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Diamond entered 2004 with the goal of being drafted in the first 10 picks. He just squeezed his way in, completing his rise from a little-known 38th-round pick out of high school whose only significant scholarship offer came from New Orleans. With the Privateers, Diamond developed first into a dominant reliever and then into one of college baseball's top starters. Diamond honed his stuff in two summers in the Northwoods League, surpassing Jeff Weaver as the highest-drafted alumnus of that summer league. Diamond was the Northwoods League's No. 1 prospect in 2003, striking out 103 in 72 innings while hitting 97 mph and throwing a no-hitter. He exhibited similar dominance in 2004 for New Orleans and then after signing with the Rangers. Going into the draft, the Rangers' top scouts, Grady Fuson and Ron Hopkins, considered Diamond on the same level as the more-heralded Rice trio of Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, all taken in the first eight picks. And while Diamond got his pro career off to a fine start after agreeing to a $2.025 million bonus, the Rice pitchers either didn't sign at all (Townsend) or signed during the offseason and won't start their careers until the 2005 season. Diamond can command a fastball with above-average velocity and also shows feel for a changeup, a rare combination for a young pitcher. His fastball sat at 90-94 mph after he signed, and the Rangers like the ease with which he throws and his aggressive use of the pitch. Diamond has smoothed out his mechanics since high school, when he topped out at 92, and now has good deception on both his fastball and changeup. He readily repeats his delivery and has a smooth arm action. His changeup is an above-average pitch, with occasional plus life down in the zone. His strong, physical frame should enable him to be an innings-eating workhorse in the rotation. His ceiling is as a No. 2 or 3 starter. Diamond's breaking ball is clearly his third pitch. It's not that he doesn't know how to spin the ball, but he hasn't thrown his curveball or slider consistently enough to trust either one. The Rangers are split on which breaking pitch he should use. Some like his curveball better and want him to focus on throwing it harder. He usually throws it out of the zone, hoping hitters will chase. His arm slot has other scouts preferring his slider, which at times has good bite. He threw more curves after signing and apparently prefers that pitch. He needs experience, but Diamond has the stuff to move quickly. He ate up lower levels because of his fastball command and changeup, and the Rangers are eager to see how that combination plays at higher levels. His mission in spring training will be to pick a breaking ball and stick with it for a year. How well that pitch works will determine whether he spends all year at Texas' new high Class A Bakersfield affiliate or moves up to Double-A Frisco.
Danks wasn't good enough to make the roster for scout Randy Taylor's Area Code Games team as a high school junior in 2002. A year later, Taylor and the Rangers drafted him with the ninth overall pick. His younger brother Jordan, an outfielder, is a top prospect for the 2005 draft. Danks has excellent athletic ability and has grown much stronger since Taylor cut him. He throws his fastball at 87-92 mph and projects to throw as hard as 90-95 in the future. His hammer curveball has excellent bite and is the best in the system. The Rangers took away Danks' curveball in spring training to make him work on his changeup, and while it made significant progress, it's still his third pitch. He showed good stuff after a promotion to high Class A Stockton, but he left too many pitches over the plate. He needs to handle in-game adversity better. Danks' spring will determine whether he's pushed to Double-A or returns to the California League.
Arias will forever be known as part of the Alex Rodriguez trade. He reluctantly left the Yankees organization but settled in after a modest April to bat .300 or better in every month the rest of the way. Arias has superior athletic ability and premium tools in his long, wiry frame. He grades out as average or better across the board, with well-above-average speed and arm strength. While he made 40 errors in high Class A, the Rangers consider him a premium defender with good hands who can make the play in the hole. Arias won't be a weak hitter, but he also won't be an animal. While he has some raw power, he's more of a gap-to-gap hitter. His game needs refinement, from making routine plays to having more quality at-bats and fewer giveaways at the plate due to poor discipline. The Rangers liked Stephen Drew, the top-rated position player in the 2004 draft, but say Arias has better tools, is two years younger and has a better chance to play shortstop in the majors. He'll start 2005 in Double-A.
