Texas League Playoff Preview



Texas League Division Series

Frisco RoughRiders (74-63) vs. San Diego-affiliated San Antonio Missions (68-68)
Season Run Differential: Frisco +80, San Antonio +15
Last 20 Games: Frisco 11-9, San Antonio 6-14
Season Series: Frisco 15-9

How They Got Here
In the season’s first half, Frisco raced to a 9-1 start (including a six-game sweep of the Missions) and led the division for most of the way before fading down the stretch. In the second half, Frisco and Midland were tied with 17 to play, after which the Riders went 10-7 while the RockHounds did the opposite.

The Missions stumbled to a 2-11 record but were 36-20 the rest of the first half to overtake the Riders and claim the first-half division crown. The Missions had the division’s worst second half record (30-39), capped by a 9-18 finish.

History  
Frisco is in the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Riders won their only title in 2004, aided by Ian Kinsler, Jason Botts, Chris Young, and Kam Loe, among others. Six additional visits since then have fallen short. Frisco lost the championship in 2008 to an under-.500 Arkansas squad despite Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz starting four of the five games.

San Antonio’s much longer history includes five league titles during the 2000s but none since 2013. The Mission briefly switched to the AAA Pacific Coast League as a Milwaukee affiliate before returning to AA in 2021 after the Great Purge.

The teams haven’t met in the postseason since 2011. An outstanding San Antonio squad (94-46) won that series 3-1 and the championship. I saw ex-Ranger Joe Wieland duel Robby Ross in the opener.

Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America
Frisco:
2 / 4.  RHP Jack Leiter
3 / 1.  OF Evan Carter
5 / 9.  IF Justin Foscue
7 / 6.  IF Luisangel Acuna
11 / 12. OF Aaron Zavala
14 / 14. LHP Antoine Kelly
17 / nr.  RHP Ricky Vanasco
20 / nr.  IF Thomas Saggese
22 / nr.  IF Jonathan Ornelas
24 / nr.  LHP Avery Weems
29 / 29. RHP Marc Church (on development list)
30 / nr. RHP Mason Englert

San Antonio:
11 / 14. LHP Noel Vela
13 / 23. LHP Jackson Wolf
14 / 18. OF Joshua Mears
18 / 24. OF Tirso Ornelas
23 / 28. RHP Kevin Kopps
24 / 20. RHP Alek Jacob

An embarrassment of riches for Frisco. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many ranked prospects on one playoff roster.

Offense / Position Players
Frisco Offense: +4% runs scored, .265/.350/.439, 107 OPS+, 102 wRC+
San Antonio Offense: +4% runs scored, .266/.356/.397, 103 OPS+, 103 wRC+

Frisco:
C Scott Kapers / David Garcia
1B Trevor Hauver
2B Justin Foscue
3B Jonathan Ornelas
SS Luisangel Acuna
LF Kellen Strahm
CF Evan Carter
RF Aaron Zavala
Also IF Thomas Saggese, OF Josh Stowers, IF Frainyer Chavez

Several of Frisco’s best hitters have departed (Duran, Crim, Harris, Martinez), but Frisco’s offense is perhaps in its best shape all season. The Riders bashed their way to a division title by averaging 8.6 runs per game in the final three weeks. For the season, Frisco rated well above average in power but didn’t walk much. The current bunch has improved patience (mainly in the form of Zavala and Hauver) and slightly diminished power.

Catcher is the only weak spot, but Kapers can get a hold of a pitch, too. Other than that position and Luisangel Acuna (.224/.302/.349), who’s quieted since advancing from Hickory, the “worst” hitter statistically is Jonathan Ornelas at .299/.360/.425. That’s mighty impressive. One might have expected newcomers Evan Carter and Thomas Saggese to struggle, but they both had tremendous debut weeks.

Hauver didn’t start playing first until very recently, but I’d be inclined to keep him there under these circumstances. He’s the weakest defender, and Frisco lacks a natural 1B after Crim’s promotion.

San Antonio:
C Webster Rivas
1B Yorman Rodriguez (also C)
2B Domingo Leyba
3B Kelvin Melean
SS Connor Hollis
LF Tirso Ornelas
CF Josh Mears
RF Ripken Reyes
Also C/IF Juan Fernandez, C Tyler Malone, OF Jorge Ona, UT Ethan Skendler

San Antonio hit 23 fewer homers than any other team and was the league’s weakest power source, even after adjusting for its difficult park. The Missions were best in OBP relative to park, however. Singles, walks, steals, and even sacrifices feature in the attack.

