Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 20 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 4, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 11
Round Rock: 14 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 12 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 8-12, 6 GB

SP Collin Wiles: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 62 P / 42 S, 10.80 ERA
RF Sandro Fabian: 4-5, .393/.433/.589
2B Jonathan Ornelas: 3-5, .302/.339/.434

Collin Wiles had a Jack Leiter MLB start: quick and clean odd innings, a troublesome 2nd he escaped, a troublesome 4th he couldn’t. Yerry Rodriguez (1 IP, 3 R), Jesus Tinoco (1.2 IP, 2 R), and Blake Taylor (1 IP, 1 R) couldn’t help. Florencio Serrano walked five in 0.2 innings. He had scant experience above high-A until recently.

Round Rock put 21 runners on but stranded 15 and lost two others on the bases.

AA: Frisco 8, @ Arkansas (SEA) 4 (10)
Frisco: 11 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 9-5, tied for first

SP Emiliano Teodo: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 67 P / 39 S, 3.86 ERA
RP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Triston Polley: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 6.00 ERA
LF Aaron Zavala: 2-5, 2B, .244/.418/.390
RF Josh Hatcher: 2-4, 2B, BB, SB (2), .387/.424/.484

Emiliano Teodo didn’t miss many bats but handled the Travelers without too much trouble. Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa has five scoreless appearances with one walk and a 45% strikeout rate.

We’ve got a week and change to go, but Aaron Zavala is looking to slug better than any month of 2023, when he topped at .316 in May.

Hi-A: Hickory 0, @ Greensboro (PIT) 8
Hickory: 4 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 5-10, 3.5 GB

SP Aidan Curry: 3 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 6 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 84 P / 53 S, 7.36 ERA
RP Adrian Rodriguez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 3.00 ERA
CF Anthony Gutierrez: 2-4, 2B, .191/.208/.277

Aidan Curry dominated low-A but has found high-A much different, allowing at least three runs in four of five starts (including two to end 2023).

Here’s today’s puzzle: “Sebastian Walcott singles on a ground ball to shortstop Jack Brannigan. Sebastian Walcott out at 2nd, catcher Geovanny Planchart to first baseman Maikol Escotto.” What happened? Answer below.

Lo-A: Down East 0, Delmarva (BAL) 6
Down East: 4 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 8-6, 4 GB

SP Kolton Curtis: 4 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 5 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 70 P / 46 S, 2.25 ERA
RP Josh Trentadue: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 2.84 ERA

19-year-old Kolton Curtis found trouble for the first time in three appearances, while Saturday night partner Josh Trentadue rebounded but a rougher previous outing. Both have nice overall lines.

Today’s Starters
AA: Krauth
Hi-A: Porter

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Sam Huff homered in both ends of Hickory’s doubleheader. Tyreque Reed doubled twice and walked for Down East. Reed batted .198/.283/.347 for AA Portland last year. He signed with an indy team recently.

Answer: Walcott grounded to shortstop, who widely overthrew first. After passing first base, Walcott turned toward second and then reversed. The ump ruled he’d committed to second, and the catcher backing up the play threw to the first baseman who tagged him out.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 19 April

A fine night for the starting pitchers.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 3
Round Rock: 10 hits, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Record: 8-11, 5 GB

SP Adrian Sampson: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 82 P / 61 S, 5.66 ERA
3B Dustin Harris: 2-5, 2 SB (7), .281/.319/.438
RF Sandro Fabian: 2-4, 3B, BB, .353/.400/.569

Now in the dual role of establishing his depth bona fides and saving management from having to call up me or Walter Johnson to pitch (probably Johnson), Adrian Sampson delivered seven innings on just 82 pitches. Newcomer Jimmy Robbins tossed a scoreless 8th.

Regarding Owen White’s promotion, he’s pitching better than his 7.30 ERA and better than during 2023, but under ordinary circumstances, I really doubt he’d be getting the call.

AA: Frisco 4, @ Arkansas (SEA) 0
Frisco: 7 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 1 hit, 5 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 8-5, tied for first

SP Dane Acker: 4.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 85 P / 51 S, 0.68 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 2.25 ERA
CF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, BB, .260/.356/.300
LF Geisel Cepeda: 2-3, BB, SB (1), .129/.206/.129

Frisco carried a no-hitter into the 7th. An honest liner from Hogan Windish broke it up. A preceding walk and later steal put the tying run at the plate and two in scoring position with one out, but Robby Ahlstrom fanned the next two. Dane Acker has yet to allow an extra-base hit and has strike out 37% of his opponents. I don’t know that he’s quite that good, but he’s certainly aiming toward a promotion to AAA and 40 spot. And, under the circumstances, who knows what else.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, @ Greensboro (PIT) 3
Hickory: 6 hits, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 6 walks, 17 strikeouts
Record: 5-9, 3 GB

SP Winston Santos: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 SO, 86 P / 59 S, 0.57 ERA
RP Yohanse Morel: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 5.63 ERA
SS Sebastian Walcott: 2-5, 2B, .136/.224/.227
3B Marco Soto: 1-2, 2 BB

What if Winston Santos just kept getting better until he opened new realms of math and physics with more strikeouts than batters faced? Maybe we’ll find out. Santos fanned a personal-best 12, including a stretch of nine in ten batters interrupted by a walk. He, too, has yet to allow an extra-base hit, and 40% of opponents have walked back to the dugout.

