Farm Crop: Rangers top 20 prospects
Davis looks to hone skills in Triple-A; Feliz dominates from 'pen
The big story on the Rangers farm this week is that Chris Davis is an Oklahoma City RedHawk, after the organization decided that, in the short term and long term, Davis and the club would be better off with him trying to refine his rhythm and his stroke in the less pressured environment of the minor leagues. The plan is to spread his Triple-A starts between first base, third base, and designated hitter, with Justin Smoak as the club's primary first baseman and occasional DH.
In Davis's first two games with the RedHawks (for whom he hit .333/.402/685 in 111 at-bats last year), he contributed two singles, a double, a triple, and a walk in nine plate appearances.
And no strikeouts.
It's going to take more than a couple Triple-A games to get Davis back where he needs to be mechanically and mentally, but he's off to a perfect start, producing and, more importantly, making consistent contact.
This week's Top 20 Rangers prospects:
1. JUSTIN SMOAK, 1B, Triple-A Oklahoma City (number 1 last week)
Smoak is 1 for 13 since his Independence Day promotion to Triple-A, with an infield single for his lone RedHawks hit. No cause for concern. If clubs could dial back 13 months and do their 2008 drafts over, he'd probably be a top three pick, long gone before the Rangers' slot at number 11. Smoak does have five strikeouts among his 12 Oklahoma City outs, but in keeping with his previous body of work, he's drawn nearly a walk per game.
2. MARTIN PEREZ, LHP, Low A Hickory (2)
The Rangers pulled back on Perez's pitch count in his final two appearances before the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, sending him to the mound for two innings each on June 16 and June 21, and he dominated each time, giving up a combined two singles and two walks in four scoreless innings, punching out eight. He then struck out two in a perfect inning of work at the June 23 All-Star Game, and after some extra rest, he's been solid as the organization has turned him loose again. In five-inning starts on June 30 and July 5, the left-hander first gave up two runs on eight hits and no walks, fanning four, and then yielded one run on three hits and a walk, setting an impressive eight Hagerstown Suns down on strikes. His 80 strikeouts are good for eighth in the 16-team league, with most of the pitchers ahead of him having logged considerably more than his 67.2 innings.
3. NEFTALI FELIZ, RHP, Triple-A Oklahoma City (3)
On Tuesday, Feliz's first assignment to work on one day of rest, he answered the bell, striking out the side in the ninth inning -- all swinging -- around a one-out double, and throwing 11 of 14 pitches for strikes. As a reliever, Feliz has compiled a composite line in five outings that looks a lot like a typical start for him in his breakthrough 2008 season: 7.2 innings, one run (1.17 ERA) on four hits (.148 opponents' average) and one walk, with nine strikeouts. After throwing 62 percent of his pitches for strikes as a Triple-A starter, he's at an impressive 69 percent out of the bullpen.
4. JULIO BORBON, OF, Triple-A Oklahoma City (UR)
The result of Borbon's eight-day debut in the big leagues: 1 for 5 with one big RBI and two strikeouts, and an error in left field. With Josh Hamilton's return to action, it could be a while before Borbon gets another chance in Texas, but should the need arise for another outfielder due to injury or trade, Brandon Boggs's shoulder dislocation probably makes Borbon first in line. He returns to AAA as a .298/.365/.387 RedHawks hitter.
5. BLAKE BEAVAN, RHP, Double-A Frisco (4)
The big man has made four Frisco starts, alternating between bad and great. He'll get a chance tonight to string two solid AA efforts together for the first time, coming off of Friday's seven-inning, six-hit, one-walk start in which he scattered two runs, needing only 78 pitches (69 percent for strikes). To add an extra challenge, he will again face Springfield, the same team he dominated last week.
6. KASEY KIKER, LHP, Double-A Frisco (6)
Kiker's now at 19 straight innings without an earned run - not counting the scoreless frame he threw to start the Texas League All-Star Game on July 1. In those 19 frames, he's allowed only 12 hits and four walks while setting 14 down on strikes. He's also averaging 90 pitches per start, in what has basically been the first year in which the 21-year-old has been turned loose every fifth day.
7. MICHAEL MAIN, RHP, High A Bakersfield (5)
Get well, man.
8. JOE WIELAND, RHP, Low A Hickory (12)
Wieland came into last night's start having fanned 31 and walked six in 31 innings. He suffered his first loss of the year and second as a pro, walking three (two unintentionally) without registering a strikeout in a five-inning effort (five runs, three earned, on six hits). That effort came after one in which he struck out nine and walked none in a five-inning, two-hit gem on July 3. As the July trade rumors start to heat up, you won't see Wieland's name perking up in the national columns, but you can be sure that his name will come up in those GM-to-GM conversations -- at least out of the mouths of opposing GM's.
9. WILMER FONT, RHP, Low A Hickory (8)
Font hasn't pitched since his 2009 masterpiece a week ago (five scoreless innings, three singles, no walks, four strikeouts).