27-year-old Connor Hollis is an on-base machine (.432 this season, career .406) and best base-stealing threat. Others above .350 are Ornelas, Reyes, Leyba (26, ex-Ranger, some MLB experience), and Rivas (a grizzled 31 and another MLB vet). None of these guys strike out much, either. The Missions will put the ball in play, so Frisco will rely on its defense and luck more than usual. Above-average power comes from 2019 2nd-rounder Joshua Mears, OF/DH Jorge Ona, and 1B Yorman Rodriguez.

Pitching / Possible Rotation
Frisco: 6% better than avg. in runs allowed, .247/.337/.400 oppo line, 93 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 24% SO)
San Antonio: 2% below avg. in runs allowed, .259/.351/.405, 103 OPS+, 13% BB/HBP, 22% SO)

Frisco:
1: Jack Leiter (5.54 ERA, .247/.359/.381 opposing line, 13% BB/HBP rate, 26% SO rate)
2: Cody Bradford (5.01 ERA, .248/.304/.427, 7% BB/HBP, 25% SO)
3: Mason Englert (4.11 ERA, .237/.308/.356, 8% BB/HBP, 31% SO)

For the season, Frisco’s pitching and defense graded out slightly higher than the offense, but the current situation is reversed. How offense-dependent were the Riders? In their 10-7 stretch to clinch the division, they allowed an average of 6.6 runs per game overall and 5.0 when they won.

Jack Leiter’s a great prospect, but he wasn’t a great pitcher in 2022. Odds of him running into a bad inning are high; the key will be stranding those excess baserunners. Bradford pitched much better down the stretch and is the ideal choice for what will be an elimination game for either Frisco or San Antonio. Englert has only three AA starts but acquitted himself nicely and seems up to the task.

The bullpen… ah, the bullpen. Gone are Grant Anderson, Lucas Jacobsen, Chase Lee, and Fern Ozuna (plus Tim Brennan, a potentially crucial absence, Zak Kent, Cole Ragans, and Owen White). Closer Nick Starr has a modest 20% K rate but has pitched comfortably and successfully in the role. Likewise, Nordlin has been competent as a swingman, and since he’s not starting, I’m hopeful he can pitch in Games 1 and 3 (if needed). Avery Weems can be as good as anyone (and might draw an early start if Frisco advances), but he’s worryingly homer-prone. The rest have a combined 5.96 ERA and 15% BB/HBP rate. Everybody has an issue, be it walks, homers, or not many strikeouts.
San Antonio:
1: Thomas Eshelman (4.58 ERA, .306/.329/.442, 3% BB/HBP, 13% SO)
2: Nolan Watson (5.84 ERA,  .276/.378/.416, 11% BB/HBP, 22% SO)
3: Henry Henry (5.20 ERA, .276/.390/.381, 15% BB/HBP, 22% SO)

San Antonio’s rotation after Game 1 is a guess based on schedule, including Watson being held out on Sunday. Frankly, it’s not much to speak of, and alternatives who might be ready for Games 2 and 3 aren’t any better. Watson was 2015’s 33rd-overall pick by the Royals but hasn’t surpassed AA. Henry Henry seems to be able to suppress power when he’s not walking people. Eshelman has acquired 98 MLB innings with superior command of soft stuff.

The bullpen is a mixed bag. Alek Jacob (1.83 ERA, 30% SO) Fred Schlichtholz (2.04 ERA, 28% SO), and Jordan Guerrero (few innings in 2022 but a decent track record) are the best relievers. Closer Lake Bachar has been okay more often than not, but he’s prone to homers.

Defense
Frisco was a little easier to run on but bested the Missions in terms of expected double plays, outs on balls in play, and errors.

Park Factors
Frisco – 1.00
San Antonio – 0.93

The Wolff is tough on power. The Missions and their opponents combined for 79 homers in San Antonio and 153 in other parks.

Advantages / Outlook
Offense – Frisco
Pitching – Even
Defense – Frisco

It doesn’t always work out as such, but on paper we appear to be in for a high-scoring series. Both sides have solid offenses and problems in their rotations and pens. I do think the Riders are the better team, but not by a huge amount, and in a best-of-three, it’s hard to see them as more than a 55/45 favorite. Don’t bet your retirement on either side, even if you’re getting odds.

Most Recent Texas-Affiliated Championship Teams
AAA: 1996 Oklahoma City 89ers
AA: 2004 Frisco RoughRiders
Hi-A: 2017 Down East Wood Ducks (co-champion)
Lo-A: 2015 Hickory Crawdads
Short-A: 2008 Spokane Indians
Rookie: 2019 Rangers
DSL: 2014 Rangers

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 18 September

Welcome to an evening edition of the Farm Report. Today was long. I’ll have a preview of Frisco’s series against San Antonio tomorrow. I hope.

