The minor league season begins at 700pm CDT in Round Rock. The weekend rotation will be Cole Winn, Cody Bradford, and newly acquired Robert Dugger.
Minor League Roster Assignments
We’ll see some changes before tonight and next week’s commencement of AA and the A levels. For example, the Express have 31 players listed on a 28-man roster. That doesn’t mean three players have been assigned to AAA only to be cut two days later, but not all will be active tonight.
Red = new to the level, bold = on 40-man roster, numbers in parentheses = prospect ranking at MLB.com
AAA — ROUND ROCK EXPRESS
Location: Round Rock, Texas
Stadium: Dell Diamond (opened 2000)
Affiliate since: 2021 (also 2011-2018)
Cody Bradford (27)
Zach Kent (22)
Yerry RodriguezCole Winn (14)
The rotation has three top-30 prospects topped by Winn, who’ll try to rebound from a semi-lost 2022. Any of four homegrown relievers (Anderson, Jacobsen, Lee, Robert… and maybe Ozuna as a fifth) has a shot at an Arlington debut, and four more (Barlow, Cody, King, Rodriguez on his last option) are looking to get back. The nature of relief pitching in the 2020s insists that a decent number of these pitchers will log some innings with the Rangers. It’s just a question of who’s hot and giving the appearance of consistency at the particular time of need. I’m stretched to find six starting pitchers in this group, but we’ll see. Sometimes, Texas’s AAA and AA squads would shift to a five-man rotation, but in general the weekly six-on, one-off schedule fosters a six-man rotation.
At some point, Texas will probably need a third catcher or injury replacement. Whether the Rangers call up Huff (already on the 40, on his final option) or the more experienced Leon may provide some insight into Huff’s future with the club. Matt Whatley hasn’t hit enough to warrant a Major League debut but is well-regarded within the organization.
Justin Foscue (7)
Jonathan Ornelas (18)
On any given night, the right-to-left infield could be the quartet of Crim, Foscue, Ornelas, and Wendzel. None is banging on the MLB door as of Opening Day, not that the Rangers have a spot for them in any case. They and several other prospects are in the quirky situation of finding a home in Arlington only if they don’t develop into everyday players. If they do, they’re blocked and become trade chips (excepting a move to the outfield, a major injury to a current Texas infielder, or something unfortunate like Jung failing to maintain his spot). Positional flexibility contributes to their possibility of actually playing for the Rangers. That especially favors Ornelas, who can play just about anywhere, and Wendzel, who can handle short. Foscue spotted at third last year (his most frequent college position) and could conceivably handle first as well.
Julio P. Martinez
Texas cleared an excess of potential AAA outfielders by adding Travis Jankowski to the Major League club, releasing Joe McCarthy, and placing Dustin Harris and Josh Sale in AA. Frazier is trying to rebound from a dismal 2022. Hernandez is likely the best of the group.
AA — FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS
Location: Frisco, TX
Stadium: Riders Field (opened 2003)
Affiliate since: 2003
Marc Church (20)
Antoine Kelly (24)
Jack Leiter (5, 78th in MLB)
Tekoah Roby (12)
Owen White (3, 66th in MLB)
My guess at the rotation is Garcia, Krauth, Leiter, Roby, White, and… I’m not sure. One among Devito, Kelly, Slaten, and Wolfram, all of whom have starting experience? A bullpen day? Leiter’s second full season is a big one for him and organization. While there’s no rush to get him to Arlington, he does need to make forward progress after an occasionally disquieting 2022. White just needs to stay healthy. Up from high-A, TK Roby pitched better than his 4.64 ERA and in particular has better control than the average starter, but homers sometimes troubled him.
Church is the marquee reliever. The slider is a Major League pitch, and the fastball works well, too. Kelly will try to improve last year’s woeful control. Nick Starr was Frisco’s go-to in high-leverage situations last year.
Garcia is repeating a level for the first time. In the past, he’s acclimated to a new level slowly and shown second-half improvement, but that didn’t quite happen in 2022. He’s still just 23.
Catcher is not a position of strength in the system. No list I’ve seen has a Texas catcher among the top 30, and I don’t disagree. Offhand, I thought “Ian Moller’s probably somewhere around 40th,” and found him ranked 36th by Jamey Newberg.
Luisangel Acuna (4, 71st in MLB)
Thomas Saggese (16)
Acuna survived two months in AA as a 20-year-old (.224/.302/.349) and impressed enough to hop into top-100 lists. He should earn the majority of starts at short. Like Evan Carter, Saggese hit exceptionally well after a late-season promotion. I expect he’ll wander among third, second, and short as in past years. Biggers, Chavez, Sale, and Tanielu have experience in AAA, albeit in brief, need-filling roles for Biggers and Chavez. The 31-year-old Sale spent most of 2022 in Round Rock’s outfield.
Evan Carter (2, 41st in MLB)
Dustin Harris (7)
Carter joined late last year and batted .295/.479/.432 across ten regular and playoff games. Harris was transferred to AA after originally being optioned to Round Rock. Don’t be disappointed. He’s still working on his outfield proficiency and played only 85 games last year because of a wrist injury. Hauver’s path to the bigs runs through his bat, His ability to walk is without peer, but the challenge is handling pitchers with improved command. An AAA assignment for Strahm wouldn’t have bothered me. He’s mature and was solid in Frisco last year. Hopefully he won’t spend too long here.
HIGH-A – HICKORY CRAWDADS
Location: Hickory, NC
Stadium: L.P. Frans Stadium (opened 1993)
Affiliate since: 2003
Mitch Bratt (17)
Kumar Rocker (10)
Josh Stephan (30)
Emiliano Teodo (21)
Bratt, Kindreich, Rocker, Santos, Stephan, and Teodo would appear to be the rotation, although several others have experience and could be used in tandems. They would also appear to be the deepest rotation of the four squads, with four top-30 prospects, another who probably should be (Santos), and yet another on the cusp (Kindreich). Rocker’s assignment feels right, and not just as a cautious response to Leiter’s 2022. He had a lot of down time, and he’s kind of a two-pitch guy right now, at least based on what I saw from the AFL and in Surprise last week. Ramping up at a lower level and in a more isolated environment makes sense.
Still relatively new to catching, Cody Freeman repeats the level but will be in Frisco before long with a good showing. Hicks has the bat to play first and DH when not catching.
Maximo Acosta (26)
Acosta had a respectable showing in low-A last year, batting .261/.341/.361 with 26 doubles and 44 steals. Cheney (2B, 3B, SS) and Hatcher (1B, OF) were 5th-year college seniors drafted and signed at steep discounts last year to free money for other picks. Easley is a speedy super-utility type who has spent most of his time in the outfield.
Alejandro Osuna (25)
Osuna appeared larger than his listed 185 pounds last week, borderline burly. He was Down East’s best hitter last year. Osuna has played some center, but I’d expect Daniel Mateo to receive the majority of those starts. Smith received promotion despite an absurd 42% strikeout rate. Smith still reached at a .336 clip because he’s very patient, and he can steal at will. Cepeda, 25, is a recent Cuban signing.
LOW-A – DOWN EAST WOOD DUCKS
Location: Kinston, NC
Stadium: Grainger Stadium (opened 1949)
Affiliate since: 2017
Brock Porter (6, 94th in MLB)
Four 2022 picks will make their pro debuts in low-A: Brock Porter (4th), Luis Ramirez (5th), Matt Brosky (a money-saver 8th-round pick), and Jackson Kelley (12th). Undrafted Seth Clark out of Georgia State is also new to the pros.
My earlier mention of Moller wasn’t a criticism. I’m actually quite fond of him, but a lot has to happen.
Danyer Cueva (29)
Gleider Figuereo (19)
Down East has a highly entertaining collection of position players. Will it win a bunch of games? I don’t know. It’s greener than it appears, as so-called repeaters Cueva, Figuereo, Blackmon, and Morrobel collected only a handful of low-A games last year as the season ended. Cauley and Cueva both play up the middle, and in fact they swapped positions mid-game in the outing I saw last Thursday. Figuereo will handle third.
Anthony Gutierrez (11)
Yeison Morrobel (13)
I didn’t get enough of a look to form an opinion, but Gutierrez’s #11 ranking may be selling him short. Morrobel (along with infielders Figuereo, Cueva, and Villarroel) lorded over complex-league pitchers last year before making a late-season jump to Kinston. Galan repeats the level but stands a good chance of being the first position player to reach Hickory.
A large handful of additional players didn’t receive assignments. Some I saw in Surprise, some I didn’t, and some might be injured. I’ll keep an eye on their whereabouts.
Texas released infielder Hunter Bryan (2019, 31st round).
Mason Englert allowed a full-count homer to Wander Franco in his debut MLB appearance. No shame in that. He retired the next three, Randy Arozerena among them.
The White Sox released OF Leury Garcia.
For a lengthy reflection on what the pending minor league CBA means, for good and ill, read Michael Baumann at Fangraphs.com. Minor leaguers overwhelmingly voted to approve the contract.