Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 9 June

Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs published his updated prospects list for the Rangers. Longenhagen’s rankings are typically among the quirkiest (not a criticism, just an observation), but his top ten seems very conventional: Jung, Leiter, Winn, Duran, Smith, Carter, Huff, Foscue, Harris. Some quick impressions:

He’s very down on Justin Foscue’s defense (30 grade).

He’s much higher on March Church (#13) than anyone. Church doesn’t appear in the top 30 at either Baseball America or MLB.com. That’s understandable, because 1) Church is almost certainly a reliever, and even the best relievers provide limited value, and 2) Church hasn’t even reached AA.Longenhagen loves his stuff and sees late-inning potential.
#18 Jonathan Ornelas, and #30 OF Yosy Galan. Ornelas has drawn attention this spring, and Longenhagen has bought in. Galan was a personal fave from my NC trip.

Down at #39, Ricky Vanasco. So much depends on when you witnessed him. Keith Law of The Athletic saw a fastball that dipped into the upper 80s, Longenhagen reported 90-93, I saw 90-96 centered at 93-95. Nobody sees much command, but we’ll revisit that later in the season.

Davis Wendzel, #45. Another polarizing prospect, with Jamey Newberg placing him 12th, MLB.com 17th, and Baseball America outside the top 30. Wendzel has actually played fewer pro games than the oft-injuted Josh Jung, and his 2022 bat data has lagged so far.

Outside the top 50, Bubba Thompson. I feel I’ve been the low man on Thompson for much of his career, but I’ve warmed to him despite the issues (lack of walks, lots of swing-and-miss, defense leaning heavily on athleticism). The wheels are game-changing, and I’m hopeful that more power is coming.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 10, at Las Vegas (OAK) 15
Round Rock: 14 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 20 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 32-35, 3 GB

SP AJ Alexy: 2.2 IP, 8 H (3 HR), 7 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 70 P / 47 S, 7.19 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 2.77 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 2-5, 2B, .303/.318/.446
C Yohel Pozo: 3-5, 2 2B, HR (5), .349/.390/.537
LF Josh Sale: 2-4, BB
SS Frainyer Chavez: 2-4, 3B, .211/.211/.316

AJ Alexy avoided a walk for the first time in just over a year and 28 appearances. He also gave up a slew of hard-hit balls in an unfriendly environment. Alexy has made four of his 12 starts at Salt Lake, Reno, Albuquerque and Las Vegas. In those games, opponents are slugging .689 with eight homers. At home and pitcher-friendly Sugar Land,  the opposing slugging percentage is .419.

Confession: One of my first impressions on Round Rock’s opening night was “Pozo’s… uhhh… big.” That and a slow April (.241/.279/.328) had me wondering about the carry-over from his outstanding 2021. Since that slow start, Yohel Pozo is hitting .421/.461/.663. His average exit velocity (a dubious stat but informative here) was 86 MPH in April and 90 in May and June. He doesn’t exceed 100 often, but if you want hits in the 97-99 range, he’s your man. Pozo struck out 13 times in his first 14 games. Since then, six strikeouts in 24 games, a ridiculous 5.7% rate. All that said, I don’t know where you’d put him in Texas. His 21 games as a Ranger last year were lukewarm (.284/.312/.378), he’s more a DH / 3rd catcher, Texas has a perma-DH until further notice in the form of Mitch Garver, and Sam Huff is doing fine.

Round Rock scored 21 runs in the three-game series and lost two. Vegas!

AA: Frisco 10, at Amarillo (ARI) 11 (5)
Frisco: 12 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Record: 28-26, tied for first

SP Zak Kent: 4 IP, 10 H (2 HR), 9 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 78 P / 54 S, 6.69 ERA
2B Justin Foscue: 2-2, HR (4), BB, .300/.409/.545
LF Dustin Harris: 1-2, 2B, BB, HBP, SB (11), .251/.343/.462
1B Blaine Crim: 1-2, HR (11), .295/.362/.532
SS Jax Biggers: 2-3, 2 SB (2), .320/.414/.360

The teams plated two or more runs in every half-inning save Frisco’s top of the 5th. The starters combined for 19 runs and 20 hits in seven innings, but neither took the “L.”

Justin Foscue is a .283/.384/.575 professional hitter. The bat has performed as hoped. He doesn’t have to be placed on the 40 until the end of 2023, although I’d hope his bat force the issue before then. Foscue lacks the versatility of a Smith or Duran, so finding a role in Texas will be trickier. He’s never played any outfield, and I don’t know how well that would play out. 1B might make the most sense. This all assumes he stays in Texas. Not everybody will.

High-A: Hickory 7, at Bowling Green (TAM) 3
Hickory: 10 hits, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 6 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 32-22, 0.5 GB

SP Ben Anderson: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 80 P / 49 S, 3.51 ERA
RP Joe Corbett: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 2.57 ERA
SS Luisangel Acuna: 2-4, 2B, HBP, .293/.411/.600
CF Evan Carter: 2-5, .266/.342/.428
2B Thomas Saggese: 2-5, 2B, .284/.330/.437

A four-run 6th featuring a two-run single from Cody Freeman put the Crawdads on top for good. Bowling Green lost a game at Wilmington, so (barring future rainouts) the teams can’t finish the first half in a tie.

2019 13th-rounder Ben Anderson has avoided the homers that have plagued many Hickory starters this year and last. He’s surrendered only two, and opponents are slugging a modest .322.

Luisangel Acuna’s batting average has dipped below .300 but he’s still slugging .600. Who am I to argue.

Low-A: Down East 1, at Kannapolis (CHW) 0
Down East: 6 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 26-28, 4 GB

SP Robby Ahlstrom: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, 90 P / 62 S, 3.55 ERA
RP Teodoro Ortega: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 5.54 ERA
RP Josh Smith: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Daniel Mateo: 3-4, .253/.316/.351

In the 9th, Down East broke a stretch of 26 non-extra innings without a run. Alejandro Osuna led off the 9th with a single, stole second, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a Daniel Mateo single. Down East has scored three runs in three days and won twice. Since getting knocked around in his first two starts, Robby Ahlstrom has a sub-2.00 ERA in 32 innings.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Arihara
AA: Weems
Hi-A: Krauth

Five Years Ago Yesterday
2B Drew Robinson’s mid-game ejection fostered a mess for the undermanned Express. C/1B Brett Nicholas played third for the first time since college, Will Middlebrooks switched to 2B for the only the third time in his career, and lefty swingman Jimmy Reyes pinch-hit later when Round Rock forsook its DH. Not only did the newly versatile Nicholas get to engage in some tongue-in-cheek bragging  —

— but he would draw two starts at the position in July.