As you’ve probably seen, Texas placed a successful waiver claim on RHP Drew Strotman, whose name anagrams to Tend Worst Arm, but don’t hold it against him. Drafted in 2017’s 4th round out of St. Mary’s, Strotman was added to Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster after 2020 but traded the next July with RHP Joe Ryan for Nelson Cruz. He’s on his second option. Strotman offers a mid-90s fastball, cutter, slider, and change, although since he’s moved to relief this season I’m not sure if all of those secondaries remain in play. He fans batters at an acceptable rate but his control is poor. The 26-year-old strikes me as the kind of guy the Rangers will try to run through waivers themselves at the opportune moment and hope that he didn’t get re-claimed.

Texas placed Brad Miller on the 60-day IL to make room. Miller’s season is over, and perhaps his time in Texas even though he’s owed $4 million next year. Miller was a potentially clever partial solution to Texas’s problems in third or left, but his power and walks dwindled as a Ranger.

The Giants designated OF Willie Calhoun for assignment after claiming another ex-Ranger, RHP Jharel Cotton. Calhoun had a single and walk in nine trips to the plate. A claim on him by the Rangers would be, shall we say, unlikely.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 5, at El Paso (SDG) 6 (10)
Round Rock: 8 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts
Record: 75-66, 5 GB, elimination number 5

SP Tyson Miller: 5 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 70 P / 49 S, 4.52 ERA
RF Josh Sale: 2-3, HR (11), BB, .237/.353/.443
LF Elier Hernandez: 3-5, 3B, HR (12), .288/.347/.510

The Express lost five of six to division-leading El Paso, placing them five back with nine to play. Elier Hernandez missed the cycle by a double.

AA: Frisco 10, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 9 (10)
Frisco: 12 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 7 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 38-30, tied for first, 74-63 overall, division champion, regular season over

SP Tai Tiedemann: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 27 P / 19 S, 6.20 ERA
RP Avery Weems: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 5.14 ERA
RP John Matthews: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 5.40 ERA
RF Evan Carter: 2-5, 2B, HR (1), BB, .429/.536/.714
LF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, BB, .277/.392/.407
3B Thomas Saggese: 2-4, 2B, HR (1), BB, .381/.409/.857

Saggese’s homer was a grand slam. For that and other heroics, he was named Texas League Player of the Week. Not bad for someone who made his AA debut five days ago. Fellow newcomer Evan Carter, who batted .429/.536/.714, gets a pat on the back.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 17 September

Box Scores


AAA: Round Rock 0, at El Paso (SDG) 13
Round Rock: 7 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 75-65, 4 GB, elimination number 7

SP Spencer Howard: 3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 1 SO, 68 P / 41 S, 4.05 ERA
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4, .476/.476/.526

El Paso led 11-0 after the 4th. The Chihuahuas scored five in an inning off Fernery Ozuna, who has an engaging repertoire (exceptional run on a mid-90s fastball and upper-80s change, an occasional slurve) but has struggled with his control in AAA. He’s issued at least two walks on five occasions in 2022, four of them during his limited time with the Express.

Rehabbing Joe Barlow fanned two in a perfect 5th.

OF Eli White is out for the year with a knee issue, per local media. I was at his first rehab game, in which he was pulled early, and he departed early again on Tuesday. In terms of replacing the injured Nick Solak, Texas’s minor league hitters on the 40 are Ezequiel Duran, Andy Ibanez, and catcher Meibrys Viloria. Viloria would give Texas a third catcher. Ibanez hasn’t been anything special, but I could see him getting the nod over Duran because Zeke needs regular at-bats that won’t be forthcoming in Arlington. Nobody off the 40 especially jumps out to me, at least not without reservations. Yohel Pozo is hitting well per usual, but he’d be limited to DH.

Round Rock has lost eight of 12 since pulling to one game behind Oklahoma City.


AA: Frisco 5, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 7
Frisco: 9 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 37-30, 2 G up, 73-63 overall, division champion

SP Ricky Vanasco: 4.2 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 5 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 91 P / 55 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 7.23 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-3, 2 BB, .438/.545/.563
1B Frainyer Chavez: 3-4, SB (1), .300/.357/.360

Ricky Vanasco’s regular season concludes with a 4.68 ERA, an opposing line of .252/.350/.428, a 13% BB/HBP rate and a 29% strikeout rate. Vanasco was as certain a 40-man addition as anyone last winter, getting a spot that wasn’t afforded to either Bubba Thompson or Cole Ragans. His 2022 was erratic, not unexpectedly, but also marked by wildly varying reports on his velocity and reviews that didn’t jibe with the offseason hype. Perhaps expectations were too high given his two-year absence (covid, TJ). Vanasco would be an interesting 40 decision if he weren’t already on the roster.

