Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 16 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 3
Round Rock: 11 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 7-4, tied for first

SP Jake Latz: 6 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 5 BB, 5 SO, 84 P / 48 S, 2.40 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 2 IP, 2 H ,1 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1.50 ERA
LF Leody Taveras: 2-5, HR (2)
SS Davis Wendzel: 2-4, 2B, HR (2)
2B Nick Tanielu: 2-4, HR (2)

Latz suffered minimal permanent damage despite a homer and five walks. He threw a whopping 26 changeups: 7 for swinging strikes, 4 called strikes, 8 for balls, 4 put in play for outs, the rest fouls. Everything else was close to a 50/50 proposition on balls and strikes.

Wendzel has warmed to .250/.341/.472 after a slow start. Taveras has raced out of the gate (.410/.439/.667); nearly half of his balls in play have been 95+ MPH.

AA: Frisco 4, @ San Antonio (SDG) 3
Frisco: 12 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts
Opponent: 2 hits, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts

SP Jack Leiter: 4 IP, 1 H ,1 R, 3 BB, 4 SO, 75 P / 42 S, 2.57 ERA
RP Nick Starr: 1.1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 1.80 ERA
2B Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4
SS Ezeuqiel Duran: 2-4, 2B
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4
RF Kellen Strahm: 2-3

Leiter matched the form of his first start. I couldn’t make the trip to San Antonio but peeked on MiLB.tv as best I could. Leiter walked the opening batter on five pitches and two straight in a later inning, mostly pulling his fastball outside against righties. As before, trying to eke out walks was the opposition’s best strategy, because he was virtually unhittable otherwise.

If the thought is “I love what I’m seeing, but why all the walks,” this isn’t new. As a junior at Vandy, Leiter allowed 48 hits and a combined 58 walks and hit batters while striking out 179. That’s a .129/.241/.250 opposing line with a 13% BB/HBP rate and 42% SO rate. His control was often iffy, and that’s something he’ll be working on. Also, as good as the SEC Conference is, it’s not Double A.

Meanwhile, his teammates banged out a bunch of singles against Thomas Eshelman, who pitched an abbreviated complete game.

AA: Frisco 4, @ San Antonio (SDG) 1
Frisco: 8 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
Opponent: 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 8-1, 2 G up

SP Cole Ragans: 4.1 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 71 P / 43 S, 1.17 ERA
RP Lucas Jacobsen: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF JP Martinez: 1-2, BB, HBP, 2 SB (4)

Ragans squelched the Missions nearly as well as Leiter, leading to a doubleheader sweep and a six-game series sweep. The two goals for Ragans are 1) to pitch as well as he did early last season, and 2) build some stamina to avoid last year’s sharp fade. To be clear, I’m not criticizing that fade, given how the universe has been aligned against him for the past several years.

Grant Anderson, he of the three consecutive homers allowed in Leiter’s first start, retired five of seven, and Lucas Jacobsen was again untouchable.

JP Martinez made up for being the only hitless Rider in the opener.

High-A: Hickory 3, Bowling Green (TAM) 6
Hickory: 9 hits, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts

SP Mason Englert: 4.2 IP, 3 H ,3 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 5 SO, 74 P / 49 S, 7.88 ERA
SS Keyber Rodriguez: 1-3, BB, SB (1)
RF Aaron Zavala: 1-2, 2 BB
3B Thomas Saggese: 2-4, 2B
CF Angel Aponte: 2-3, 2B

Englert started well but was hit late, and two bequeathed runners scored off John Matthews.

Aaron Zavala is branching out into hitting in addition to hoarding walks. Walking more than hitting is rare but it happens. Jayce Easley and Yonny Hernandez accomplished the feat last year. At the moment, Zavala has 11 walks and four hits and has a .160/.417/.160 line. Trevor Hauver is in the same funky boat: .133/.481/.333 with two hits and ten walks.

High-A: Hickory 4, Bowling Green (TAM) 9
Hickory: 6 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
Record: 3-6, 5 GB

SP TK Roby: 4.2 IP, 8 H (2 HR), 7 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 62 P / 50 S, 9.00 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 2-3, HBP, SB (2)
DH Aaron Zavala: 1-3, BB
LF Trevor Hauver: 1-1, 2 BB

In the early going, Evan Carter isn’t striking out nearly as much as last year. Five in 28 trips to the plate so far.

Bowling Green (8-1) was one of the best high-A teams in history last year, and they seem committed to a repeat in 2022.

Low-A: Down East 1, Kannapolis (CHW) 5
Down East: 4 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts

SP Larson Kindreich: 4 IP, 3 H ,1 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 69 P / 38 S, 1.50 ERA
SS Maximo Acosta: 2-3, SB (1)

Kannapolis reached Nick Lockhart (2 IP, 4 R) after Kindreich departed, and Down East again didn’t hit much.

Low-A: Down East 3, Kannapolis (CHW) 2
Down East: 5 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 3-6, 4.5 GB

SP Victor Santos: 5 IP, 5 H ,2 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 5 SO, 70 P / 44 S, 5.63 ERA
RP Destin Dotson: 1.1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 1.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Daniel Mateo: 3-4, 2 SB (2)

Daniel Mateo singled in gift runner Jose Acosta on the first pitch in the bottom of the 8th, abruptly giving the Woodies a split. Victor Santos did everyone a favor with five solid innings on just 70 pitches.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Arihara
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 15 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 9 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 6-4, tied for first
SP Glenn Otto: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 53 P / 33 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Tyson Miller: 4 IP, 2 H ,1 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1.29 ERA
3B Josh Smith: 2-5
CF Bubba Thompson: 3-5

Glenn Otto held the Space Cowboys (adieu, Skeeters) scoreless and nearly hitless for four innings. Notably, Otto threw nearly as many curves (10) as sliders (12) and generated two of his three swinging strikes with that pitch. It runs the same speed as his slider (low 80s), has nice depth and sometimes a little slidery run. It certainly provides a different look that makes the upstairs fastball stand out.