20-year-old Marco Soto was a late March acquisition from Philly in exchange for catcher Jose Godoy, himself an offseason acquisition to bolster AAA. Soto hadn’t played in full-season ball until very recently.

Lo-A: Down East 9, Delmarva (BAL) 1
Down East: 9 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 3 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 8-5, 3 GB

SP Alejandro Rosario: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 SO, 52 P / 35 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Wilian Bormie: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 2.53 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 2-5, 2B, .250/.421/.523
DH Julian Brock: 1-4, BB, .234/.308/.298
1B Arturo Disla: 1-4, 2B, BB, .278/.447/.361
C Jesus Lopez: 1-4, BB, .216/.310/.351

In his pro debut, 22-year-old Alejandro Rosario shut down the Shorebirds for four innings. Rosario posted some college numbers that might have you wondering about his fifth-round selection: a 7+ ERA in his sophomore and junior years, 22 homers and 90 BB/HBP in 134 innings. The Rangers think they can get more out of mid-90s sinker that has touched 100 (from what I’ve read) plus a slider and change.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Wiles
AA: Teodo
Hi-A: Curry
Lo-A: TBA (maybe Trentadue / Curtis)

Five Years Ago Yesterday
No report because of multiple rainouts.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 18 April

Had you not seen Jack Leiter professionally until yesterday, he offered a reasonable facsimile of his career to date. Periods of dominance, period of missing control and command for which he was punished.

I was amused to see him retire the first batter on two low fastballs and a change, a stark contrast to his AAA method of attack. I wasn’t expecting many cutters as Detroit offered only three lefties in its lineup, but he didn’t throw a single one. Leiter instead dealt a higher percentage of curves and changes. Leiter hadn’t recorded a called or swinging strike on a changeup in three AAA starts, but he notched two of the former and one of the latter yesterday. It’s been such an inconsequential part of his repertoire that I’ve wondered if he might ditch it, but instead it was a decent-looking and useful pitch, and in his MLB debut of all places. A notable absence was any misses on sliders. And even though he’s a power pitcher with good movement, he needs his command. The upper third of the zone (or just above it to induce swings) belongs to him. Anywhere else is a ball or potential trouble. While nothing left the yard, Detroit’s hard-hit rate against Leiter was a lofty 67%.

Although it sounds homerish in light of seven runs in 3.2 innings, I was pleased with his MLB debut. He showed what he’s capable of.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 7
Round Rock: 11 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 7-11, 6 GB

SP Danny Duffy: 2 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 48 P / 24 S, 5.06 ERA
DH Blaine Crim: 2-4, HR (3), HBP, .170/.274/.358
RF Elier Hernandez: 2-3, 2B, 2 BB, .306/.424/.469
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 2-5, 2B, .271/.314/.417

Relievers Marc Church (shoulder strain) and Daniel Robert are on the IL, joining righty Tim Brennan and lefty Antoine Kelly. Jack Leiter and Cole Winn are with Texas. So, who is pitching for the Express these days. New to the organization and team are righties Collin Wiles and Shaun Anderson and lefty Jimmy Robbins.

Wiles is the familiar face, Texas’s 2012 supplemental first rounder and a Ranger for ten seasons, after which he joined the A’s and tossed 9.2 MLB innings with a 4.66 ERA. He does not appear to have pitched anywhere in 2023. Anderson is one of several hundred players the Rangers claimed and re-waived during their fallow period. He was in the organization for two weeks and made two appearances for the Express in 2021. He’d been a free agent since last November. Anderson has a 5.84 ERA in 135.2 MLB innings, most of them occurring in 2019. Texas acquired the 26-year-old Robbins for cash from the Blue Jays. The 2019 20th-rounder has limited experience in AAA, compiling a 15.00 ERA in nine innings. Walks have troubled him at the upper levels.

Blaine Crim’s poor slash line caught my eye because didn’t I realize he’d started in such a slump. On further review, he really hasn’t. All the underlying data are solid, or at least not out of the ordinary. The problem is Crim doesn’t have any base hits on grounders and is hitting only .200 on velo/angle combinations that should yield a single more often than not. That’s some seriously bad luck.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Ornelas has one of the best hard-hit rates on the team and a 90th-percentile exit velo of 104.6, but 60% of his balls in play have had a negative angle. He’s batting and slugging .278 on those, compared to a .500 average and 1.000 slugging percentage on the rest.

