First off, I want to give a quick plug to where I get the majority of the information that will be in this post. There is no way that I’d be able to keep track of the Rangers draft as well as our minor league prospects if it weren’t for the Newberg Report. If you consider yourself a die-hard or even slightly serious Rangers fan, I would highly suggest signing your e-mail up for these daily reports. You’ll get updates from the minor leagues as well as some Ranger insights from Jamey Newberg. Jamey is the ultimate Rangers homer as well and he will find reasons to try to keep you positive about the club.
Anyways onto the reasons for this post. There has been a lot of news from the Rangers since my last post, some of which made me feel like I did a nice solid jinx on the whole team.
An hour or two after my last post, the Rangers extended the contract of skipper Ron Washington. So I thought, “Hey, I finally stop being lazy and write a post and then we get some great news out of Arlington, go me!” Well, that thought lasted all of five minutes because in the very same press conference the team announced that Josh Hamilton will need surgery on what has been officially diagnosed as a sports hernia, and then announced that Brandon McCarthy is heading to the DL yet again, this time with a stress fracture in his throwing shoulder. If that news wasn’t enough, I then proceeded to watch the Rangers drop two games in a row.
Yeah, go me right?
Thankfully though, the Rangers snapped out of their two game skid behind a gem from Kevin Millwood, who went 7.2 giving up only 5 hits and 0 runs. He may have only stuck out one, but he also did not walk anybody. You can’t ask for much more out of your ace than that, especially when your struggling offense can only get you a single run the entire game.
Darren O’Day and C.J. Wilson followed to close out the game, giving O’Day his 6th hold and C.J. his 6th save. You’ll notice there is no mention of Frankie Fransico who is still “day-to-day” and was unavailable for the entire Toronto series. The Rangers have seemed hopeful he won’t need another DL stint; however, considering he has been unavailable for quite a while now it isn’t too positive though to say the least.
So with that win, I fell safe enough to come out of blog hiding and hoping that I don’t further jinx this team in their upcoming series with the L.A. Dodgers who currently hold the best record in baseball.
Keyword = hoping.
The majority of Rangers news though has been off the field as they have been quite busy with the draft, a big minor league promotion and making a rather interesting free agent signing. While it is hard to get too overly excited about draft picks in baseball, as most of the time you don’t see them crack the big league roster for a few years, it does seem that the Rangers made two solid picks in their first two rounds, grabbing two top pitching prospects in Matt Purke and Tanner Scheppers.
Some info on Purke (via the Newberg Report):
As a sophomore at Klein (which also produced big leaguers David Murphy, Josh Barfield, and Chris George), Purke went 5-3, 1.43 in 49 innings, punching out 66 hitters as he scattered 38 hits and 16 walks. As a junior, he started the season firing two straight no-hitters, finishing the year with a 12-1, 0.37 record, fanning 147 in 76.2 innings and giving up 18 hits and 17 walks. As a senior, he posted a 4-2, 1.18 mark, setting 91 hitters down on strikes in 47.1 innings while permitting only 18 hits and seven walks. The reason for the relatively low inning count in 2009, according to Purke, was not any physical issue but instead the result of a number of Bearcat games getting rained out early in the spring. Good.
Purke has extensive experience on a big stage, having pitched for Team USA during the summers preceding his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He made six appearances in those three seasons (1-1, 3.68), striking out 27 and issuing six walks in 22 innings, including a complete-game, four-hit shutout over Mexico last summer (11 strikeouts, no walks). He also pitched a scoreless inning last summer in the Aflac All-American Game at Dodger Stadium. Purke has been exposed to a high level of competition and succeeded, and the Rangers love his makeup and competitiveness.
And some info on Scheppers:
Scheppers’s overpowering fastball, which sits in the mid-90s and touches 98 with life (reportedly lighting the gun up once at 101 in his final Saints start before the draft), was considered second only to Strasburg in this year’s draft class. He mixes in a power curve and a change, and is mechanically sound (perhaps more so than Strasburg). A former shortstop who didn’t begin pitching until his high school senior season (registering 93 on the radar gun and showing enough to prompt Baltimore to use its 29th-round draft pick on him in 2005), he’s athletic with a classic pitcher’s build.
In his breakout junior year at Fresno State in 2008, Scheppers went 8-2, 2.93 with a save in 11 starts and one relief appearance, permitting 54 hits (.202 opponents’ average) and 34 walks in 70.2 innings while setting 109 down on strikes. Four hitters took him deep.
Color me excited. Considering the amount of solid, young arms we already have in the farm, adding these two would be simply amazing.
Now the big question in the MLB draft is always, “well can you sign these guys?” Unlike the NFL or NBA draft, the kids you end up signing there, while they come with a hefty price tag at times, will end up on your pro roster more or less immediately. It is a much quicker return on your money than baseball, in which you can pay millions and then possibly see your pick never make it out of the minors. A lot of teams aren’t willing to pony up the $4-6 million that some of these kids end up asking for and that is the reason why.
