Reintroduction / Rangers Farm Report

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And now, a report.

Rangers in the Top 100
Six publications I follow or subscribe to (Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, ESPN) have published their top-100 prospect lists. Below are the ranges of Texas players on their lists:

OF Wyatt Langford – high of #2, low of #6, median 4.5
OF Evan Carter – high of #4, low of #12, median 5.5
IF Sebastian Walcott – high of #40, low of #91, median 62.5
RHP Brock Porter — #88 on one list (MLB Pipeline)

Would you choose Carter or Langford? Fortunately, if you’re a Rangers fan, you get cake and ice cream for dessert and won’t gain a pound. But if you had to pick one? Not easy. Four of six publications rank Langford higher, but except for one case, they’re pretty much #1 and #1A relative to each other.

Despite his .573 slugging percentage in 122 MLB at-bats (including playoffs), the limiting factor on Carter is probably power. Still, he doesn’t turn 22 until August and has already established a reasonable floor of “average MLB regular.”  He could be an elite leadoff hitter (complicated by the presence of Marcus Semien, but let’s leave that for another time).

Texas lucked into the 4th pick in the 2023 draft and might have lucked into the best player. Langford could be a star. He’s probably good enough to play in the Majors today, although (pending Cactus League results) I wouldn’t automatically deem a spell in AAA a cynical ploy to game his eventual free-agent status. Some time in the minors might not hurt, particularly on defense, which drew some alarming pre-draft reviews despite strong tools. (Not that I got a lengthy look, but what I saw in the minors didn’t frighten me.) Getting Langford instead of Max Clark, who may well be a terrific Major Leaguer but not for a while, was a sudden tailwind for the franchise.

Some years ago, I would have taken Lewis Brinson into my house and raised him as a son. Now, I try to be more circumspect about young, ultra-toolsy players. Meet Sebastian Walcott. As a 17-year-old, Walcott introduced himself to America with a 13-game hit streak in the complex league, then struck out at a 58% (!) rate over his next eight games, then found a middle ground. Arizona is such a wacky, high-variance environment I wouldn’t worry too much about last year’s strikeouts, but I am looking forward to how he adapts to what will probably be a heavy dose of breaking pitches in A ball.    

Brock Porter snuck onto MLB’s top 100. The good news is “can he learn a changeup” isn’t a question that applies to him like so many would-be starters. The bad is his control varied from adequate to cataclysmic. Both his Opening Day start and final playoff start resulted in a first-inning departure. Overall, though, he maintained his high status.

International Signings
Notable players signed by the Rangers last month (rankings by MLB and FanGraphs are part of their top 50 prospects, Baseball America ranked in order of expected bonus):

OF Paulino Santana (#2 MLB, #30 FanGraphs, #29 Baseball America) – BA bestowed a “trending up” arrow on Santana, indicating he’d rank higher than 29th on perception of pure talent. Highly favorable reports including the possibility of enough power to play a corner if shortstop doesn’t work out.

SS Curley Martha (#29 MLB, #48 BA) – Curley from Curacao, a star at the 2019 Little League World Series.

Also SS Yolfran Castillo (#46 MLB, #62 BA), SS Nathaniel Palacios (#83 BA), SS Daniel Flames (#84 BA), and IF Joaquin Arias Jr.

Minor Signings
LHP Danny Duffy – Duffy spent most of his Age-34 season with AA Frisco. Injuries have limited him to just over 100 innings the last three seasons.

RHP Jose Urena – The 32-year-old was under contract to Colorado, Washington, and the White Sox last year. That alone should tell you how his season went. He recovered somewhat with the Sox, and as depth starters go, he’s okay. Last year he threw a mid-90s fastball, sinker, slider, and change in nearly equal proportions.

RHP Adrian Sampson – Since his release from the Rangers after 2019, Sampson spent a year in Korea followed by three with the Cubs, the earliest two of which were fairly productive.

RHP Austin Pruitt – Now 34, the ex-A Pruitt leans heavily on a slider that doesn’t miss many bats but manages to limit damage. Opponents hit .243/.291/.370 with a 6% walk rate last year.

LHP Chasen Shreve – 4.63 ERA in 44.2 relief innings with Detroit and Cincy last year. Peripherals were slightly better. Opponents have tagged his low-90s fastball lately, but his splitter and slider have been fairly effective.

LHP Blake Taylor – Fairly successful if often control-averse in three seasons with the Astros. He spent all of last year in AAA and offered a 90-93 fastball and 83ish slider against Round Rock. Released by Houston last August.

RHP Jonathan Holder – The 30-year-old last pitched in the bigs in 2020, and he spent last year with the Angels’ AAA affiliate in Salt Lake. The fastball reaches 95, and his repertoire is especially broad for a reliever.

