In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up, we continue our write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25. Once again, I issue my usual caveat that I have no first-hand information about these guys, but am simply offering capsule scouting reports for each player based on the info that is out there...
After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #9 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, righthanded pitcher Tanner Scheppers.
Tanner Scheppers is a 6'4", 200 lb. righthanded pitcher with incredible stuff and ongoing durability and injury concerns. Scheppers was draft-eligible in 2008 after his junior season at Fresno State, and Baseball America had him rated the #10 prospect in the nation, ahead of such well-regarded fellow amateurs as Yonder Alonso, Aaron Hicks, Christian Friedrich, and Gerrit Cole, but slipped in the draft after suffering a stress fracture in his pitching shoulder. Scheppers went in the 2nd round to the Pirates -- nine spots before the Rangers took Robbie Ross in that same draft -- but couldn't work out a deal and ended up pitching Independent League ball.
Re-entering the draft in 2009, Scheppers was grabbed #44 by the Rangers with a supplemental first round pick they received as compensation for losing Milton Bradley, despite BA projecting him as a top-10 pick and ranking him #9 overall among 2009 draft-eligibles (immediately ahead of Matt Purke and Shelby Miller, ranked #10 and #11, respectively). Scheppers ended up as a late sign, getting $1.25 million, the highest of any supplemental first rounder in the 2009 draft.
Scheppers was expected to be a player who moved fast, in part because he has two major-league swing-and-miss pitches (an upper-90s fastball and a curveball) that were thought to make him a potential impact pitcher out of a major league pen immediately, and in part because of the thought that his injury history potentially made him a ticking time bomb, with a shoulder that would only have a finite number of innings before he'd be back on the shelf.\
Scheppers started the 2010 season with AA Frisco and dominated immediately, logging 11 innings in six relief appearances, allowing just 3 hits, striking out 19, and walking no one en route to a 0.82 ERA. This performance had Rangers fans giddy at the notion that he'd be in the major league pen before 2010 was up.
That has been the high point of Scheppers' time in the Rangers' organization, however. He was called up to Oklahoma City in 2010 and was erratic, looking dominant at times, struggling in other instances, putting up a K:BB ratio of 71:30 in 69 innings and posting a 5.48 ERA. Scheppers followed that up with a 3.71 ERA, and 44 Ks versus 21 walks, in 43.2 innings last season split between Frisco and Round Rock, with significant time spent on the disabled list. After being rated the #42 prospect in baseball by BA coming into the 2010 season, and the #84 prospect heading into 2011, he's not expected to crack the top 100 for 2012.
2012 is a key season for Scheppers, who turned 25 on Tuesday, and who is in danger of being passed by the next wave of Ranger pitching prospects. The stuff is there for Scheppers to be a dominant late-inning reliever, with two plus pitches in his repertoire, but unless he improves his command, he's not going to be someone that a manager is going to trust late in the game with a win on the line. If he takes a step forward with his command in 2012, expect to see him in Arlington at some point. If not, I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved in the next year.
What sort of ceiling does Scheppers have? The Rangers have worked him as a starter, and have held out hope he'd develop the durability and third pitch necessary for him to be a major league starting pitcher. From a pure stuff standpoint with his fastball and his curve, you could argue he has TORP potential, but given the problems he's had the past two seasons, it is hard to even project him as a starter. Schepper's realistic ceiling is probably as a dominant reliever, a Gregg Olson type who mows guys down out of the pen with his fastball/curveball combo.