Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 17 May

Cole Winn’s walk and strikeout rates have reversed between his first four and most recent three starts. In the first four, Winn walked 7% of opposing hitters and struck out 22%. Since then, an incomprehensible 22% walk rate and 7% K rate. Other stats of note:

Strike Rate: 65% in starts 1-4, 53% in starts 5-7
Swinging Strike Rate: 14% vs. 7%
Swings Putting Ball In Play: 36% vs. 54%
Average On Contact: .289 vs. .314
Slugging On Contact: .378 vs .412

The primary change is simply far fewer strikes. An additional one of every eight pitches have been called balls in his most recent three starts. The other major difference appears to be location in the zone. Opponents aren’t swinging as much but are putting the ball in play much more often when they do. Far fewer pitches are resulting in swinging strikes and fouls. Essentially, he’s just not placing the ball where he wants.

The good news is Winn’s velocity hasn’t decreased, and his spin rates seem fine. He’s lost a little break on his curve and slider, and gained a little vertical break on the fastball (not desired when working high), but I don’t know if the difference is meaningful. Opponents are having more success when they make contact, although the difference isn’t gigantic.

Winn has been here before. Back in 2019, I heard phenomenal reports about his sessions in Arizona, but when he arrived in low-A Hickory, he was frankly a mess. His control was poor overall, his execution varied wildly from pitch to pitch. He’d throw a nice fastball, then one in the dirt, another nice one, then a foot outside. Not until late in 2019 did he substantially improve. Since then, and until this May, he’s been the dominant pitcher you’ve hoped for. I’ve mentioned that the exploits of the Major League club aren’t relevant to his arrival in Arlington. He wasn’t getting promoted in May, so this rough stretch won’t delay his MLB debut assuming he can rectify the situation in a reasonably short time.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 5, at Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 7 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 22-15, 1 GB

SP AJ Alexy: 5.2 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 2 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 89 P / 64 S, 6.48 ERA
RP Jake Latz: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 4.96 ERA
RP Dan Winkler: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 4.02 ERA
3B Josh Smith: 2-4, .268/.362/.390
1B Matt Carpenter: 2-4, 2B, HR (6), .275/.319/.613

Yesterday ushered in the automated strike zone for the Pacific Coast League. It’s probably coincidence, but the change prompted an outstandingly controlled performance from AJ Alexy, who didn’t issue a walk until his 19th batter. No, two homers in a pitcher’s park aren’t great, but relative to what’s occurred lately, I’ll live with it.

Jake Latz worked in relief for the first time.

In last year’s Low-A Southeast, the only league to employ automated umps at the time, both walk and strikeout rates were elevated. Last night, PCL teams averaged 3.8 walks and 8.9 strikeouts, both about 0.4 below the season averages. One night is just an anecdote, of course, but at least we didn’t see any wild results.

AA: Frisco 13, Corpus Christi (HOU) 7
Frisco: 11 hits, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 20-14, 2 G up

SP Zak Kent: 4.2 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 2 R, 6 BB, 7 SO, 95 P / 56 S, 5.23 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4, BB, .360/.398/.480
LF Dustin Harris: 1-5, HR (4), .254/.356/.404
2B Ezequiel Duran: 1-3, HR (6), 2 BB, .303/.352/.576
CF JP Martinez: 1-3, 2B, 2 BB, SB (11), .322/.433/.552
C David Garcia: 2-4, .213/.273/.328

On Screaming Child Day — I’m sorry, Education Day — at the park, Frisco took full advantage of Corpus Christi’s terrible control plus some shaky defense. Houston’s four minor league affiliates rank worst or second-worst in walk rates in their respective leagues. Zak Kent’s control was no better, a season-long issue, but the slider was hunting, and he registered seven strikeouts.

Dustin Harris hit hit fourth homer and turned a towering warning-track fly into an adventure-filled double. He’s definitely improved defensively since early April, but he’s not what you’d call fluid.

High-A: Hickory 6, at Greenville (BOS) 11
Hickory: 8 hits, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
Record: 17-16, 4 GB

SP TK Roby: 5 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 5 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 83 P / 54 S, 7.67 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 2-5, HR (3), .300/.381/.500
C Cody Freeman: 2-4, 2B, .231/.330/.418
LF Trevor Hauver: 2-4, HR (2), .190/.361/.278

Trevor Hauver has his second homer. May it be the second of many. Hauver plays left field, not first base, but his path to the Majors runs entirely through his bat. Hauver mostly played second as Yankee in 2021 but less so once traded to the Rangers, and in 2022 he hasn’t seen the infield at all. I saw Evan Carter four times last week. He homered in one of the two games of that series I missed and the first game since I returned to Texas. Oh well.

Low-A: Down East 8, at Carolina (MIL) 5
Down East: 9 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 7 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 15-19, 4.5 GB

SP Gavin Collyer: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 86 P / 54 S, 5.24 ERA
RP Jackson Leath: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Alejandro Osuna: 2-4, 2B, SB (10), .340/.412/.520
RF Marcus Smith: 3-5, HR (2), .167/.350/.295

Here’s a fun little chart:

The lonely red dot is Marcus Smith. Fourth-worst strikeout rate in the league, and one of the worst is all of the minors, but a perfectly ordinary swinging strike rate. Smith also takes a ton of pitches and has one of the league’s highest walk rates, so I assume he’s also seeing many more called strikes than the average hitter. I lack that particular data.

2021 12th-round righty, Tennessee alum, and Waxahachie native Jackson Leath made his pro debut.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Allard
AA: Weems
Hi-A: Vanasco
Lo-A: Teodo

Five Years Ago Yesterday
On Yohander Mendez’s sudden increase in homers: “In five previous seasons covering 293 innings, he gave up only 15.  This year: 49 innings, 11 homers.” This increase was permanent. From Frisco in 2017 to his current station in Monterrey, Mendez has been very homer-prone.