RHP DJ Peters – Former Ranger, former Lotte Giant, former outfielder. He pitched for Detroit’s rookie squad last year. According to Statcast he throws five pitches, but his wildness might have broken Statcast’s pitch-categorization algorithm. Peters walked or plunked 30% of his opponents and tacked on 19 wild pitches in just 21.2 innings. His fastball reaches 95, and the slider has serious bend.

RHP Braden Shipley – Arizona’s top pick from 2013 hasn’t appeared in MLB since 2018. He spent 2022 with Seattle’s AA squad but didn’t take the mound last year.

RHP Steven Jennings – 2017’s 42nd-overall pick has spent most of the past three seasons as an AA reliever.

1B/OF Jared Walsh – The Angels non-tendered the 30-year-old after an injury-hampered .125/.216/.279 in 39 games that followed a subpar 2022. Should he recapture some of his dandy 2021 form, Texas conceivably has a DH/substitute 1B.

IF Matt Duffy – His second stint as a Ranger, and with Josh Jung out, a decent chance at a more memorable stay than the first. Texas signed him prior to 2020, but with no minor league games to be played, he was released that June. The semi-versatile Duffy (third, second, first, a little short and left) had a nice 2021 with the Cubs while hovering around replacement level the past two years.

C Jose Godoy – Texas is his eighth organization since late 2020. He can handle AAA pitching well enough but seemingly ranks behind both Sam Huff and Andrew Knapp on the minor league depth chart.

IF Alex De Goti – De Goti batted .180/.333/.276 between AAA Jacksonville and St. Paul last year. He’s better than that and has the advantage of shortstop proficiency over Duffy. De Goti earned a shot of espresso with the Stros in 2021.

Released
OF Zion Bannister – One of Texas’s pricier 2019 signings, Bannister was well-regarded but never hit especially well at any level. He spent some of 2023 filling the “we need a guy” role in Frisco and Round Rock.

LHP Josh Smith – The original Josh Smith, drafted in 2018’s 25th round three years before the arrival of the other Smith in the Joey Gallo trade. Hurt nearly all of 2023.

RHP Gerardo Carrillo – Signed as a minor league free agent under two months ago, injured most of past three seasons.

Also, RHP Matt Brosky (2022 8th-rounder), 1B Anthony Calarco (2023 American free agent), IF Frandy Almonte (2021 int’l free agent), RHP Eury Rosado (2019 int’l free agent)

Retired
IF Ryan Dorow – Texas’s 2017 30th-rounder missed all of last season with a shoulder injury suffered in a spring game. He’d become a free agent and re-signed. In 2021, Dorow batted .255/.333/.461 in 102 games among Frisco and Round Rock. That August, he became a Major Leaguer, joining the Rangers briefly under special covid rules that permitted placement and removal form the 40-man roster without going through the waiver process. Dorow played in three games, drawing a walk in seven trips to the plate.

Elsewhere – Minor Signings
LHP Ronald Guzman, Orioles (no longer in a dual role)
IF Jurdrick Profar (younger brother of Jurickson and Juremi), White Sox
IF Nick Solak, M’s
RHP Joe Barlow, White Sox
RHP Carl Edwards Jr., Cubs
RHP Hans Crouse, Angels
OF Willie Calhoun, Angels

IF Rougned Odor signed with Japan’s Yomuiri Giants. And poor Bubba Thompson was designated for assignment for the fifth time in six months and the third time in a six-week period. He’s a Cincinnati Red, again.

Changes
Per Baseball America, the rookie complex season will begin in early May and conclude in late July, mere days after the summer draft. Since the lost season of 2020, the league has evolved into more of a graduate-level Dominican Summer League, and the new schedule should cement this change. Since the Great Reorganization of 2021, fewer draft picks are playing real games in their initial seasons (especially pitchers), but of those that do, more are reaching a full-season level. During 2017-2019, 51% of Rangers’ playing time came from draft picks or undrafted free agents subject to US rules. During 2021-2023, that percentage dropped to 33%. Conversely, appearances by international free agents increased from 45% to 61%. (The small remainder consisted of more experienced players on rehab.)

2021 also instituted a cap on the number of domestic minor leaguers under contract, and in 2024 the number of in-season players will decrease from 180 to 165. The minors have their own 60-day Injured List, and players on that list don’t count against the total, but the cat-herding exercise of keeping every squad fully staffed will be harder than ever. In 2019, nine MLB clubs fielded multiple rookie-level squads. Last year, only two. In 2024, I don’t see how an extra squad is possible.

I didn’t notice an obvious change in Texas’s offseason habits; as ever, they’ve signed more players than they could possibly stash in AAA, and cuts will come. On the opposite side, however, some former Rangers farmhands who I expected to find employment by now have not.

