Minors preview: Frisco Roughriders (AA)
Five players to watch:Martin Perez: The perfect example of a pitching prodigy, Perez combines top notch physical talent with a Type A personality and excellent pitching acumen. He just turned 19 and already has a Double-A cameo under his belt. Martin is simply too young and important for the Rangers to allow themselves to overextend him into a major league role this year, but he is one of the most important players in the organization, including major leaguers, and his year will be one of the most talked about in baseball among minor league observers.
Alexi Ogando: He is the most mysterious top prospect in an organization with several. The Rangers selected him from Oakland in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft and converted him from an angular outfielder to a relief pitcher. He has not pitched an official inning in the U.S., nor has he played any level of full season ball even as a position player, but he begins this season two levels - and maybe only a few months - away from the majors. Ogando has mid-upper 90s velocity, solid movement on his fastball, and much better secondary offerings than most realized. His offspeed pitches and command have been inconsistent this spring, but his promise as a high octane reliever is obvious. Texas will apparently start him in the rotation, using him in shorts stints, but allowing him extra innings to make up for some lost time against quality competition. I may be overreaching by calling him a potential impact option for the back end of the pen, but indications are that time and consistency are all that hold him back.
Tanner Scheppers: He had not pitched for long as an amateur and he has yet to throw a pitch in a regular-season game, so while there is injury risk attached, Scheppers is a fresh, explosive arm. Texas has not made a secret of hopes that he could be a player in the bullpen later this season. To that end, they will use Scheppers sparingly early to conserve innings. Though the club sees him as a starter beyond this season, he apparently will be used in regular intervals out of the pen early on. To summarize, Ogando: long term reliever, short term starter; Scheppers: long term starter, short term reliever - both with the goal of preparing them for use in the pen as quickly as possible. Scheppers’ stuff is absolutely electric; he and Perez are two terrific reasons to make the trek to Frisco early this season.
Marcus Lemon: Possibly the most divisive talent in the system, Lemon began 2009 on fire but then struggled to a .262/.327/.333 final line as a 20/21 year old in Double-A. He has an advanced approach at the plate, but he hasn’t been strong enough to take advantage of that. He is filling out his frame, so there is hope for an offensive jump that could vault him to the top of the heap among full season middle infield prospects in the organization. Scouts don’t love Lemon’s defense, as he is limited by less than top end physical attributes. Still just 21, he will still be young for this level, but he is only two steps away from the majors and could give Texas a viable offensively oriented utility type, an area in which the Angels have specialized and the Rangers have struggled.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.