ESPN Dallas welcomes Brett Perryman to our team. Perryman, who follows the Rangers' minor league system and offers insight regularly with Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball (and contributed to the Dallas Morning News blog last season), will contribute blog entries about everything Rangers for ESPN Dallas. He'll have a particular emphasis on the minors. And that starts today. Here is Part 1 of his entry:
Rangers fans had the pleasure this past season of watching Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Julio Borbon begin to establish themselves as major leaguers. Most Rangers fans are also familiar with the names Justin Smoak and Martin Perez and have been made aware that they could be the next impact talents to join the big club. But who else from this still highly ranked farm system could impact the big league club this year, either in a big way or in a lesser role? Here are a few:
Tanner Scheppers, RHP -- Scheppers is already regarded as the organization’s fourth elite prospect (joining Feliz, Smoak and Perez) despite not having thrown a pitch for an affiliated team. He has two excellent pitches in his mid-upper 90s fastball and power curveball, but to reach his potential, even if his ultimate role is short relief, he has to improve his command and control of both pitches. He walked over four batters per nine innings at Fresno State and was wild in his short stint for non-affiliated St. Paul last spring. The tall righty was understandably up and down in just eleven relief innings in the Arizona Fall League after logging so few innings in the last two seasons, but his electric stuff turned heads. His ability could tempt the Rangers to give him a look in the big league bullpen as soon as this summer, and some believe that he could be a major league closer in short order. With a solid spring he is likely to start the season in Double-A Frisco’s rotation. One other factor could impact the Rangers’ handling of Scheppers: He slipped to Texas in the supplemental round of the 2009 draft only because of concerns from other clubs about the condition of his shoulder. If the Rangers have any doubt about whether his arm will hold up, they may look to get a return on their investment as quickly as possible.
Mitch Moreland, 1B/OF/DH -- A 17th-rounder in the 2007 draft, Moreland has made the transition from nonprospect to intriguing fringe prospect to possibly the second best position prospect in the entire organization in two seasons. He received a modest assignment to Low A Clinton for his first full season, a level below where the club typically sends its promising college players, but he put up a .324/.400/.536 line and hasn’t stopped hitting since. He managed to make up developmental ground last season, earning a quick promotion from High A to Double-A, so even though he will be 24 years old this season, he will open his third full season in Triple-A, which is right on course. Moreland offers little defensive value and still has to prove that he can handle an outfield corner, but he will provide a second near-ready middle-of-the-lineup caliber hitter in OKC, along with Smoak. His big left-handed bat makes him one of only a few promising upper-level offensive players in a system longer on positional tools than pure hitters. While his swing has held up so far, some question his ability to hit for plus power at the highest levels. He can answer some of those questions this season. Moreland, like Scheppers, is not on the 40-man roster, so if the club decides to make a move for one of them in the summer, there will be roster ramifications.
Craig Gentry, CF - Gentry is the one player on this list who has appeared for the Rangers and seems to be the most likely to at least appear for the club in 2010, given his useful skill set. His calling card is his excellent defense in centerfield, where he is strong in every aspect. He offers a game similar to recent signee Endy Chavez -- top-end defense, the ability to steal a base (he was 49-55 last year at Frisco), and a solid approach but limited upside at the plate. He may see his chances of appearing before September hinge somewhat on the health of Chavez and the higher-ceilinged Brandon Boggs. Gentry had by far his best professional season offensively in 2009 while repeating the Double-A level, putting up a .303/.378/.418 line that easily eclipsed his career-best numbers in all three slash totals and a 49/65 BB/SO ratio that also represented a big improvement over his previous best. If no additional personnel moves are made during camp, Gentry figures to have at least an outside shot at making the club out of spring training, since he offers the right package for a fifth outfielder. If that doesn’t work out, he will start in AAA and can do a lot for his standing in the organization by building on his 2009 season at the plate.