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Power bats waiting on turn for Texas

Power bats waiting on turn for Texas

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' Minor League pipeline is filled with good young pitchers who are waiting for their chance to pitch in the big leagues.


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But, at this point in time, it may be three position players who are at the front of the line as far as those in the system who have not yet made it to the big leagues.

When it comes to who might have an impact on Texas' thinking both this winter and in Spring Training, the focus could go squarely on Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland and Chad Tracy. They could one day be what the Rangers are looking for this offseason: a bat for the middle of the order.

They aren't going to be pushed into that role in 2010, but they could get consideration for a spot on the club in Spring Training if the Rangers have trouble finding what they are looking for this offseason.

"I wouldn't rule it out," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

Smoak, a switch-hitter and the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina, hit .290 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs in 106 games and 386 at-bats between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma.

He had a .410 on-base percentage and a .443 slugging percentage. He missed time with a rib-cage injury but made up for it by being named the Most Valuable Player in the IBAF Baseball World Cup in September with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 15 games.

Moreland, a left-handed hitter, is a rising star in the Rangers' farm system. He was a 17th-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2007 who led the Midwest League in hitting with a .324 average in '08. He followed that up by hitting .331 with 16 home runs and 85 RBIs in 116 games and 471 at-bats between Class A Bakersfield and Frisco in '09. He can play both first base and right field. The arm strength is there to play the outfield. Moreland did some pitching in college and the Rangers at one point considered putting him on the mound.

Tracy was a third-round pick out of Pepperdine University in 2006 and is the son of Rockies manager Jim Tracy. Drafted as a catcher, Tracy has struggled to find a position but has always been able to swing the bat from the right side. In 160 games at Frisco over the past two seasons, he hit .288 with 30 home runs and 122 RBIs.

The Rangers are still deep in Minor League pitching, it's just that right now they have enough pitchers with Major League experience to compete for spots in Spring Training. But there could be several pitchers pushing their way into the picture as the 2010 season progresses.

Among those to watch:

• LHP Martin Perez -- This 18-year-old left-hander from Venezuela is considered one of the "Jewels in the Crown" as far as the Rangers' farm system goes. He was 5-5 with a 2.31 ERA in 14 starts and eight relief appearances at Class A Hickory, striking out 105 while walking 33 and allowing 82 hits in 93 2/3 innings.

Perez was then promoted to Double-A Frisco -- bypassing Bakersfield -- and was 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA in five starts. Perez has three above-average pitches with an advanced feel for pitching who seems to be on the same fast track as Derek Holland.

• RHP Daniel Gutierrez -- The Rangers acquired him from the Royals for catcher Manuel Pina and outfielder Tim Smith. Gutierrez fell out of favor with the Royals because of some injuries and off-field issues but has an excellent fastball/curve combination with good command and velocity.

He has pitched in just one game above Class A but in 206 career Minor League innings, he has a 3.80 ERA while striking out 198 and walking 66.

• RHP Tanner Scheppers -- He was taken by the Rangers in the supplemental first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and might have been a September callup if he had signed quickly. Instead the Rangers didn't sign him until September and he had to make his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League where he had a 5.37 ERA in seven games. But five of those seven outings were scoreless.

It's unlikely that he could compete for a job in Spring Training, but he pitched at Fresno State and for St. Paul in the Independent Northern League and has a chance to come up quickly.

• RHP Wilmer Font -- Font is a 19-year-old native of Venezuela who went 8-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 24 starts and five relief appearances at Hickory. He doesn't have the same crisp command as Perez, but he still has overpowering stuff. In 108 1/3 innings, he allowed 93 hits and 59 walks while striking out 105.

• RHP Omar Poveda -- The right-hander from Venezuela just turned 22 in September after going 11-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 22 starts at Frisco. He struck out 78 and walked 52 in 140 1/3 innings and has both an above-average changeup and breaking ball.

• LHP Kasey Kiker -- The Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft continues to make steady progress through the system, going 7-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 starts and two relief appearances at Double-A Frisco. In 126 innings, the 22-year-old left-hander allowed 108 hits, walked 66 and struck out 120. At some point the Rangers will have to decide if he's better suited for relief work or remain as a starter.

• RHP Blake Beavan -- The 20-year-old Beavan, a first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, hasn't been quite as overpowering and hasn't thrown as hard as the Rangers imagined. He was 9-8 with a 4.14 ERA in 27 starts at Bakersfield and Frisco last season. This could be a big year for him.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["minor_leagues" ] }
{"content":["minor_leagues" ] }