Tyson Miller frustrates hitters a his low-slot delivery that looks like it’s coming in from third base. I’ve seen him pitch very well at times, and he might deserve another MLB look at some point. The “might help” group is pretty large.

Bubba Thompson isn’t hitting with Huffian force (no one is) but is making solid contact and isn’t striking out so much (11 in 41 trips). He’s still looking for his first walk. But like my daughter who immediately calls for a parent whenever she misplaces something, he might not be looking very hard. The walks are wherever you put them last, Bubba, keep looking

AA: Frisco 7, @ San Antonio (SDG) 3
Frisco: 13 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 6-1, 1.5 G up

SP Cody Bradford: 5 IP, 3 H ,2 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 73 P / 48 S, 3.86 ERA
RP Fernery Ozuna: 1.2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
1B Blaine Crim: 4-5, 2 2B
LF Dustin Harris: 3-4, 2B
C David Garcia: 2-3

Bradford’s three walks match a career high. His motif is control and command,

Chase Lee did what he does. Fernery Ozuna has fanned ten of his first 22 batters. Last year, Ozuna had a pretty good walk rate (8.6%) combined with enough hit batters (4% rate) to push his overall control into the below-average category.

AA pitchers hadn’t received the memo about Dustin Harris’s borderline top-100 prospect status. He was batting .143 with a walk before last night. San Antonio isn’t a hitter’s park — facing prevailing winds and dimly lit — but Blaine Crim likes it just fine, collecting six hits including three doubles in three games.

High-A: Hickory 3, Bowling Green (TAM) 4
Hickory: 8 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 1 walk, 14 strikeouts
Record: 3-4, 3 GB

SP Owen White: 5 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, 65 P / 42 S, 2.25 ERA
RP Josh Smith: 2 IP, 3 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Thomas Saggese: 1-5, HR (1)
DH Chris Seise: 1-4, HR (2)

We focus on players here, so Bowling Green’s late comeback doesn’t spoil some nice performances. Owen White fanned his last four batters and produced 13 swinging strikes.

Thomas Saggese has his first homer, Chris Seise his second.

Eudrys Manon, fixture of last year’s low-A late innings, was taken deep with two on by ex-Ranger Alexander Ovalles.

Low-A: Down East 3, Kannapolis (CHW) 1
Down East: 4 hits, 7 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 2-5, 4 GB

SP Josh Stephan: 5 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 59 P / 43 S, 2.00 ERA
RP Luis Tejeda: 3.1 IP, 3 H ,1 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 4.26 ERA
CF Marcus Smith: 1-3, HBP

Marcus Smith grounded through the infield in the 1st, the first time in 18 plate appearances he’d put a ball in play. After that single, he stole second and then somehow scored on what was classified as an infield single by Jose Rodriguez. Smith has a .300 OBP with three runs and three stolen bases in five games, so for someone with a 67% strikeout rate, he’s actually been productive. It’s nice to see his speed making a difference given his protracted hamstring problems.

Josh Stephan, Luis Tejeda and Bubba Hoopii-Tuionetoa (0.2 scoreless, 1 strikeout) quelled an offense that had scored nearly nine runs per game in the early going.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Latz
AA: Leiter and Ragans (scheduled doubleheader, off-day tomorrow)
Hi-A: Englert and Roby (DH)
Lo-A: TBD and TBD (DH)

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Frisco’s Scott Heineman was ejected after arguing a third strike. The man did not like umpires. He once got tossed early in a late-season game with undermanned Round Rock, and the Express had to use a pitcher in the outfield in his place.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 14 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 4, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 10 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 5-4, 1 GB

SP Cole Winn: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 69 P / 43 S, 1.13 ERA
RP Jesus Tinoco: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Hever Bueno: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 4.50 ERA
3B Josh Smith: 1-4
C Sam Huff: 1-4, HR (2)
SS Davis Wendzel: 1-3

Cole Winn worked on his slider in his first start. This time, he got reacquainted with his old friend the curve. Winn threw 21 compared to only six sliders, registering six swinging strikes, several fouls, and nothing in play for a hit.

Sam Huff’s team-leading tenth ball off the bat in excess of 100 MPH traveled over the fence for a game-tying homer in the 9th. Huff is striking out in 40% of his trips to the plate and hitting an even .500 when he makes contact. Average exit velocity isn’t a great stat for reasons I’ll get into later. But in the case of Huff, it’s 99 MPH, which is three tics above last year’s MLB leader, Aaron Judge. (Obviously, it’s early in the season.)

OF Zach Reks departed in the 1st after appearing to injure his knee at the plate. He swung through a pitch and collapsed in pain.

RHP Nick Snyder is up. With his relative inexperience and options, he could be back in AAA before too long, but based on his performance in Round Rock and how the Texas bullpen has performed so far, I’m hoping for a longer stay.

IF Sherten Apostel went unclaimed through waivers and was outrighted to Round Rock.

