The key objective for the Texas Rangers and 2009 draftee
Tanner Scheppers was to keep his prized right arm and
shoulder healthy in 2010.
Mission accomplished. A shoulder injury had forced Scheppers
into the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and was the reason the Pirates chose not to sign him that summer. He pitched in
independent league ball to prove he was healthy and re-entered. The Rangers felt confident enough in his arm to take him No. 44 overall, then nursed him along in his first
full season. Now, it's time to see just what it is the Rangers have in the Fresno State product.
"I'm definitely blessed to be a part of the Texas Rangers
organization," Scheppers said. "2010 was a great year. I
stayed healthy. I think that was the most important thing. I
learned a lot and got to work with a lot of great people. It
really was a stepping stone to this next step."
The next step for Scheppers is to show what he can do pitching
every five days. He came into his own as a starter in his
junior season at Fresno State. Scheppers began the 2010
season pitching in relief in Double-A, quickly earning a
promotion to Triple-A after 11 completely dominant
He was in the 'pen at first in Oklahoma City, posting a 1.13
ERA over his first seven appearances. Then, as planned, Scheppers made several starts in order to stretch him
out and allow him to work on his pitches. He did close out
the Futures Game in Anaheim, just a stone's throw from where
he grew up and finished the year, albeit not as
successfully, back in a relief role. All along, though, the
Rangers saw Scheppers as a starter, and he'll get the
opportunity to do just that in 2011.
"They said for Year 1, they wanted to take it slow, to
limit my pitch counts and innings," Scheppers said. "For
them to give me the chance to start in Spring Training, I'm
really happy that they're going to give me that shot.
Hopefully, I'll prepare myself and be ready physically and
If all goes well, Scheppers will likely be a part of the
rotation for the Rangers' new Triple-A affiliate in Round
Rock. A phone call away in an organization that values the
concept of promoting from within, Scheppers is excited about
making that final leap and helping the big league club that
made it to the World Series in 2010 get back there this year,
and in seasons to come.
"To be a part of that is just great," Scheppers said. "The
team, they earned it, they worked their butts off all year
long. To be able to be at that next step would be great."
Rangers' Top 10 Prospects
1. Martin Perez, LHP: As a teenager in Double-A,
Perez had an uneven 2010 season, though scouts still love
his stuff. The Johan Santana comparisons come from his size,
background and plus changeup, and many still believe he'll
live up to that billing. Refined command will help his
three-pitch mix, giving him the ability to top a big league
rotation in the future.
2. Scheppers, RHP: The big right-hander is
getting the chance to start and he could see Texas at some
point this season. It's a nice fall-back to have, knowing
that his fastball can hit near triple-digits in a short-relief
role and has the power breaking stuff to work well, should
the Rangers decide ultimately that's the place for him.
3. Jurickson Profar, SS: Just 18, Profar is ready to
hit the full-season South Atlantic League after performing
well as one of the youngest players in the short-season
Northwest League last year. He looks up to current Rangers
shortstop Elvis Andrus and has some of the same skills, both
in terms of defensive ability and makeup. He won't be pushing
for Andrus' job soon, but the Rangers should have a nice
problem on their hands in a few years.
4. Engel Beltre, OF: The 21-year-old is the epitome
of the toolsy center fielder, with the potential to
do everything well on the field. His defense in center is a
plus, both in terms of range and arm. His outstanding speed
helps him on both sides of the ball and he'll become a more
dangerous runner as he learns the nuances of that part of
the game. He should hit for average and at least some power
as he continues to mature.
5. Robbie Erlin, LHP: While Erlin may not wow you
with plus stuff or overwhelming size, he can flat-out pitch.
He led the South Atlantic League in ERA last year as a
teenager and walked just 17 all season. He mixes his
fastball, curve and changeup very well and keeps hitters
off-balance. He goes right after hitters, with his
pitchability and competitiveness allowing his stuff to play
up. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts as he moves
up the ladder to face more advanced hitters.
6. Michael Kirkman, LHP: The 2005 draftee has come a
long way, and '10 cemented his place on prospect lists. A
starter in Triple-A, he was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher
of the Year, then came up and pitched well out of the
Rangers' bullpen to earn a spot on the postseason roster.
He's back starting -- at least for now -- competing for a
spot in the Rangers' rotation this spring, but the club knows he can be a major contributor as a reliever if he's needed in that role.
7. Robbie Ross, LHP: Like Erlin, Ross is an
undersized lefty who had success in the South Atlantic
League in 2010. The California League proved a bit trickier,
and some see a future in the bullpen. He'll start for
now, and he's got a better fastball than Erlin -- one with a
ton of life. If he gets shortened up as a reliever, he could
start to advance more quickly.
8. Mike Olt, 3B: Taken out of Connecticut in the
sandwich round last June, Olt has the skills to fit the
profile as a power-hitting corner infielder. A former
shortstop, he's got the defensive tools to stay at third. He
may not hit for a high average, but his power and his glove
should move him up the ladder fairly quickly.
9. Jake Skole, OF: A two-sport standout in high
school, Skole walked away from playing with his brother at
Georgia Tech (and playing football) when the Rangers took
him No. 15 overall in last year's Draft. He played well in
his brief summer debut and showed a bit more polish than
anticipated for a two-sport guy who missed most of the
spring with an ankle injury. Next stop is full-season ball,
and with only one sport to focus on, his ceiling is pretty
10. David Perez, RHP: The Rangers have done excellent
work in finding young talent in Latin America, and Perez
looks to be the next intriguing prospect to come from that
effort. The 6-foot-5 right-hander hasn't pitched yet in the
United States, but he'll bring his three-pitch mix and a
better-than-you'd-think feel for pitching to a Minor League
park near you in 2011.
Under the Radar
Matt Thompson, RHP: A seventh-round Draft pick in
2008, the right-hander made his full-season debut last year.
While he allowed 167 hits and finished with a 4.66 ERA over
129 1/3 innings, he also had struck out nine per nine
innings and posted a 5.65 K/BB ratio. His curve is his best
pitch, but he'll have to show he can handle the rigors of
a full season. Thompson's performance suffered as the year
wore on in 2010. He'll get the chance to show he's up to the
task with the Rangers' new Carolina League affiliate in
Christian Villanueva, 3B: He won't turn 20 until June --
and perhaps he gets overshadowed by the young shortstops in
the system -- but Villanueva made a very strong first
impression during his U.S. debut last summer. An excellent
defender at third, he also hit .314 with a.365 on-base percentage and.413 slugging percentage in the rookie-level Arizona League. The next step could be short-season Spokane.
Hitter of the Year -- Beltre
He'll figure out the Texas League and earn a promotion to
Triple-A, continuing to turn his raw tools into performance.
He'll hit over .300, have better success on the basepaths
and even see some of that power develop.
Pitcher of the Year -- Erlin, LHP
Had he been moving up to the California League, it might
have been a bit more difficult, but Myrtle Beach will be a
great place for him to pitch -- though he may not spend the
whole year there. Look for him to pocket his second straight
organizational award while topping the system in ERA for a
second consecutive campaign.
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.