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When the Texas Rangers placed closer Neftali Feliz (shoulder) on the 15-day disabled list last Saturday afternoon, the club promoted reliever Cody Eppley, their 2010 minor league pitcher of the year. Despite the prestigious honor, Eppley has been generally ignored as a prospect primarily because he doesn't throw very hard.
The sidearm hurler is very similar in style to another Rangers reliever, Darren O'Day. Given his style, the 88-90 mph velocity Eppley displayed on Saturday during his debut (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 K) is plenty for a quirky delivery guy.
Throughout his professional career, the 43rd-round pick of the 2008 draft has generated a heavy dose of ground balls. This season he averaged 3.00 ground-outs per every air-out at Triple-A Round Rock, where he fanned nine batters over 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
Feliz out, Eppley long shot for SV
Like O'Day, Eppley is lights-out against righties but is vulnerable to left-handed hitters. All six of the hits Eppley allowed in Round Rock this year came off the bats of lefties.
Looking at his track record, it's hard to argue with the results as Eppley holds a career 2.39 ERA and has registered a 204-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 173 minor league innings.
Eppley is not an immediate candidate for saves in the Rangers' closer-by-committee setup that includes Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes and O'Day. Eppley is not a closer type either, but his performance bears watching given that nobody really stands out in the ninth-inning mix.
A few weeks ago, the Rangers promoted right-handed pitching prospect Neil Ramirez from high Single-A Myrtle Beach to Triple-A Round Rock as a temporarily injury fill-in. However, the Rangers have encountered some pitching injuries lately, and Ramirez has been so impressive in his Triple-A time that the Rangers have extended his stay to give him a longer look. In three starts comprising 16 innings, Ramirez has gone 2-1, with a 1.69 ERA and a 17-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Blessed with great stuff, Ramirez, a former first-round supplemental pick in 2007 out of Kempsville (Va.) High School, was a major disappointment during his first three professional seasons as mechanical issues plagued his performance. Ramirez turned the corner in the second half of his 2010 season at low Single-A Hickory and has been on a roll ever since. In 2009, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound righty averaged 5.56 walks per nine innings, but he was able to trim it down to 2.37 free passes last year.
This preseason Ramirez was ranked as the 27th prospect in the Rangers' organization by Baseball America, so he's flying under the radar and should be monitored by AL-only managers.
Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a nasty curveball, Ramirez has the goods to be a No. 2 starter at the big league level.
The Colorado Rockies have produced some outstanding Latin American right-handers in recent years with Ubaldo Jimenez and Jhoulys Chacin, but they have another promising young gun in Juan Nicasio, who is blowing batters away in Double-A Tulsa. In 22 innings, Nicasio has posted a 3-1 record, with a 2.45 ERA and an eye-popping 30-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio!
Throughout his professional career, Nicasio has pelted the strike zone, showing pinpoint command with 434 strikeouts and 97 walks over 436 2/3 innings. Nicasio attacks hitters with a four-pitch mix, which includes a nasty low- to mid-90s fastball.
Being that he is older than most heralded pitching prospects, the 24-year-old has a chance to pitch himself into the Rockies' rotation this year if he can continue his torrid pace.
About Chris Hadorn
Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.
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