AA: Frisco 1, @ Arkansas (SEA) 6
Frisco: 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 7 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 7-5, 1 GB

SP Kohl Drake: 1.1 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 4 R, 6 BB, 3 SO, 68 P / 37 S, 27.00 ERA
RP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.86 ERA

Facing its own staffing issues, Frisco needed LHP Kohl Drake to start last night. Now 23, the 2022 11-rounder hadn’t pitched above low-A. Unfortunately, Drake’s occasional control issues at the lower levels were persistent last night, and both his innings exceed 30 pitches, a rarity in the minors.

Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa is off to a fine start including no walks and eight strikeouts in four scoreless innings.

Hi-A: Hickory 6, @ Greensboro (PIT) 9
Hickory: 6 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 4-9, 4 GB

SP Joseph Montalvo: 2.1 IP, 5 H (6.75 HR), 4 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 65 P / 35 S, 6.75 ERA
RF Yeison Morrobel: 1-3, BB, HBP, .250/.386/.333
LF Quincy Scott: 1-4, HR (1), .143/.211/.257
C Ian Moller: 2-3, 2B, BB, .174/.240/.261

Yeison Morrobel is tracking closely to his 2023 so far: plenty of walks (or HBPs), a respectable strikeout rate, not so much power. He’s a young 20 and fairly inexperienced for the level, having missed most of last season in low-A to injuries.

Lo-A: Down East 8, Delmarva (BAL) 2
Down East: 11 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 7-5, 3 GB

SP Jose Gonzalez: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 64 P / 43 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Case Matter: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3.86 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-3, 2 BB, .231/.423/.513
1B Arturo Disla: 2-5, 2B, .281/.452/.344
DH Jesus Lopez: 1-3, HR (1), BB, .212/.297/.364

22-year-old Jose Gonzalez struck out nine of 13 batters. Last year, he threw four pitches in low-A. I’m not describing his repertoire. I mean he threw four pitches, retiring the one batter he faced. Prior to that, he posted a 5.40 ERA in 30 complex innings, but the peripheral were better.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Sampson
AA: Acker
Hi-A: Santos

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Texas recalled lefty Brett Martin for his MLB debut. He would throw a scoreless 9th in a 7-2 loss to Houston. Martin missed all of 2023 with a shoulder injury and became a free agent. Best as I can tell, he remains unsigned.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 17 April

I’ve published some location charts to add to my discussion of Jack Leiter from yesterday.

If you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, please also check out the writeup by Friend of the Report Grant Schiller.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 1, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 4 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 7-10, 6 GB
SP Gerson Garabito: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 HBP, 4 SO, 75 P / 51 S, 3.60 ERA
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
C Sam Huff: 2-3, 2B, BB, .333/.424/.647

Offseason pickup Gerson Garabito pitched well in his his AAA appearance in three years. According to the chart, he mixed a fastball (avg. 94, up to 95.9), cutter, sinker, slider, change, and curve.

Grant Anderson is back in AAA to make room for Leiter, and Brock Burke and his mangled hand were transferred to the 60-day IL.

AA: Frisco 1, @ Arkansas (SEA) 6
Frisco: 4 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 7-4, 1 GB

SP Ben Anderson: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 74 P / 46 S, 2.08 ERA
RF Josh Hatcher: 2-3, 2B, .417/.440/.500

Josh Hatcher had the only multi-hit day and only extra-base hit.

Hi-A: Hickory 6, @ Greensboro (PIT) 8
Hickory: 9 hits, 11 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 4-7, 3 GB
SP Luis Ramirez: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 60 P / 40 S, 5.79 ERA
C Tucker Mitchell: 2-4, HR (2), BB, .189/.268/.378
SS Sebastian Walcott: 0-2, 3 BB, .103/.205/.179
DH Yeison Morrobel: 2-4, 2B, BB, .242/.359/.333
LF Yosy Galan: 2-3, HR (3), 2 BB, 2 SB (2), .292/.333/.750

Luis Ramirez carried a no-hitter into the 4th but would only collect two more outs.

Sebastian “Zavala” Walcott now has more walks (5) than hits (4). I haven’t run the numbers in a few days, but clearly his pitch discernment has improved from the opening series when nearly half his taken pitches were strikes.

Yosy Galan’s whiff rate might be the death of him, but he can put a charge into a ball.

Lo-A: Down East 4, Delmarva (BAL) 3 (10)
Down East: 5 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 6-5, 3 GB

SP Brayan Mendoza: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 7 SO, 69 P / 43 S, 3.48 ERA
RP Paul Bonzagni: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 2.70 ERA
RP Luke Savage: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4.50 ERA
1B Arturo Disla: 1-2, 2 BB, .259/.459/.296
SS Danyer Cueva: 1-3, BB, .184/.225/.211

Paul Bonzagni found the strike zone that had gone missing during his first appearance. Luke Savage is back in Down East after a quick visit to Hickory. I can see Arturo Disla hitting .259 with a .4xx OBP, but he’s not going to slug .296 all year.