Kinsler played at three colleges in three years before settling at Missouri, where in 2003 he helped the Tigers to their first NCAA playoff berth in seven years. An offseason strength program coupled with his already short swing and instruction from Rangers coaches allowed Kinsler's bat to blossom in 2004. He tied for the minor league lead with 51 doubles and has average major league power for a middle infielder. He swings with gusto but still makes consistent contact and gets his share of walks and hit by pitches (18). Kinsler's hands, arm, speed and instincts are all average. That may not be enough for him to stay at shortstop, and second base is his likely future destination. He lost 15 pounds during the season, and he'll have to work to keep his strength up over a full year. No one predicted Kinsler's outburst, but no scout who saw him in 2004 called it a fluke. Doing it again is the challenge, one he likely will face as Triple-A Oklahoma's shortstop.
An all-Ivy League center, Young's basketball potential has paid off for him in baseball. He signed with the Pirates for $1.65 million in 2000, then got a three-year, $1.5 million contract extension from the Rangers last fall after the NBA's Sacramento Kings approached him. An athletic giant, Young always has had good command and the ability to repeat his delivery. Minor league pitching coaches Steve Luebber and Glenn Abbott tweaked his mechanics, changing his arm angle so Young could throw on a better downhill plane. The more he worked off his fastball, the harder he threw it, and he regularly hit 95 mph in the majors. Young used to rely more on a solid-average curveball and developing changeup. With his new delivery and approach, his feel for his secondary stuff slipped a bit. As long as Young is healthy and throwing like he did in the second half in 2004, he should earn a spot in Texas' 2005 rotation.
Hudgins earned Most Outstanding Player honors in the 2003 College World Series with three victories in 10 days. He pitched just two innings in his first pro summer because of thoracic outlet syndrome, a circulatory condition he overcame without surgery. Cerebral and competitive, Hudgins knows how to use and command his average stuff. His best pitch is his changeup, which should develop into an above-average pitch due to its movement and deception. He has the confidence to throw it in any count. His solid-average curve also could become a plus pitch. He pounds the strike zone with an 87- 91 mph fastball and average slider. Hudgins' fastball can reach 93 mph, but it also can be ordinary. Always searching for an edge, Hudgins toyed with a cutter and a split-finger fastball in the Arizona Fall League. He could arrive in Arlington in the second half of 2005.
Dominguez had a roller-coaster season. He earned his first big league victory in late May at Yankee Stadium. After missing almost two months with a strained back, he finished the season on the disabled list with a right knee injury, a stint the Rangers extended as Dominguez struggled to deal with the death of his mother. Dominguez has two above-average big league pitches with a 91-96 mph fastball and a plus-plus changeup with good tumble. Both pitches look the same leaving his hand, and he's tougher on lefthanders than righthanders. Dominguez' lack of maturity chafed the big league staff. That's a bigger problem than his fringy slider, which made progress and at times was an average pitch in 2004. It's fair to say Dominguez has nothing left to prove in the minors. The Rangers are counting on him to earn a spot in the big league rotation out of spring training.
Gonzalez was the No. 1 overall pick in 2000, a signability choice that looks better in retrospect as that draft's first round appears to be the worst since 1975's historically poor crop. Texas acquired Gonzalez from the Marlins for Ugueth Urbina in a July 2003 trade. Gonzalez is a natural with the bat. He has a smooth, sweet lefthanded swing that gives him the ability to hit line drives from foul pole to foul pole. He's outstanding defensively at first with soft hands, an accurate arm and good footwork. His total package resembles that of Doug Mientkiewicz. Some scouts have never believed in Gonzalez' power, and his modest slugging numbers against Triple-A and major league pitching didn't allay those fears. Never blessed with a great body, he's a poor runner who remains soft and needs to hit the weight room. With Mark Teixeira ahead of him and powerful Jason Botts behind him, Gonzalez needs to make a move in 2005. He'll probably start the year back in Triple-A.