AA: Frisco 6, @ San Antonio (SDG) 3
Frisco: 6 hits, 5 walks, 17 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 5-1, 1 G up

SP Justin Slaten: 4 IP, 4 H ,2 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 53 P / 34 S, 3.60 ERA
RP Seth Nordlin: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 8.31 ERA
RP Lucas Jacobsen: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Ezequiel Duran: 2-4, 2 2B, BB

Justin Slaten pitched well in his first AA start. Slaten had adequate control in high-A but was very homer-prone. Texas drafted him in 2019’s third round.

Catcher Jordan Procyshen hit a three-run homer in the 8th after San Antonio shortstop Korry Howell badly misplayed what appeared to be a textbook double-play grounder.

After missing with two fastballs, Lucas Jacobsen threw seven consecutive strikes (four swinging) to make quick work of the 9th.

High-A: Hickory 4, Bowling Green (TAM) 8
Hickory: 7 hits, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 3-3, 2 GB

SP Nick Krauth: 4 IP, 6 H ,4 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 61 P / 42 S, 8.44 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 3 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RF Aaron Zavala: 2-4, 2 SB (3)
2B Cirstian Inoa: 1-3, 2B, BB
1B Jake Guenther: 1-4, HR (1)

The 22-year-old Krauth was a steady presence in last year’s low-A rotation and should rebound from last night. Krauth would have been picked somewhere in the 2020 draft if not for MLB deciding to stop after five rounds and cap all free agent signings at $20k. (What good fortune for an industry to be able to unilaterally restrict wages without any antitrust worries. And yet, per the commissioner, club ownership is a inferior investment to an ordinary index fund! The owners should set up a GoFundMe.)

Aaron Zavala collected his first two hits to team up with his previous eight walks.

Low-A: Down East 1, Kannapolis (CHW) 5
Down East: 5 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 4 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 1-5, 4 GB

SP Jose Corneill: 5.1 IP, 3 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 50 P / 32 S, 0.00 ERA
1B Abimelec Ortiz: 1-3, HR (1)

Corneill came to Texas from Seattle in exchange for Rafael Montero. The trade was 18 months ago but Corniell is still just 18, the youngest pitcher on the staff by nearly a year.

Down East is hitting .168/.282/.272 as a team, so, not much to write about at present.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Otto
AA: Bradford
Hi-A: White

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Making his first appearance despite being on the roster for all nine games, righty Tyler Ferguson threw a scoreless inning. The Kentucky alum developed extreme control issues as a junior, dropping him to Texas in the 6th round. Ferguson never enjoyed any length of success as a Ranger. I saw him a couple of times up close; the delivery was stiff and forced as he willed the ball toward the plate. His last season in Texas was 2018. He’s still around, pitching in relief for Atlanta’s AA squad, and his control last year in high-A was respectable.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 13 April

Box Scores

Thanks for the messages about the box score link not working. I completely rebuilt my template and made a typo, and I think MiLB changed their format as well.

AAA: Round Rock 1, at Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 6 hits, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 4-4, 1 GB
SP AJ Alexy: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 75 P / 47 S, 5.14 ERA
3B Davis Wendzel: 3-3, HR (1)

AJ Alexy has walked seven in seven innings, which won’t hasten his return to Arlington. On the upside, his strike rate of 63% and average of 17.3 pitches per inning are perfectly acceptable. Walks aside, he’s concluding plate appearances fairly quickly. Average speeds so far: fastball 94, change 86, slider 84, curve 77.

Davis Wendzel boosted his slugging percentage from .182 to .400 in a few hours. Marcus Semien could do the same any day now, so don’t fret the slow start.

AA: Frisco 9, at San Antonio (SDG) 6
Frisco: 10 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 4-1, 1 G up

SP Avery Weems: 2 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 47 P / 31 S, 20.25 ERA
RP Nick Starr: 1.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 2.45 ERA
CF Kellen Strahm: 2-2, BB, HBP
2B Trey Hair: 2-4, 2B
DH Sandro Fabian: 2-4, 2B, HR (1)

The Riders scored seven in the 1st on seven hits. They managed only three more than rest of the game and immediately surrendered four runs in the bottom half of the first, but the initial outburst was enough.

LF Dustin Harris dropped a catchable ball midway through. The soft fly came down more-or-less between left, center, and short; I wouldn’t call it a gimme, but he had it lined up and heeled it. Tuesday was only his third pro game at the position. OF Kellen Strahm is hitting a wild .375/.643/.500 in the early going. That’s three hits, five walks and a hit batter. Soon to be 25, Strahm showed improved power to augment his strong OBP skill in an injury-shortened 2021 (.281/.388/.448 in 50 games).

High-A: Hickory 1, Bowling Green (TAM) 0
Hickory: 7 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 3-2, 1 GB

SP Ben Anderson: 2.2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 4 BB, 3 SO, 61 P / 29 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Triston Polley: 3.1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 4.76 ERA
RP Marc Church: 2 IP, 3 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Evan Carter: 1-3, BB
2B Cristian Inoa: 2-3, BB
SS Keyber Rodriguez: 1-3, BB
CF Angel Aponte: 2-3, 2 SB (2)

Hickory allowed 12 runners but managed to erase two on the bases and stranded the rest, including six in scoring position. The 6’4″ righty Anderson (2019, 13th round) hasn’t struggled with control historically.

22-year-old Cristian Inoa is playing some second base with Luisangel Acuna out. The 5′”10 Inoa spent most of last year in low-A at first, I think mainly because Texas had others in mind for second, third, and short. Inoa responded by hitting 11 homers, easily a career high.

