Texas Rangers: Robbie Erlin

Rangers Magazine: Steve Buechele

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
3:00
PM CT
The magic number is one…for the Frisco Roughriders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, to reach the Texas League playoffs. However, developmental magic continues to be produced by their manager, former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele.

PODCAST
Frisco RoughRiders coach Steve Buechele talks about prospects, the transition from High-A to Double-A and dealing with the dog days of baseball season in the minors and majors.

Listen Listen
“My primary focus is to make sure that they are playing the game the right way,” Buechele said when he was a recent guest on Rangers Magazine (Saturday 10-11 a.m.) on 103.3 FM ESPN. “Get them ready to play at the next level. We have a lot of young kids in this organization who are being pushed and challenged to play at a level that they maybe they shouldn’t be at age-wise. If I can pass along a kid up to Triple-A, the best thing I can pass along is a kid who plays the game the right way.”

Buechele, along with pitching coach Jeff Andrews, were able to “pass along” a couple of their pitchers earlier this season to the San Diego Padres in order to acquire reliever Mike Adams for the major league club. Adams pitched a scoreless relief inning in last night’s Rangers win against the Angels.

“The trades…part of you, when you lose a Robbie Erlin and a Joe Wieland all at one time, part of the trades you’re saying ‘gosh darnit, you just took 40 percent of my staff and these are the two guys we are leaning on,’ but the other half is that’s what we’re here for is to develop these young players and if they go in trades, they go in trades.”

In the interview, Buechele also talked about pitching prospect Robbie Ross, outfielder Mike Bianucci, third baseman Tommy Mendonca, outfielder Engel Beltre, the transition from High-A to Double-A and dealing with the dog days of baseball season in the minors and majors.

Follow Bryan Dolgin on Twitter @RangersRadioBD.

Keith Law on what the Rangers gave up

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
12:52
PM CT
ESPN.com's Keith Law liked the Rangers' trades, saying the club gave up "two solid pitching prospects" for Mike Adams, but added that both Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin were "unlikely to ever crack their major league rotation."

More of what Law had to say about the two Double-A prospects shipped to San Diego (they just changed dugouts last night as the RoughRiders were playing the San Antonio Missions, San Diego's affiliate):
Minor leaguer Robbie Erlin has shown himself to be more than just a little left-handed reliever by continuing to miss bats despite the lack of an above-average fastball. He'll touch 90-91 but pitches in the upper 80s, changing speeds and pounding the zone with a slow downer curveball and a hard but effective changeup. He's walked 12 batters all year in 20 appearances and 120 innings, and in nine of those appearances he didn't walk anyone. (And of the 125 left-handed batters he's faced, he's walked ONE.) The lack of size means he doesn't get downhill plane on his fastball, and he's been a pretty strong fly ball pitcher everywhere he's pitched, making him a terrible fit for Texas -- and a potentially great one for Petco, where deep fly balls go to die ignominious deaths over the warning track.

Meanwhile, Joe Wieland just threw a no-hitter for Double-A Frisco on Friday night and has seen his velocity increase to 89-94 this year, although he still lacks a plus secondary pitch that would give him top-of-the-rotation upside. Wieland, like Erlin, throws a ton of strikes, walking just four batters in 85⅔ innings in high-A (and only one in his past 11 starts there), and mixes in a hard, short-breaking slider, a similarly short curveball and an improved changeup, all usable but none above average or likely to be an out pitch for him. He's very aggressive, but like Erlin tends to give up fly balls.
You can read the whole entry here (insider access required).

Rangers Magazine: Frisco pitching

July, 24, 2011
7/24/11
1:30
PM CT

It’s a safe bet that young pitching would be part of any trade the Rangers make leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. On the recent edition of Rangers Magazine heard on 103.3 FM ESPN, I spoke to Jeff Andrews, who is the pitching coach for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. He certainly has noticed that his pitching staff is drawing the attention of scouts from other organizations.

PODCAST
Frisco RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews talks about his staff with Bryan Dolgin on Rangers Magazine.

Listen Listen
“They’ve been around a lot. Whether we are on the road or whether we are at home, it’s funny. You can look up [behind home plate] for four or five games and when we travel you see the same guys in the stands watching. It’s interesting,” Andrews said. “It’s not like they're watching just one guy or two guys. I’m sure their notebooks are full. They stay from first pitch to last.”

One of the pitchers who is likely drawing the attention of scouts is 20-year-old lefty Robbie Erlin. Andrews marveled about the makeup of this starting pitcher who made the jump from High-A Myrtle Beach to Frisco during this season.

“He’s pitched beyond his years, beyond his experience, with his mentality and with his composure and his strike ability with three pitches," Andrews said. "Having him every five days is a lot of fun. His side work is a lot of fun. He’s a sponge. He watches games intently. His stuff is not going to blow you away. He’s very polished for his age.”