Today’s Starters
AA: TBA (Garabito listed, not happening)
Hi-A: Montalvo

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Texas promoted 18-year-old righty to low-A Hickory, skipping the rookie league and short-season Spokane. Lefty Jacob Latz and OF JP Martinez were promoted from Hickory to high-A Down East. Hans Crouse walked none and fanned eight while allowing two runs in 6.2 innings for Hickory.

Jack Leiter AAA Charts

I’ve overlaid the Statcast illustrator images from his three AAA starts and colored in the whiffs. First, the fastball (swinging strikes in green). I should clarify his fastball location, which I’d previously described at heavier to his glove-side irrespective of batter handedness. In truth, he focuses on that location when aiming for the bottom half of the zone, but top-half pitches are more evenly spread horizontally. I was probably putting his fastballs and cutters (see below) into the same bucket.

Now, sliders (swinging strikes in red). As I’d mentioned, he had a bad tendency toward jerking his sliders too far glove-side, and it was readily apparent out of his hand, turning a putative put-away into a waste pitch. He’s grabbing the corner (or making batters think he will) much more frequently now, inducing more swings.

Cutter chart (no swinging strikes, as there’s only one). He doesn’t use it much against righties, instead crowding lefties with it. This chart is why I’ve mentioned his glove-side tendency on several occasions. Round Rock’s fancy new scoreboard has been slow to update pitch speeds, and his cutter’s cut is slight, often still tailing arm-side a little, so I was usually seeing and marking these as fastballs (or a fastball with a question mark because it looked a little strange).

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 16 April

Jack Leiter will make his MLB debut Thursday in Detroit. Much of what I wrote about Cole Winn two days ago could apply to Leiter. In the previous two pro seasons he only fleetingly resembled his former self or indicated he was heading toward his original projection.  

Leiter has looked much, much better in 2024. And, like Winn, he’ll be taking the mound in a Texas uniform much more quickly than I think anyone expected heading into the season. Given the history, a not-unreasonable goal for 2024 was simply pitching well enough to ensure a 40 spot.

So, who is Jack Leiter now? His mix is a bit old-fashioned in an era when pitchers are throwing fewer four-seamers than ever. The 2023 starter with the most similar proportions of pitch types was Gerrit Cole.

Fastball – 56% of pitches, usually 94-97 MPH, topping at 98.2. The fastball is why he’s in Detroit. It’s a terrific blend of velocity, movement, and (critically in 2024) location, enabling him to miss a startling number of bats in the zone and get chases outside. He lives high and mostly glove-side, outside to righties and inside to lefties. Opponents are missing on 19% of all fastballs and 43% of swings. With that kind of success, Leiter isn’t automatically shifting to a slider with two strikes. Ten of his 14 swinging strikeouts and eight of 11 called Ks have come with the fastball. I wouldn’t say he’s pitching backwards, but whatever is going on early in the at-bat tends to set up a put-away heater.

Cutter – 8% of pitches, mostly 90-92, up to 94.3. This designation isn’t a  arbitrary Statcast output. It’s definitely distinct from his slider and in fact mostly closely resembles the fastball. He doesn’t throw it frequently, but it’s been quietly effective. Hitters like to offer at it, and while they don’t miss much (only 10% of swings), they mostly just foul it off.

Slider – 23% of pitches, mostly 85-88, up to 88.9. It typically runs down-away to righties as you’d expect, and nearly every swinging strike has come in the low/glove-side quadrant or outside it. He’ll occasionally aim them high. It’s much improved and more consistent. I don’t have the data, but opponents’ 59% swing rate against them this season has to be higher than 2022-2023. Previously, his sliders more frequently announced their out-and-away destination straight out of his hand, and batters could safely take.

Curve – 10% of pitches, mostly 79-83, topping at 84.1. Not a critical of his repertoire so far in 2024, more a way to keep the enemy from locking in on something else. Batters typically lay off, and 75% of those taken have been balls. One-third of them have been used as a first-pitch strike-stealer. Of eight thrown, he’s received four calls, two balls, one swinging strike, and Ryan Ward’s homer off the roof of the Round Rock warehouse behind the 400 sign.

Change – 3% of pitches, 87-90. Entering his third pro year, the changeup remains something of an afterthought. He’s thrown seven in three games. They tend to run low and outside, so even if they’re not accomplishing much, he’s at least not putting them in wheelhouses as Cole Winn sometimes would when his command was at its ebb.

Leiter’s first-pitch choices have resembled his overall mix, with a few more curves at the expense of cutters. 53% of first pitches are strikes, about 5% fewer than the average in all Round Rock games this season. He tends to throw more balls but generates more misses when opponents swing.