Rupe grew up playing with and against some of the game's top young talent, such as B.J. Upton, in Virginia's Tidewater region. He joined the Rangers in the fruitful Carl Everett trade in 2003 that also netted Franklin Francisco and Anthony Webster. Rupe missed two months with a forearm strain in 2004 but had a healthy, productive second half. He has shown four quality pitches. The best is his cut fastball, which he throws at 87-88 mph when it's at its best. His low-90s fastball works well when he keeps it down in the zone. He throws his solid curveball and changeup for strikes. Rupe needs to work off his fastball more and harness his command of the pitch. At times, he flies open with his front shoulder and drags his arm. When Rupe realizes that he can succeed without throwing 95 mph, staying healthy will be his biggest obstacle. Ticketed for Double-A to start 2005, he can become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Sinisi was Rice's best hitter for two seasons and helped the Owls win the 2003 national championship. He dropped to the second round that June because of signability concerns and agreed to a $2.07 million bonus, almost double the next-largest bonus in the round. Sinisi's first full season ended in mid-June when he broke his left forearm in a collision with Joaquin Arias, and the arm took longer than normal to heal because the break had to be reset. Before he got hurt, Sinisi showed the hitting ability the Rangers coveted. He has a pure lefthanded swing, a smooth stroke that leaves the bat head in the strike zone for a long time. He's short to the ball, hits the ball on the screws consistently and isn't afraid to take a walk or go the other way. His power doesn't wow anyone yet. While it's often the last tool to come, scouts aren't unanimous in believing Sinisi's will develop. His below-average speed limits him to left field or first base. He wasn't healthy enough to swing the bat in instructional league, so he may start slowly in spring training while shaking off rust. His spring performance will determine when he gets his first taste of Double-A.
Previously known more for his size and upside, Botts turned potential into production in 2004. He may not cover 60 yards in 6.6 seconds as he did when he first turned pro, but Texas much prefers that Botts is a better hitter now from both sides of the plate. Particularly powerful as a righthanded hitter, Botts has shortened up his swing. At 6-foot-6 with long arms, he still has holes, however. Always a patient hitter, he's learning when to be more aggressive and pounce in hitter's counts, rather than just working walks. Botts continued his development in the Arizona Fall League, playing left field after spending the entire regular season at first. Botts is just adequate defensively at either spot. While he's athletic and still has slightly above-average speed once he gets going, he's not particularly fluid either at the plate or in the field. His work ethic and aptitude have the Rangers excited that Botts can help as a reserve if needed in 2005. If he's not, he'll be ready at Triple-A.
Volquez earns comparisons to Pedro Martinez because he's Dominican and has long fingers, and he studies his idol on television and in video games. Formerly known as Julio Reyes, his name and birthdate (he was 151⁄2 months older than believed) came to light as part of the crackdown on visas. He's still advanced for his age and has a significant ceiling if he can hold up as a starter. Volquez has realized that even with a 90-93 mph fastball that touches 95, he can't pitch up in the strike zone. Blessed with a quick, loose arm, he always has had good life on his fastball, and he became more consistent in throwing it for strikes. His improved command stemmed from better strength, allowing him to maintain his mechanics in games and over the course of the season. Volquez also has a plus changeup and solid slider. He still gets inconsistent with his arm slot, and the Rangers want to see him maintain his stuff over a full season again. He could move up to Double-A to start 2005 with a big spring.
Jacksonville's Wolfson High became the fifth high school to produce two first-round picks in the same draft, as Billy Butler (14th overall, Royals) and Hurley (30th) improved their stock last spring. Hurley showed one of the best fastballs in the high school ranks. He regularly touched 96 mph, and in one outing several scouts clocked him at 97 three times in the seventh inning. That kind of velocity endears him to Rangers general manager John Hart, who loves power arms. Hurley didn't show the same velocity after signing for $1.05 million, topping out at 92-93 mph. Texas attributed it to pitching more than he had previously and expects his fastball to bounce back. He has a loose arm and projectable frame that should get stronger down the line. Hurley has a hard slider that can be an above-average power pitch, but he doesn't have much of a changeup. Hurley's detractors in the draft pointed to his delivery--his head jerks to one side--which causes him to drop and drag his arm, adversely affecting his velocity and control. The Rangers pushed Hurley aggressively in his first season and plan to start him out at low Class A Clinton in 2005.
