top of every Newberg Report email.

 

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