Low-A: Down East 4, Kannapolis (CHW) 0
Down East: 4 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 1-4, 3 GB

SP Emiliano Teodo: 2.1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 36 P / 21 S, 1.00 ERA
RP Bradford Webb: 3.2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
C Tucker Mitchell: 1-2, BB
LF Yosy Galan: 2-3

Emiliano Teodo, starting pitcher? Teodo reached triple digits on the gun with regularity but often in no particular direction at Arizona last year (21 BB/HBP and 48 SO in 29 innings), and I’d only thought of him as a reliever despite his inexperience. We’ll see. Righty Bradford Webb is a senior sign from Virginia Commonwealth drafted in last year’s seventh road. As such, he’s a relative greybeard, 24 next week. He fanned 13 with no walks in 8.2 rookie innings in 2021.

OF Marcus Smith has come to the plate 17 times. He has 12 strikeouts, four walks, and one sac bunt.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Cole Winn
AA: Justin Slaten
Hi-A: Nick Krauth

Five Years Ago Yesterday
A slow day, but I mentioned the 2013 Hickory squad setting low-A records in total strikeouts (1,403) and strikeout rate (28.5%). Those marks now rank third and ninth, respectively, surpassed by the 2019 Clinton LumberKings and several 2021 entries. The ’13 Crawdads created a future Major Leaguer at every position:

C Jorge Alfaro
1B Ronald Guzman
2B Ryan Rua
3B Joey Gallo
SS Luis Marte
OF Nick Williams
OF Lewis Brinson
OF Nomar Mazara
and seven pitchers

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 12 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, at Sugar Land (HOU) 6
Round Rock: 16 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 4-3, 1 GB

SP Kohei Arihara: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 68 P / 38 S, 5.14 ERA
RP Daniel Robert: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 11.57 ERA
LF Bubba Thompspon: 3-5, SB (5)
SS Josh Smith: 2-5
CF Leody Taveras: 4-5, 2B
C Sam Huff: 2-5
3B Davis Wendzel: 2-4, 2B

Bubba Thompson is batting .407 with a .519 slugging percentage and five steals. Thompson also hasn’t walked in six games and has struck out in one-third of his trips to the plate. So, Thompson is being an extreme version of himself in his early days at AAA.

Sam Huff has put the ball in play 12 times. Eight have been in excess of 96 MPH. 95 is the point at which average and slugging percentage on balls in play really ramps up.

Relying heavily on the slider, Daniel Robert avoided the atypical control issues that marred his first two appearances. He locked down the 9th.

AA: Frisco 6, at San Antonio (SDG) 4
Frisco: 10 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 3-1, 1 G up

SP Zak Kent: 4 IP, 5 H ,3 R, 3 BB, 1 SO, 67 P / 39 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Grant Wolfram: 3 IP, 2 H ,1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 10.80 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF JP Martinez: 2-5, SB (2)
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4, 2B
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 3-4

Grant Wolfram improved greatly on the wild outing I saw Saturday night. Three walks in four innings is unusually high for Zak Kent. Aside from the end of last season when he ran out of gas, Chase Lee has manhandled AA in his brief pro career.

High-A: Hickory 7, Bowling Green (TAM) 14
Hickory: 9 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 12 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-2, 2 GB

SP Ricky Vanasco: 1.2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 3 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 44 P / 26 S, 16.20 ERA
LF Trevor Hauver: 1-4, HR (1), BB
SS Keyber Rodriguez: 4-4

Did Hickory get its ugliest game of the season out of the way in mid-April? Let’s hope! Hickory walked 12, hit another, issued a balk and two wild pitches, and committed four errors.

Ricky Vanasco’s first appearance since 2019 was a dud. It happens. He just never got on track. A seven-pitch walk, another seven pitches to record his first out, a single, then a homer by ex-Ranger Heriberto Hernandez (part of the Nathaniel Lowe trade).

Trevor Hauver has the system’s first grand slam. Luisangel Acuna draws most of the attention, but teammate Keyber Rodriguez was Down East’s primary shortstop the year before.

Low-A: Down East 2, Kannapolis (CHW) 7
Down East: 3 hits, 4 walks, 18 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 0-4, 4 GB

SP Gavin Collyer: 3.1 IP, 6 H ,5 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 4 SO, 65 P / 41 S, 12.46 ERA
RP Nick Lockhart: 2.2 IP, 0 H ,1 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Bubba Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 7.71 ERA
SS Maximo Acosta: 1-3, 2B, BB

With the caveat that we’re four games into the season, let’s have a look at the combined BB/HBP rates and strikeout rates in Texas’s low-A league during the past three seasons:
2019: 10.2% BB/HBP, 24.2% SO
2021: 12.7%, 25.6%
2022: 15.7%, 29.0%

Yipes. 47% of plate appearances in the Carolina League in 2022 are ending with a homer, walk, HBP or strikeout; that is, not involving any fielders but the pitcher and catcher. 2021 started out very high (although not this high) and then slowly declined, so I hope ’22 does the same. Still, we’re probably looking at more records in walks and strikeouts.

What set me on this statistical quest: 1) the game itself was drab, and 2) I noticed that Down East had struck out 60 times in four games for an otherworldly 39% K rate. In 30+ years of low-A history, the highest strikeout rate by a team’s offense is 30.4%, set last year (of course) by Visalia. The previous record was 28%.

