July 19th, 2011

Five Improving RoughRiders

Over the last few days, we have talked about the Rangers’ prospects from Round Rock to Surprise, and we have focused on ten ‘Riders who have improved their prospect stock in the last 12 months.

Today, let’s take a look at five new RoughRiders. These five men got off to slow starts, but they have turned things around and become factors on the second-best team in the Texas League.

Engel Beltre: Beltre’s struggles are well-documented this season, but the guy did enter 2011 as the Rangers’ fifth-best prospect according to Baseball America. The glove has been there all season long, and the bat is starting to come around.

Offensively, Beltre bottomed out in May when he hit .162 in 12 games after returning from a suspension. The outfielder began his upswing in June by hitting .252 and scoring 17 times in 26 games. So far in July, Beltre is thriving–.306 average, 12 runs, four stolen bases (he did not steal any in May or June), and a .729 OPS.

Beltre’s numbers overall don’t scream “top level prospect,” but he has gone through a great deal during the 2011 season. The fact that he has a chance, with a strong finish to the year, to get his stats close to his averages in the minors is impressive.

Jake Brigham: Brigham had his baseball world turned upside down late last month. The right-hander, who had made 14 starts with the ‘Riders, was sent to the bullpen. Prior to this year, Brigham had only acted as a reliever 13 times.

During his first four outings, Brigham allowed ten runs while adjusting to his new role. Since then, Brigham has been dominant. The righty has tossed eight and a third innings of scoreless baseball. He has allowed three hits, walked three hits, and struck out nine batters.

Brigham’s ERA as a bullpen arm is 6.08, but it is dropping quickly. If he continues this recent surge, he will add to an already-talented bullpen.

Justin Miller: Speaking of talented bullpen arms, how about the run of success Miller has had? The key for Miller was finding a role. He struggled a bit as the club’s closer in the first handful of weeks, but he has settled into a job that involves setting up around 75% of the time and closing about 25% of the time.

After a 3.76 ERA through May 31, Miller boasted an ERA of 0.00 in 13 and two-thirds innings in June. So far in July, Miller has surrendered one run in seven and two-thirds. And Miller is able to retire both lefties (.190) and righties (.217), which is a huge asset for an eighth/ninth-inning guy.

A few interesting splits for Miller: he loves night games (1.02 ERA) v. day games (5.84 ERA), and he loves home games (0.68 ERA) v. road games (4.22 ERA).

Elio Sarmiento: We’ve heard about Sarmiento’s excellent cooking abilities, but his performance on the field deserves some praise, too. Sarmiento had to bounce between the team’s second and third catcher during the first few weeks, but now he has a strong case for being Frisco’s best backstop.

Sarmiento’s batting average has gone up in every month this year (.091, .214, .326, .355). In his 21 appearances since June 3, Sarmiento has three home runs and 17 RBIs. Before this year, Sarmiento’s career high in home runs was two. The Venezuela native’s career high in RBIs (25 in ’09) is very much in danger, too.

Since the beginning of June, Sarmiento has played in 21 games, and Jose Felix has played in 19. As you can see, Sarmiento’s efforts have earned him more playing time.

Corey Young: April was not a kind month for the left-handed reliever. He went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in eight appearances, and he found himself on the disabled list with a back injury on April 28.

Once Young rejoined the RoughRiders’ active roster five weeks later, he became a force. The southpaw owns a 1.10 ERA in 16 and a third innings. In early June, Young appeared in a few mop-up situations. Since then, he has worked his way into many key situations. In the ninth inning and beyond, Young has allowed only one earned run in seven innings.

Young still needs to work on his efforts against lefties (.353 average), but that is pretty remarkable to see for a lefty who owns a 3.70 ERA. Thus, there is some room for improvement for a man who is already seeing plenty.

- Brian

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