An important caveat: Good as he’s been in 2024, opponents are hitting .392 and slugging .892 when they make contact. For his career, he’s allowed an extra 15 points of batting average and 74 points of slugging on contact versus the league. The difference in 2024 has been dramatically better location. Fewer walks and more strikeouts have yielded fewer runners on base when the occasionally very-hard contact occurs. Leiter will give up a high proportion of fly balls, and some of those will leave the yard. Like I said after his last AAA start, we can’t wish away his three homers. None of them were cheap. The average MLB homer in 2024 has scored 1.6 runs. Leiter’s average needs to be lower. He needs to minimize runners on base in front of that hard contact. Here’s my video from his first start in Round Rock.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 2, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 3
Round Rock: 3 hits, 7 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 7-9, 5 GB

SP Florencio Serrano: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 51 P / 25 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Damian Mendoza: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Jonathan Hernandez: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1.29 ERA

Florencio Serrano and Damian Mendoza pitching back-to-back for Round Rock in April 2024 wasn’t on my prediction list. Serrano has thrown mostly for high-A Hickory with short trips to Frisco, while Mendoza has spent only about 15 minutes of his career above low-A. They acquitted themselves well, combining for three runs in five innings.

AA: Frisco 3, @ Arkansas (SEA) 4
Frisco: 7 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 7-3, 1 GB

SP Ryan Garcia: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 73 P / 38 S, 6.75 ERA
RF Aaron Zavala: 2-3, 2B, BB, .250/.463/.429

Zavala has a couple of two-hit efforts in the three games since I wondered about his continued low-hit, high-walk propensity. He’s also drawn five walks in that span because of course he has.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, @ Greensboro (PIT) 4 (10)
Hickory: 10 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 4-6, 2 GB

SP Mitch Bratt: 4.1 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 76 P / 49 S, 11.05 ERA
RP Jacob Maton: 2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 2.25 ERA
RP Yohanse Morel: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 7.50 ERA
LF Yeison Morrobel: 2-5, .207/.324/.376
DH Yosy Galan: 2-5, HR (2), .238/.227/.571

At long last, an “ordinary” solid day at the plate that doesn’t require a comparison or backstory. Yosy Galan launched his second homer, and because he has a sac fly but no walks yet, his OBP is lower than his batting average. Mitch Bratt rebounded nicely from a an opening-start mauling.

IF Cam Cauley is on Hickory’s 7-day IL.

Lo-A: Down East 1, Delmarva (BAL) 0
Down East: 2 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 5-5, 3 GB

SP Ryan Lobus: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 50 P / 33 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Justin Sanchez: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2.45 ERA
RP Bryan Magdaleno: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA

Lobus Sanchez & Magdaleno PLLC shut out the Shorebirds. At 23, the undrafted Lobus is of an age at which one can almost treat him like a late-round hitter drafted out of college. He needs to show something quickly. So far so good: three scoreless appearances, one walk, seven strikeouts in 6.2 IP.

Today’s Starters
AAA: White
AA: B. Anderson
Hi-A: Ramirez
Lo-A: B. Mendoza

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Tyler Phillips threw seven scoreless for high-A Down East, and Emmanuel Clase covered the final two innings while touching 101 with the fastball.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 14 April

720 days ago, while cruising through one of his better outings, Cole Winn took a sharp comebacker off the inside of his foot. From my viewpoint at the time, the incident was scary but inconsequential. He was removed for precautionary reasons but walked to the dugout without difficulty. He would not miss a start; indeed, he next pitched on four days rest for the first time that season. A summer promotion to the big-league rotation beckoned.

The consequences were in fact severe. For whatever reasons, the incident ruined his ability to retire batters with any consistency. He didn’t lose any velocity, nor did any particular pitch become useless, but basic control often abandoned him, as did command within the zone. He had intermittent success, sometimes an entire outing’s worth, but in general, success was an inning-to-inning or even pitch-to-pitch proposition. At its onset, I pointed out a vaguely similar stretch, when after a terrific spring of 2019 he struggled mightily at low-A Hickory but found himself toward the end of the season. This time, the recovery never arrived. Since the incident, opponents have batted .275/.392/.457 against him in AAA. In 20 of 57 outings, he allowed at least as many runs as innings pitched. One of every six batters reached on a walk or HBP.

I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in the head’s of pro athletes. I don’t know if Cole Winn ever stared up at the ceiling late at night after one of his rougher outings, wondering about his future. I do know I have stared up at the ceiling late at night after one of his rougher outings, wondering about his future. Imagine being a step from the pinnacle and finding you can’t do what you’ve done virtually your whole life. Imagine having a terrible outing, resting, throwing on the side, working with coaches, maybe working with a mental health coach, waiting an entire week for your next chance, and then being pulled after six runs and 37 pitches in the 1st. And then going through the process again, and again.

Whenever a Texas transaction involving the 40-man roster is impending, I glance at the list to ponder who might be designated for assignment. At no point in the last two years had I ever thought Winn’s day was at hand, but last month I expressed the possibility of reaching that point, even though he has an option in 2025. His March in Surprise didn’t allay any concerns, after all. Eventually, a player has to appear as if he can contribute.

