Results tagged ‘ Reds ’

Tracking the Offseason

The off-season is in full-swing here in Round Rock with only 112 days left to savor the silence. In reality, there’s just under four months until baseball is back at The Dell Diamond and all is right in the world. Silence is overrated anyways.

As is normal in the off-season, there have been a few moves and changes in the Rangers farm system. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with some of your favorite Express players from 2012…

The Rule V draft took place last Thursday in Nashville towards the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. The Rangers selected Marques Smith from the Reds (Double-A Pensacola) and saw Tommy Mendonca selected by the Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento).

Smith split 2012 with the Piratas de Campeche (Triple-A Mexican League) and the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston, Double-A). In 12 games with the Piratas, he hit .261 (12-for-46) with four doubles, one home run and six RBI. He spent the majority of the season in Portland at third base. He batted a solid .293 (82-for-280) with 22 doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 37 RBI in 71 games. He struck out 52 times and drew 23 walks. Smith elected free agency in November and was quickly signed by the Reds before being selected by the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft.

Mendonca split the 2012 season between Round Rock and Double-A Frisco. He struggled at times with the Express, hitting just .208 (48-for-231) with 14 extra-base hits and 31 RBI. He struck out 84 times while only walking nine. In his 63 games with Round Rock, only 12 were multi-hit games. He improved in Frisco with a .277 average (28-for-101) in 28 games and improved his OBP and SLG by over 100 points each (.342/.455 vs. .249/.329). He also showed a little more patience at the plate, drawing 10 walks in his 114 plate appearances.


In other Rule 5 draft news, both RHP Justin Miller and LHP Joe Ortiz had their contracts selected by the Rangers and were placed on the 40-man roster. Miller was injured in 2012 and didn’t pitch, but had to be put on the 40-man to be protected before the Rule 5 draft. (For more information on the Rule 5 draft, check out this great article in Baseball America.) Twenty-two-year-old Ortiz had a 1-1 record with a 1.97 ERA (7er/32ip) in 24 appearances with Round Rock last year. He started the season in Double-A Frisco, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.35 ERA (8er/30.2ip) in 27 games. He converted six of 10 save opportunities between the two clubs. Ortiz’s contract was purchased on Nov. 20, the last day to protect a player before the Rule 5 draft.

Now we get into the fun that is minor league free agency. Here’s a list of the following players in the Rangers farm system who have either elected or declared free agency along with the team they have since signed with (where applicable).

Dusty Brown, C – Unsigned
Fabio Castillo, RHP – Giants
Robinzon Diaz, C – Unsigned
Willie Eyre, RHP – Unsigned
Alberto Gonzalez, SS – Cubs
Derek Hankins, RHP – Unsigned
Aaron Heilman, RHP – Unsigned
Luis Hernandez, 2B – Indians
Zach Jackson, LHP – Unsigned
Matt Kata, 3B – Unsigned
Val Majewski (Double-A), OF – Unsigned
Brad Nelson, 1B – Unsigned
Greg Reynolds, RHP – Unsigned
Ben Snyder, LHP – Unsigned
Yangervis Solarte, 2B – Rangers
Ryan Spilborghs, OF – Seibu Lions (Japan)
Johan Yan, RHP – Rangers

For a complete, up-to-date listing of all minor league free agents, click here.

What has been your favorite move of the off-season?

Express Tracks Scouting Report: Shelby Miller

Author’s Note: This is the first installment of a new segment Express Tracks is running. We will do this once or twice a series to highlight some of the star players or top prospects on the opposing team. This will not be like the Express Player-to-Watch because it will be more focused on highlighting the players’ overall abilities rather than a projection of their performance that night. Since we will be evaluating opposing teams’ players, it will cover their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Express Tracks Scouting Report: Shelby Miller

Photo by Alex Stocksdale/

By Andrew Brown

Today we highlight Shelby Miller- right-handed pitcher for the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller has been a top MLB prospect since he was drafted by the Cardinals 19th overall in the 2009 draft. In ESPN MLB analyst Keith Law’s most recent list of the top 50 MLB prospects Miller is ranked number 17, and has been ranked as highly as number five. Miller dominated the Texas high school competition with his elite combination of velocity and movement. His fastball, which is consistently in the mid-90s with late sinking action, explodes out of his hand in large part because of his easy arm action and smooth delivery.

