A few minutes after I sent yesterday’s post, Texas listed Cole Ragans as Thursday starting pitcher. Obviously, I want him to pitch well tonight, but there’s joy simply in his arrival. Texas’s first pick in 2016 missed three entire seasons because of two Tommy John surgeries and covid. He made his full-season debut just 15 months ago. Tonight, he becomes a Major Leaguer. And, as I cautiously predicted a while back on the presumption of continued success in AAA, he’s arriving earlier than late September, so thanks to Cole for making me look like I know what I’m talking about.
Ragans is not a flamethrower; his average fastball velocity in AAA was 92.4, topping at 95.3. The placement tends to the low side with good run. He’ll also work high, but he’s not consistently attempting to ride the pitch over the top of opposing bats. His swinging strike rate on the pitch is 8%, a little below average. Ragans’ primary breaker is alternatively described as a cutter or slider. I lean toward “cutter” because most aren’t dialed down much from the fastball, nor do they have much cut, but some are slow enough that they might be two distinct pitches. Regardless; I don’t know that it’s a great pitch in and of itself, but it’s hard to pick up and pairs well with the fastball. Ragans can steal first-pitch strikes with the curve or bring it later as a potential bat-misser.
In AAA, Ragans has thrown more changeups than curves and cutters combined. His swinging strike rate is 22%, highest among Round Rock starters. Viewed from behind the plate, Ragans’ locations create an inverted “L,” running along the bottom of the strike zone and then all the way up the right edge. His command of the pitch is uncommon. He doesn’t apply it as frequently against same-handed batters as Cole Winn (few do), but he won’t ignore it either.
Ragans’ exit velocity data is odd. He’s excelled at avoiding too much hard contact, but the that contact is hard indeed, mostly over 100 MPH instead of the 95-99 range. That said, he’s not been homer-prone, surrendering four in 43.1 AAA innings, and opponents are slugging only .335, an outstanding figure in the Pacific Coast League.
Stamina was a problem last year. He’s already tossed 14 innings over his 2021 total and has faced more batters than anyone in the system, but I’m not seeing a definitive loss in velocity. Two starts ago, I mentioned a consistent dip of about one MPH from his norm, but toward the end of his most recent start, his average velocity was slightly higher than usual. Unsurprisingly, he threw hardest in the first of his eight AAA starts, and we can expect a little extra juice tonight. Weariness can also manifest with loss of command and control, and he did tie a season-high three walks last week, but I don’t think that’s enough to reach any conclusion. To be sure, he pitched well enough toearn a trip to Arlington.
As of 1pm Central, Texas hasn’t officially added him to the 40-man and active rosters or announced any corresponding moves as best as I can tell. That’s coming about five minutes after I send this.
AAA: Round Rock 10, at Sugar Land (HOU) 2
Round Rock: 8 hits, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 55-46, 6 GB
SP Tyson Miller: 3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 75 P / 41 S, 4.85 ERA
RP John King: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 7.84 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 2-5, 3B, SB (49), .303/.355/.474
LF Steele Walker: 2-4, BB, SB (6), .277/.353/.435
Round Rock drew seven walks against the Sugar Land pen, and every single one would score.
Bubba Thompson has 17 more steals than anyone else in AAA.
IF Davis Wendzel was reactivated in Round rock but didn’t play last night.
AA: Frisco 12, Amarillo (ARI) 5
Frisco: 15 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
Record: 17-12, 2 GB, 53-45 overall
SP Zak Kent: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 86 P / 58 S, 5.10 ERA
3B Jonathan Ornelas: 1-5, HR (6), .317/.364/.400
RF Aaron Zavala: 3-5, 2 2B, HR (1)
1B Blaine Crim: 4-5, 2 HR (15), .277/.344/.461
Earlier this season, I suggested that Aaron Zavala wasn’t at the wrong level in high-A, but we wouldn’t be able to start judging his contact until he reached AA. Well, in the early going, Zavala is still walking as much as ever, and five of his six hits are for extra-bases.
More than just about anybody, Blaine Crim’s future is linked with how often he appears in these reports, so keep mashing, Blaine.
High-A: Hickory 7, Asheville (HOU) 8 (10)
Hickory: 9 hits, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 9 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 14-18, 7 GB, 52-46 overall
SP Larson Kindreich: 2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 58 P / 30 S, 5.32 ERA
RP Yohanse Morel: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 7.78 ERA
CF Jayce Easley: 1-3, 2 BB, .238/.368/.361
DH Evan Carter: 2-4, 2B, BB, .272/.368/.471
Larson Kindreich has been a mess in three starts since the no-hitter: 13 walks to 45 batters, a .387/.578/.742 opposing line. To be clear, he wasn’t abused in the in that no-hit start, as he threw a reasonable 84 pitches across six innings. Kindreich’s 60 innings are his most in one unbroken season. He threw 66 in 2020 split between a covid-shortened college season and a summer-league gig.
Low-A: Down East 5, Frederick (WAS) 6
Down East: 8 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 14-16, 9 GB, 47-49 overall
SP Winston Santos: 4.2 IP, 7 H (1 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 90 P / 60 S, 3.38 ERA
RP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 3.73 ERA
SS Maximo Acosta: 2-5, 2B, 2 SB (31), .277/.356/.387
2B Cam Cauley: 2-3, HBP, SB (26), .202/.299/.281
1B Miguel Villarroel: 2-3, HR (1), BB, .316/.366/.421
Down East has allowed 5.7 runs per game while losing nine of ten.
AAA: Not Cole Ragans
Five Years Ago Yesterday
Willie Calhoun swatted his first homer with the organization. He’s hitting well for AAA Sacramento (.299/.396/.483), but I’ve not seen anything to suggest he’s headed back to the Majors.