RHPs Tanner Scheppers & Alexi Ogando, Frisco - 21.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 33 K, 0.83 ERA. That's their combined line so far this season. Thursday night, just three weeks into the season, they each pitched one inning of relief on shorter rest than their previous schedules. As has been said here repeatedly, they are clearly too good for Double-A, particularly in shorter stints, so a bit of an acceleration in plans shouldn't be a surprise. The Rangers have not commented on the intent behind the change in regimen, but this move speaks loudly on its own.
OF Miguel Velazquez, Hickory - One of the most promising position prospects in this system, Velazquez is really heating up at the plate. He has three of his four home runs in his last five games, ten hits in his last six games, and he's beginning to walk on a more consistent basis. For the season he is now hitting .309/.371/.580. Righties still give him some trouble, but his splits and line drive rates all look promising, and he has become one of the few hitters in the organization worthy of a daily box score check.
Nonprospect Triple-A Position Players - There are three key ones in OKC at this point - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chris Davis & Brandon Boggs - and all are hitting well, but when will they be able to help the Rangers? Saltalamacchia is on a seven game hitting streak, has three doubles and a home run this week, and is hitting .357/.424/.679 overall. The Rangers obviously have other reasons for keeping him in the minors. Davis joined OKC Saturday and immediately started hitting (8-18 in four games). For the moment he seems to be a great example of a 4A hitter. He is on his second of three options, so a hidden positive in the timing of swapping him for Justin Smoak is that he will have almost two entire seasons to make the sorts of adjustments that Nelson Cruz did in 2007 and 2008 before the Rangers are forced to make a decision on him. Boggs (.295/.380/.455) is healthy and heating up at the right time, with six hits (including four XBH) in his last three games, but he was passed over for Craig Gentry to replace Cruz this week.
RHP Braden Tullis, Hickory - Last summer's eighth round pick was one of the better pitchers in the college level Northwest League, as he succeeded in the magical combination of controlling the strike zone (64 K, 20 BB) and keeping balls on the ground (2.61 GO/AO). Promoted to a crowded Hickory staff this spring where good prospects like Wilmer Font, Joe Wieland and Neil Ramirez were left in the rotation, he began the season pitching in short stints and has been stretched to three innings. It would be a surprise if he doesn't make his way to a rotation at some point, as players move around and are injured, but in the mean time he's actually improving on those 2009 rates in full season ball. Through 14 innings his 13/3 K/BB and 3.83 stand out on the young staff, and he has the repertoire to deal with both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
RHP Blake Beavan, Frisco - Back in the saddle Thursday: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, sat in the low 90s
LHP Robbie Ross, Hickory - Made his best start at the full season level Thursday: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, ten groundball outs
OF Engel Beltre, Bakersfield - While his teammates struck out 17 times Thursday, Beltre walked twice and singled. He still isn't hitting (.235/.288/.338) but a 4/10 BB/SO in 73 PA is a small step in the right direction.
LHP Derek Holland, OKC - Least dominant outing of the season Thursday but still no earned runs: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 118 pitches (80 strikes), 29/6 K/BB for the season
LHP Kasey Kiker, Frisco - Repeating the Texas League, he still scuffles with his control. Five more walks Tuesday give him 15 in 20.0 innings on the season to go with a slew of hit batters.
RHP Matt Thompson, Hickory - Another 7K, 1 BB Monday move him to 23/4 with impressive ground ball rates. The Burleson native looks like a prospect, as Jason Parks detailed this week