Senreiso has had the best package of tools in the system since coming to the United States in 2001. He's another Dominican whose name (formerly known as Julin Charles) and age (thought to be 10 months younger) changed when he was forced to use his real identity. A career .238 hitter entering 2004, he made immense strides and finished the season in Double-A. Blessed with strong, quick hands that give him excellent bat speed, Senreiso benefited as much as any Rangers farmhand from the organization's emphasis on plate discipline. He still doesn't draw tons of walks, but he improved, made more consistent contact and started to unlock his power. He has good speed, though he needs to be a more efficient baserunner. While he has center-field tools, his routes and instincts aren't good enough for the position. He profiles better in right field, where his above-average arm would play well. Senreiso remains raw, as evidenced by his .181 average and 24 strikeouts in 83 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, so the Rangers left him off their 40-man roster. No one took him in the Rule 5 draft, so he'll return to Double-A and see if he can build on his momentum.
Schlact went to the same high school that yielded first-rounders Josh Burrus (Braves, 2001) and Jeremy Hermida (Marlins, 2002). Schlact didn't quite make it into the first round, but a $455,000 bonus persuaded him to bypass a scholarship to South Carolina. Long, lean and loose-limbed, Schlact is nowhere near a finished product. His fastball has touched 95 mph at times, but he's more regularly in the 87-92 range, velocity he has shown an ability to maintain for six or seven innings. He's coordinated and athletic for such a tall pitcher and has a good feel for his body, resulting in sound mechanics and good control of his fastball. His next-best offering currently is his changeup. He has to tighten up his slurvy curveball, his third pitch. Schlact got off to a great start in the spring before tiring late and needs to get stronger. He should join first-rounder Eric Hurley in the low Class A rotation this spring.
Lorenzo spent his freshman year at Georgia Tech before transferring to Kent State to get more innings. He finished his first full pro season by dealing in the Arizona Fall League and continues to stick out among Texas' flock of pitching prospects whose calling card is their approach. Though he's big and physical, Lorenzo's fastball usually sits at 82-92 mph. It did jump to 93-95 mph when he worked shorter stints in the AFL. His overhand curveball doesn't have true 12-to-6 break, but it's still a plus pitch. He gets strikeouts with his curve because he throws it in the low to mid-80s with good depth. His bender is at its best when he stays on top of it and throws it from the same arm slot as his fastball. Lorenzo flashes above-average command of both pitches and maintained his velocity better than he had in the past. Now he needs to pick up the feel for a changeup. His change has nice movement, but he has to throw it more consistently for strikes and learn to trust it more often. He's one of several candidates for the Double-A rotation in 2005.
Masset was a top prospect for the 2000 draft until he had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior. The Rangers drafted him anyway out of Pinellas Park High in Largo, Fla., and signed him the following May for $225,000 after a year of junior college. He hadn't given the club much of a return on its investment, however, until 2004. After missing two months early last season due to a cyst on his right wrist related to his weight-room work, Masset made strides with his maturity and regained his feel for pitching and his confidence. Texas worked with him to lengthen his stride, which improved his balance and ability to stay tall in his delivery. Masset throws four pitches for strikes now. Both of his fastballs--an 89-91 mph two-seamer and a four-seamer that reaches 93--feature good movement. He uses both a curveball and a hard slider, and his changeup can be an average pitch when he commands it. Masset won't be a frontline starter, but he does have big league stuff. Now it's a matter of proving he can stay healthy and maintain success for a full season. The Rangers praise his tough mound demeanor and think he can be a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse. He was protected on the 40-man roster and should start the year in a crowded Double-A rotation.
