Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 1 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, Albuquerque (COL) 1
Round Rock: 9 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 1-1, 1 GB

SP Cody Bradford: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 73 P / 48 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 SO
RP Jake Latz: 1.1 IP, 0 R, 3 SO
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 SO
LF Clint Frazier: 2-3, BB
CF JP Martinez: 1-3, HBP
DH Elier Hernandez: 2-4, 2B

In his AAA debut, Cody Bradford continued directly from his outstanding 2022 conclusion, holding Albuquerque scoreless over 5.1 innings on just 73 pitches. Well, not quite directly: Bradford began with a walk and hit batter. Best as I can tell, during 2022 Bradford never put consecutive batters on base via walk and/or HBP during 2022. Bradford emerged unscathed. Two runners reached on an error and lined single with two out in the 2nd, but Bradford again prevented a run. He would retire ten of 12 thereafter, surrendering a walk and soft single.

Bradford offers a four-seam fastball, slider, and change. The slider runs from 80 to 87. Call it a cutter at its fastest if you like. (Statcast calls the slowest ones curves, but I’m not going there.) It doesn’t break much horizontally at any speed, instead dropping more at the lower velocities. The change is a traditional fader.

And the fastball. Bradford’s median fastball velocity was 89.1 and peaked at 90.6. It doesn’t have much horizontal movement, and it’s not going to set any spin records. All that said, it still doesn’t drop much despite the spin, permitting him to work up successfully. He commands it very well, and batters don’t know what’s coming out of his hand. He threw 35 fastballs, getting seven misses and eight called strikes. The opposition put only four in play, collecting two singles.

Successful pitchers with that velocity tend to be much older. Greinke, Wainwright, etc. Younger examples are rare. Marco Gonzalez’s average fastball dipped below 90 when he was 27. Bradford would have been better regarded a dozen years ago and more likely to have been added to the 40-man roster. In a way, I put him in a group with reliever Ben Rowen, Alex Claudio, and current prospect Chase Lee, all of whom were or are somewhat “unscoutable” in terms of projecting MLB success. Their repertoires don’t fit the modern-day mold, but they dominate at every level, so you keep promoting them and see what happens. Bradford might make the Rangers see what happens in Arlington.

Chase Lee allowed a run on one hard and one soft single. Batters tended not to swing much against Lee last year in AAA. Minor league batters, especially the younger ones, often bail on first pitches with high movement. Lee’s sinker (90-92) is essentially a reverse slider, and his slider (80-83) has a ton of sweep, so there’s plenty of bailing going on. I think hitters are annoyed at his style and would prefer to wait for a walk, but Lee can throw plenty of strikes even with all that movement. On the downside, Lee’s swinging strike rate is low, and on occasion his vertical placement flattens into a small, predictable, and very hittable range.

It’s just one outing, but Jake Latz threw two pitches harder than anything delivered during 2022, topping at an even 97, and his average of 95.5 was nearly three ticks higher. (Latz did spend a good potion of 2022 in the rotation, accounting for some of the difference.) He mixed in an also-effective 85-87 change and a few curves.

Here’s my videos of Bradford and Lee.

Round Rock placed some timely hits and took advantage of ABQ starter King Kauffman’s poor control. Jonathan Ornelas and Justin Foscue played up the middle again. Both walked and are still seeking their first AAA hits.

Assigned to Round Rock’s 60-day Injured List are IF Ryan Dorow (shoulder), RHP Scott Engler (last year’s TJ surgery), and Kyle Funkhouser (last year’s shoulder injury, I assume). Joining the ordinary IL but in no better shape are pitchers Avery Weems (TJ in February) and Tim Brennan. I don’t have direct knowledge on Brennan, but he exited a Frisco game late last year with what looked like a serious elbow problem. Offseason acquisition Danny Duffy is also on the IL.