Andrews is in his third season as a pitching coach in the Rangers system and his 26th as a minor league instructor. I’m told he is a guru when it comes to understanding and adjusting a pitcher’s mechanics.

During our Saturday morning conversation, Andrews also talked about 21-year-old right-handed starter Joe Wieland (who also made the jump from High-A to Frisco this season), 24-year-old right-handed reliever Justin Miller and 24-year-old right-handed reliever Tanner Scheppers. Check out the podcast of the interview.

Rangers Magazine is heard Saturday morning from 10-11 a.m. on 103.3 FM ESPN. Follow show host Bryan Dolgin on Twitter @RangersRadioBD.

Prospect Robbie Erlin heading to Frisco

May, 27, 2011
5/27/11
11:45
AM CT
Moves to be official for their next starts Sunday:

*Top prospect Robbie Erlin will be sent from Myrtle to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders.

* Justin Grimm will be sent from Hickory to Myrtle.

Rangers prospect update - Monday edition

May, 24, 2010
5/24/10
10:30
AM CT
RHP Pedro Strop, OKC - Strop has been overshadowed this spring by Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers, particularly since the pair joined him in the Redhawks bullpen, but Strop has made a legitimate claim for a bullpen spot. His season line is 18.2 IP, 13 H, 1 HR, 5 BB, 20 K with a strong GB tendency, and in his last five appearances he is nearly perfect at 9 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 8 K. He would still be third on my list if I am looking for an impact arm, but his stuff is electric, and he's currently pitching the best baseball of his career.

LHP Beau Jones, Frisco - The one piece of the Mark Teixeira trade return to not make a noticeable impact on the major league club, Jones has not lived up to his status as a supplemental first round pick by the Braves or his potential since entering the organization. He started this season in extended spring training, but since his activation this month he has seen Double-A success for the first time (8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 12 K, 1.13 ERA). Jones joins Zach Phillips and Ben Snyder as a potential left-handed middle relief option down the road.

RHP Jake Brigham, Bakersfield - Tabbed by observers during spring training as a likely breakout prospect in the Texas system, Brigham has not lived up to the hype. He hasn't been terrible (36:18 K:BB in 41.2 IP), particularly considering that he pitches in the California League, but previous breakout arms such as Derek Holland have shown that it is possible to have success in that league. Brigham had his worst start of the season Friday, allowing six earned on eight hits and four walks, striking out three in three innings.

LHP Robbie Erlin, Hickory - Erlin was one of the big “buzz” prospects in baseball last week after throwing five perfect innings in his first professional start. His encore was Sunday, and, while he didn’t match that level of dominance, he was still solid, lowering his season ERA to 0.30 and posting a typically impressive K:BB (6:0). Erlin is among the most dominating arms in the SAL and may - at age 19 - need to be promoted to see worthy competition.

LHP Robbie Ross, Hickory - After an excellent summer in Spokane, Ross entered 2010 already among the Rangers’ best pitching prospects. Another jump forward was expected by many, but he has seen the younger and less experienced Erlin trump his performance. That is not to say that Ross has been a disappointment, merely a bit inconsistent. One area where he has been consistent is in keeping the ball on the ground. Through nine starts (49.1 IP) his ground ball rate is 67%, and he has yet to allow a home run. His longest and best outing of the season came Saturday, when he completed seven innings and allowed just three hits and no walks.

RHP Joe Wieland, Hickory - Fourth straight solid start Friday: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 6 K
OF Miguel Velazquez, Hickory - Pace has slowed (six for his last 36), might need to reestablish himself to be promoted...or might just be bored
3B Tommy Mendonca, Bakersfield - One of the biggest disappointments in the organization, the 2nd rounder has been terrible across the board: .212/.271/.288, 7:41 BB:SO, 0 HR.
RHP Josh Lueke, Frisco - Promoted straight to AA after dominating the SAL, struggled a bit in his first game Sunday, allowing three hits (including a HR) and a walk in one inning

Prospect update: Friday edition

May, 21, 2010
5/21/10
10:30
AM CT
RHP Blake Beavan, Frisco - Beavan was at it again Thursday, completing eight innings and allowing just two runs on five hits and a walk. He has allowed just three runs in his last three starts, spanning 22 innings, and his WHIP is now south of one (0.92). The two statistical issues that only Beavan’s performance in Triple-A and the major leagues will answer are his relatively low strikeout totals (37 in 56.1 innings) and his middling ground ball rate. Together these beg the question: will his stuff be strong enough to induce outs at the highest level, despite high contact rates and an average percentage of fly balls?

RHP Alexi Ogando, OKC - Ogando threw three more nearly perfect innings (one hit) this week out of the Redhawks pen. In six Triple-A innings he’s allowed four hits and has posted a fine 8:0 K:BB. His combined season line: 21.2 IP, 8 H, 1 HR, 5 BB, 29 K, 1.25 ERA. The Rangers appear to be waiting for him to perfect his slider, but he will be in the majors before long.

