The Rangers traded DFA’ed reliever Albert Abreu to Kansas City for 21-year-old righty Yohanse Morel. Morel signed with the Nats in 2017 and was traded in a package for Kelvin Herrera a year later. Baseball America ranked him KC’s #19 prospect in 2019 and #30 in 2020, noting a three-pitch mix topped by a 91-95 fastball. Just a few days ago, FanGraphs gave him an honorable mention outside a 47-man list, mentioning a “plus splitter and a 45-grade sinker and slider.” Morel has a 4.08 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks in 17.2 relief innings at high-A Quad Cities. He’ll join the same level with the Rangers.
Playoffs: I heard last month about how MiLB intended to implement the postseason this year but didn’t see anything formal until recently. Playoffs will be similar to the old format with a few tweaks. In AAA, as before, the two division winners will meet in a single series, but the title will be decided in a single game instead of a best-of-five, presumably because the regular season stretches to the end of September. Then, as before, the winners of the Pacific Coast League and International League will meet for one game to decide the AAA champion. At lower levels, the split-season format has returned. The first and second-half division winners will play a best-of-three followed by another best-of-three championship series. In a quirk of scheduling, the first halves for Down East and Hickory will end on Thursday, June 23, in the middle of a six-game series. Frisco’s first half will end Sunday the 26th.
Hickory has been exactly 0.5 games behind division-leading Bowling Green for a week and is tied with Rome. The Crawdads will play nine of their last 18 first-half games against those teams. At four games back, below-.500 Down East still has a shot but needs to pass four teams. Frisco has shared or held the division lead by itself from the get-go. The Riders are currently tied with San Antonio.
AAA: Round Rock 2, Oklahoma City (LAD) 6
Round Rock: 4 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 4 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 30-21, tied for first
SP Jake Latz: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 53 P / 31 S, 5.44 ERA
RP Jose Leclerc: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 6.75 ERA
LF Nick Solak: 1-2, BB, HBP, .250/.348/.350
C Yohel Pozo: 2-4, HR (4), .336/.369/.485
Jake Latz was pulled after needing 39 pitches to record two outs in the 2nd. Latz made his MLB debut last summer as a covid-rule addition, was a contender for the 40-man roster, and also was a contender for Rule-5 draft selection had it not been scrapped. Latz didn’t allow a homer yesterday, but long balls have become a problem since he reached AA last May. Opponents are hitting .282/.364/.528 with nine homers in 41.1 innings.
Jose Leclerc stretched out to 28 pitches.
AA: Frisco 1, at Wichita (MIN) 2
Frisco: 7 hits, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 26-22, tied for first
SP Cole Ragans: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 89 P / 58 S, 3.20 ERA
RP Tim Brennan: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1.08 ERA
3B Ezequiel Duran: 2-4, 2 2B, .317/.362/.578
RF Josh Stowers: 1-2, 2 BB, SB (10), .226/.362/.330
Baseball America revised its rankings this week. Most moves were incremental, but Cole Ragans jumped ten spots to #14. Ragans has reached five innings in seven consecutive starts, and a two-homer, four-run outing is his worst. Ragans tailed off badly in last season’s second half, understandable given his history. The hope is for more stamina this year. I’m also hoping for some action in AAA. He’s up to 18 starts in AA.
Ezequiel Duran doubled twice to retake the lead in that category across all levels. Scaled to last year’s 471 plate appearance, Duran is on pace for two fewer homers than last year’s 19 but 32 (!) additional combined doubles and triples. Also 27 more walks and 46 fewer strikeouts. “On pace for” is a dangerous undertaking, but I don’t think it’s dangerous to say Duran’s having a breakout season.
Texas released righty Sean Chandler earlier this week. Now 25, the 2018 6th-rounder came to Texas with serious control problems that he partially rectified as a rookie with Spokane and last summer at Hickory, but in Frisco this strong he’d walked 10 in 5.1 innings. He struck out 111 in 81.2 innings.
High-A: Hickory 3, at Asheville (HOU) 7
Hickory: 6 hits, 2 walks, 16 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 28-20, 0.5 GB
SP Ben Anderson: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 76 P / 51 S, 3.75 ERA
SS Luisangel Acuna: 1-4, HR (5), .288/.417/.610
Luisangel Acuna has four homers and eight walks in his last eight games.
Chris Seise (1-4) moved back to DH, but just being in the lineup a day after playing in the field is noteworthy.
Low-A: Down East 4, Charleston (TAM) 1
Down East: 8 hits, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Record: 23-25, 4 GB
SP Robby Ahlstrom: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 80 P / 49 S, 4.22 ERA
RP Jose Corniell: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 7.06 ERA
SS Cam Cauley: 1-3, BB, 2 SB (10), .186/.278/.229
RF Marcus Smith: 2-3, BB, SB (15), .145/.313/.282
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, HR (3), .255/.307/.365
Robby Ahlstrom is now the holdover from the Jose Trevino trade. When I saw him last month, Ahlstrom threw an 88-91 fastball, tilty mid-70s curve and a change around 80. The Yankees drafted him in last year’s 7th round.
Lo-A: TBD. Ryan Garcia is expected to pitch. Texas’s 2019 2nd-rounder out of UCLA has thrown all of five professional innings because of Tommy John, covid, and a lat injury.
Five Years Ago Yesterday
A snooze of a day to be honest. Ten years ago, Roy Oswalt pitched in Round Rock, and Jurickson Profar drew an eight-pitch walk followed by a Mike Olt homer.