However, you can say what you want about the Rangers not being willing to spend big on free agents as of late, but John Daniels and Nolan Ryan have made it abundantly clear that if they are going to spend, they will be more willing to do it in a draft. Just take a look at the Justin Smoak situation from last season. Many teams passed on him simply because they didn’t want to spend the money to sign him and he ended up falling square into the Rangers’ lap. While it took a while for the deal to get done, the Rangers did indeed get it done, and now Smoak is making huge noise in AA right now. “Steal” doesn’t even begin describe this situation.
So the Rangers once again found themselves in the spot of being able to select two players whom people are too scared to try and sign. Purke scared teams off because of the money he wanted to command in order for him to forgo college and Scheppers because of an injury to his arm he suffered last year. And so far, news is nothing but positive in the signablity of these guys. While it may go down to the wire, there is little doubt from all that I’ve been reading that the Rangers will be able to close the deal and buff up their already top-ranked farm system.
Needless to say the future looks even brighter.
Also, one final quick-hit on the draft, the Rangers took Ruben Sierra as one of their final picks…yes that would be the son of former Rangers’ all-star RF Ruben Sierra. I grew up watching his dad, so that was surreal to see to say the least.
Following along with draft news, the Rangers have promoted their first round draft pick in 2007, P Blake Beavan, to AA Frisco. Beavan has spent this past season in High-A Bakersfield, and has put together what seems to be a pretty solid season. Nearly every start he had this year, he was listed as one of the stars in the Newberg Farm report.
This is great news for the Rangers on several counts. First off, he will join the first round pick of 2008, Justin Smoak in AA, so it seems the Rangers scouts are indeed doing a solid job as these two haven’t been gigantic busts. Second, there were huge concerns with Beavan’s mechanics as he entered the Rangers’ farm system. He struggled a bit last year with these changes; however, he has bounced back quite quickly it seems with the promotion. Finally, it is great news for the future of the rotation. While nothing is set in stone yet, if Beavan continues this progress, we could very well see a rotation containing very solid young arms. How does a rotation of Feldman, Harrison, Holland, Feliz, and Beavan sound in say 2011 or 2012?
The Rangers also added another arm to their minor league system…Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. While I am completely ready to file this in the “wtf are you doing Texas?” category, I can’t say the move is completely insane. First off, this isn’t a 40-man signing, so we aren’t having to get rid of anyone as of yet. Secondly, what is it going to hurt the Rangers if he fizzles out in AAA? If he happens to bring back a little bit of his old magic back, it would definitely be a huge payoff for the Rangers down the stretch this season.
Although it still concerns me slightly that the Rangers don’t even know his exact age. I’m not even kidding on this, I’ve been hearing reports on the radio the past couple days saying he “may be between 39-44 years old.”
I’d like to close with some Chris Davis/Justin Smoak talk once again, as it seems that the rumors are picking up steam, even in the world of fantasy baseball:
Justin Smoak, Tex, 1B – While Smoak currently resides on the seven-day disabled list (oblique) for Double-A Frisco, I think he’s a pertinent topic in this forum, nonetheless. Rangers first baseman Chris Davis(notes) has managed to cloud every memory of his dynamic ’08 debut in a feverish desire to provide air conditioning for the fans in attendance at Rangers games – his 88 strikeouts puts him on a season pace of 255, which would shatter the major league record set a year ago by Mark Reynolds(notes) (205). Davis also has the second-lowest BB/K ratio in the league (0.14), is hitting at the Mendoza Line (.202) and has gone homerless in his past 12 games. This brings us back to Smoak, a former high school teammate of Matt Wieters(notes) who was Texas’ top draft choice a year ago. Baseball America draws comparisons with Mark Teixeira(notes) because he’s a switch hitter with a nice blend of power and patience. Speaking of Baseball America, one of their analysts, Jim Callis, recently had this to say about the possibility of Smoak seeing time in Arlington this season: “If you’d have asked me this at the beginning of the year as a hypothetical question, I’d have said it wouldn’t matter because there was no reason not to let Davis work through his struggles, and no reason to rush Smoak. But with the Rangers contending, they’re going to have to look seriously at calling up Smoak if things don’t change by the All-Star break. Smoak is tough enough to handle the promotion, and while ideally you’d like to give him more minor league ABs, the Rangers can’t take a sub-.700 OPS at first base when they’re trying to win.” The 22-year-old Smoak would have immediate cachet in mixed leagues if/when he arrives in Texas.
Yes, Davis is still having some issues, but I still just can’t see this having too much of a chance right now. Ironically, Davis reached base every single AB and did not strike out, and actually doubled in the game. He is far from tearing up the league, but these short bursts of “hey, he isn’t completely screwing up now!” is going to keep him on the MLB roster. Moving Smoak up would be an act of desperation more than anything, and even if it looks as if Davis shouldn’t be on the MLB roster, he will get moved down to AAA to work and Blalock or Jones will likely take his spot, and possibly have someone like Max Ramirez called up, not Smoak. I can’t see Smoak making a crack at the Rangers roster until next season at the earliest.
Final Note: Yeah, I know I lied, but as I was finishing this post, I saw the Rangers have signed one of their draft picks. Ruben Sierra is now the first of the Rangers 2009 draft class to be signed, sealed and delivered. Hopefully, the rest of our signings will be this easy!