Asterisks
* My previous blog was called The Ranger Rundown, and while the Rangers never gave me any trouble, I decided against having the team name in my title. Plus, a podcaster asked me permission to use that title since I hadn’t in several years, and I said fine. My wife suggested Lucas Lowdown, which isn’t bad. Ultimately, I settled on the simple and clean Lucas Report. I won’t have to type “Scott Lucas of [Name of Blog].”

**I surely can’t complain about the original Newberg Minor League Report listserv, as it’s handled tens of thousands of subscribers ably over the years, but it’s acted increasingly flaky recently, with some folks not receiving reports or getting unsubscribed for unknown reasons. Regardless, I’m eternally grateful to Jamey Newberg for letting me continue to use the listserv during his time at The Athletic (and maybe using it again temporarily if I encounter difficulties with the new setup).

Rangers Farm Report

Signings
Texas has re-signed pitchers Reid Birlingmair and Tyler Zombro, catcher Matt Whatley, infielder Ryan Dorow, and outfielders Sandro Fabian and Elier Hernandez to minor league deals. All had become free agents after the season.

During last season, I wondered if Hernandez might be able to secure a contract in Asia for 2024. He’s pretty much an ideal AAA player. While I’m glad he’s back, I’m a little surprised, as I think he’d have a better chance at returning to MLB in a different organization. The Rangers have Garcia, Taveras, Carter, JP Martinez, and infielder/outfielders Zeke Duran and Dustin Harris on the 40 at present, plus a guy named Langford.

Fabian is still just 25, another strong AAA player. In 2023, he slugged .523 and clubbed 23 homers with only a 15% strikeout rate. He’s swing-happy but manages to put the ball in play.

Whatley is well-regarded, a strong defender, and, while not a good hitter, I think he can improve on last year’s .203/.290/.322. (Prospect status aside, I strongly prefer glove-over-bat at catcher and short in AAA. Keep the game moving, keep pitchers from having to get “extra” outs.)  

Dorow missed 2023 with a separated shoulder. The 2017 30th-rounder ably defends any infield position.

Texas signed Birlingmair out of the indy American Association last summer, and he pitched well for Hickory and Frisco.

New additions on minor deals so far are righties Gerardo Carrillo, Diego Castillo, and Jesus Tinoco, catcher Andrew Knapp, and OFs Derek Hill and Michael Reed.

The 29-year-old Castillo has 268 mostly solid MLB innings with the Rays and M’s to his credit. 2023 was a mess: lower velocity, worse control, such a poor start that Seattle designated him for assignment in April despite his $2.95 million salary. He went unclaimed and spent the remainder of the season in AAA Tacoma without any improvement until the final six weeks. Castillo would be a worthy addition to the beleaguered Texas pen if he can recapture the magic. He could also pitch himself entirely out of the organization in March.

Tinoco pitched two stints for the Rangers in 2022, once as a covid-rules replacement in June and then throughout September. He’s a trivia answer for surrendering Aaron Judge’s 62nd homer, but as depth additions go, he’s fine. Tinoco spent 2023 in Japan.

Carrillo was an important piece of the Max Scherzer trade between the Dodgers and Nats in 2021, but injuries to his shoulder and leg (I think) robbed some of his elite velocity and keep him off the field much of the past two years. Carrillo was outrighted after 2022 and became a free agent last month. He’s 25.

Maybe Knapp is next year’s Sandy Leon. Now 32, last season was the first in seven that he didn’t spend any time in the bigs, instead serving exclusively for the AAA squads of Detroit and Houston, where he compiled a .233/.328/.377 line.

Drafted 23rd overall in 2014 out of high school by the Tigers, Hill spent a large chunk of his developmental years on the injured list. He made his MLB debut in 2020 and has a .229/.279/.314 line in 108 games, including 13 last year for the Nats. He impressed in AAA (albeit as a 27-year-old), hitting .317/.373/.509 while reducing his strikeout rate.

Reed was drafted in 2016’s second round out of Florida and the player to be named in the trade for Jurickson Profar between the A’s and Pads in 2019. Reed has speed and skills for center and displayed burgeoning power at the lower levels, but he hasn’t hit much in AA/AAA and had been out of contract since mid-July.

Obviously, much can change between now and March, but by my count the Rangers have something like nine outfielders who could conceivably begin 2024 in AAA. That’s a crowd.

The 40
I’ve been maintaining various organizational rosters for a long, long time. For fun, I compiled a table of how many players appeared on the Texas 40 each year, how many were on the entire year, etc.:

In the past ten years, Texas’s most chaotic roster situation occurred in 2014. You might recall. 31 players added and deleted during the calendar year! On more than one occasion, I half-joked about a seemingly nondescript AAA player getting a call-up if he maintained his hot streak for another couple of weeks, only for that very thing to occur.

Given the playoff-push trades and incessant effort to construct a capable bullpen, you might be surprised to learn the most stable 40-man roster in the last years occurred in 2023. But on offense, the Rangers had seven hitters qualify for the batting title. Left field was the only unsettled position. Also, the top five rotation members combined for 128 starts, and additions Jordan Montgomery and Max Scherzer delivered 19 of the other 34.  