OF Engel Beltre, Bakersfield - There are eleven prospects mentioned here today and one is a position player. Such is the state of the Texas system in 2010. It took him a while, but Beltre is now conquering High A. His five hit game Thursday night raises his season line to .295/.354/.418 and his May line to .351/.393/.494. He still sits at just two home runs and he hasn’t walked since May 9, so the full game still isn’t there on a consistent basis. Still, his line drive rate has jumped from 7% in April to 20% this month, and his ISOP is up 42 points. He seems to be figuring some things out.

LHP Robbie Erlin, Hickory - Erlin replaced Wilmer Font in the Hickory rotation Tuesday and celebrated by throwing five perfect innings and striking out nine. His overall numbers are surreal: 25.1 IP, 11 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 31 K, 0.36 ERA. That’s one run allowed on the season, a solo home run on April 23. Erlin has been written up several times since his breakout game, but Jason Parks’ scouting report still provides the best breakdown. He appears to be too advanced for the SAL, but since he is essentially making his professional debut (he threw just 4.1 innings in rookie ball last summer), he likely won’t throw a lot of innings late in the summer.

RHP Matt Thompson, Hickory - This guy is getting easier and easier to like as a prospect. He has walked eight batters in eight starts and struck out 52. He induces groundballs at a solid rate (58%). The only statistical knock is that he’s been hit fairly well, allowing a .272 average against and four home runs in 43.1 innings, though a .372 BABIP against helps explain the former. His curveball ranked third (behind Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez pitches) on Jamey Newberg’s recent list of top secondary pitches, and he does feature a solid fastball. Thompson was held back last season for short-season ball, rather than starting in Hickory, so the Rangers might consider jumping the 20-year-old to Bakersfield this summer.

RHP Neil Ramirez, Hickory - Mr. Inconsistency hit a major high point Thursday: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
RHP Tommy Hunter, OKC - Bit of a hiccup Thursday: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
RHP Wilmer Font, Bakersfield - Struggled mightily in his High A debut: 2 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 2 K
RHP Josh Lueke, Hickory - Toying with Low A: 16:1 this month, may be ready to jump to Frisco
RHP Tanner Scheppers, OKC - Six walks in 8 AAA innings but still showing dominant stuff
LHP Martin Perez, Frisco - Not controlling the strike zone, had possibly his worst start as a pro Wednesday: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 6 K

BP's Goldstein talks about Robbie Erlin

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
12:00
PM CT
Rangers left-handed pitching prospect Robbie Erlin's perfect pitching performance in five innings for Class A Hickory got Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein's attention. Here's what he wrote today about Erlin, who had nine strikeouts in five perfect innings.

From Goldstein's blog entry:

A third-round pick last June, the only knock against Erlin is his size, as at six-foot and 175 pounds he's a bit on the small side. Again, that's the only knock against him. It's hard to find a 19-year-old without a big weakness in his game, but Erlin sits at 90-92 with his fastball that features good movement, he'll flash a well above-average breaking ball, and even a surprisingly polished changeup for his age. Throw in clean arm action and the ability to pound the strike zone and you have a formula for domination Low-A hitters, and Erlin did just that in his first start of the year after starting off in the bullpen (and allowing one run in 20 1/3 innings) in order to monitor his workload.

Rangers prospect update: Friday edition

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
10:30
AM CT
RHP Alexi Ogando, OKC - Ogando has made two Triple-A appearances this week following his promotion from Frisco. He picked up the save Tuesday with a perfect ninth inning and was asked to throw two innings in a 14-inning marathon Thursday. His aggregate line: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. The five strikeouts without a walk are obviously encouraging, but there is a belief that he needs to work on his delivery for his off-speed pitches. Whether more advanced hitters hit him significantly harder than Texas Leaguers could provide a clue on his progress in that regard.

OF Engel Beltre, Bakersfield - Beltre’s harmonic season continues. With eight hits over the last four days, his May line is an impressive .333/.397/.471. The power is not consistent (.398 SLGfor the season in a good hitting environment), but he’s making strides, and, most encouraging, his effort to mature as a hitter is much more evident than in previous seasons.

RHP Guillermo Moscoso, OKC - Moscoso was strong Wednesday, making his longest and best start of the season: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 9 K. The four walks were the only blemish, and though he has been solid at the Triple-A level, he has regressed from a 60:15 BB:SO ratio there last season to 33:16 this spring. He is a nice insurance policy, particularly since he is viable as a starter and reliever, but with the addition of Ogando and Tanner Scheppers to the Redhawks staff, he has work to do in order to maintain his spot in the pecking order.

