Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 18 May

The Rangers activated Mitch Garver and optioned Nick Solak. I haven’t studied Solak to the extent of Willie Calhoun, but they share some characteristics. Both have actual numbers seemingly below expectations based on exit velocities and angles, but they’re also 27 with upwards of 800 MLB plate appearancesand no apparent upward trajectory.Solak does have some positional flexibility, if not prowess. His upcoming arrival in AAA adds to a crowd. Round Rock has the second-youngest group of hitters in the PCL and is remarkably light on AAA veterans. Solak has only played OF in 2022, but Round Rock already has Leody Taveras, Bubba Thompson, Josh Smith on occasion, Zach Reks, Steele Walker and Calhoun vying for playing time in the grass. 

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 11, at Sugar Land (HOU) 3
Round Rock: 9 hits, 11 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 23-15, tied for first

SP Kolby Allard: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 56 P / 34 S, 4.91 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 2.29 ERA
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 8.16 ERA
3B Josh Smith: 0-3, BB, 2 HBP, .262/.367/.381
CF Leody Taveras: 2-5, 2B, BB, SB (6), .331/.362/.562
C Yohel Pozo: 3-5, 2B, .333/.366/.469
1B Sherten Apostel: 1-3, 2 BB, .230/.319/.459

Round Rock’s hitters did not hack the computerized strike zone. Houston’s minor league pitchers just don’t throw many strikes. After a slow start in that regard, Josh Smith has 11 walks in May, nearly one of every five plate appearances.

Sherten Apostel is hitting .391/.440/.826 at high-elevation Salt Lake and Reno and .132/.250/.211 everywhere else.

AA: Frisco 5, Corpus Christi (HOU) 7
Frisco: 4 hits, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 20-15, 2 G up

SP Avery Weems: 5 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 2 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 71 P / 45 S, 6.75 ERA
2B Justin Foscue: 1-3, 2B, BB, HBP, SB (1), .315/.427/.575

Single runs in the 7th and 8th put Corpus ahead, and a rare poor outing by Fernery Ozuna (1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 HR, 3 R) created a gap that Frisco couldn’t quite close. Down two with two on and two out in the 9th, Ezequiel Duran saw a tasty pitch but got underneath it for a game-ending popout.

Avery Weems hadn’t allowed a homer in his previous three starts, but on the whole the long ball has troubled him as it did last season at Hickory. He’s surrendered four in 25.1 innings.

Justin Slaten pitched briefly (0.2 IP, 4 runners, 1 run) and will rejoin the rotation on Sunday, pushing everyone else forward a day. Jack Leiter will start on Friday.

High-A: Hickory 6, at Greenville (BOS) 3
Hickory: 11 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Record: 18-16, 3 GB

SP Ricky Vanasco: 5 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 70 P / 50 S, 6.05 ERA
RP John Matthews: 4 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 3.44 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1.96 ERA
RF Evan Carter: 1-5, HR (4), SB (7), .296/.374/.513
SS Luisangel Acuna: 3-5, 2B, HR (2), .263/.349/.526
DH Chris Seise: 2-5, .221/.275/.442

Ricky Vanasco avoided the walk and reached five innings for the first time this season. His walk rate entering Wednesday was an untidy 22%. Vanasco was unusually fly-prone, resulting in a 1st-inning homer and two triples. 

Since last Monday, Evan Carter has homered in every game in which I was not in attendance. Admittedly, I did look askance at his second-round selection back in 2020, but no more than anyone else, so I don’t know why he’s singling me out for punishment. Much as I like Luisangel Acuna, I don’t foresee that .526 slugging percentage holding up, but he does have serious pop, enough to translate to a position other than shortstop if needed. Acuna has played only ten games because of a hamstring injury.

Low-A: Down East 1, at Carolina (MIL) 8
Down East: 5 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 15-20, 4.5 GB

SP Brandon Webb: 5 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 77 P / 47 S, 5.40 ERA
RP Emiliano Teodo: 2 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 4 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 3.50 ERA
DH Alejandro Osuna: 1-3, BB, .340/.415/.515

Ugh, I don’t know. You try writing something about this game. Revisiting Marcus Smith’s extraordinarily high strikeout rate despite an ordinary swing-and-miss rate, I’d much rather have him than someone who missed more often, other factors being equal. That said, the only sizable difference between his April and May output is a 50% reduction in walks. Smith had the same problem in 2021, but I didn’t pay it any mind because a hamstring injury limited him to just 14 games. Smith has 73 strikeouts in 155 full-season plate appearances (47%).

Today’s Starters
AAA: Winn
AA: Bradford
Hi-A: Anderson
Lo-A: TBD, probably Corniell

Five Years Ago Yesterday
I belabored Round Rock’s astonishing homer-proneness, noting that the Express were on pace to allow 29 more homers than the worst team in PCL history (excluding the Sacramento Solons, which played in an absurdly configured stadium converted from a track-and-field complex). I can’t remember when the tide turned, but the Express had allowed 1.7 homers per game to that point but would cut that rate nearly in half the rest of the season.