The regular season ends today. Frisco will finish with the second-best record in the league and best in the division.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Miller
AA: TBD

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Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 17 September
Box Scores


AAA: Round Rock 0, at El Paso (SDG) 13
Round Rock: 7 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 75-65, 4 GB, elimination number 7

SP Spencer Howard: 3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 1 SO, 68 P / 41 S, 4.05 ERA
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4, .476/.476/.526

El Paso led 11-0 after the 4th. The Chihuahuas scored five in an inning off Fernery Ozuna, who has an engaging repertoire (exceptional run on a mid-90s fastball and upper-80s change, an occasional slurve) but has struggled with his control in AAA. He’s issued at least two walks on five occasions in 2022, four of them during his limited time with the Express.

Rehabbing Joe Barlow fanned two in a perfect 5th.

OF Eli White is out for the year with a knee issue, per local media. I was at his first rehab game, in which he was pulled early, and he departed early again on Tuesday. In terms of replacing the injured Nick Solak, Texas’s minor league hitters on the 40 are Ezequiel Duran, Andy Ibanez, and catcher Meibrys Viloria. Viloria would give Texas a third catcher. Ibanez hasn’t been anything special, but I could see him getting the nod over Duran because Zeke needs regular at-bats that won’t be forthcoming in Arlington. Nobody off the 40 especially jumps out to me, at least not without reservations. Yohel Pozo is hitting well per usual, but he’d be limited to DH.

Round Rock has lost eight of 12 since pulling to one game behind Oklahoma City.


AA: Frisco 5, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 7
Frisco: 9 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 37-30, 2 G up, 73-63 overall, division champion

SP Ricky Vanasco: 4.2 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 5 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 91 P / 55 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 7.23 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-3, 2 BB, .438/.545/.563
1B Frainyer Chavez: 3-4, SB (1), .300/.357/.360

Ricky Vanasco’s regular season concludes with a 4.68 ERA, an opposing line of .252/.350/.428, a 13% BB/HBP rate and a 29% strikeout rate. Vanasco was as certain a 40-man addition as anyone last winter, getting a spot that wasn’t afforded to either Bubba Thompson or Cole Ragans. His 2022 was erratic, not unexpectedly, but also marked by wildly varying reports on his velocity and reviews that didn’t jibe with the offseason hype. Perhaps expectations were too high given his two-year absence (covid, TJ). Vanasco would be an interesting 40 decision if he weren’t already on the roster.

The regular season ends today. Frisco will finish with the second-best record in the league and best in the division.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Miller
AA: TBD

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 16 September

Texas announced its Arizona Fall League contingent: Pitchers Kumar Rocker, Jake Latz, Nick Starr, and Grant Wolfram, catcher Cody Freeman, infielder Luisangel Acuna, outfielders Jayce Easley, Trevor Hauver, and Aaron Zavala. An impressive bunch on the whole. Rocker will be making his his debut in MiLB, having already pitched professionally in the indy Frontier League for a handful of starts.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, at El Paso (SDG) 9
Round Rock: 8 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 75-64, 3 GB

SP Cole Winn: 5.1 IP, 10 H (2 HR), 8 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 92 P / 61 S, 6.31 ERA

That’s not a pretty line, but if Winn had been having a decent season and surrendered all these runs, I’d just say “forget it, Cole, it’s El Paso.” And he’d say “who are you, and why are you making 1970s movies references to a 22-year-old.” Winn is unfortunately not having a decent season at all, but despite the runs, I’m just happy he that threw strikes. Only two walks to 28 batters, the second one (annoyingly) to the final batter faced, and a 66% strike rate. All I’m hoping for in his last one or two starts is acceptable control, something to build on for next year.

Eight batters had exactly one hit. Ezequiel Duran doubled and walked, and Blaine Crim singled and walked.

AA: Frisco 11, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 6
Frisco: 13 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 37-29, 2 G up, 73-62 overall, division champions

SP Mason Englert: 4.2 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 3 R, 4 BB, 5 SO, 85 P / 54 S, 4.11 ERA
3B Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4, 2 BB, SB (14), .299/.361/.425
RF Evan Carter: 3-4, 2B, BB, .462/.529/.615
2B Justin Foscue: 2-4, 2B, HR (15), .289/.369/.486
LF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, HR (10), BB, .274/.390/.406

Frisco is in the postseason for the first time since 2014. The intervening years weren’t pretty: five straight losing seasons with an average record of 62-77, then covid, then a better 2021 (64-55) that concluded with an agonizing, extra-inning, playoff-missing loss on the season’s final day.

Frisco has been busy trailing and overtaking Midland during the past several weeks. Midland officially dropped from contention by losing earlier in the evening, but Amarillo presented another unexpected obstacle due its recent hot streak. Amarillo won its sixth straight to keep pace, but the Riders, as they’ve done so often lately, put more than one crooked number on the board and won with relative ease. Frisco has scored seven runs or more in ten of the last 16 games. They and the Sod Poodles could finished tied, but Frisco won the season series 11-7 for the tiebreaker.

Mason Englert walked four for only the second time all season but was able to wriggle out of excessive trouble. A two-run homer ended his night and regular season. Between Hickory and Frisco, Englert held the opposition to a .199/.261/.356 line and posted a 3.64 ERA in 118.2 innings with 31 walks. Barring some outrageous happenings in AAA, Englert’s 136 strikeouts will lead the organization.

Six regulars have an OPS over .900 in September (Hauver, Stowers, Foscue, Kapers, Strahm, the departed Crim), and Evan Carter and Thomas Saggese are in the same lofty range with four and three games played, respectively.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Spencer Howard
AA: Ricky Vanasco

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 15 September

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 10, at El Paso (SDG) 4
Round Rock: 16 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 5 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 75-63, 2 GB

SP Kolby Allard: 5 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 4 R, 4 BB, 9 SO, 99 P / 61 S, 5.00 ERA
RP Grant Anderson: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 6.75 ERA
2B Ezequiel Duran: 2-5, 2B, .264/.298/.491
1B Yohel Pozo: 3-5, 2B, .344/.379/.507
DH Blaine Crim: 5-5, 2B
SS Ryan Dorow: 1-5, HR (5), .241/.327/.355

Blaine Crim went 5-5. Only two balls were hit in excess of 74 MPH, but they all count. (Sometimes Statcast is a spoilsport.) In any case, the performance serves to remind that Crim is actually a fairly well-rounded hitter, not an all-or-nothing type. His career professional batting average is .308.

Kolby Allard made what I consider a quality start for the Mountain Time Zone.

AA: Frisco 3, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 6
Frisco: 5 hits, 9 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 36-29, 2.5 G up, 72-62 overall, magic number 1

SP Seth Nordlin: 4 IP, 7 H (1 HR), 3 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 63 P / 41 S, 3.44 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 2-3, SB (2)

Down 3-0 in the 6th, Frisco tied the game on just two singles plus three walks. Northwest Arkansas quickly responded with three off Marc Church, and the Riders were quiet afterwards. Church maintained his previous dominance in his first four appearances upon promotion to AA, but since then: 9.2 innings, nine runs, four homers, a .333/.417/.643 opposing line. In terms of the upcoming postseason, the Riders could use another reliable arm. Four of the top five in both games finished and saves (Ozuna, Anderson, Lee, Jacobsen) have moved on to Round Rock.

Only newcomer Evan Carter had two hits. Jonathan Ornelas, Aaron Zavala and Trevor Hauver drew two walks apiece.

Midland also lost. One Frisco win or one Midland loss in the next three days will secure the second-half division title. The Riders last reached the postseason in 2014.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Winn
AA: Englert

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 14 September

Box Score

AAA: Round Rock 2, at El Paso (SDG) 3
Round Rock: 9 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 74-63, 3 GB

SP Zak Kent: 5.1 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 93 P / 65 S, 0.51 ERA
3B Davis Wendzel: 1-4, HR (16), .211/.290/.415
CF JP Martinez: 2-3, 2B, BB, .198/.341/.396

Zak Kent has excelled in three AAA starts. He’s been a little lucky, with a .213 average in balls in play and some very hard and well-angled hits that ended up as deep outs instead of homers, but just about any pitcher with an 0.51 ERA is lucky. Kent isn’t blowing anyone away, he’s just spotting a large repertoire well.

Davis Wendzel has ten homers in 30 games since returning from injury, contrasted to six in 44 games before. Strangely, his batted ball data isn’t that much different between the two periods. He’s hit a bunch of balls that have had a decent but not extremely high chance of leaving the park, and in his case they’re all leaving.

Ex-Rangers RHP Collin Wiles made his MLB debut in Oakland against the Rangers last night. Wiles was selected 53rd overall in 2012 and spent ten seasons in the Texas organization.

AA: Frisco 9, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 2
Frisco: 13 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 36-28, 2.5 G up, 72-61 overall, magic number 2

SP Cody Bradford: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 97 P / 67 S, 5.01 ERA
3B Jonathan Ornelas: 3-5, .299/.357/.425
2B Thomas Saggese: 3-4, 2 2B, 3B

Me, six weeks ago: “Cody Bradford probably has six starts remaining, and barring something amazing, the first digit of his ERA is going to be a five.” Bradford didn’t quite pull his ERA below five, but he was still pretty amazing: 2.50 ERA, five walks, 42 strikeouts in 36 innings.

Thomas Saggese doubled twice and tripled in his AAA debut. RF Evan Carter was 1-4 with a two-run double.

Midland was rained out and will play a doubleheader Saturday.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Allard
AA: Nordlin

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 13 September

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 4, at El Paso (SDG) 9
Round Rock: 8 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 74-62, 2 GB

SP Yerry Rodriguez: 2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 23 P / 17 S, 4.47 ERA
DH Yohel Pozo: 3-4, 2B, .340/.376/.505
3B Davis Wendzel: 2-4, 2B, HR (15), .210/.291/.410

In his AAA debut, Blaine Crim was 1-3 with a sac fly, hitting the ball in excess of 97 MPH three times.

Lucas Jacobsen is back. The lefty fanned 20 in 14.2 innings at Frisco before hitting the IL in late May. He allowed a solo homer and struck out two in his one inning.

In 21 games since Dallas Keuchel was called up, a relief pitcher has started seven times for the Express. The squad has averaged 3.6 relief appearances per game, 50% more than in 2012. Round Rock isn’t alone in this respect. El Paso, which has allowed the most runs in the league, has averaged 4.2 per game, and even league-best Tacoma has used 3.9 per game.

The Giants added Willie Calhoun. He’s 1-5 with a run-scoring single in two games. Fellow SF employee Steele Walker is hitting .208/.269/.313 in AAA Sacramento.

AA: Frisco 4, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 8
Frisco: 6 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 9 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 35-28, 2 G up, 71-61 overall, magic number 3

SP Jack Leiter: 4.2 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 5 R, 6 BB, 4 SO, 94 P / 52 S, 5.54 ERA
3B Justin Foscue: 3-4, .286/.369/.476
C Scott Kapers: 1-3, HR (3), .179/.303/.375

Jack Leiter’s regular season ended with a splat. No clean innings, a homer, a triple that missed leaving the park by about a foot, a season-high six walks including four during a protracted effort to reach five full innings. Splitting his season into 14 appearances before the All-Star break and nine after, his ERA improved from 6.30 to 4.64, but the underlying stats that I care about more than ERA barely budged. Essentially, the ERA drop relates to sequencing of runners and a strand rate improving from exceptionally poor to ordinary. Thanks to that strand rate, his ERA of 5.54 is about 8% worse than average, but his opposing slash stats of .247/.359/.381 equate to a 94 OPS+, meaning he held hitters to a below-average line.

Leiter is in line to start the first playoff game if Frisco advances.

Evan Carter went 0-2 with a walk and stolen base as the DH in his Frisco debut. Thomas Saggese did not play. Two days after manning 1B for the first time professionally at the end of a blowout, Trevor Hauver made his first start at the position.

Midland also lost. Furthermore, I’m told the head-to-head tiebreaker between Midland and Frisco applies to the entire season, not just the second half as I mistakenly thought. The teams are tied 9-9, but Frisco holds the second tiebreaker, best record over the final 20 — no, 21 games. That, combined with a cancelled game (which helps the tea ahead in the standings), reduces Frisco’s magic number to three, not the five shown in the official standings. Five games remain.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Kent
AA: Bradford

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 11 September

Differing numbers of games and end-of-season dates across levels is strange after more than a decade of everybody finishing on Labor Day, but the new schedule affords a “bonus round” of promotions. Up to AA Frisco now that Hickory is done are OF Evan Carter and IF Thomas Saggese, per local reports. And 1B Blaine Crim will head to El Paso instead of Springdale, Arkansas, as a member of the AAA Round Rock Express.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 1, Sugar Land (HOU) 5
Round Rock: 4 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Record: 74-61, 1 GB

SP Spencer Howard: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 66 P / 45 S, 3.58 ERA

Howard pitched well, in particular getting eight swinging strikes with a heavily employed slider. His velocity was fine. He didn’t throw a change, and curves weren’t in abundance or effective. Podcast mate Sean Bass has been calling for a relief role for Howard for some time, and at this point I’m inclined to agree. The flipside of deciding which prospects to place on the 40-man roster this November is which marginal players to remove. It would be nice to see something out of Howard in these last few weeks, and letting him air out a truncated repertoire might be to his benefit.

AA: Frisco 18, Tulsa (LAD) 3
Frisco: 11 hits, 11 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 15 strikeouts
Record: 35-27, 2 G up, 71-60 overall, magic number 5
SP Ricky Vanasco: 3.1 IP, 5 H (HR), 3 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 76 P / 43 S, 8.10 ERA

1B Blaine Crim: 4-5, 2B, HR (24), BB, .295/.363/.508
SS Luisangel Acuna: 1-4, 2B, 2 BB, SB (10), .231/.310/.377
DH Trevor Hauver: 1-2, 3 BB, .220/.437/.520
CF Josh Stowers: 3-4, 2 HR (10), BB, SB (22), .228/.337/.383

18 runs on 11 hits? Okay. Frisco put 17 runners on base with something other than a hit, and ten would score. I vaguely recall wondering if Blaine Crim might fall shy of 20 homers. He had 16 entering the last day of August including just six in a span of three months wherein he slugged .358. In 11 games since, he’s gone deep eight times and slugged 1.083.

