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Minor League Notes, June 24, 2010

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Minor League Notes, June 24, 2010

**Since being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma, Tanner Scheppers has a 3.23 ERA in 30.2 innings, with a 39/13 K/BB and 26 hits allowed. This includes his most recent performance last night against New Orleans: four innings in a start, six hits, four runs, but zero walks and six strikeouts.
    Scheppers began his Oklahoma tenure with seven relief appearances, but has started the last three games, pitching 11.2 innings as he builds up his pitch counts. Word from Triple-A is that he's using the starting role to improve his changeup to go along with the 95-100 MPH fastball and hard breaking ball. The plan seems to be to get Scheppers about 100 innings of work this year.
     Although earlier this spring it seemed clear that Scheppers would be groomed as a reliever to spare stress on his arm, current rumors indicate that the Rangers are now seeing him as a starting option, figuring that proper workload management and a gradual innings buildup will keep him healthy. Scheppers is quite athletic, and to my eye anyway, his mechanics don't look super-stressful to me. Although his 2008 shoulder trouble is obviously of concern, is it possible that his injury risk is just something that everyone assumes is higher than normal? What if it really isn't?

**Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie is on a tear at Double-A Huntsville, hitting .386/.426/.648 in June, including .422 with four walks and five strikeouts in his last 45 at-bats. The improved discipline is notable, since problems with contact have been his biggest issue thus far. Lawrie is now hitting .300/.361/.497 on the season, with 19 doubles, 10 triples, six homers, 15 steals in 23 attempts, 26 walks, and 65 strikeouts in 290 at-bats. He's done a lot of his damage against lefties (1.111 OPS, .759 against RHP), but given his age (20) and the fact that he's skipping the High-A level, I'll cut him some slack on the platoon split right now.
    Lawrie's numbers look like those of a speedy gap hitter, but physically he looks more like a power guy at 6-0, 213 pounds, with thickish legs but good athleticism. I suspect that some of those doubles and triples will become homers as he matures. He does run well, but I also think his long-term position will be the outfield rather than second base. Wherever he ends up defensively, I love the bat.

**Outfielder Eric Thames in the Blue Jays system has been as cold lately as Lawrie has been hot, hitting just .186/.266/.314 in June. A fast start in April and May made him look like a breakout player, but his current line of .260/.330/.461 (albeit with 12 homers) is merely decent. His main problem is southpaws; his OPS against lefties is just .541, while he hits right-handers much better at .886. I've liked Thames since he was at Pepperdine, and thought that the Blue Jays got a bargain with him as a seventh round pick in '08. He seems fully recovered from a serious quad injury that hampered him in '08 and '09. He may end up as just a platoon player, but he's still a personal favorite.

**Cleveland Indians southpaw pitching prospect Scott Barnes has some ugly-looking numbers at Double-A Akron: 3-6, 5.82, with a 67/30 K/BB in 60.1 innings, 58 hits allowed. However, the ERA overstates things...his FIP is much better at 3.82, and his excellent K/IP rate stands out as a positive. After running aground in April and early May, he's taken the ship off the rocks in June, with a 2.91 ERA and a 28/7 K/BB in 22 innings, 16 hits allowed. The improvement in his K/BB ratio is very impressive. Barnes works with an 88-93 MPH fastball, with a very good changeup but an erratic, if promising, breaking ball. He has an unusual delivery which adds some deception, but is quite athletic and repeats it well. The Indians acquired him from the Giants last summer for Ryan Garko; San Francisco had drafted him in the eighth round out of St. John's in '08.