Chad Tracy is simply picking up where he left off––at a higher level.
The 24-year-old had a rough first half last season at Double-A Frisco, but he turned it around and was clearly the best second-half hitter in the Texas Rangers organization. In 245 post-All-Star break at-bats, Tracy batted .322 with 19 doubles and 17 homers––leading to a sparkling .991 OPS.
During last year's second half, Tracy credited improved plate discipline for his success. He said although his walk rate didn't increase by much, he was being more patient early in the count and allowing himself to hit better pitches.
This spring, Tracy said his approach is still a work in progress, but he's trying to do the same thing.
And it seems to be working at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
During the month of April––Tracy's first at the Triple-A level––the Pepperdine product was the best power producer in the system, batting .342 with five doubles, a triple, six homers, and 20 runs batted in. Not generally known for his speed, Tracy even swiped three bases in three attempts.
Tracy entered the season with a .238/.301/.412 line in 260 career April at-bats over his previous three seasons. Because of that, the slugger had earned a reputation as being a slow starter, but he seems to be over those issues.
A definite pull hitter, Tracy appears to be having fun with the left-field bleachers at Oklahoma City's Bricktown Ballpark. The California native is perhaps the best fastball hitter in the entire system, and his numbers are improving largely because he's laying off the ‘junk' and letting himself get the pitch he can drive.
Honorable Mention: Matt Lawson (Frisco), David Paisano (Bakersfield), Miguel Velazquez (Hickory)
Pitcher of the Month: Derek Holland, LHP, Oklahoma City
After missing out on the Texas Rangers' opening day roster, the left-hander is knocking on the door of the big leagues once again––just five starts later.
Holland has been nothing short of dominant so far this year, yielding just two earned runs on 28 hits in 33.2 innings. He has pounded the strike zone while also missing bats, walking just six and fanning 29.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound hurler has pitched at least six innings in all five of his starts this season––all quality starts. He had worked into the eighth inning twice while almost always keeping a rather economic pitch count.
Holland has been focusing on two primary things with the RedHawks––fastball command, and secondary stuff.
During one April start attended by Lone Star Dugout, the 23-year-old mostly worked in the 92-94 mph range, but he also had the ability to tick a bit higher when necessary. Holland showed improved fastball command, generally keeping the ball down and working both corners.
Holland is also working with a harder slider that ranges close to the mid-80s. The pitch is harder and sharper than his former self-described ‘discus-like' slider, and it should do a better job of complementing his fastball. The Ohio native also mixes in a show-me curveball and a changeup.
The Rangers' starting rotation certainly hasn't been bad so far this season, but the Rangers now have depth. Starters Rich Harden and Matt Harrison haven't performed up to expectations thus far, and the Rangers could eventually make a move to put Holland in the rotation.
Even if Holland doesn't take over a big league rotation spot soon, he'll almost certainly get his chance at some point this year. Regardless of what happens in the short term, he is definitely working on his game and developing at Triple-A for the time being.
Honorable Mention: Tanner Scheppers (Frisco), Cody Eppley (Bakersfield), Robbie Erlin (Hickory)
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