Ricky Vanasco’s AA debut had some of everything, much like a most of his high-A outings. He allowed a leadoff homer in the 1st and needed 29 pitches that inning, but he also struck out five of 17 batters.

Midland also won to maintain its two-game deficit. Frisco heads to lowly Northwest Arkansas (55-76) to conclude the regular season, while the Rockhounds have the advantage of finishing at home but must face 74-57 Wichita. The victor will face San Antonio (Padres) in the league semifinals. Wichita (Twins) and Tulsa (Dodgers) have locked up the northern playoff spots.

High-A: Hickory 2, Rome (ATL) 4
Hickory: 11 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 5 walks, 16 strikeouts
Record: 38-28, 3.5 GB in first half, 28-37, 11.5 GB in second half, 66-65 overall

SP Dane Acker: 2.1 IP, 3 H (2 HR), 4 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 66 P / 42 S, 10.66 ERA
RP Ryan Garcia: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Jayce Easley: 1-3, 2 BB, SB (21), .230/.372/.345
LF Zion Bannister: 2-3, SB (1), .222/.417/.222
RF Angel Aponte: 2-4, 3 SB (17), .259/.338/.392

Dane Acker recorded six of seven outs via strikeout but expended 66 pitches getting there. Immediate post-TJ performance is always tricky to assess. Some pitchers act like they were never gone, some have a longer acclimation.

Ryan Garcia finished with three straight scoreless five-inning efforts. He posted a 1.91 ERA for the season with 74 strikeouts in 56.2 innings and held opponents to a .166/.256/.241 line.

Crawdads pitchers struck out at least ten batters in each of the last ten games and 127 total. The team lost seven of those ten, unfortunately.

Low-A: cancelled
Record: 33-33, 2 GB in first half, 32-33, 10.5 GB in second half, 65-66 overall
Down East lost its chance at a .500 season, but southern Maryland did need the rain.

Today’s Starters
off

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 10 September

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, Sugar Land (HOU) 3
Round Rock: 8 hits, 9 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 74-60, 1 GB

SP Cole Winn: 5 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 2 R, 3 BB, 4 SO, 93 P / 52 S, 6.12 ERA
RP Fernery Ozuna: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 6.23 ERA
DH Meibrys Viloria: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB, .336/.465/.518
3B Ezequiel Duran: 2-4, BB, .284/.323/.545
CF JP Martinez: 2-3, 2B, BB, .189/.333/.387

For two innings, Cole Winn was the version of 2021 and early 2022: sharp, workmanlike, at ease. He faced the minimum, threw 16 of 24 pitches for strikes, missed five bats. In the 3rd, the troubled version returned, although he was able to mix in enough quality pitches to avoid being run out of the game early. The slider and change remained acceptable overall, often quite good, but he missed on 13 of 21 fastballs in his final three innings. A 3-0 get-me-over heater was taken deep for Sugar Land’s first run.

While I’ve never given up on Winn, not even close, it was nice to see the old Cole make an appearance.

Long-time division-leading OKC lost, yet Round Rock didn’t claim a share of the division lead. El Paso won its eighth straight and now stands a game ahead of both the Express and Dodgers.

I can’t remember whether I wrote about this or just thought about it, but back when Dallas Keuchel was making his first start and fans were understandably less than thrilled, I thought something to the effect of “yeah, he’s bad, but he can top 100 pitches and probably get through five innings. Ugly innings, but innings nonetheless. The alternative are Kolby Allard and Tyson Miller.” Well, Keuchel is gone, Texas just designated Kohei Arihara for assignment, and Miller is back. He’s marginally better than Arihara, a little stretched as a starter.

Jon Gray will be back tomorrow, per local media. Hallelujah. 

AA: Frisco 7, Tulsa (LAD) 10
Frisco: 8 hits, 6 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 8 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 34-27, 2 G up, 70-60 overall, magic number 6

SP Seth Nordlin: 3 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 3 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 57 P / 33 S, 3.25 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 5 SO, 8.10 ERA
DH Aaron Zavala: 1-5, HR (5), .333/.459/.589
3B Justin Foscue: 1-3, BB, SB (3), .285/.368/.479
1B Blaine Crim: 2-5, HR (23), .289/.358/.496

Per usual, Frisco had a very noisy late inning to climb back from several runs down, but it wasn’t enough. Justin Foscue’s two-run single and Blaine Crim’s three-run homer erased a 7-2 deficit in the 7th, after which only Tulsa would score.

Midland lost as well. The standings say Frisco’s magic number is seven, but both teams have a rainout that won’t be rescheduled, which reduces the number to six. I believe Midland holds the tiebreaker.

