About 3 years ago, I stumbled across a scouting report by Jason Parks on a player that I had heard of, but hadn't heard much about. He had been included with David Murhpy and Kason Gabbard in the trade that sent Eric Gagne to Boston in 2007.
Engel Beltre was an outfielder with raw skills but high upside, and it was even more exciting to me once I read what Parks had to say about a player who was, at the time, merely 20 years of age.
Beltre was graded to have plus bat speed, a plus arm, plus speed, an overall above-average outfielder, but could also be a free-swinger at times. Nonetheless, it was once sentence that caught my eye:
Beltre is a rare prospect that features average-to-plus projections across the board; legit five-tool talent.
Fast forward a few seasons, and until June 27 against the Yankees, Beltre hadn't come close to starting at the Major League level. His hitting tool has taken longer than expected to develop, and his hot-headedness at times (he was suspended in 2011 for throwing a trash can into the stands at fans) kept him from being considered a serious option until an injury to Craig Gentry forced the issue.
Something I've loved for awhile about the Texas Rangers organization is that the farm is stock-piled with high-upside players at various positions. Other than catcher, the organization has managed to cover almost every other position to prepare for various scenarios, whether it be Josh Hamilton departing via free agency and Leonys Martin stepping up, or an injury forcing someone new into action. Over the past week, that new guy has been Engel Beltre, and what he's done is show why his talent has kept him in the organization despite several black marks that resulted from his temper. While the Rangers hvae Adrian Beltre, another Beltre is beginning to show fans why the organization has maintained course with him.
In his first start, the "other" Beltre managed to go 2-3, and is 4-10 thus far in the 3 games he has started. More than that, however, he's managed to help inject speed into the lineup and help Ron Washington's club play the kind of small-ball that he wanted to see this season. In Sunday's 3-2 win over the Cincinnatti Reds, it was that kind of speed play that could be pointed to as the reason the Rangers were able to scrape out a win against a tough opponent.
As seen above, a squeeze bunt from Elvis Andrus allowed Engel Beltre to dart from third to home. Beltre's speed forced a quick and errant throw from the pitcher, which also allowed Leonys Martin to come home for an extra run in a game the Rangers only ended up winning by one run. It's those type of exciting plays that Ron Washington likes to see his club execute.
On the other hand, later in the game, Beltre missed a throw to the cutoff man which very nearly allowed the game to be tied on a day in which Tanner Scheppers didn't have his best stuff in the 8th inning. Adrian Beltre was sure to give Engel an earful, and the hope is that Engel will learn from it and make the necessary adjustments.
So what happens when Craig Gentry comes back? No one knows for sure, but my guess is that since Engel Beltre still has options, he'll go back to AAA Round Rock and Gentry will assume the role of 4th outfielder (that is unless David Murphy is finally relegated to part-time or platoon duty in the midst of his miserable season to this point). Beltre will likely receive his first opportunity for a full-time role next season, when the status of Nelson Cruz and David Murphy will both be in doubt.
Now, it's entirely possibly that Beltre uses his remaining time at the Major League level to wow the coaching staff and front office and maintain a role going forward this season. He's going to strike out a lot. He doesn't walk much. At the same time, other than right-handedness, Craig Gentry hasn't really offered much more to the Rangers this season than Engel Beltre can, and Beltre is 23 while Gentry is 29. That could play a factor.
Whatever the case may be, for the time being, Engel Beltre is a member of the Texas Rangers. He's exciting to watch, helps provide speed in the lineup, and for now, we should all be content with that. He could turn into something more in the future, but for now, it's nice just to know that, at least until the All-Star break, this team is touch by an Engel.