Small Bookeeping Note
I had some blog issues last month, now resolved, and I am intending to email using a different server henceforth. So hopefully that will resolve the problems some of you had with receiving reports, and if not, at least I’ll have a better idea of what’s going wrong. The existing server, handy though it’s been, is a black box to me.

Elsewhere
Cincinnati designated OF Bubba Thompson for assignment to make room for reliever Buck Farmer (who pitched in Round Rock in 2021). Thompson was originally claimed by the Royals off the Rangers in August, then nabbed by the Reds on waivers during the playoffs. He hasn’t been outrighted previously and is under contract, so he’ll remain a Red if unclaimed.

The Texas Rangers won the World Series.

Happy New Year.

Rangers Tender Deadline Moves

The Texas Rangers did not tender contracts to RHP Matt Bush and LHP Brett Martin, making them free agents. Both were arbitration-eligible.

Bush was a given. Texas signed him to a minor deal after the Brewers released him earlier this season, and he was added to the 40 and active rosters late in the season. Bush was also active, albeit in name only, during the Wild Card and Division Series. He’ll turn 38 in February but was quite effective for Frisco and Round Rock, particularly with the fastball, and would be a solid depth signing assuming mutual interest.

Martin wasn’t as certain to be non-tendered but is hardly a surprise. He missed the entire season after shoulder surgery. Like Bush, Martin would be worth signing again.

Texas’s 40-man roster has 35 players.

Rangers 40-Man Roster Additions

The Texas Rangers have added:
Pitchers Marc Church, Jose Corniell, and Antoine Kelly
Infielder Justin Foscue

Available in the Rule 5 draft will be IFs Blaine Crim and Davis Wendzel, SP prospect Dane Acker, and numerous relievers including Justin Slaten, Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa.

At present, the Rangers have roster space to participate in the Rule 5 draft.

Rangers 40-Man Roster Preview

The Texas 40-man roster currently lists 34 players, and that includes Austin Hedges, who is or should be a free agent, plus reliever Matt Bush (arbitration-eligible but surely not receiving an MLB contract) and a small handful of others whose holds on their spots are tenuous. There is no roster crunch. Within reason, the Rangers can add whom they like. The deadline is Tuesday at 5pm CST.

At the same time, 2023 is the first Rule 5 period incorporating the covid-shortened five-round 2020 draft. College and JuCo picks from that draft are eligible. Texas picked only one of that type in 2020: IF Justin Foscue. Comparatively, Texas has eight 2021 picks who’ll be eligible in 2024. By my count, Texas has only 18 first-time eligibles, a plurality of them 2019 high-school picks, plus five international free agents and some trade acquisitions. The Rangers also have another roughly 30 players still under control who were previously eligible. My unofficial list is here under the ‘Rule 5’ tab.

So Texas has an unusually large number of available spots but a relatively small pool. The Rangers added six last year: pitchers Zak Kent, Owen White, and Cole Winn, infielder Luisangel Acuna, and IF/OFs Dustin Harris and Jonathan Ornelas. I would be surprised to see six this time. An especially thrifty approach might include only two.

I’ve had a tough time with several players, even though I’ve seen a few of them frequently. Some are close calls, some have no path to a role with the Rangers, and some are relievers, a group always loaded with potential additions depending on your mood. Also, as you might have heard, the Texas Rangers won the World Series. Ordinarily, I’ve pondered offseason moves intermittently for weeks, letting my thoughts coalesce, such that my annual 40-man preview largely writes itself at deadline. This time, I didn’t give any serious thought 40/R5 issues until Saturday morning, so I’m more wishy-washy than usual and more willing to just watch the results than set down a marker.

2B/3B/1B Justin Foscue
Yes. Foscue walked more than he struck out and banged 18 homers and 35 other extra-base hits. His plate appearances are as consistent and composed as any you’ll see. In a way, he resembles Marcus Semien, who actually doesn’t possess great exit velo but generates a huge number of reasonably well-hit balls. (I am not claiming he will match Semien’s production, although I suppose that is the hope.) Foscue does not resemble Semien in the field, however, and any club employing him at second or third is going to have to avert its collective eyes occasionally.

RHP Jose Corniell
Good enough to pitch in MLB now? No. Good enough to require protection anyway? Yes.

LHP Antoine Kelly
The gap between MLB ad AAA isn’t shrinking, but at the same time, the number of AAA relievers who look MLB-worthy sometimes has never been higher. Protecting every reliever you can dream on a little would result in a bevy of prospects clogging the 40 and a panic any time a non-reliever on the big-league club required replacement. A potential relief addition should either be extremely close MLB-readiness or have closer potential. Kelly’s progression toward the Majors has been unusually deliberate given his role. I wouldn’t say he’s ready this minute, and I wouldn’t necessarily pin “future closer” on him, but I think there’s enough going on to add him.

