Morning Update, May 21, 2010
**Tanner Scheppers was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier this month. So far he's pitched eight innings for the RedHawks in four games, picking up one save. He's given up five hits and one run, walking six but fanning 11. Before his promotion, he had a 19/0 K/BB and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings for Double-A Frisco. PCL sources report that Schepper's stuff has been electric, but Triple-A hitters are simply more disciplined than their Double-A counterparts, more patient and not as easy to intimidate. He's still fanning people like crazy, but some command refinements would obviously be useful. Fantasy owners (like me, I have him in the CBS Minor League Ball league) and Rangers fans keep asking me for estimates about when Scheppers will be promoted to the majors. Whenever I make a prediction about such things, it usually turns out completely wrong, so take this with a grain of salt. But my guess is that the control issue is less important to the Rangers than the electric stuff, and that Scheppers could be promoted as early as the All-Star Break, or sooner if the Rangers need a bullpen arm.
**One of the best pitchers in college baseball last year was A.J. Morris of Kansas State University, who went 14-1, 2.09 with a 100/30 K/BB in 116 innings, earning a spot in the fourth round with the Nationals. He doesn't have Schepper's kind of stuff, but he has a respectable 90-92 MPH sinker and a good slider. He didn't use a changeup much in college, and refining that is necessary for him to be a starter at the highest levels of pro ball. He is 1-2, 3.45 this year for High-A Potomac, with a 23/13 K/BB in 31 innings, with 33 hits allowed. He has had problems with defensive support, giving up eight unearned runs. His strikeout rate isn't great at this point, but he does pick up a lot of grounders with a 2.18 GO/AO ratio, confirming the scouting reports about his sinker. If the changeup develops, he could be an inning-eater type, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him end up as a middle reliever down the road.
**Another intriguing college pitcher from the '09 draft is Chad Jenkins, the Kennesaw State product drafted 20th overall. He didn't pitch professionally last year. Assigned to Low-A Lansing to begin '10, he's posted a 3.62 ERA with a 45/9 K/BB ratio in 50 innings, allowing 52 hits with a 1.51 GO/AO. The strong K/BB ratio was his profile in college as well: he had a 98/15 mark in 82 NCAA innings last year. Jenkins is a horse at 6-4, 235, working with a 90-95 MPH sinker and a good slider and changeup. He's not especially overpowering in the classic sense, but his stuff is solid, better than Morris', and he throws strikes. We need to see what will happen at higher levels. He hasn't been massively dominant so far in the Midwest League, but he hasn't been bad either.
**The Pirates recently activated pitcher Victor Black from extended spring training. He made his first starts for Low-A West Virginia on May 16th, throwing four innings. He allowed three runs, giving up two hits and two walks, but fanned seven. Another '09 draft product, Black was picked in the supplemental first round out of Dallas Baptist. He has better pure stuff than Jenkins or Morris, throwing a fastball that can hit 95 MPH, as well as a vicious slider. His changeup needs a lot of work, and his command and control are often troublesome. His profile would fit well in the bullpen if the changeup doesn't improve, but for now the Pirates will use him as a starter to build innings and experience and see if the changeup can be improved.