Miller has continued this success through the each level of the minors, striking out 402 hitters in only 68 games (an amazing average of 11.2 strike outs per nine innings). Despite only playing four seasons in the minors, many scouts feel that Miller is ready for big league service, especially because of the injuries that Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have had to deal with for St. Louis lately.

The Scouts will get their wish soon enough, but for now Miller stays in the minors to try to gain consistency with his off-speed pitches. His curveball has a tight, 12-6 drop and his changeup sits in the mid-80s with a nice fade to the right side of the plate. Both pitches he throws with good arm action, and will become plus-strikeout pitches when he figures out how to throw them with more command.

The main knock against Miller is that he is too reliant on his fastball. He throws it in the zone, and he throws it a lot. This works for Miller because his fastball is so dominant, but he can get in trouble at times, and will face even more trouble at the next level when hitters begin to catch up to it. The key to attacking Miller is to gear up for good old-fashioned Texas heat. Hitters know that they will be challenged early and often by Miller’s fastball, as he makes a habit of coming after hitters with it. If a hitter can meet Miller early in the count and jump on an early fastball then he will have a chance for success against the right-hander. Even so, the challenge is on the hitter to handle Miller’s explosive fastball. Miller has proven through every level of the minors that he can dominate hitters, and do so efficiently, even when he gets fastball-happy.

Until Miller can develop his off-speed pitches to the point that he is comfortable throwing them in any count though, he will not live up to the number one starter projections that most scouts have for him. But he will. Miller is on a fast track to stardom in the show, and when he finally gets his chance (which will likely be in the later part of this 2012 season) Miller should blow everyone away with just how dynamic his stuff can be.

Strengths: Plus-Plus Fastball, attacking mentality and pitching style, two solid strikeout pitches.

Weaknesses: Tendency to get fastball-happy, needs to gain consistency with off-speed pitches, needs learn to pitch in and out of the zone.

Player Comparison: Matt Cain– Miller is like Cain in a lot of ways, aside from just his plus-fastball. Once Miller is comfortable with his off-speed pitches and can throw them in any count, he will have three plus-pitches to attack hitters with. He also, at this point in his career, has demonstrated the same attacking mentality and mental toughness that Cain has thrived on in the Majors. To say that he will post the same résumé of Cain is a massive stretch, but not implausible as long as he continues to improve each season, as he has so far.

Estimated MLB Arrival: By our estimation, Miller could see time in with the Cardinals as early as August. If St. Louis wants to make a big playoff push this year in order to catch the Reds and the Pirates (in my life, I never thought I would say that statement) then they will need to make a big splash. Miller seems to be the guy, especially with the inconsistencies and injuries that the St. Louis starting rotation has faced so far this year.

Postgame EvaluationMiller was pretty wild tonight, walking several batters and throwing a lot of pitches. He pitched himself into more than his fair share of jams early in the game, but consistently pitched his way out of them. The most notable of these instances was in the bottom of the second inning with Miller gave up a hit and two walks to load the bases with only one out, but then geared back and struck out the next two hitters on straight heat, throwing as high as 95 on the gun. Miller had trouble controlling his breaking ball in particular, which he bounced a few times. The Express hitters got a few good rips at his fastball because of this, but the only solid contact they managed was when Matt Kata flew out to the warning track in the first inning, and Brad Nelson’s single to the left field fence.

Here is Miller’s final line from July 14, 2012: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 19 Batters Faced, 11 First Pitch Strikes, 86 Total Pitches, 54 Strikes

Final Thoughts: Miller did not have his best stuff tonight, and yet he still managed to dominate. That is the mark of a great pitcher: figuring out how to be great even when your stuff isn’t. Miller, if called up right now, could definitely get people out at the big league level. He has over powering stuff, and showed the ability to pitch with his back against the wall. That being said though, he is not quite ready for his debut, as he still needs to work out some control issues, particularly with his off-speed pitches. Once he does, his ceiling is that of a consistent Cy Young candidate.