Today’s Starters
AAA: AJ Alexy
AA: Avery Weems
Hi-A: Ben Anderson

Five Years Ago Yesterday
“Joe Palumbo set a career high with 10 strikeouts and needed just 81 pitches to complete six innings. An MiLB.com story notes that Palumbo will be Rule 5-eligible this winter if left off the 40-man roster, and he’ll ‘have to use this year to prove he’s worthy of being protected.’  I’d phrase this differently: Palumbo is a lock for the 40 at present and can only pitch his way off of it.” He was indeed a lock, despite having only one more outing during 2017, as you’ll find out in a future installment.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 10 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, El Paso (SDG) 2
Round Rock: 8 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 3-3, 2 GB

SP Jake Latz: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 78 P / 54 S, 3.00 ERA
LF Bubba Thompson: 2-4, SB (4)
CF Josh Smith: 1-4, HR (1)

Josh Smith has his first AAA homer and first professional start in the outfield. He’s also started twice at third after two days at his usual short. Smith caught two sharply hit flies. Both were plays any competent outfielder would make, but a misread on either might have spelled trouble. One can wait a long time to see even a small handful of 50/50 outfield plays that would provide some insight into the player’s quality, and one must wait in person, because the video feed rarely shows an outfielder’s reaction time and initial route.

I don’t start listing players’ slash stats until we’re around two weeks in. Also, nearly all Mondays in 2022 are off-days for the entire system. I expect many will be off-days for me as well, but I might pop in with news, summaries, or items I think deserve more coverage.

AA: Frisco 3, Arkansas (SEA) 5
Frisco: 10 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 2-1, tied for first

SP Cole Ragans: 3.1 IP, 3 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 66 P / 44 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Fernery Ozuna: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4

Cole Ragans pitched well, spotting a 93-95 fastball, change, curve and slider. Per Grant Schiller of Baseball Prospectus, Ragans tallied seven swinging strikes with the fastball and six with his change. Ragans could be pitching in middle relief in 2030 and I’ll still consider him a “comeback player” because of the successive elbow surgeries.

Fernery Ozuna is a converted infielder who drew notice for his tripe-digit velocity a year ago. Ozuna has acceptable control but can be alarmingly homer-prone, and the velo tends to ebb and flow. Seth Nordlin (2.1 IP, 7 runners, 4 runs) took the loss.

High-A: Hickory 5, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 2
Hickory: 11 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 2-1, 1 GB

SP TK Roby: 3.1 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 55 P / 36 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Josh Smith: 1.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Chris Seise: 2-4, HR (1)
C Scott Kapers: 2-4, HR (1)

Sometimes pitchers in the lower levels try to work up but lack the location or spin, and sometimes the hitter is keyed on a high fastball. Yesterday, that hitter was Chris Seise, who smacked a Trey Jeans fastball over the fence in a hurry. Limited to 31 games the previous four years, Seise is only DHing for the time being. I have no idea what to expect of Seise and really don’t even care for now. i just hope he can stay in the lineup.

Roby pitched in a real game for the first time in ten months, having been sidelined since last June with elbow trouble. Roby deals a high-spin fastball, curve and change. He was the middle man in Texas’s five-pick 2020 draft.

Hickory placed infielder Luisangel Acuna on the IL with a hamstring strain, per MLB.com’s Kennedi Landry. He’s expected to miss a couple of weeks.

Low-A: Down East 9, at Carolina (MIL) 11
Down East: 9 hits, 8 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 0-3, 3 GB

SP Victor Santos: 3 IP, 4 H ,3 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 59 P / 40 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Destin Dotson: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Efrenyer Narvaez: 1-5, HR (1)
LF Yosy Galan: 2-4, HR (1), BB
2B Junior Paniagua: 1-3, 2 BB

Outfielder Yosy Galan hit the second-most homers in the Arizona League last summer. The 20-year-old also struck out at just shy of a 40% rate in 2021 and has four in nine plate appearances so far.

In the primer I mentioned hitters having such an inflated strikeout rate that even a high average on contact won’t compensate. Efrenyer Narvaez rolls his eyes at that statement: In nine at-bats, he has six strikeouts, a single, triple and homer. Can a hitter fan two-thirds of the time and hit 1.000 when he puts the bat on the ball? I’m going to say no, but it’s 2022, so who knows.

Down East scored four in the 9th on three walks, three hit batsmen and a Galan single.

Today’s Starters
AAA: off
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East won its inaugural home opener 4-3 in ten innings. 3B Josh Altmann doubled and then scored on an error. Brett Martin allowed a run and whiffed seven in 5.1 innings. Round Rock’s Ronald Guzman singled twice and drew a bases-loaded go-ahead walk.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 9 April

Video of Jack Leiter’s professional debut. My photo of Leiter’s first pitch, and a few more:

Podcast-mates Sean Bass and Michael Tepid got a rare one-on-one (well, two-on-one) interview with Leiter on Media Day. Podcast links are in my signature.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, El Paso (SDG) 1
Round Rock: 6 hits, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 1 walk, 15 strikeouts
Record: 2-3, 2 GB

SP Glenn Otto: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Matt Moore: 3 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Nick Snyder: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Leody Taveras: 2-4, HR (1)

I missed some fine performances Saturday. Glenn Otto held the chihuahuas to a single through three, Matt Moore’s initial tryout for future innings for the Rangers (or somebody else) went well, and Nick Snyder nailed down the 9th on six pitches. According to Statcast, Otto mixed in a fair number of curves and three changes. His curve runs at pretty much the same velo (80-82) as his extremely sweepy slider. My issue last year was a repertoire nearly entirely narrowed to fastballs and sliders. (I assume he was just following instructions, so that’s not on him.) If starting remains a possibility, working on and back end of the mix is critical, so yesterday was nice to see.

Leody Taveras hit a 413′ homer and a single off that bat at 105.6 MPH.

MacKenzie Gore limited Round Rock to two hits and fanned seven without a walk in five innings. His 2021 was disastrous, so I’m glad to see a turnaround, even at Round Rock’s expense. (I’m a very low-key Padres fan because I’ve seen their system a fair amount over the years, and in general I like to see guys correct their problems.)

