Josh Boyd, Director of Professional Scouting for the Texas Rangers, generously agreed to answer some questions for the Minor League Ball Community. Here is the transcript:
SICKELS: Josh, can you run down for us your general duties, as well as what a typical work day is like for you, during spring training and the regular season?
BOYD: During spring training, I'll spend a lot of time seeing our club and bouncing around the backfields in Arizona just to see as many players as I can. Year round, we're communicating with the scouting staff and managing the information coming in from each of the scouts, pointing them in different directions to see players of interest.
SICKELS: Let's talk about some of the specific players in the Texas organization that fans have questions about.
There are reports that Tanner Scheppers isn't throwing as hard this spring as he normally does, and he really struggled in the second half last year. What is his status, and is he a starter or reliever going forward?
BOYD: Tanner experienced some back tightness in his last spring outing, but prior to that his velocity was right where is usually is in the mid to upper 90s. From what I understand it's a temporary setback, and he's expected to return to the mound soon.
As we've done with Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando, we are talking about three special talents with big time arms, and we believe it's important to explore or exhaust any opportunity they may have to develop as starting pitchers. Tanner has the delivery, arm action and stuff to start, and can always go to the back of the bullpen with his electric stuff and mentality.
SICKELS: Where does Michael Kirkman fit into the plan for 2011?
BOYD: Along the lines of what I mentioned with Scheppers, Feliz and Ogando, Kirkman is getting every opportunity to start. He made tremendous strides in the last couple years, and pitched in the postseason for us out of the pen because of his arm strength from the left side, and he has an outpitch slider. He is in competition for a spot in the rotation, and at the least provides us with a viable option as a starter or as a power lefty in the pen.
SICKELS: Robbie Erlin: outstanding numbers last year in the Sally League. Reports indicate decent velocity, solid breaking stuff, very good changeup, terrific command. Has he reached his physical ceiling and how fast do you think he can advance?
BOYD: Erlin is an advanced young pitcher with excellent feel on the mound. He has an average fastball and plus secondary weapons in his curve and changeup. He had a great season under Brad Holman in Hickory last year, and I think with his strike-throwing ability and compact repeatable delivery he should continue to experience success as he climbs.
SICKELS: Neil Ramirez: Breakthrough candidate?
BOYD: Neil is breaking through as we speak. He's been a bright spot in camp as his work ethic and aptitude continue to take him to new levels. So far he's thrown in two big league games and opened eyes with three power pitches. His fastball has been at 95-96, and he throws strikes.
SICKELS: Any other sleeper pitchers to watch?
BOYD: I think it's a good sign when a million dollar bonus draft like Ramirez can be considered a sleeper, and I think guys like Ovispo De Los Santos and Miguel De Los Santos were legitimately off the radar prior to last seasons and both emerged with the ability to miss bats with power stuff, and the lefty Miguel was added to our 40-man in the offseason.
Righthander David Perez kind of began his breakthrough in the DSL last year and continued it in instructional league so the hype seems to have already gained momentum in the national media, but he is certainly a candidate to take it to another level as he debuts in the states this year. The next wave could be led by Roman Mendez, and considering his uneven 2010 performance I think he still qualifies as a sleeper candidate. Our pitching coaches have worked to clean up his delivery to get him in sync with his lightning quick arm speed and he's got a chance to breakthrough this year.
First baseman Chris McGuiness is a bat who will likely fly under the radar while he keeps hitting, and Jorge Alfaro has been one of the more impressive young bats in the early going here in minor league camp.
SICKELS: OK, let's talk more about hitting. Jurickson Profar's defense and makeup are highly-regarded and he held his own against older competition in the Northwest League last year. How do you see him developing as a hitter, and how much power do you anticipate he'll develop?
BOYD: Profar is easy to get fired up about because he is a special young man with incredible, natural instincts for the game and leadership qualities that never cease to amaze. We project him to continue to develop as an advanced young bat with a good approach, very good for his age, a chance to hit for high average and his raw power indicates plenty of power potential in there as he matures physically, even if it's more doubles than home runs initially I still think we are talking about good extra base production from the position.
SICKELS: Is Mike Olt the future at third base?
BOYD: Adrian Beltre is the present and future for the Rangers at third base, but we've added Mike Olt and Christian Villanueva in the last couple years, and both players are promising young third basemen with above-average defensive skills to go along with offensive ability.
SICKELS: Jake Skole was supposed to be fairly raw when drafted, but he held his own in the Northwest League and showed pretty solid plate discipline. Is he a center fielder or a right fielder, and is he a kid who can be fast-tracked?
BOYD: Not sure about fast tracking him just yet. I think that is something he will determine once he gets out there and performs. With his football background, that may be where the "raw" label came from, but he is an athletic player who doesn't play the game as if he is just some "raw" football type player. He has a good swing with a lot of strength and power. No need to bump him off center field now, though he could move over to right down the line and profile very well on a corner.
SICKELS: Mitch Moreland never got a lot of praise for a strong toolset and wasn't a high draft pick, but he's emerged as a solid hitter. Is there a particular point when a player like that wins over the doubters?
BOYD: Well, with Mitch, it's certainly easy to point to him as an overlooked type of player based on his draft status and then the prospect status that eluded him until he reached Double-A and his performance forced more people to begin taking notice. His consistent performance has certainly won over doubters, but for many people in our organization beginning with the area scout Jeff Wood, who signed him, and our amateur scouting staff, as well as many of the coaches in player development who were around him on a daily basis, they had no doubts.
Mitch appeared to be buried behind Smoak and Chris Davis, but his makeup, work ethic, leadership skills, perseverance, athleticism and natural hitting instincts carried him on a relatively quick ascent to Arlington last year. If anyone was doubting him after what he did in consecutive seasons in '08 and '09, I suspect that particular turning point you are asking about would be when he was one of our most consistent at-bats, if not the best, during the postseason last year.