Harrison breaking from the pack.
The moment that
stuck out for me last night as we recorded the latest edition of Rangers
Podcast in Arlington was when our guest Eric Nadel recounted something Fergie
Jenkins told him in Pompano Beach in 1979, Nadel’s first spring with the
Rangers. It went something like this: “All
this stuff you’re seeing in these spring training games? Ignore it.
It’s spring training.”
It’s good advice, but when the results belong to players clearly
competing for a job, they probably can’t be discounted completely.
In other words, when you view the work put in so far by Matt
Harrison (outstanding), Brandon McCarthy (inconsistent), and Derek Holland
(sputtering), the three primary candidates for the number five spot in the rotation,
it’s hard not to view Harrison as the leader at this point. There’s nearly a month to go, and things can
change, but Harrison is off to an encouraging start.
And this isn’t just about a couple innings of work. Harrison came to camp 30 pounds more fit, fully
recovered from thoracic outlet syndrome, toting an extra three ticks on the
radar gun (now touching 97). As Nadel
points out in the Podcast, results aren’t as important in a competition like
this one as consistency, stuff, command, and efficiency, and right now Harrison
appears to be ahead of McCarthy and Holland in all four categories.
Josh Hamilton had two singles in three trips yesterday, his
first game action of camp, and made two uneventful plays in left field.
Tanner Scheppers wowed onlookers on Thursday pumping upper-90s
heat in a swift, perfect seven-pitch inning against the Royals, keeping his power
curve in his pocket. He unleashed the
curve in a “B” game yesterday, throwing three of them, all for strikes, two of
them going for strike three.
The Scheppers fastball gets lots of attention (ranked by Baseball America
among the top five in minor league baseball), but BA
also says that, in a system with a number of plus curves (Martin Perez, Danny
Gutierrez, Jake Brigham), it’s Scheppers whose bender is the best.
also projects Scheppers to be the Rangers closer in 2013. Don’t bet against him figuring in somewhere
near the top of the rotation instead.
Lots more from BA‘s Prospect Handbook –
here’s the publication’s top 30 Rangers prospects:
6. Kasey Kiker,
7. Robbie Ross,
10. Wilmer Font,
11. Max Ramirez,
12. Joe Wieland,
14. Engel Beltre,
15. Leury Garcia,
17. Blake Beavan,
20. Omar Poveda,
21. Michael Main,
23. Pedro Strop,
24. Neil Ramirez,
25. Jake Brigham,
26. Tomas Telis,
28. Craig Gentry,
29. Andrew Doyle,
assessment of the organization’s best tools:
Best Hitter for Average Justin
Best Power Hitter Justin
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Justin
Fastest Baserunner Leury
Best Athlete Greg
Golson (published, obviously, before he was traded to the Yankees)
Best Fastball Neftali
Best Curveball Tanner
Best Slider Robbie
Best Changeup Kasey
Best Control Blake
Best Defensive Catcher Leonel
De Los Santos
Best Defensive Infielder Leury
Best Infield Arm Leury
Best Defensive Outfielder Craig
Best Outfield Arm Greg
It’s interesting how Perez, considered by most experts to be
one of the two best lefthander prospects in baseball, isn’t even listed atop
any of the “best pitch” categories. The depth
of this standout system is unquestionably on the mound.
projected 2013 lineup:
Teagarden (same as last year’s 2012 projection)
First Base Justin
Second Base Ian
Third Base Michael
Left Field Josh
Hamilton (last year: Julio Borbon)
Center Field Julio
Borbon (last year: Engel Beltre)
Right Field Nelson
Cruz (last year: Hamilton)
Designated Hitter Chris
No. 1 Starter Neftali
No. 2 Starter Martin
Perez (last year: Derek Holland)
No. 3 Starter Derek
Holland (last year: Perez)
No. 4 Starter Scott
Feldman (last year: Michael Main)
No. 5 Starter Tommy
Hunter (last year: Matt Harrison)
Scheppers (last year: Blake Beavan)
After several years of multiple changes in the projected
lineup, there’s some stability now in terms of how the position players project
three years down the road.
ranks 88 Rangers prospects position by position, and while I won’t run all of
those down (I’d encourage you to buy the book, whose Rangers chapter was
written by Aaron Fitt), I’ll tell you for example that, after the left-handed
starters who show up in the top 30 (Perez at 3, Kiker at 6, Ross at 7, Kirkman
at 16), BA
ranks further southpaw starters this way: Robbie Erlin, Chad Bell, Richard
Bleier, Tim Murphy, Paul Strong, and Edwin Escobar.
According to BA, righthander Matt
Nevarez is the number 15 prospect and infielder Jose Vallejo is not among the
top 30 in the Astros system, which is ranked last overall among the 30
Neither catcher Manny Pina nor outfielder Tim Smith is among
Kansas City’s top 30 prospects. Gutierrez,
obtained by Texas for those two, is the number nine Rangers prospect, though
he’ll start the season under a 50-game league suspension after testing positive
for a prescribed ADHD medication called Adderall that he didn’t obtain a
therapeutic use exemption for in advance.
The Royals are ranked 17th overall, while the Rangers are number two.
Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was eligible but not ranked
among the Phillies’ top 30 prospects.
Righthander Thomas Diamond is not listed among the Cubs’ top
Righthander Graham Stoneburner, the younger brother of
Rangers minor league infielder Davis Stoneburner, is the Yankees’ number 21
prospect. Not sure where Golson would
have fit; he was still with Texas at the time the book was printed, and not
among the top 30 Rangers.
revealed yesterday that the 17-year-old Profar, who has yet to play a
professional inning, got Top 100 Prospect votes on three of the four ballots (each
of which included 150 players) though he failed to crack the overall top
100. He was number 74 on one voter’s ballot. Ross was also listed on three ballots,
getting a high vote of number 96. Font
was number 57 on one voter’s ballot – and not listed among the top 150 on the
other three. Also listed on one ballot: Kiker
(number 112) and Moreland (130).
Smoak got treatment for his sort left hip flexor yesterday
and hopes to play today.
Hank Blalock is back in Port Charlotte, where he first made
noise a decade ago as an uber-prospect on the verge of becoming a perennial contender
for batting titles. The 29-year-old has signed
a minor league deal with Tampa Bay for $925,000, with an extra $350,000 based on
plate appearance incentives. Those bonuses
may be hard to come by unless Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria gets hurt, or unless
Blalock is able to take at-bats away from Pat Burrell.
While it’s not confirmed, there’s speculation that Blalock
has an out clause if he’s not added to the active Rays roster at some point
late in camp. Makes sense.
to listen to Kevin Goldstein’s Monday morning segment with Ben & Skin on
ESPN Radio. The 11-minute topic: Why Goldstein
doesn’t think Elvis Andrus was very good in 2009. There’s a little Smoak talk in there as
well. Good stuff.
I’ll shoot you an email once Ted Price gets last night’s
Podcast episode uploaded.
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(c) Jamey Newberg