Minor league insider: Promotions show power arms on horizon

Posted Saturday, May. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Elsewhere on the farm

Triple A Round Rock: Right-hander Nick Tepesch is 5-1 with a 1.59 ERA over six starts. He threw five scoreless innings in his last start Thursday against Oklahoma City.

High A Myrtle Beach: Cody Buckel, the organization’s top minor league pitcher in 2012, had his first walk-free outing since 2012 on Friday. Buckel, who was inactive for most of last season with control issues, is pitching in a relief role for the time being as he works out a few mechanical adjustments. Buckel is expected to stay in the bullpen for a couple weeks before moving back into the rotation. “He’s in a good place mentally, we’re just working on him to repeat his delivery and not pull his front side prematurely,” minor-league pitching coordinator Danny Clark said.

Low A Hickory: Outfielder Lewis Brinson, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2012, went into Saturday batting .287 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. … Shortstop Juremi Profar, Jurickson Profar’s younger brother, was batting .269 with one home run and four RBIs.

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Power arms are not lacking in the Texas Rangers’ system.

Look no further than the organization’s moves Saturday.

Matt West, a hard-throwing right-hander from Houston, is going to Triple A Round Rock from Double A Frisco.

But the Rangers gave the RoughRiders another power arm by sending them righty Keone Kela from High A Myrtle Beach. And the Pelicans weren’t left empty handed, as they got Abel De Los Santos from Low A Hickory.

The chain reaction was felt throughout the system, and it could have an effect on the big league team at some point, with the 25-year-old West being a step closer to the big leagues.

West, who is on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, has always been viewed as a power arm who could become a factor in the big leagues. He converted from infielder to pitcher before the 2011 season and had little trouble in doing so.

In his first season on the mound, West combined to go 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA over 24 appearances, including 23 at Short A Spokane and one at High A Myrtle Beach, and was placed on the 40-man roster. He entered the 2012 season as the team’s 10th-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

But his 2012 season got off to a slow start when he was diagnosed with a strained ligament in his right elbow during spring training. He rehabbed and made his season debut on June 17, but ultimately needed Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Aug. 22.

The Tommy John surgery derailed West’s progress. He made only one appearance last season, but he has re-established himself this year.

West had an 0.68 ERA over eight appearances with the RoughRiders, striking out 10 and walking only two over 13 1/3 innings. He also converted three save opportunities.

“Two things about Matt West … First, he’s healthy again and is able to locate his fastball down in the zone; second he’s been throwing his curveball extremely well,” said Danny Clark, the Rangers’ minor-league pitching coordinator.

“We’re very pleased with his progress to this point.”

The curveball is a pitch that the organization feels will separate West from most backend bullpen arms. Most are hard throwing without a reliable change-of-speed pitch, but West has both.

If he has continued success in Triple A, don’t be surprised if West becomes an option for the big league team at some point this season.

“We all know Matt is up for the challenge of pitching in Triple A, and we’re excited to see how he does,” said Mike Daly, senior director of minor-league operations.

Kela, meanwhile, is another hard-throwing righty for whom the Rangers have high hopes. The 2012 12th-round draft pick had a 2.61 ERA over eight appearances at Myrtle Beach.

Kela, 21, has 13 strikeouts to four walks over 10 1/3 innings, and also pitched well for Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League.

And De Los Santos is another pitcher to watch. He has a 1.69 ERA over eight appearances at Hickory, including 12 strikeouts to only one walk over 10 2/3 innings.

“He’s a guy most haven’t heard too much about, but I really like what I’ve seen from Abel De Los Santos,” Clark said.

He’s another to join a long list of relief candidates in a system that is flush with them.

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