The Rangers' 2002 draft, the first under Grady Fuson's leadership, has produced a mixed bag. Just three of the first seven players Fuson picked are still in the system. But after wasting $550,000 on 11th-rounder Kiki Bengochea, Texas found three pitchers with value. Loe (20th round) and Erik Thompson (12th) are on this list, and Sam Narron (15th) reached the big leagues in 2004 before being lost on waivers to the Brewers. Loe arrived in Texas shortly after Narron, finishing the year in the bullpen. While he's been a solid starter, the angular Loe figures to be a reliever in the majors. The Rangers have experimented with raising his arm angle, but Loe's strength is his command of a high-80s sinker. He has a deceptive delivery and the ability to throw his plus slider in any count. Righthanders have trouble elevating the ball against him (six homers in 354 at-bats in the minors last year), but lefties have had more success. The Rangers haven't given up on Loe as a starter, but he fits the profile of a right-on-right middle reliever perfectly and could fill that role in Texas as soon as 2005.
Littleton entered 2004 with great expectations, but by his own admission his season didn't go as planned. He had an up-and-down career at Cal State Fullerton, where his junior year was interrupted by a suspension. He made a strong pro debut, dominating the short-season Northwest League, but a jump to high Class A didn't go as well. California League hitters pounced on Littleton's 88-92 fastball, which he left up in the strike zone too frequently. He kept opening up his front shoulder, losing his arm slot and causing his once-lively heater to flatten out. He made adjustments as the year went on, but he didn't get ahead of enough hitters to put them away with his slurvy, sweeping slider and inconsistent changeup (which can be a plus pitch at times). Littleton's low three-quarters arm angle is a big reason for his success because it helps give his fastball life and his slider its bite. But as with Kameron Loe, it also allows lefthanders a good look at his pitches. They hit .316 against him last year, compared to .224 by righthanders. Littleton showed progress in the Arizona Fall League, hitting 94 mph while pitching in relief. That may be his best long-term role.
Herren was a surprise second-round pick in 2004, but the Rangers had the inside track on him. Area scout Gary McGraw followed him closely when he played in the Seattle-area Taylor Baseball amateur program that has produced three other second-rounders in the last four drafts: Andy Sisco (Cubs) and Alhaji Turay (Mets) in 2001, Jon Lester (Red Sox) in 2002. Herren led Auburn (Wash.) High to an undefeated regular season as a senior last spring, when Rangers scouting director and Seattle native Ron Hopkins began following him closely. Herren's solid tools across the board, most notably his bat, earned him a $675,000 bonus. He turned down a baseball scholarship from Washington, which also was open to him trying out for its football team as a running back/defensive back. Herren sprays line drives all over the field with a short, compact stroke, and his gap power should turn into average home run power when he matures physically. He gets good reads and jumps in center field, making him a plus defender, and he owns an accurate if not overly strong arm. His speed will be key, because he probably won't have enough power to be a corner outfielder. Herren's first full-season test will come in low Class A this year.
Webster ranked as the third-best prospect in the White Sox system entering 2003, the year he came to the Rangers in a fruitful trade for Carl Everett. Webster remains a work in progress, so raw that Texas left him off its 40-man roster and no club took him in the Rule 5 draft. A Tennessee high school football star as a tailback, he still looks too much like a football player. Webster does have plenty of tools. He's an above-average runner, has good enough bat speed that some scouts project plus power, and he has the range and arm to be a solid center fielder. He still has to put his tools to use. Webster's swing can get long, leaving him vulnerable to fastballs inside, and he's still struggling to work his way into hitter's counts. He doesn't take good routes in center, and his lack of instincts eventually may relegate him to left field (his arm is just average). He missed six weeks of crucial development time last season with a groin injury. The Rangers still lack depth in center field, so they hold out hope that Webster will refine his game in Double-A this year.