AA: Frisco 8, Arkansas (SEA) 7
Frisco: 9 hits, 6 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 10 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-0, 1 G up

SP Jack Leiter: 3 IP, 1 H ,1 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 3.00 ERA
RP Tai Tiedemann: 2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Luke Jacobsen: 1.1 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Ezequiel Duran: 2-3, 2B, BB
C David Garcia: 2-4, 2B
CF Kellen Strahm: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB
1B Blaine Crim: 1-3, BB, SB (1)

As you might’ve heard from my podcast partners and others, Leiter is Terminator-like in his focus. There are no extraneous movements or even facial expressions. He long-tossed aggressively before the bullpen warmup; as you can see in the picture above, his cap was drenched in sweat by the time he threw a real pitch.

Leiter’s fastball ranged from 93 to 98 with an 83-85 slider and 74-79 curve. He threw the fastball about 50% of the time with a roughly equal mix of the others. As was common in his college career, he did not present a changeup. By my count, Leiter had 12 swinging strikes: five each on fastballs and sliders plus two on curves. All were effective. The curve has uncommon depth; he emphasized it in the 3rd and received both called strikes and whiffs.

Leiter’s strike rate was a mediocre 55%. You might’ve read some comments about a tight strike zone, and it was, but I was behind the plate and didn’t have much issue with the calls. Leiter sometimes pulled his fastball out arm-side, and he reached three balls to the first three batters. Pinpoint control isn’t his thing; he’s always been able to fade the walks by being virtually unhittable.

All told, an impressive, exciting display, especially as a pro debut in front of a bumper crowd and host of media.

Lefty Grant Wolfram just didn’t have it: a three-ball count to the first batter followed by four walks. Next time. He dealt a 93-94 fastball and 83-84 slider.

Lefty Luke Jacobsen has been in the system since 2016 as a 27th-round pick. I don’t think I’ve ever known less about a home-grown player who’s reached AA. He’d thrown all of 53 stateside innings in five seasons, none during 2020 (covid) or 2021 (lat). Now I know. Jacobsen offered a 94-98 fastball, upper-80s change and a slider in the 79-82 range. A 19 MPH gap between fastball and slider is unusual. Jacobsen surrendered a firm liner to score two of Wolfram’s bequeathed runners, but on the whole he was impressive.

Grant Anderson allowed solo homers to three consecutive batters in the 9th to erase most of a four-run lead. I suspect Frisco was counting on two innings from Wolfram, who has starting experience, so when Anderson reached his pitch limit, the Riders had no pitchers to spare and turned to catcher Jordan Procyshen. He induced a towering popup for the final out.

Ezequiel Duran walked, hit a solid double and pushed a tricky slider up the middle for a single. He also swung through a pitch that hit him squarely. Catcher David Garcia doubled off the wall near dead-center. He’s up in Frisco after a sometimes trying year at the plate in Hickory, so that type of contact is much appreciated.

High-A: Hickory 8, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 4
Hickory: 8 hits, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 4 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 1-1, 1 GB

SP Mason Englert: 3.1 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 10.80 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 2.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Jesus Linarez: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Evan Carter: 3-5, 3B, SB (1)
RF Aaron Zavala: 0-2, 3 BB, SB (1)
2B Cristian Inoa: 2-4, HR (1), BB

Mason Englert understandably hasn’t received Owen White’s level of attention, but he’s no slouch. Picked in 2018’s fourth round,Englert had the same interminably deferred debut as White but struck out 90 versus 26 walks in 80 low-A innings last year.

Marc Church made his first appearance since last year’s elbow issue that fortunately (like TK Roby) didn’t require surgery. Sometimes, resting actually works instead of simply delaying TJ. Church was the “Player A” in the ERA portion my primer: mediocre ERA, fabulous peripherals.

Lord help me, I hate cliches, but Evan Carter is a baseball player. He was born to do this.

Aaron Zavala is 0-4 with three strikeouts and six walks. 

Low-A: Down East 2, at Carolina (MIL) 8
Down East: 5 hits, 5 walks, 17 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 9 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 0-2, 2 GB

SP Larson Kindreich: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RF Abimelec Ortiz: 1-3, 2B, BB
C Efrenyer Narvaez: 2-4, 3B
2B Jose Acosta: 1-1, 2B, BB, HBP, SB (1)

In his full-season debut, Larson Kindreich didn’t need fielders for eight of his 11 batters. Texas drafted him in last year’s eighth round. Clubs often deliberately draft cheaply in the 6-10 rounds to save money for other picks, but Kindreich earned a standard bonus out of California’s Bioal University.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Jake Latz
AA: Cole Ragans
Hi-A: TK Roby
Lo-A: Victor Santos

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 8 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 11, El Paso (SDG) 3
Round Rock: 16 hits, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 1-3, 2 GB

SP Cole Winn: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 2 SO, 2.25 ERA
RP Tyler Thomas: 3 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3.00 ERA
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 2 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 13.50 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 2-5, SB (3)
LF Leody Taveras: 5-5, 2 2B, 2 SB (2)
RF Zach Reks: 1-2, 3 BB
DH Sam Huff: 3-4, HR (1), BB
2B Ryan Dorow: 2-3, 2B, BB

Leody Taveras had a perfect day, reaching all five times and scoring all the way from first on an errant throw during a steal attempt. Bubba Thompson also flashed the wheels. Sam Huff homered to left-center (just under 400 feet, modest by his standards) and hit a single even harder.

