Slightly OT: I really like the depth on the OKC club. Almost every pitcher or hitter getting prominent PT on the club could fill in for at least a short time (if not longer) for anyone on the ML club set down by a chronic or major injury. For a club that views itself in the hunt this is critical. It gives them an actual replacement in case of injury but also the depth that high level prospects provide should a trade be necessary.
Speaking of depth some injured players will move back into the system over the next
month or so.Tommy Hunter should begin rehab assignment in AAA in the next 1-2 weeks or so, once he gets stretched out, replacing Ballard in the rotation. Ballard likely replaces Geary in the pen who will probably be released. Both Endy Chavez and Toby Hall will likely be assigned to AAA or AA for their rehab assignments over the next 2-3 weeks as well. Hall is a career .235/.625ops hitter but that is better than Teagarden so far. How shocking would it be to have a catcher platoon of Hall and Treanor for the rest of the season with Salty (AAA) and Tea (AA) sent to the minors until the trade deadline to work out their issues. I wonder if Max could figure into the mix in the end despite his subpar catchability. To be honest, I don't know where he figures in if at all. Chavez could replace DMurph on the roster if he is still struggling through the end of May. He is only a .270/.680ops 4th OF type but that is better than what DMurph is throwing up there now coupled with his Plus defense at all three spots.
Daniel "meathead" Gutierrez will be eligible to return from his suspension on 6/10 with Eric Hurely also set to return about that time. They both could platoon with one another in AA as they will probably want to restrict Hurley's innings while DGut will need to be stretched out. They would replace the Ogando/Roark platoon with Ogando likely being promoted to AAA taken the spot of either Ramirez or Peguero. Roark would likely take Falcon's spot in the pen forcing him to the curb or extended. Warner Madrigal should be eligible to come off the 60 as well around the first week of June. They will try to outright him off the 40 and send him to AAA if he clears.
Kinsler begins continues his rehab assignment at AA on Monday and could be ready to be activated by Friday. Hopefully the club trys to outright Arias off the roster in a move to keep Blanco. I'm ready for Arias to be gone.
On the promotion tip, Scheppers might get promoted to AA in the next month as well along with Ogando likely taking Peguero's spot. Andrew Laughter and Beau Jones will also be looking for AA roster spots when they come of the injured list.
Michael Kirkman had an outstanding start tonight giving up a single over 8 innings on 99 pitches. I think this is the first 8 inning start in the TX system this year. He continued a trend in his last start giving up a few too many walks, 5 over 5 last time, with 4 in this outing but otherwise he was simply outstanding. He sat 92-93 all the way into the 7th inning even touching 96. Kirkman has struggled with his command mainly against right-handed hitters, which seems to indicate that his changeup is not quite up to speed yet this season. In his post-game interview, he said that he commanded his stuff down in the zone really well and worked inside a lot.
Chad Tracy continues to mash. He hit his 6th homer tonight, which gives him 12xbh and 18rbi in 17 games with about a 1.1 ops. His walk rate has improved a tad at this early phase while his SO rate has declined a little bit more compared to last season. From what I can gather, Tracy is a dead fastball and pull hitter who has traditionally struggled vs LHH but this year his splits are even and he has shown nice patience at the plate, only swinging at his pitches, and, up to this point, hitting them with authority. We'll see how the pitchers adjust to him over the season as you would expect them to give him a steady offering of off-speed pitches. If he can make the adjustment - continuing to work the count, swinging at his pitched in the zone - this bodes well for him as a platoon type hitter in the bigs.
The AAA coach had this to say about Tracy:
"Hitting-wise, he's major league," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "Defensively, he's got a lot of work to do. "He's got a bad arm (in lf). But he worked hard over the winter to get his arm better. He's got some work to do, but he's definitely got a chance. He can definitely swing the bat."
In fact, Tracy failed to dig out a low throw from the SS in the game, giving the SS an error on a play that was makeable.
Craig Gentry has proven so far that his refined and more patient approach at the plate last year was no fluke. He currently has a very nice bb/so ratio though he is struggling vs LHP. Clay Rapada continues to excel as both a loogy and a late inning arm for OKC. He has earned the right to be the first loogy called up to the TX pen should the need arise unless Holland is called up to be a late inning bullpen lefty. I would leave both Harrison, Holland, and Kirkman in their respective rotations for the foreseeable future as they are much more valuable as starters than low-leverage relievers in the MLB pen.
The clamor for Phillips or Snyder to be called up ahead of Rapada - with his good spring, his good early performance and his ML exper. - is just so much noise and reminds me of the wish to call up AJ Murray last year even though he was not good with his new sidearm delivery (and was released in the end). Both Phillips and Snyder absolutely bombed in ST (vs JIC hitters) and proved that they weren't ready. Snyder even cleared waivers so no other club though much about him either. In addition - a valuable point not mentioned by anyone it seems - both pitchers are repeating AA so they should be doing well. Let's see how they do in AAA before proclaiming them the next loogy messiah's (can there be such a thing for such a minimal role?). You either go Rapada as a loogy or go with Holland as a late-inning lefty (and definitely not a loogy). Kirkman needs to stay in the AAA rotation for the year as he needs innings to improve his command and his changeup. His time will be in 2011.
