The Rangers beat the Dodgers 4-1 behind more solid pitching from what appears to be an endless pool of talent. The lone Dodgers run came on a solo homer off Fabio Castillo, but those who know these types of things like the way he threw. Mark Hamburger, acquired for Eddie Guardado, contributed a scoreless eighth, and lefty Corey Young, the 12th-round pick in 2008 from Seton Hall, worked an easy ninth.
Earlier in the day, Blake Beavan, Joe Wieland, Martin Perez and Zach Phillips threw bullpen sessions. Wieland, who has freakishly large calves, said he has been moved to the right side of the rubber because he projects as a power pitcher. (That projection, by the way, comes from Nolan Ryan.) This right-hander, the Rangers' fourth-round pick from Reno, Nev., routinely touches the lower 90s at a teenager and is projected to jump into the mid-90s.
Perez looks as good as people say he is. Working next to fellow lefty Phillips, Perez seemed to be doing a lot of plus things with minimal effort. Or at least less effort than Phillips.
Beavan continues to work on the mechanical adjustments he made midseason at Class-A Clinton. One Rangers exec called the Irving product a premium strike thrower who will make a lot of hitters swing and miss throwing in the low 90s. Beavan said he fully expects his velocity to return to the mid-90s after learning how to adjust to the rigors of minor-league life in 2008.
So, in three days in Surprise, I learned/observed the following:
Engel Beltre is very, very good. Fun to watch. But he is still 18 and needs more polish. ... Justin Smoak has convinced some Rangers brass that he is further along than originally thought. ... Neftali Feliz might indeed be the real deal. One club official hopes that he is but warned not to make too much of him too soon. ... Nolan Ryan's word is gold with every young pitcher, from Beavan and Wieland to Feliz and Perez.
Despite the abundance of talent, there are no guarantees that the Rangers will be division, AL or world champs over the next decade. The parallel I continue to draw is to college football recruiting. A program gets a class of 25 really good guys, but more than half will be gone or forgotten (got hurt, flunked out, transferred, got homesick, fell in love, stopped developing and were passed by better players) when their five years of eligibility are up. Many of the Rangers' prospects have a lot of life yet to experience, not to mention the business side of baseball, and some of that could get in their way to the major leagues.
-- Jeff Wilson