The hardest-hit ball of the night was a double off Luis Liberato’s bat against Cole Winn’s first pitch. That and another hit scored the only run off Winn, although he did walk two straight in the 2nd. Winn dealt his fastball (91-95), slider (82-85) and changeup (83-87) in nearly equal amounts plus ten curves (75-79).

Tyler Thomas offers a sinker/slider mix augmented with changes, all of which have a healthy amount of horizontal movement. Thomas, now 26, was the return for Jesse Chavez back in 2018. Yerry Rodriguez’s fastball velocity slumped to 92-95 in his second appearance. He threw a ton of sliders and several changes, the latter a pitch I don’t recall seeing Tuesday. Even if Rodriguez is permanently in relief, his change is decent (usually better than his slider last year) and he need not discard it.

AA: Frisco 5, Arkansas (SEA) 4
Frisco: 7 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 8 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 1-0, 1 G up

SP Cody Bradford: 4.1 IP, 3 H ,2 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 4.15 ERA
RP Justin Slaten: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF JP Martinez: 1-4, HR (1), SB (1)
SS Ezequiel Duran: 1-4, 2B
C Matt Whatley: 2-3, 2B

Doubles by Josh Stowers and Ezequiel Duran in the 8th reversed a one-run deficit. Duran was 0-3 to that point, so his first hit in AA scored the go-ahead run. Earlier, Frisco scored three in 4.2 innings off George Kirby, a top-100 prospect. Chase “The Viper” Lee fanned two in a 1-2-3 9th. Last year’s 5th rounder was aggressively assigned to AA for his pro debut. Cody Bradford allowed one liner (caught by 3B Diosbel Arias) and one fly; everything else was on the ground or a strikeout.

RHP Kevin Gowdy is listed at Frisco after being announced on Hickory’s opening roster. Gowdy was part of the return for Kyle Gibson.

High-A: Hickory 5, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 7
Hickory: 10 hits, 12 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 0-1, 1 GB

SP Owen White: 3 IP, 6 H (2 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 6.00 ERA
RP Spencer Mraz: 1.1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-5, 2B, BB
RF Aaron Zavala: 0-2, 3 BB
SS Frainyer Chavez: 2-3, BB
2B Thomas Saggese: 1-3, 2 BB
1B Cristian Inoa: 3-5, 2 2B

MiLB.tv is a good product overall, but not without its problems. It is seemingly always caught off guard by the start of the season, with multiple feeds either absent, subject to frequent buffering, or, in the case of Winston-Salem last night, audio-only. That is to say, my hope of seeing Owen White’s high-A debut was dashed. The two opposing homers matched his total from last year’s 35 innings.

Winston-Salem walked twelve and flung two wild pitches, but Hickory couldn’t capitalize, stranding 14 and losing another four on the bases. Frainyer Chavez had a great night. The downside is he entered as a replacement for SS Luisangel Acuna, who departed after hurting his lower leg crossing first on a grounder. Hopefully, it’s not serious. DH Chris Seise walked twice in his first action since last year’s injury.

Incidentally, if you do get MiLB.tv, you’ll see all the games of Round Rock and Frisco, road games for eight of Hickory’s 11 league opponents, and all of Down East’s road games. Unfortunately, Rangers-owned Down East is the only Carolina League team without video.

Low-A: Down East 3, at Carolina (MIL) 6
Down East: 5 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 0-1, 1 GB

SP Josh Stephan: 4 IP, 5 H ,3 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 4.50 ERA

Undrafted South Grand Prairie righty Josh Stephan threw plenty of strikes in last year’s 12 low-A innings, but four homers vaulted his ERA to 8.25. Last night, the ball stayed in the park. Beyond that, well, LF Alejandro Osuna’s double was the only extra-base hit, nobody reached more than once, and relievers Luis Tejeda (3 IP, 2 R) and Gavin Collyer (1 IP, 1 R) were fairly nondescript.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Glenn Otto
AA: Jack Leiter
Hi-A: Mason Englert

Five Years Ago Yesterday
331 games into his minor league career, Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit his first professional homer.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 7 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, El Paso (SDG) 8
Round Rock: 8 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 12 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 0-3, 3 GB

SP AJ Alexy: 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 9.00 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 3-5, 2 SB (2)
LF Leody Taveras: 2-5
DH Yohel Pozo: 1-4, 2B
C Sam Huff: 1-4, 2B

Alexy’s overall strike rate of 62% was fine, but he walked three and needed 67 pitches in three innings. He relied heavily on the fastball (93-96) and slider (82-86) while sprinkling in changes and curves.

Daniel Robert missed on eight of 12 pitches and didn’t retire any of three batters. He’s walked three in two outings. Last year, he walked five all season. Offseason free agent Nick Tropeano, who aspires to be this year’s Drew Anderson, I suppose, allowed two runs and walked three in two innings. Two days after having nothing to offer, righty Jason Bahr completed a scoreless inning with two walks and a strikeout.

After the Express used their allotted pitchers for the night, infielder Nick Tanielu entered with bases juiced and a one-run deficit in the 8th. He induced an inning-ending double play and worked a scoreless 9th. Yes, even with 17 pitchers on the roster, their schedules dictate that a position player will take the mound in a meaningful situation during the season’s third game. Such are the times.

The Express did take their bats out of storage last night. Sam Huff’s 110.5 MPH lined double is the hardest-hit ball by the good guys this season. Huff also hit a groundout nearly as hard.
Friend of the Newberg Report and Hickory fixture Mark Parker has a preview of this year’s Crawdads.