10. MAX RAMIREZ, C, Triple-A Oklahoma City (7)
Back on the disabled list, unable to shake the wrist problems that have dogged him all season. Really unfortunate, considering anything close to a repeat of his 2008 season would have made him a perfect trade piece this month.
11. MITCH MORELAND, OF, Double-A Frisco (10)
Moreland's power output (.472 slug) hasn't been quite what it was at Bakersfield earlier this season (.594 slug), but he's in the midst of an impressive nine-game RBI streak for the RoughRiders, having been installed in the cleanup spot since Smoak's promotion to AAA. The left-handed hitter was just honored by Baseball America with a starting outfield spot on its Mid-Season Minor League All-Surprise Team.
12. WILFREDO BOSCAN, RHP, Low A Hickory (9)
Boscan has just had his first back-to-back poor outings since signing out of Venezuela in July 2006. After giving up four runs in 3.2 innings on July 2, the 19-year-old yielded seven runs (five earned) on a season-high nine hits and a season-high three walks in 4.2 innings on Tuesday. In his last four appearances, his ERA has risen from 1.21 to 3.21, his opponents' batting average from .169 to .235.
13. GUILLERMO MOSCOSO, RHP, Triple-A Oklahoma City (13)
Many considered 18-year-old right-hander Carlos Melo to be the real prize of the Gerald Laird trade with Detroit, but it's been the 25-year-old Moscoso who taken the big step forward this season. The right-hander, now in the Oklahoma City rotation after two brief stints as a long man in the Rangers bullpen, is 2-1, 0.90 in three AAA starts and one relief appearance, limiting the Pacific Coast League to 11 punchless hits (.164 average, .179 slug) and four walks in 20 innings while setting 13 down on strikes. Left-handed hitters are now down to 2 for 30 (.067) against the wiry Venezuelan.
14. ENGEL BELTRE, CF, High A Bakersfield (11)
The good news: In July, Beltre has more walks than strikeouts. The bad: it's only three free passes in seven Blaze games, to go along with only four hits, all singles. Beltre is a .129/.229/.129 hitter this month, worse to date than every other month in what has been a very disappointing season.
15. TIM SMITH, OF, Double-A Frisco (14)
Smith was a .333 hitter in 120 High A at-bats this spring. He's a .333 hitter in 117 AA at-bats. Like Moreland, Smith is on Baseball America's Mid-Season Minor League All-Surprise Team.
16. ROBBIE ROSS, LHP, Short-Season A Spokane (UR)
Last year's second-round pick, the 20-year-old's first four pro starts have him running away with the Northwest League strikeout race, setting 34 hitters down on strikes while walking only four. The next four pitchers in the league strikeout leaders, who have between 20 and 25 punchouts on their ledgers, have each pitched more innings than Ross has. His last outing was his most dominant, as he blanked Vancouver on three hits and one walk in five innings, getting 10 of his 15 outs on strikes. He's touching 94 on the gun, mixing in a slider and change.
17. OMAR POVEDA, RHP, Double-A Frisco (15)
Back in Frisco after missing three weeks with a hand injury, Poveda was solid on Saturday, giving up three runs (on two home runs) in five innings to a Springfield lineup that roughed him up in a previous matchup. The 21-year-old sits at 7-3, 3.73 with the RoughRiders, holding the Texas League to a .239 batting average and coaxing more groundouts than flyouts.
18. MIKE BIANUCCI, OF, High A Bakersfield (17)
Bianucci was hitting .331/.401/.600 in 260 Hickory at-bats (leading the South Atlantic League in OPS, third in hitting and in home runs with 15) when promoted to Bakersfield early this week. Here's an interesting development: the slugger drew six walks in 21 April games for the Crawdads, six more in 22 May games, and six more in 24 June games. He then worked six free passes in just five July games before earning the promotion. The 22-year-old is off to a 2 for 13 start with the Blaze.
19. MICHAEL KIRKMAN, LHP, Double-A Frisco (18)
The line score from Kirkman's Tuesday start glittered: six scoreless innings, two hits, one walk, five strikeouts. He was even more dominant than the surface numbers indicate: the two hits he allowed were both infield singles, and he threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. It's a punctuation mark on what's been a remarkable breakout season for the left-hander who battled extraordinary command issues the last three seasons.
20. ZACH PHILLIPS, LHP, Double-A Frisco (16)
In two AA appearances, the 22-year-old has yet to give up an earned run, but he's allowed nine hits in 6.2 innings (.310 opponents' batting average). While the Frisco sample size is obviously insignificant, left-handed Texas League hitters are 4 for 10 off Phillips, who held California League lefties to a .061 average in 66 at-bats.
Off the list this week: Tim Murphy, Fabio Castillo
Nine pitchers to watch: Richard Bleier, Miguel De Los Santos, A.J. Murray, Yoon-Hee Nam, Matt Nevarez, Carlos Pimentel, Ryan Tatusko, Matt Thompson, Corey Young
Eight hitters to watch: Joaquin Arias, Craig Gentry, Greg Golson, Matt Lawson, Marcus Lemon, Erik Morrison, David Paisano, Miguel Velazquez
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.