RHP Marc Church
I saw Church in person in high-A 18 months ago. He looked like he’d be in the bigs by now. Unfortunately, his once-terrific control was frankly terrible in AAA, and he veered wildly between having the most dominating stuff on the squad to struggling mightily to complete an inning. The slider is an absolute beast and makes a resounding case for addition by itself, but his fastball was alarmingly hittable. In September, when the Rangers badly needed another trustworthy reliever, they re-rostered Ian Kennedy and Jake Latz and Matt Bush rather than take a chance on Church. Still, he could be an above-average MLB reliever, and a competing club would be very tempted to take a look. 

RHP Dane Acker
I just never got a great look at Acker this season and have very little confidence in my evaluation of him. Covid, elbow surgery and a shoulder malady have limited him to 99 professional innings in four seasons. He sports a full repertoire. I’ve heard up to 96 on the fastball, although I saw 90-94 in his final start. A good strikeout rate (26%) but poor swinging strike rate (10%). Hard to hit (.198 average, .329 slugging in AA) but below-average control (15% BB/HBP). In conclusion, Dane Acker is a land of contrasts. I can make an argument either way and am going to cop out by saying the only relevant opinions are in within the organization. My hunch is their opinions are fonder than my description.

IF Davis Wendzel
Wendzel stayed healthy all season and significantly improved his production. The batted-ball data backs him up; the improvement is genuine. Is it enough? Despite tying for the league lead in homers with 30, Wendzel’s exit velocity still doesn’t jump off the page. What he does really well, better than anyone in the Pacific Coast League, is hit the ball skyward. On the down side, he also hits a bunch of flies exceeding 45 degrees, which are almost always caught. He’d hit for more power than Josh Smith in the Majors but wouldn’t defend or run as well and doesn’t play in the outfield. What he needs more than a 40 spot on the Rangers is a trade.

1B Blaine Crim
Crim’s 90th-percentile exit velocity is nearly equal to Nathaniel Lowe and better than Josh Jung, Leody Taveras, and Evan Carter. He’s more liner-oriented than Wendzel, muting his power a bit but creating plenty of firm doubles and singles. He’s moonlighted at third and the outfield corners, but I seriously doubt he’d ever play there in the bigs. Thus, the problem. Unless he really hits, what’s his role? Weak-side platoon mate for Lowe if the latter’s problems against lefties persist? Occasional DH? Bench bat for a team that rarely needs one? Crim would have gotten a shot Texas this season had the team been playing like it was in 2021-2022, but the situation on the parent club has changed drastically.

RHP Justin Slaten
Slaten’s walk and K rates improved substantially in 2023. In the weeks prior to his promotion to AAA, he was fanning 46% of opponents. Results in AAA and the subsequent Arizona Fall League weren’t quite so enthralling. It’s hard to see Texas adding more than two relievers, but with room to spare, maybe the Rangers will. How unusual would keeping three or more be? During the previous ten seasons, Texas has selected a total of four relievers: Demarcus Evans, Wei-Chieh Huang, Lisalverto Bonilla, and Ben Rowen. That does not include folks who were starters when protected but seemed headed to eventual relief duty (Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Luke Jackson, to name a few).

RHP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa
Limited to 24 regular-season innings by injury, AHT tossed an additional 9.2 in the Arizona Fall League and earned solid reviews (albeit not at the level of the ineligible Emiliano Teodo) with his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He fanned two in a clean inning in the Fall Stars game, but unfortunately he saved his worst appearance of the season for the AFL finals: four batters faced, three walks. I think there’s enough pitchers of his ilk that he’ll slide through this process, but I can’t guarantee it.

RHP Daniel Robert
Robert’s fastball averaged 96 and touched 99, and his sweeper generated twice as many called strikes as whiffs because AAA batters just don’t want to offer at it. Opponents hit a modest .239/.342/.350, but his ERA was 4.40 because the bad days included a flurry of walks and extra-hard contact. Vaguely blaming inconsistency for a pitcher’s lack of progression feels lazy, but with many relievers, that’s truly the issue. Big leaguers have fewer bad days.

LHP Grant Wolfram
So… many… relievers. The bad news is Wolfram was knocked around when promoted to AAA (28 runners and 16 runs in 13.1 innings). The good is he resumed dealing upon return to AA (2.08 ERA, 8 BB, 45 SO in 34.2 IP). Has a shot, but not this time.

1B/OF Trevor Hauver
The one player in the Joey Gallo trade yet to reach the Majors, Hauver had a another decent, walk-filled season at the plate and improved defensively. He should reach AAA next year, but not as a 40-man member.

MIF Max Acosta
Showed some pop and got by as a 20-year-old in high-A (.260/.312/.390), but I don’t think there’s any way he’d last a full MLB season, and better options for MIF-curious clubs will be available. 

RHP Winston Santos
Unfortunately, Santos’s season didn’t live up to the buzz generated in Spring Training. Maybe next year.

Elsewhere
I’ve got some Arizona Fall League and free agency news, but it’s not pressing, so I’ll probably have that tomorrow when additions are announced.

Minor League Free Agents With Ties To Texas

Not comprehensive, but here’s a list of fresh free agents who played in the Rangers organization recently and/or were originally signed by the Rangers:

RHP Joe Barlow
LHP Alex Claudio
RHP Kyle Dowdy
RHP Jerad Eickhoff
LHP Robbie Erlin
RHP Luke Ferrell
RHP Brett de Geus
RHP Demarcus Evans
RHP Tyler Ferguson
RHP Wilmer Font
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
LHP Taylor Hearn
RHP Ronald Herrera
RHP Wei-Chieh Huang
RHP Drew Hutchinson
LHP James Jones
RHP Spencer Patton
LHP CD Pelham
RHP Ryder Ryan
RHP Tayler Scott
RHP Drew Strotman
RHP Tyree Thompson
RHP Ricky Vanasco

C Jorge Alfaro
IF Charlie Culberson
IF Yonny Hernandez
IF Charles Leblanc
IF Mark Mathias
IF Josh Morgan
IF Nick Solak
IF Tyreque Reed
IF Yoshi Tsutsugo
OF David Dahl
OF Steven Duggar
OF Clint Frazier

Texas Rangers Organization Free Agents

MLB — TEXAS RANGERS
P Aroldis Chapman
P Ian Kennedy
P Jordan Montgomery
P Jake Odorizzi
P Martin Perez
P Will Smith
P Chris Stratton
C Mitch Garver
C Austin Hedges
OF Robbie Grossman
OF Travis Jankowski
OF Brad Miller

AAA – ROUND ROCK EXPRESS
P Kyle Cody
P Edwar Colina
P Robert Dugger
P Josh Dye
P Scott Engler
P Lucas Jacobsen
P Fernery Ozuna
P Nick Snyder
P Tyler Zombro
C Cooper Johnson
C Jordan Procyshen
C Matt Whatley
IF Diosbel Arias
IF Ryan Dorow
OF Sandro Fabian
OF Elier Hernandez

AA – FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS
P Aidan Anderson
P Reid Birlingmair
P Noah Bremer
P Jean Casanova
P Danny Duffy
P Kyle Funkhouser
P Seth Nordlin
C David Garcia
IF Chris Seise

HIGH-A – HICKORY CRAWDADS
P Juan Mejia

UNASSIGNED
P Joshua Javier

Ranger (2008?-2023)

Ranger was the first cat Courtney and I got as a team in 2010, following the five (!) we brought separately to the relationship. My last of two “solo” cats had passed the year before, and we were down to two still in the house. We chose a two-year-old named “Barry,” who won our favor with his ultra-friendly demeanor and how he would flop in our laps. We renamed him Ranger, partly because it’s just a good name, partly because I had the hope that the Texas Rangers would win a championship during his lifetime.

Ranger was both the most precious and annoying cat ever. Ranger was vocal. Oh, he was vocal. Meowing at us, at friends, at repair people, at nothing at all in the middle of the night. He is also the reason I had to completely re-cover our back porch with a heavy, vinyl-coated screen, because he would tear through cheap screening to romp in the back yard. Ah, well.

Ranger was without guile, sincerely adored people and would become the best friend of anyone who would pay him attention. Because I’ve worked out of my house for ages, he was maybe slightly more “my” cat during his earlier years, but when Courtney was pregnant he spent as much time as possible propped on her belly, and when the pandemic sent Courtney home, he decided her home office would be his, too.

Ranger started having problems with arthritis and his kidneys early last year even though he was only 14 by our reckoning. The shelter can only guess the ages of adult cats, of course, and he may have been older when we got him. He hung around just long enough for Texas to win a championship.

No cat was ever sweeter. Goodbye, Ranger.

27 Feb 2010, Austin Animal Shelter

7 Nov 2023

Texas Rangers: World Series Champions

I never recovered from 2011. I came to terms with it, after a fashion, but I wouldn’t call it closure. Yes, it’s just sports, but our lives would be different had Texas prevailed.

Some time in early 2012, one of the D/FW sports-radio hosts decided that re-listening to Eric Nadel’s call of that play would serve as an exorcism. Maybe so for him, but for me the call merely reopened a poorly stitched wound. I’ve never watched highlights of that Series. Any time a clip would appear on the tv, I would avert my eyes.

Worse still was something I’d mentioned to my wife, that Texas could be better in 2012 and not even reach the World Series, given the vagaries of playoff baseball. That fear became manifest, as the Rangers were indeed better for much of 2012, until they weren’t.

The Rangers weren’t quite done, at least in the regular season, winning two more division titles and even leading the AL in wins in 2016. That edition was essentially a .500 club with incredible one-run luck, but still, 95 wins! Texas even began 2019 with a record of 46-36 and were tied for the wild card at the end of June.

Then, the window slammed shut. Texas began what would become the worst 500-game stretch in franchise history, 204-296, which extended into May of this year. 1 There’s nothing magical about 500 games – it’s three full seasons plus two weeks – but it’s a long time. This period was the worst lengthy spell in franchise history, surpassing the dreaded 1982-1985.

Six months later, the Rangers are champions.

I’ve seen grumbling (mainly from an extremely online subset of Astros fans) about how Texas simply purchased a winner, an affront to the noble, process-oriented methodologies of other clubs. 2 Whatever. The Rangers had a process, too. They just compressed each step into the shortest time possible.

My podcast mates and I stressed for years that Texas would never construct a postseason-worthy squad with the farm alone. Sure, given that I write about the minor leaguers and you read about them, a squad stocked with homegrown talent is arguably more enjoyable. But at the same time, I have no delusions about team-building. Prospects are a means, not an end. Few reach their ceilings. Some are blocked. As such, their value to an organization is often maximized by trades. Holding onto them out of some warped sense of propriety is malfeasance.

This championship club is as genuine as any other. There’s more than one way to build a winner, and that’s very much a good thing. Ownership, management, coaches and players all pulled together and pointed the ship in the right direction, and their hard work paid off in the best way possible. (And Jon Daniels deserves plenty of credit, too.)

There’s something about being a fan. I guess, in a more cynical frame of mind, you could call it hypocrisy, but I prefer duality.

On the one hand, I’m careful to avoid the word “we” when writing about the Rangers. I’ve never worked for them. I can take zero credit for what they’ve accomplished. If I decide to ignore them, they’ll roll on, unimpeded and carefree. There’s no “we.” Plus, sometimes baseball dares you to pay attention. Work stoppages. An increasingly fractured and unnavigable collection of media rights-holders, but no end to blackouts. Eradication of a quarter of the minor leagues, with potentially more to come. The ever-obtuse Rob Manfred. I could go on.

On the other hand: No. We are the Rangers. You and me.

When Josh Sborz caught the corner for that final strike, I barely moved. 3 I just watched while listening to Eric Nadel’s call. 4 55 years of fandom distilled to an instant. A wave of emotions. Memories of attending games with my father as an official member of the Dr. Pepper Junior Rangers Kids Club, evenings at the ballpark after my work shift at Six Flags, get-togethers I organized in the late 90s and early 2000, Newberg Report nights. Happiness that my wife, who accompanied me to so many playoff games in 2010-2011, was with me. Happiness that a cat she and I named Ranger in 2010 lived long enough to claim “his” title. Sadness that my father couldn’t be here. 5

Maybe your parents took you to games as a kid. Maybe you went with friends, with partners, with your kids. Maybe you’ve never set foot in Texas and latched on for other reasons. However you got here, you have a lifetime of memories, some good, some bad, all building up to last night. The “Texas Rangers” are the shared experience. If you’ve been watching, waiting, hurting, you’ve got as much of a claim on that trophy as anyone.

The championship belongs to us. And it’s ours to enjoy for the rest of our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Ranger and me during Game 4

Footnotes
1 I know that sounds weird. How could any portion of 2023 belong to a “worst-ever” stretch since the Rangers started so well?  The explanation is 2023 with a solid 22-14 record, but in the 36 games before the worst-ever 500, they were slightly better: 23-13.

2 Texas’s payroll is $14 million higher than Houston’s. That’s a 6% difference. I tend to think fan bases around baseball are pretty much the same – mostly fine, a few jerks and trolls – but a small but vocal portion of Houston supporters fans are very tightly wound.

3 Admittedly, I spent most of the previous few innings pacing the living room in advance of what was shaping to be an unimaginably tense 9th (or extras!). Once Texas broke open the top of the 9th, I could finally just sit.

4 Not that we need to rank deservedness, but does anyone deserve this more than Nadel?

5 You can forestall Death with a game of chess, but asking him to wait until a Texas Rangers championship is a bridge too far. 

Some World Series Thoughts…

…as the Rangers enter their third World Series:

ADOLIS GARCIA
Texas acquired him for beer money in late 2019 and designated him for assignment on February 12, 2021, to create room for free agent pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. The move barely preceded the date when teams could stash injured players on the 60-day list, making a waiver claim slightly more difficult, but realistically just about any team could have found a spot for him if desired. But to what purpose? Garcia was 28 (!) with prodigious power but so-so contact and a 7:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks in AAA. I took scant video of Garcia and no notes during the “alt site” minor leagues games between the Rangers and Astros preceding the delayed start of the minor league season, in part because he was quickly called up when Ronald Guzman was injured, but mostly because he was a DFA’ed 28-year-old.

