The Rangers Get Richer: Robert Erlin

The Texas Rangers’ ’09 draft took a huge hit when the organization failed to sign its first pick in Texas high school pitcher Matt Purke. The 14th overall pick spurned the club’s advances and headed off to Texas Christian University. He’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore and will be back in the 2011 draft.

The club redeemed itself with a couple of astute selections with the 44th overall pick (Tanner Scheppers) and 93rd overall selection (Robert Erlin), both pitchers. Today, we’re going to focus on the third round pick. Erlin caught the attention of scouts as a southpaw starter at a high school in Scotts Valley, California, despite his less than ideal pitcher’s stature of 5’11”, 175 lbs.

As Baseball American noted in its ’09 pre-draft coverage:

“…several scouts have said the same thing about him: ‘If he were two inches taller, you’d be talking about him as a first-rounder.'”

Despite his commitment to Cal Poly, Erlin signed with Texas and got in three relief appearances before the ’09 minor league season ended. This season, the 19-year-old hurler has been playing at low-A Hickory. Given durability concerns and his inexperience, Erlin was eased into the season and his first eight appearances came out of the bullpen. During that stretch, he allowed 11 hits and four walks in 20.1 innings of work.

On May 18, the southpaw made his first pro start and did not allow a hit or a walk over five innings of work. He struck out nine batters. Overall on the season, Erlin has allowed just one run – a solo homer – and has absolutely dominated hitters. He holding right-handed batters to a .098 batting average.

And this is not simply a strike-throwing soft-tosser overmatching the young, aggressive hitters in the South Atlantic League. We head back to Baseball America:

Despite the small frame, he has life on his fastball, pitching at 89-92 mph. He commands the pitch to both sides of the plate and has an above-average curveball–a hammer he can throw for strikes in any count.

Erlin doesn’t have the electric repertoire of a Martin Perez, Neftali Feliz or Scheppers, but he’s got an above-average repertoire, as well as a good feel for pitching – especially given his age. The organization has already shown a willingness to handle Erlin carefully, despite the obvious impulse to let him loose on the unsuspecting batters in the low minors. Don’t be surprised if you see his name littered amongst Top 10 post-season prospect lists.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Joey Matschulat
13 years ago

At the risk of being attacked for plugging something on our own website, I would also like to point to Jason Parks’ excellent OFP scouting report on Erlin: