The Rangers failed to sign their first-round pick in the 2009 draft when MLB nixed the team's above-slot deal with lefthander Matt Purke. Texas team owner Tom Hicks' financial straits had forced MLB to take an active role with the franchise's budget.
But even without Purke, the Rangers still managed to bolster an already deep supply of young pitchers. Supplemental first-round pick Tanner Scheppers has shown one of the best fastballs in the minors. The righthander already is pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, having run up a 1.29 ERA over 11 relief outings to go with 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Third-round lefty Robbie Erlin, the subject of today's Prospect Bulletin, has been equally dominant at low Class A Hickory. And Erlin's teammate, 2008 second-round lefty Robbie Ross, has been just as good lately.
It took Ross a little while to get comfortable in Hickory—he gave up four or more runs in two of his first four starts this season—but in May he's been nearly unhittable. On Saturday he threw seven shutout innings against Rome, which was the fourth time in his last five starts that he did not allow an earned run.
"The first couple of outings he wasn't at his best, but I think he's dialed in now," Hickory pitching coach Brad Holman said. "His ability to command the ball has shown a lot of improvement. He's a lot more focused in his bullpens and he's taken his focus to a new level. His delivery is effectively funky, and he has taken an initiative to learn how to pitch."
Stars Of The Weekend
Mike Stanton, of, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville): The minors' best power hitter had a one-week slump after returning from a wedding, but this weekend he got right back to mashing. Stanton homered on Friday and Saturday, bringing his total to 17, and went 7-for-14 overall.
Kyle Russell, of, Dodgers (high Class A Inland Empire): The hottest hitter in the minors this weekend was the Inland Empire outfielder. Of course, it never hurts when you get a chance to play in High Desert. Over a four-game span Russell was 10-for-18 with four walks, four home runs, nine runs scored and 14 RBIs—three of those games were in the High Desert launching pad. His homer streak ended on Sunday with a 1-for-5 day.
Dan Hudson, rhp, White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte): If Ross has shown improvement in May, Hudson has been an entirely different pitcher. The righthander had a 9.37 ERA in April, but Hudson lowered his May ERA to 1.97 when he struck out 11, allowed three hits and one walk in eight scoreless innings against Columbus on Sunday. At one point, Hudson struck out eight straight batters.
Alex White, rhp, Indians (Double-A Akron): White's first Double-A start was impressive. The righthander threw six scoreless innings before allowing solo home runs to Chris Marrero and Marvin Lowrance. His final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
''Both home runs were decent pitches down in the zone that they just did a better job of hitting,'' Aeros pitching coach Greg Hibbard told the Akron Beacon-Journal. ''He did a really good job of being on the attack mode and peppering the strike zone."
Mike Moustakas, 3b, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas): Nine months ago when Moustakas was finishing up a difficult season in high Class A Wilmington, it would be hard to imagine that he might prove too good for the Texas League this year.
Now nearly two months into the season, Moustakas is leading the league in nearly every offensive category. He's batting .395/.482/.816 to lead the TL in average, on-base percentage and slugging, while he also ranks first in home runs (12), RBIs (40), extra-base hits (24), total bases (93) and intentional walks (six). He's also second in the league in runs (32) and doubles (12). And he's done it all despite missing the first two weeks of the season. For more on Moustakas, check out this feature from last week's Kansas City Star.
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