LHP Robbie Ross, LHP Robbie Erlin, RHP Braden Tullis, Hickory - These three recent draftees have been among the Rangers’ most promising arms so far this season, and they combined for one of the most impressive performances in baseball Monday. In a nine inning shutout, they struck out ten and walked none. They allowed four hits, but just five balls left the infield all day, and 13 of their 16 outs in play were groundballs. Their combined ERA for the season is now under two.

SS Leury Garcia, Hickory - Garcia can really fill up a stat page. Through five weeks he has 17 stolen bases, 12 errors, 13 walks, and even two home runs (only one all last season). Though the power is still modest and likely always will be, Garcia has made offensive strides this season. That 13BB:16SO ratio represents major improvement in controlling the strike zone from his 18:64 ratio last season in Hickory, and he has nearly matched his extra-base hit total from last season. The error total is still way too high, particularly for a player whose primary value is defensive wizardry.

RHP Tanner Scheppers, OKC - The PCL appears to be a whole different deal for Scheppers so far, as he’s still had success - nine strikeouts and one run in six innings - but has seen his efficiency dip. He has allowed five hits and five walks, and Thursday needed 44 pitches to complete two innings. After watching him pitch in Frisco, I suspected that he was ready for the majors immediately, but this level of competition appears to be serving him well.

LHP Kasey Kiker, Frisco - More ugliness Thursday with five more walks, 32:31 ratio for the season
RHP Wilfredo Boscan, Bakersfield - Best start of the year Wednesday: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
OF David Paisano, Bakersfield - Still hitting for average (.306) but indicators dropping: 9BB:27SO, .413 SLG
OF Miguel Velazquez, Hickory - Still hitting lights out, now at .331/.403/.583 for the season - when will promotion come?
RHP Wilmer Font, Hickory - Struggled of late but returned to form Wednesday: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Prospect update: Derek Holland edition

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
10:30
AM CT
LHP Derek Holland, OKC -- I have already talked about Holland quite a bit in these updates this spring, as he was one of the most important names on a minor league roster and has not disappointed on the field. Matt Harrison left last night’s iffy start with biceps tendinitis, so Holland could step into a rotation spot with the Rangers just over one month into the season.

Holland made his major league debut last April after charging through the minors in little time. After making his professional debut in 2007 for short-season Spokane, he began 2008 in Low A Clinton. After a half-season there, he made five starts in High A Bakersfield and four more for Frisco. His numbers improved at each level, and he ended that season as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He made just one start for Triple-A Oklahoma City last spring before joining the Rangers bullpen and subsequently their rotation, so Holland’s total experience above the Low A level was just ten starts.

Holland struggled with his overall command as well as his consistent ability to use his secondary pitches while with the Rangers. There were flashes, such as his dominating start against the Mariners on the eve of the trade deadline, but he was woefully inconsistent. Some preseason projections had him in the Opening Day rotation, but the Rangers decided to give him a slower start to this season in OKC.

That slower start gave him an opportunity this April to reestablish his confidence in his full arsenal, as well as his promising command. He has made six starts for OKC, more than his previous total for AA and AAA combined, and his game appears to be coming together. His secondary pitches have improved, and his 37:7 K:BB ratio demonstrates his progress in controlling the strike zone. Holland was plagued by the long ball while with the Rangers last season, allowing 26 in 138 innings. He has allowed only one in 38.2 innings this spring, and his ground ball rate has jumped by about ten percent.

Holland’s game was incomplete last season, and that was apparent in his body language, location and numbers. Now 23, he appears more prepared if the Rangers do need to call on him.

OF Miguel Velazquez, Hickory -- While Holland is the minor leaguer poised to impact the Rangers, two more lower level players, Crawdad teammates Velazquez and Robbie Erlin, deserve notice. Velazquez entered the season as one of the top players to watch in the Texas system, a rare promising position player in the middle levels of the organization. He made good on that promise, finishing April batting .306/.372/.565. In May, he is exploding onto the national prospect scene, topping those numbers with a five game stretch of 7-for-16 with three HR and 4BB:0SO. Velazquez will turn 22 next week, and a promotion to Bakersfield would have him right back on target as a top prospect.

LHP Robbie Erlin, Hickory - If Velazquez is the Rangers’ breakout position player this spring, Erlin might be the breakout pitcher. Like Velazquez, he was a highly touted amateur, and the Rangers chose him in the third round, so we aren’t talking about a sleeper. But unlike most high school pitchers, Erlin nearly skipped short-season ball altogether, throwing just four innings last August in rookie ball. While the organization gave him an advanced assignment to full-season Hickory on Opening Day, Erlin has been protected, pitching in two- to three- inning relief stints. He has been dominant in that role, with a 19:4 and just nine hits allowed in 18 innings. His ERA is a miniscule 0.49. For a terrific full scouting report on Erlin, check out Jason Parks’ piece posted this morning.

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