Somehow, barely two weeks into the regular season, Winn is a Major Leaguer. He suddenly looked much better in Round Rock, not always successful but certainly with better control and command that enabled him to fight the opposition instead of himself. Then, in a one-inning stint on Thursday, he looked better than I’ve ever seen. I broached the idea of an eventual callup pending further success. The Rangers instead said “Cole baby, whatcha doin’ this weekend?” Or words to that effect.

I don’t have a list of MLB debuts that made me the happiest (a project for another day, perhaps), but Winn has to be in the top five. I’d guess I’ve seen him person more than any other pitcher except perhaps Martin Perez. Whatever else happens, he and everybody with a stake in his success went through an awful lot to get here.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 5, Oklahoma City (LAD) 14
Round Rock: 5 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 9 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 7-8, 4 GB

SP Danny Duffy: 1.1 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 48 P / 28 S, 3.12 ERA
RF Trevor Hauver: 2-3, HR (1), .308/.408/.436

Texas promoted 25-year-old righty Bryan Chi from Hickory prior to the game. Chi was successful in low-A last year, but this was a “we need a guy” promotion. Typically, such players aren’t really ready for the level but hopefully can provide some service and also have the fortitude to handle what could be a seriously adverse situation. His day began by stranding three bequeathed runners in the 3rd. After escaping a two-runner 4th, his 5th was catastrophe: 30 pitches and eight runs without a batter retired.

In 2023, reliever Grant Wolfram was quite successful in AA (2.02 ERA with matching peripherals) but found AAA a daunting challenge (10.80 ERA, 26 runners in 13.1 innings). In his first outing back in AAA, he allowed two runs in 2.2 innings but retired seven of nine batters, so we’ll take it.

AA: Frisco 10, Corpus Christi (HOU) 2
Frisco: 11 hits, 8 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 7-2, tied for first

SP Nick Krauth: 6 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 72 P / 49 S, 6.52 ERA
RP Tyler Owens: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 5.40 ERA
LF Aaron Zavala: 0-2, 3 BB
CF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, 2 2B
RF Josh Hatcher: 3-5
3B Cody Freeman: 3-4, 2B

Frisco took five of six from Corpus by an aggregate score of 40-20. Liam Hicks was held hitless for the second time but managed a walk and has reached safely in all nine games.

Rehabbing Nathaniel Lowe homered and walked.

Hi-A: Hickory 10, Jersey Shore (PHI) 8
Hickory: 11 hits, 6 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 3-6, 3 GB

SP Brock Porter: 3 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 62 P / 29 S, 3.60 ERA
RP Jackson Kelley: 3 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.42 ERA
DH Yeison Morrobel: 2-4, 2B, BB
C Tucker Mitchell: 1-5, HR (1)
SS Sebastian Walcott: 2-5, 2B
LF Yosy Galan: 1-2, HR (1)

Hallelujah. Ten runs. 17 runners, including at least one in seven of eight innings.

Sebastian Walcott had his first two-hit game and is trending sharply away from the frightening ball-strike data I provided last week.

Walcott’s first five games: 77% strike rate, 30% swinging strike rate, 51% swinging strike rate on swings, 56% ball rate on pitches taken.
Four games since then: 60% strike rate, 4% swinging strike rate, 11% swinging strike rate on swings, 59% ball rate on pitches taken.

2B Ben Blackwell drew three walks. RF Anthony Gutierrez doubled. CF Daniel Mateo reach on two singles and an HBP. Tucker Mitchell’s homer, Hickory’s first of the season, was a grand slam.

Top pitching prospect Brock Porter missed on more than half his pitches for a second straight outing but didn’t suffer too badly. Per observer Mark Parker, he emphasized the curve, and the fastball was mostly 89-91, not the digits you want to see. However, he was in that range when I saw him last year in Surprise, and he regained velocity as the season progressed.

Skylar Hales entered the 9th and reached to within a strike of a 1-2-3 conclusion. He left with five runs on the board as Jersey Shore collected six consecutive hits, three of them cheapies. Life as a reliever.

Lo-A: Down East 4, @ Carolina (MIL) 6
Down East: 5 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 4-5, 4 GB

SP Luis Valdez: 3 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 50 P / 34 S, 5.40 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-5, HR (3)

Gleider Figuereo is one-third of the way to his 2023 homer total after just nine games. Well-regarded 1B/OF Marcos Torres is batting .040 with a 59% strikeout rate.

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Nashville’s Willie Calhoun improved to .285/.400/.500 with a homer and two singles.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 13 April

The cascading effects of Austin Pruitt’s promotion are reliever Grant Wolfram up from Frisco to Round Rock and Seth Clark from Hickory to Frisco. Also, righty Tim Brennan and 40-man reliever Antoine Kelly are on the 7-day IL.

Justin Foscue’s previous two IL stints for oblique injuries were seven weeks back in 2021 and a precautionary week-plus in 2022. The 2024 version will be at least 60 days.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, Oklahoma City (LAD) 12
Round Rock: 5 hits, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 16 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 7-7, 3 GB

SP Adrian Sampson: 4.2 IP, 10 H (1 HR), 9 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 79 P / 49 S, 7.90 ERA
C Sam Huff: 1-4, HR (3), .310/.383/.677

Would you believe Adrian Sampson retired nine of the first ten batters? Next, an eight-run 4th that a younger pitcher might not have been allowed to complete. Sam Huff hit a big-boy homer: 444 feet halfway up the berm beyond deep left-center.