High-A: wet, cancelled

No doubleheader tomorrow. The lost game confirmed a winning record for the Crawdads, currently 66-64with one to play.

Low-A: Down East 4, at Delmarva (BAL) 11
Down East: 3 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 11 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 32-33, eliminated, 65-66 overall

SP Josh Gessner: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 2 SO, 50 P / 22 S, 6.33 ERA
DH Maximo Acosta: 1-3, BB, SB (44), .262/.341/.361
CF Yosy Galan: 1-4, HR (20), .206/.299/.429
RF Jose Rodriguez: 1-2, HR (4), BB, .197/.280/.285

Yosy Galan hit his league-leading 20th homer. In 36 games since July 27, Galan has ten doubles, seven homes, and just three singles. He’s more power-oriented than most, but one single every two weeks is really something.

Ideally, Down East will steal five bases tomorrow to tie for the most by any team since at least 1990, and Galan will have three of them to secure a 20/20 season.

Today’s Starters
AAA: TBD (No idea. Me, maybe.)
AA: Weems
Hi-A: TBD (Garcia? Acker?)
Lo-A: TBD (Curry)

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 9 September

Some pitching moves just as I hit the “send” button yesterday:
RHP Ricky Vanasco up to Frisco from Hickory
RHP Gavin Collyer up to Hickory from Down East
RHP Ivan Oviedo up to Down East from Arizona

Vanasco’s moved will permit an extra outing, as Frisco’s season last a week longer.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 9, Sugar Land (HOU) 11 (12)
Round Rock: 14 hits, 4 walks, 15 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 7 walks, 15 strikeouts
Record: 73-60, 1 GB

SP Kolby Allard: 5 IP, 5 H (2 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 77 P / 50 S, 4.98 ERA
RP AJ Alexy: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 6.02 ERA
LF Elier Hernandez: 3-6, 2 2B, .286/.351/.514
DH Yohel Pozo: 2-5, 2B, .333/.372/.495
SS Ryan Dorow: 3-6, .243/.329/.351

A win would have given Round Rock a share of the division lead for the first time since early June. Ezequiel Duran did not participate in the offensive festivities, going 0-6 with three strikeouts in his first game back with the Express.

AA: Frisco 2, Tulsa (LAD) 14
Frisco: 4 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 15 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 34-26, 2 G up, 70-59 overall

SP Mason Englert: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 8 SO, 87 P / 60 S, 3.38 ERA
LF Trevor Hauver: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB, .217/.393/.543

Mason Englert cruised through the first four innings. Three would score in the 5th aided by Englert’s only bout of wildness, wherein a walk, HBP and balk preceded a two-out double.

Kellen Strahm singled and stole his ninth and tenth bases.

Trevor Hauver played first base professionally for the first time. For one batter, in the 9th, with IF Frainyer Chavez on the mound.

Corpus walked off victorious in both ends of its doubleheader with Midland, so Frisco gained one-half game despite the loss.

High-A: Hickory 4, Rome (ATL) 5
Hickory: 11 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 28-36, eliminated, 66-64 overall

SP Gavin Collyer: 3.2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 5 R, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 5 SO, 78 P / 46 S, 2.45 ERA
RP John Matthews: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 4.32 ERA
2B Thomas Saggese: 1-4, HR (14), BB, .310/.361/.489
RF Angel Aponte: 3-5, 2 2B, .254/.336/.390

In his high-A debut, Gavin Collyer’s struggled with his control but maintained a close game until the 5th, when a two-out grand slam (following an error by SS Griffin Cheney) ended his night. Down three in the 9th, Thomas Saggese hit a two-run homer, and Angel Aponte and Chris Seise both reached safely, buy Cody Freeman’s fly to right was caught.

Rome clinched the second-half division title with the win.

Low-A: Down East 1, at Delmarva (BAL) 3
Down East: 4 hits, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 32-32, eliminated, 65-65 overall

SP DJ McCarty: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 44 P / 20 S, 10.80 ERA
RP Ivan Oviedo: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Nick Lockhart: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 33 SO, 4.22 ERA
3B Miguel Villarroel: 1-3, BB, SB (8), .323/.405/.392
1B Tucker Mitchell: 1-3, HR (4), .185/.325/.319

Ivan Oviedo had a nice full-season debut. The 19-year-old was among the rookie squad’s most reliable starters. Also debuting, on his 20th birthday no less, DJ McCarty ran into trouble in the 2nd. His 31st and final pitch that inning was ball four to first-overall 2022 pick Jackson Holliday. Holliday is batting .238/.439/.333 in 12 games.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Winn
AA: Weems
Hi-A: TBD (Garcia)
Lo-A: TBD (Gessner)