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Mayberry Jr. hitting his way up ladder

Mayberry Jr. hitting his way up ladder

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FRISCO, Texas -- It seems like he's been here for the entire season, joking with his teammates at batting practice and in the clubhouse. Two years ago, some might have thought he would be. But John Mayberry Jr., the Rangers' first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, just recently joined Double-A Frisco on June 11.

When Mayberry was promoted, he was hitting .230 with 16 home runs and 45 RBIs at Class A Bakersfield. Despite the low average, the Rangers decided it was time to move up their former first-round pick.

"He didn't have the average ... not what we'd hoped for [in Class A], but we had an opening," Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. "The big thing with John is when we drafted him, our scouting department realized that it was going to take a little while, he wasn't going to speed through the system. So, it was good timing."

With some 2005 first-round picks such as Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun and Jacoby Ellsbury making Major League debuts, and Ryan Zimmerman and Craig Hansen having debuted in previous seasons, Mayberry is on a slower track to the big leagues. Coming out of a high-profile school in Stanford, Mayberry had several adjustments to make to become a more polished player. On top of making constant changes to his swing, he moved from first base to the outfield.

Through 16 games at Frisco heading into Monday, Mayberry was hitting .236 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 55 at-bats. He had 13 strikeouts, nearly one out of every four at-bats.

"His average isn't high, but that's one of the areas we're really going to work really hard on," Frisco manager Dave Anderson said. "We need to get him more consistent with his at-bats, and once that happens, his average will go up. But he's an exciting player. We wanted to get a chance to bring him up here and see what he can do."

The Rangers promote players not just based on performance, but also on their ability to make adjustments. Mayberry showed that ability last season. After getting off to a slow start at Class A Clinton, hitting just .236 in June, he recovered to hit .299 in July and .330 in August. He finished the season ranked third in home runs (21) and fifth in RBIs (55) in the Midwest League.

The Rangers project Mayberry to be an impact power bat in the middle of the lineup. Mayberry showed his power potential Sunday with a towering two-run blast against Springfield. While Mayberry "loves the long ball" like everybody else, he is more focused on becoming a run producer at the Double-A level.

"If I'm able to accomplish what I set out for, I'll hit for a pretty good average and have some power," the 6-foot-6, 230-pound outfielder said. "I'm just excited to be here. It's something you don't plan for. I just try to go out there and play to the best of my ability. It's nice somebody thinks high enough of you to promote you."

Being a first-round selection two years ago, the Rangers view him as one of their top prospects. He is a big outfielder with decent speed, plenty of power and enough arm strength for the big-league level.

"Even though some people get in a hurry, at his age and level, it's appropriate [for him to be at Double-A]," Servais said. "We knew it was going to take a little longer before he got clicking on all cylinders."

Mayberry is also following in his father's footsteps. John Mayberry Sr. had a 15-year Major League career, so there may be added pressure carrying on a family legacy. However, Mayberry looks at it as an advantage because his father has been through everything he's going through. Mayberry Sr. made the trip from his home in Kansas City down to Frisco the past week to see how his son is progressing.

"He's learning things on his own, and I just tell him to go out and have some fun playing baseball," Mayberry Sr. said. "I just tell him to keep swinging and keep it simple. Let the chips fall where they may."

The chips have fallen nicely for Mayberry. With his promotion to Frisco, he was reunited with his former high school teammate, Steve Murphy. The two live 10 minutes apart in Frisco and hang out all the time.

"It's been fun, and its nice being back together with him," Murphy said. "I think he came up here and adjusted well to the higher level of baseball. I think it's going to take a while for his swing to adjust to the style of pitching, but he's made good adjustments so far."

The Rangers hope Mayberry continues making the proper adjustments to become a big-league hitter.

"I think in the next couple of years, he does show up in the big leagues," Servais said. "But right now, he's got a lot of work to do and he needs to continue making adjustments."

Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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