AA: Frisco 10, Corpus Christi (HOU) 3
Frisco: 11 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 6-2, tied for first

SP Emiliano Teodo: 4 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 SO, 63 P / 34 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Ricky DeVito: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 15.00 ERA
LF Aaron Zavala: 2-4, HR (1), BB
C Liam Hicks: 2-5
RF Abi Ortiz: 2-4, 2B
3B Cody Freeman: 2-4, 2B
2B Frainyer Chavez: 2-4, 2B

“Emiliano Teodo allowed six fewer runs than future HOFer Justin Verlander” isn’t a sentence I expected to type in 2024, but here we are.

Teodo cruised through three, but in the 4th he was plunked in the cheek by a throw from the plate ump. Teodo was facing him but (I think) looking at his hands. The impact was more a glancing blow, but still, a baseball to the face. After a delay, Teodo persevered through missing control, issuing five consecutive balls, walking three, and unleashing a wild pitch. He completed the inning and his night without allowing a hit. Teodo’s curve was especially effective, accounting for seven swinging strikes. He also made a rangy grab of a short pop toward the home dugout.

Frisco pinned all six on Verlander in the 3rd. Freeman single, Chavez double, Zavala ROE, Hicks single, Lowe walk, Ortiz double, Josh Hatcher single.

Nathaniel Lowe, looking patently ridiculous in his cream Riders top and blindingly white Rangers pants, was 0-2 with a walk.

Hi-A: Hickory 0, Jersey Shore (PHI) 13
Hickory: 4 hits, 0 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-6, 3 GB

SP Aidan Curry: 4 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 3 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 73 P / 48 S, 3.38 ERA
1B Quincy Scott: 2-4

Is eight runs in eight games the worst-ever offensive stretch for any Texas minor league club? Probably not, but I can’t recall anything worse. (Confirming this would be an arduous task I won’t undertake unless the malaise extends deep into April. Don’t make me do this, Hickory.)

In MLB, eight-game stretches averaging under one run per game aren’t that uncommon in the dead-ball era. More recently, Houston’s 1963 club holds the dubious record of two runs during eight games in June 1963. For an uncommonly optimistic example, the 2010 Phils scored seven in eight games in late May. They won the division with a 97-65 record.

The squad has several new hitters who didn’t exactly tear up low-A, but this is beyond comprehension.  Cam Cauley (.231/.231/.269) leads the team with a .500 OPS. Last year’s offense had the same hitting coach (Drew Sannes) and was better than average. I don’t imagine he’s enjoyed the last week.

Lo-A: Down East 5, @ Carolina (MIL) 7
Down East: 8 hits, 9 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 4-4, 3 GB

SP Josh Trentadue: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 68 P / 41 S, 4.15 ERA
RP Kolton Curtis: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-3, 2 BB
1B Arturo Disla: 1-2, 3 BB
CF Jojo Blackmon: 1-3, 2B, BB
2B Chander Pollard: 2-3, BB, 2 SB (4)

Josh Trentadue is younger than Adrian Sampson and pulled after 27 pitches and four runs in the 4th. Replacement Alberto Mota would surrender three of his own that inning. 19-year-old Kolton Curtis, the one teen-aged pitched on the staff, was formidable again.

Gleider Figuereo is pacing the offense with a .227/.485/.581 line.

Today’s Starters
AA: Krauth
Hi-A: Porter

Five Years Ago Yesterday
I will remember the most absurdly obscure names to play in the Texas system (at the expense of far more important matters), but one that escapes me is Phillips Valdez, who threw 78 innings for Nashville and 16 for the Rangers in 2019. I even saw him pitch in person for Albuquerque last August and didn’t make the connection. According to me five years ago, he threw 4.2 modestly effective innings for Nashville in a 5-3 loss. I’m still skeptical.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 12 April

PCL umpire James Jean, who called the plate in Round Rock last night, would make a fine replacement for Angel Hernandez. I would love to know the accuracy scores of AAA umps versus the worst in in the Majors. One interesting aspect of the challenge system is confirmation that most umps are quite good at their jobs. A sizable percentage of overturned calls are close enough to justify the ump’s decision. Very few are embarrassing. I’ve never seen an overturned call on a “strike” six inches off the plate. I’m very strongly in favor of automated calls in the Majors, but not because I think most umps are incompetent. And while I’d prefer the computer handling everything, the challenge system would afford the opportunity to have Hernandez publicly humiliated, assuming he hangs around long enough to see it implemented, and assuming he’s capable of that emotion.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 1, Oklahoma City (LAD) 7
Round Rock: 6 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 7-6, 3 GB