Just as suddenly as he had a breakthrough season in 2003, shooting from Double-A to the majors after repeating high Class A the year before, Nivar's rapid rise screeched to a halt last season. After rising through the organization as a middle infielder, Nivar moved to the outfield in 2003 and for a time was thought to be the Rangers' answer in center field. But 2004 saw him fail to make improvements or adjustments to take advantage of his electric tools. He's the fastest runner in the organization, but he has never grasped the nuances of basestealing. Nor does he seem to grasp that improved plate discipline would make him a better tablesetter. Nivar has quickness in his bat, giving him surprising power for his size. But he lacks savvy and has been exposed as he tries to learn his way around center field. He too often follows spectacular plays with boneheaded ones. By late July he was back at second base. With Laynce Nix having established himself as the center fielder in Arlington, Nivar's best bet for playing time appears to be as a utilityman.
Like Ramon Nivar, Bourgeois once looked like a future regular in the middle of the diamond for Texas, only to see his stock take a hit last season. He always had surprising raw power for his size, and he adopted a new stance to try to take advantage of it. Bourgeois incorporated a toe-tap, trying to load up with his hands to hit for more power. Instead, it slowed his bat down and he didn't homer until July. He finally ditched the toe-tap late in the season and finished well, including an 8-for-19 effort in the Texas League playoffs. The Rangers have settled on playing Bourgeois at second base, where he has enough range and arm but lacks the technique and knowledge of positioning to be an above-average defender. He still could be an igniter at the top of a lineup if he takes advantage of his strengths, which are his plus speed, savvy baserunning and ability to slash line drives from gap to gap. He'll need a strong spring to earn the starting second-base job in Triple-A.
Nickeas has an athletic background. His father, who is British, was a professional soccer player whose career took him to Canada, where he met Nickeas' mother. He was born in Canada but grew up in California, and he played for U.S. national teams both in high school and college. His makeup and leadership qualities led to his repeat stint with Team USA, as did his sound catch-and-throw skills. The Rangers liked him going into the 2004 season and were able to wait until the fifth round to snare him because he struggled at the plate for Georgia Tech. Scouts thought Nickeas was better with the bat than he showed, yet still he surprised club officials with his production in his pro debut despite running out of gas late in the summer. He has decent power, and he's capable of driving balls to the opposite field and hitting 10-15 homers a year. He knows the strike zone and draws walks, but he doesn't always make consistent contact. He's fairly athletic for his position, cerebral as a catcher should be and handles pitchers well. Nickeas is the best catcher in the system and could move quickly, possibly jumping to high Class A in 2005.
Meyer couldn't wait for 2004 to end. He was left off the 40-man roster after he: missed time with a broken collarbone; got out of shape; fell out of favor with the organization after Grady Fuson, who drafted him and was his biggest backer, was forced out; and moved well down the club's depth chart at shortstop, behind big league all-star Michael Young, Joaquin Arias and Ian Kinsler. Meyer's injury and subsequent weight gain sapped him of speed, one of his best tools. After being dressed down by several club officials, he salvaged his season by working his way back into shape and finishing strong. Based on his bat, Meyer didn't merit being drafted as high as he was. He always has struggled with wood bats, as he flies open with his front shoulder and tries to pull too many pitches. Yet he also remains a playmaker, capable of stealing a base, dragging a bunt for a hit or making a key defensive play. He has plenty of arm and enough athletic ability for any infield or outfield spot. Texas seems to value his versatility more than anything. Meyer will return to Double-A to prepare for a future as a utility player, with the chance to be a regular if his bat ever comes around.
Thompson and the Rangers admitted the obvious, as his official height dropped two inches to a more truthful 5-foot-9. Despite his size, he would rank much higher if he could stay healthy. He had Tommy John surgery as a junior-college freshman, and more recently came down with a sore shoulder that allowed him to make just one start after the all-star break last year. Thompson pounds the strike zone with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s with average movement. He also has an average changeup and a fringy slider that lacks depth because of his height and inability to stay on top of it. Thompson doesn't have a knockout pitch, as evidenced by his declining strikeout rate as he has advanced, and clearly durability is another question. However, pitchers with his combination of velocity and control--the best in the organization--are hard to find. Thompson likely is headed to the bullpen if his arm holds up. If he takes to the role, he won't be far from helping the big league club.