According to the official transaction page, the Rangers have promoted Future Considerations from Down East to Hickory. Long overdue, in my opinion.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Cole Winn
AA: Cody Bradford
Hi-A: Owen White
Lo-A: Gavin Collyer

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East allowed six in the 9th to lose 11-10, a night after they’d scored six in the 9th to win. Frisco’s Ariel Jurado allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 4.1 innings. Jurado was considered Texas’s second-best pitching prospect at the time, after Yohander Mendez. I’d place the early 2017 version of Jurado somewhere in the 5-10 range of Texas’s current pitching crop. Jurado missed 2021 (no idea why) and signed with the Twins during the abbreviated Spring Training.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 6 April

The Rangers finalized their Opening Day roster. Officially up, as expected, are pitchers Matt Bush and Greg Holland plus infielder Charlie Culberson. To clear three 40-man spots, the Rangers placed RHP Jose Leclerc on the 60-day Injured List, designated IF Sherten Apostel for assignment, and traded IF Yonny Hernandez to Arizona for non-40 OF Jeferson Espinal.

Back to my thinking from the other day, Leclerc was the obvious first choice to make room on the 40. I thought OF Zach Reks was next in line. Nothing against him, but I’ve just not heard much about the 28-year-old in terms of a potential active-roster role. My two “make[s] me sad but I get it” players were Apostel and RHP Demarcus Evans, who’s currently not assigned to a team. Next, Hernandez headed my “interesting territory” group.

I expect that the front office had their collective minds decided before Round Rock’s first game, but to the extent Apostel had a chance to make them second-guess, he definitely did not: 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, eight swinging strikes out of 15 pitches, insecure fielding at first. Acquired along with lefty Taylor Hearn for reliever Keone Kela, Apostel was the prize of the pair for a while. Multiple leg ailments limited him to 68 games last year, and he never acclimated to either Frisco or Round Rock. He’s still just 23, so there’s still time.
I’m always fond of guys like Hernandezwho receive scant attention on prospect lists but you can gauge as having a real chance when you see them in person. Hernandez runs well, can play multiple positions capably and possesses an exceptionally keen eye for the strike zone. He’s not much of a hitter, but he could put enough balls in play to create an eye-popping OBP, and he was able to maintain enough of that ability as he faced increasingly tough pitchers. The 19-year-old Espinal will head to Arizona for now. He split last year between the rookie league (.352/.446/.507) and low-A Visalia (.216/.288/.288). Baseball America recently ranked him Arizona’s #27 prospect. “Toolsy and raw” seems a good thumbnail description.
Texas also simply assigned offseason pickup Joe McCarthy to AAA without adding him to the 40. Per the beats, the outfielder is exploring potential options in Japan. Generally, clubs and MLB as a whole will permit players like McCarthy to seek greener pastures, but at the same time, Texas wouldn’t want to release him only for him to latch on with rival.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 2, El Paso (SDG) 6
Round Rock: 3 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 0-2, 2 GB

SP Kohei Arihara: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 60 P / 36 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Hever Bueno: 2 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4.50 ERA
RP Nick Snyder: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA

I didn’t see anything in March to suggest Kohei Arihara had improved on 2021’s rough introduction to MLB, and last night didn’t help. Maybe that’s harsh, as only two balls were hit especially hard, and Arihara himself was hit on a comebacker by the opening batter. Regardless, there’s much work to be done to renew the possibility of rejoining Texas.

Nick Snyder swatted away three Chihuahuas in short order with a 96-98 fastball and 83 MPH downhill slider. His presence in AAA doesn’t bother me, but I’d say he’s got better odds of finishing 2022 and starting 2023 in Texas than a good number of current Texas bullpen occupants.

Round Rock has three runs and seven hits in two games, and that honestly oversells the performance. Just not much to say yet. Leody Taveras broke a string of 20 consecutive batters retired with a one-out 9th-inning walk but was doubled out attempting to advance on a deep Yohel Pozo flyout.

IF Matt Carpenter and pitchers Glenn Otto and Matt Moore are active. We’ll see how Carpenter’s situation plays out. Elier Hernandez is the only non-catcher I’d consider more of a sub/rotation guy than a regular, and Sam Huff and Yohel Pozo may DH frequently when not behind the plate, so Carpenter’s plate appearances are always going to come at someone’s expense.

Hickory lost a friendly to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University 3-1. The Bears’ Wayne Cuda hit Ricky Vanasco’s first pitch over the fence.

St. Louis released IF Anderson Tejeda. Tejeda was an extreme high-variance prospect, but being released twice before his 24th birthday wasn’t a future I’d ever contemplated. He’d made tangible improvements in his hitting and fielding during 2018, and I was probably higher on him than most, but 2019 was shortened by injury. It’s easy to blame his premature MLB debut in 2020 (along with Apostel, Leody Taveras and Sam Huff) for subsequent events, but he could have just as easily stalled in AA/AAA if afforded a typical development path. 2020 and 2021 were tough on players, evaluators, everyone.

Today’s Starters
AAA: AJ Alexy
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Five Years Ago Yesterday
The high-A Down East Wood Ducks won their inaugural game 7-6, roaring back from a 6-1 deficit in the 9th. RF Jairo Beras capped the scoring with a homer. The very expensive and notorious prospect would hit three more homers in his pro career and switch to the mound by season’s end. Down East was technically a new team but in essence the relocated High Desert Mavericks, which played in the most hitter-friendly park in the US, and that was the only thing friendly about the situation. The Rangers paid several million dollars to get out of that jackpot. I digress. Lefty Joe Palumbo walked three and struck out five in his high-A debut.