SP Jack Leiter: 6 IP, 6 H (3 HR), 3 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 10 SO, 83 P / 53 S, 3.77 ERA
1B Dustin Harris: 2-4, .350/.372/.600

Jack Leiter surrendered homers on three of his first 18 pitches, yet I came away very pleased with his outing. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

The homers came on a fastball, slider, and curve. The fastball to a righty clipped the inside corner above the belt, not where Leiter has lived in 2024 but not a terrible location (absent info about the hitter’s tendencies). The slider was unique, the only one high and arm-side of 26 thrown. The curve, well, it was a cookie, but context is key. As a rule, minor league hitters hate early curves. The swing rate on first-pitch curves in Round Rock’s games so far is only 22%, and only 20% of swings are put into play. Until hitters adjust, it’s a pretty safe way for a pitcher to grab a favorable count. Instead, OKC’s Ryan Ward bounced  Leiter’s curve off the warehouse roof well beyond the 400 sign.

Leiter’s location wasn’t as sharp in the first two innings. In the 3rd, he recovered the impressive command of his first start, focusing on the glove-side edge of the plate (irrespective of batter handedness). Leiter tallied 18 swinging strikes, 13 with the fastball, which peaked at 98.2 MPH and 20″ of induced vertical break. OKC missed an enormous 59% of fastballs offered at. The Baseball Club (remember, they don’t have a nickname) even missed on 44% of in-zone fastballs, plus all of the eight outside the zone. That’s domination.

The slider wasn’t as effective but had several strong moments. The curve and change are mostly just along for the ride. This was an old-fashioned power performance. The pitch mix looks relieverish, but let’s let leave that aside for now. Ten strikeouts, zero walks (and a hit batter). A ratio of 6.25 Ks per BB/HBP for the season. We can’t wish away the homers, but on the whole, Leiter performed well again, and his 2024 has been highly encouraging.

I don’t have video because I left my camera battery at home, but Texas’s player development twitter account and the Express have come through.

AA: Frisco 7, Corpus Christi (HOU) 1
Frisco: 8 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 5-2, tied for first

SP Dane Acker: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 75 P / 43 S, 1.04 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2.08 ERA
RF Abi Ortiz: 2-3, 2B, BB

Frisco has a bunch of holdovers from 2023 trying to prove they deserve a locker in Round Rock. Among them are Dane Acker and Robby Ahlstrom, both off to strong starts.

The offense spread out the hits; only Ortiz had two. Ortiz has taken well to AA so far, batting .333/.500/.625 with five extra-base hits in seven games and more walks (8) than strikeouts (6).

With a walk in four trips to the plate, Aaron Zavala now has more combined walks and HBPs (206) than hits (205) in his career. Only three other Rangers farmhands with more than 500 career plate appearances during 2007-2024 share that distinction: current players Jayce Easley and Ian Moller, plus IF Nick Vickerson from years gone by. Those that have done so in single seasons in the Majors have tended to be older, all-or-nothing types, and/or in steep decline: Rickey Henderson, Adam Dunn, Yasmani Grandal recently.

Hi-A: Hickory 0, Jersey Shore (PHI) 4 (7)
Hickory: 1 hit, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

SP Joseph Montalvo: 4.1 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 71 P / 45 S, 2.08 ERA
RP Larson Kindreich: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA

Hickory was shut out for the third time in six games and fell to 0.5 runs per game for the season. Sebastian Walcott drew his first walk.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, Jersey Shore (PHI) 0 (7)
Hickory: 5 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-5, 3 GB

SP Winston Santos: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 SO, 78 P / 53 S, 0.84 ERA
RP Seth Clark: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
C Tucker Mitchell: 1-3, 2B
SS Sebastian Walcott: 1-3, 3B
DH Quincy Scott: 1-2, BB

An onslaught! Hickory scored three in the 1st, equaling its output in the first six games combined. Doubles by Tucker Mitchell and Quincy Scott plated the runs. Later, Sebastian Walcott tripled and scored on a double-play grounder, and Ben Blackwell advanced a base at a time on a walk, steal, wild pitch, and sac fly.

Winston Santos offered a second consecutive strong start. Last year, Santos was the talk of Surprise (talk of the back fields, at least) but just didn’t miss many bats and surrendered a bunch of extra-base hits. In 2024, hope of a rebound is panning out so far.

Lo-A: Down East 0, @ Carolina (MIL) 6 (7)
Down East: 2 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

SP Kyle Larsen: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 51 P / 34 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Jose Gonzalez: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA

Lo-A: Down East 0, @ Carolina (MIL) 2 (7)
Down East: 2 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 4-3, 2 GB

SP Wilian Bormie: 4 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 2 R, 3 BB, 2 SO, 55 P / 29 S, 4.05 ERA
RP Brayan Mendoza: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.50 ERA

Oh, dear. Down East caught whatever has been afflicting Hickory, getting shut out on four hits across 14 innings.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Sampson
AA: Teodo (vs. Justin Verlander)
Hi-A: Curry