Bannister starred at Sabino High in Tucson, where he played with Brewers shortstop prospect J.J. Hardy, but he wasn't drafted after his senior season in 2002. He planned on attending Yavapai (Ariz.) Junior College before part-time scout Dave Birecki saw his performance catch up to his potential while pitching for the Arizona Firebirds, a Connie Mack team. Birecki, now an area scout for the Mets, signed him as a nondrafted free agent for $17,500. Bannister has impressed the Rangers ever since. He has a long, projectable frame, a loose arm and a smooth arm action that he repeats well. He fills the strike zone with an 87-91 mph fastball that was touching 94-95 mph in instructional league. His 12-to-6 curveball, with refinement, could end up as one of the best in the system. He also throws a developing changeup. Though much less heralded, Bannister will challenge Eric Hurley and Michael Schlact for the No. 1 spot in the low Class A rotation this year.
Most pitchers with Regilio's age and medical history don't make prospect lists, but his resilience has impressed the Rangers. They believe his combination of velocity and movement can help their major league staff in 2005. Regilio has overcome injuries each of the last three years and capped his comeback with a brief, unsuccessful big league stint last season. He had biceps tendinitis in 2002 and rotator-cuff surgery in 2003, then had another operation to remove scar tissue that was irritating a nerve in his right shoulder last August. Texas was pleased that he returned and looked strong in the Arizona Fall League. Regilio's top pitch is a sinker that he threw at 88-93 mph in Triple-A and pushed to the mid-90s while working shorter stints in the AFL. There's not a whole lot of finesse to him, as his secondary pitches are both relatively hard: an average slider and a changeup with fade. All of his stuff moves, often too much for him to handle, and he regularly fell behind experienced Triple-A and big league hitters last year. He also has yet to show he has the durability needed from a starter--his career high is 116 innings in a season--particularly in the Texas heat.
Cleveland had a huge 2003, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference batting title (.410) and finishing second in the Northwest League race (.322). He lost momentum last year, struggling after an aggressive jump to high Class A. Cleveland has what it takes to be a major league hitter: good pitch recognition, average raw power, confidence in his ability and the work ethic to get better. Cleveland needs that work ethic to adjust his stance, which leaves him drifting into the ball and doesn't allow his hands to generate a load, short-circuiting his power. He wore down as the season progressed, hitting .194 with no homers in the final month as he lost control of the strike zone and couldn't catch up to good fastballs. Though he's just a left fielder, Cleveland has improved defensively, particularly in lengthening out his now-average arm. He now throws well enough for right field, though he's still better suited for left. The Rangers have a crowded outfield picture but believe Cleveland will hit enough to remain in it. He'll have to have a strong spring, however, to earn a promotion to Double-A.
The White Sox have provided a lot of talent to the Rangers the last couple of years. Texas traded Carl Everett for Frank Francisco, Josh Rupe and Anthony Webster in 2003, then claimed Wing and speedy infielder Ruddy Yan off waivers from Chicago after the 2004 season. The White Sox were trying to create room on the 40-man roster by designating Wing for assignment in October when the Rangers scooped him up. They essentially traded lefty Ben Kozlowski to get Wing, losing Kozlowski to the Reds when they took him off their roster to accommodate Wing. Wing didn't pitch in 2004 because of a shoulder injury originally diagnosed as tendinitis. He didn't improve with rest and rehabilitation, so he had surgery in July. Texas already had him on a throwing program by the winter, and he was expected to be ready to return to the mound by the end of spring training. Wing probably will begin his Rangers career in extended spring, as the club looks to see if he regains his low-90s velocity on his sinker. His slider was considered the best in the White Sox system prior to his injury. He does a fine job of controlling the running game, while his changeup and control need improvement.
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