Max Ramirez is hitting better than last year but has not yet shown the power stroke or rbi production that he showed in the Venezuelan winter league, especially the last 2 weeks of that season when his bb/so ratio and power production improved dramatically. He has only 2xbh and 4 rbi so far while his bb/so ratio in the coming weeks might be the key measure of his prospect status over the course of the year. He is still catching too, which helps increase his trade value should he still have any. Mitch Moreland has been struggling and apparently missed some games so far handling personal/family issues. He is still sub .200 with a poor bb/so ration to date. I'm not sure of he has been dealing with any sort of minor injury but that has not been indicated to date.
For Frisco, Alexi Ogando had a dominant 4-inning outing with 8 strikeouts and a single hit. Brett Perryman over at LSB reported (from the TV feed I guess) that he was getting lots of SM with his off-speed stuff (slider, split), which is a great sign. Lucas reports that he got a couple of SO on his splitter. He could help the big club if necessary by the all-star break but you would think that they want him to experience top level competition for a bit longer and continue to refine his secondary offerings for a bit longer. It wouldn't surprise me if he was promoted to AAA in the coming weeks to try his hand with some hitters with major league experience and top prospects in the wings. The kid just needs to throw more innings and get better and doesn't need to be rushed. He did well in both spring training and the more advanced VZ winter league so he should have a long future with the club.
Scott Lucas solves the Marcus Lemon mystery. He strained an oblique the first week of the season and has missed some games and sucked in the ones that he did appear in while struggling with the injury. Coming into tonight's game he was batting about .150 with about 12 strikeouts in as many games. He was a double away from a cycle tonight but he may continue to battle the injury for a few more weeks. In his absence both Osuna and Lawson have thrived. Lawson has been .300+ all season at 2b and lf with an improved bb/so ratio of late while Osuna has heated up after the first week and has been on an XB tear of late. Remember that in '08 Osuna hit about 40 doubles between hickory and Bak but saw his xbh totals plummet in 09. He had perhaps the best off-season of any Ranger playing SS in the VZ winter league so he might have found his stroke. Roark had a nice 4-inning outing as well giving up only 2 hits, which makes this the second nice long-relief outing in a row for him. I wonder if TX thinks that he might be able to be a #5 starter as he pitched very well as a swing guy last year and will pitch in that role this year too it appears.
For Bakersfield, Jacobo Brigham pitched an effective 6.1 innings but gave up a lot of extra-base hits so he may have struggled with his command in the zone while managing to get out of jams. Paisano continues to roll batting .370 and will likely see a promotion to AA before 6/1. Very exciting to continue to parlay his nice experience in the VZ winter league into the 2010 season.
Font struggled going on 3 innings while Lueke gave up his first run on a blown save. Font touched 96 in this outing per one report, which is not unexpected. That same report (scouting the sally) mentioned that he did not pitch inside enough in this outing. Tony Doyle and Trevor Hurley dominated over the remaining 5 innings with Doyle's sinker and Hurley's slider working their magic. Staff favorite Jared Prince has yet to show the terrific plate discipline that he exhibited in 2009, but has done better over the last 10g. He is the kind of hitter capable of a 1:1 bb/so ration, at least in A ball and currently is batting .300. Velazquez also showed nice patience at the plate last year (excluding his first week in Spokane, after which he made the necessary adjustments) while maintaining his aggressiveness but has only exhibited it in the last 10 days or so. He is batting .290 with 11xbh hits in his first 17 games. I expect him to be promoted by mid-season.
Leury Garcia continues to show why many prognosticators have simply been fooled on his ceiling. He is batting .183 over his last 10 while committing 9 errors over 17 games with three of those coming tonight. The scuttlebutt was that his high error totals from last year where correctable throwing errors but having listened to many games in 2009 it is clear that his throwing errors are caused by bad hands, bad transfers, and/or bad decisions more than a mere throw. It is not at all clear to me that his plus arm, range and speed will rise up to overcome his questionable defensive IQ and hands. Whatever the case, anyone who thought of him as a top 30 prospect will prove to be a fool.
Against my better judgement, I put Miguel Ortiz as a "player of note" in my rankings based on Jason Cole's effusive appraisals during instructs and ST. He has a nice story but his prospect status is highly questionable. If a player spends 3 years in short season, he is likely NAP -not a prospect. To date, Ortiz is pulling his best Clark Murphy impression, still batting below .200 on the year with zero power coupled with awful defense at first. It is still early but he simply has to produce or Murphy or Prince will replace him at 1b.
As soon at Jason Cole can snag a DSL extended roster, I will do a breakdown of the J2 payroll/country of origin for the club as I did last year (a very loose payroll estimation).
The DSL season opens in 5 weeks.