EVAN CARTER
Is Carter here if Garcia hadn’t injured himself trying to rob a Houston homer in early September? It’s easy now to say “don’t be silly, just look at him, he would have forced his way on regardless,” except that he really wasn’t forcing anything at the time. In the six weeks prior, he was walking at will but batting .273 with one homer and a .396 slugging percentage. I wasn’t worried about his composure in MLB at all, given his otherworldly maturity, but I can’t say I expected such an impact. And in fact, he cooled to a more modest .240/.321/.360 in the ALCS, but the timeliness of his hitting and fielding exploits has been heroic.  

JONAH HEIM
He’s a Ranger because a duffel bag crammed with 13,500 hundred-dollar bills accompanied Elvis Andrus to Oakland. He’d already been traded twice and was entering is ninth professional season. I was hoping he’d become a plus backup, like a “#1b” instead of a “#2.”

JOSH SBORZ
Whew, fans were tired of Josh Sborz in early 2023. When he was activated from the IL in April, out of options, my comment was “if you hate him, you should be glad he was called up, because if he’s bad he’ll be DFA’ed and you won’t ever see him again.” I was never a Sborz supporter, per se, but he had terrific stuff, certainly the best among the AAA options, so I thought he deserved another shot.

JOSE LECLERC
Leclerc has a chance to save more games in the postseason than regular season. He saved four games during the 2023 regular season. Four! After Will Smith’s 22nd and final save on August 11, only six of Texas’s 21 regular season wins involved a save, split equally by Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman. Incidentally, Leclerc is the only current player who was in the organization the last time Texas played in the World Series.

JOSH JUNG
He’s pretty much who I imagined offensively. While he was in the minors, I insisted he’d be the perfectly average defender, someone who’d rarely elicit an emotional reaction. He’s been better than that, sometimes shockingly so.

JORDAN MONTGOMERY
How much future money has he earned this month? Even if Thomas Saggese becomes a starting 3B and TK Roby a #3 starter, the Rangers have won their half of the trade, irrespective of where Montgomery lands in 2024. They aren’t here without him. The Rangers are making a strong organizational case for retaining him, but he’d be foolish not to test the market, and the Rangers would be foolish to bid against themselves while on an emotional high. Cliff Lee moved on, but he’s still a hero around these parts. Life goes on. Enjoy Jordan while you can.

MATT BUSH

Bush’s last MLB outing was with the Brewers in June. He’ll get a playoff share and maybe a ring despite not having thrown a pitch in for Texas since 2021.

MOMENTUM!
On a Diamond Pod immediately after Houston’s three-day demolition of the Rangers in early September, I said:


I don’t believe in momentum, and certainly the events of 2023 are a convincing argument against it.

Both Texas and Houston are good but flawed teams that kind of backslid into the postseason. The Rangers were 50-52 over their last 102 games and lurched into a wild-card spot with a collection of stomach-churning winning and losing streaks. Houston seemingly had the division in hand but lost seven of nine games to KC and Oakland before closing with four straight wins to reclaim it on the final day. Then the Rangers swept the 99-win Rays and 101-win Orioles before capturing the pennant against the Astros.

Meanwhile, Arizona began the season 50-36 and closed 34-42, a period during which only the Giants and Rockies lost more in the NL. The Diamondbacks were 10-3 against lowly Colorado and under .500 with a negative-46 run differential against everybody else. Getting into the playoffs depended heavily on the Cubs posting an NL-worst 7-15 record down the stretch. Then, then!, they swept the 92-win Brewers and 100-win Dodgers before capturing a pennant against the Phils.

Nobody knows anything.

Texas is a good if flawed team that got hot at the perfect time. The Dbacks… I don’t know. The totality of their 2023 is pretty much average. But their peaks have been lofty, and they’re unquestionably good enough to win the World Series.

As I’ve gotten older, I no longer have any expectations. The MLB postseason is not designed to crown the best team. Some of that is due to an ever-expanding number of teams permitted to play in October. Mostly though, the nature of baseball prohibits it. Bad teams can and do take two of three or even sweep good teams. Even elite teams lose a third of the time. There is no series of plausible length that can truly decide who’s best.

Much as I love minor league ball, it’s almost never a visceral, edge-of-seat experience. This certainly is: a lifetime of fandom and memories, years of occasional semi-glory and dashed hopes condensed into a handful of games.

It’s a heck of a thing to want something so badly and not only have no control over the desired result but not even be able to calculate its likelihood with any confidence. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Ah, well. I’m in this deep, I’m not getting out now. I don’t even want to. It’s an experience I want to share with family, friends, and y’all. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Go Rangers.

Ranger, 2010. Still with us, waiting for a championship.