Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 12 April
AAA: Round Rock 0, Tacoma (SEA) 6
Round Rock: 3 hits, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 6-4, 1.5 GB
SP Cole Winn: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 77 P / 52 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Joe Barlow: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
2B Jonathan Ornelas: 0-2, 3 BB, SB (1)
3B Blaine Crim: 1-3, BB
Cole Winn produced his best outing of the season despite a rocky 5th. Winn cruised through the first four innings, surrendering a double and walk plus only one other three-ball count. The 5th contained six hard-hit balls including a double, single, and double around a walk.
Jonathan Ornelas (.167/.390/.200) has five hits and ten walks.
Blaine Crim has started three straight at third. We’re through the looking glass, folks.
AA: Frisco 7, at San Antonio (SDG) 1
Frisco: 9 hits, 8 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts
SP Jack Leiter: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7 SO, 90 P / 48 S, 5.19 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Alex Speas: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Justin Slaten: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 2-3, 2 HR (2), 2 BB, SB (1)
2B Luisangel Acuna: 2-5, SB (2)
I saw Jack Leiter in person for the second time this year.
The good news: 12 swinging strikes, seven strikeouts (37% of the 19 batters) mostly completed with a slider. Several batters took late, awkward, flat-footed swings at sliders that veered outside. It’s a sharp pitch. Leiter fanned three batters in the 4th and tallied seven misses in a stretch of ten swings. Against a righty-heavy lineup, Leiter’s fastball was effective when up and running in. After a walk to start the game, Leiter was fairly efficient through the 3rd, reaching three balls to three more batters but always delivering a strike when required. Hard contact wasn’t an issue; San Antonio never hit anything that hinted at extra bases. His mound demeanor seemed fine.
The bad news: Leiter had a 53% strike rate, departing with 90 pitches through 4.1 innings. That three-K 4th began with two walks and consumed 30 pitches, only 15 for strikes. The opposition swung at only five of his 19 first pitches. Of the other 14 plate appearances, 11 began with balls. Of eight first-pitch fastballs taken, seven were balls. Leiter simply isn’t throwing enough strikes with the fastball, and batters can improve their chances by waiting on a likely 1-0 count. A fair number of plate appearances felt like a Leiter monologue with the batter off to the side of the stage. The curve, such a weapon at Vandy, was essentially just another look or an early-count strike-stealer. We’ve been waiting for some indication of changeup development, but at this point I’m putting that aside until the fastball comes around. The house needs a solid foundation.
I wiped his and Cole Winn’s slates clean after 2022. Rough years, to be sure, but some time off would hopefully serve everyone’s interests. So, in that respect, what I’ve seen in 2023 reminds me of what I’d like to forget. Still, all that said, he and the Rangers have time. There is, at least in my mind, zero expectation of a contribution at the Major League level in 2023. I would just like to see him finish the year in a better place, primarily with improved fastball control and command from which his entire repertoire can blossom.
I have video of his entire 4th inning (condensed to about three minutes). That’s more than I would usually upload, but I felt that inning encapsulated the best and worst of his night.
Evan Carter homered in consecutive at-bats. The first was lined to right center, not a sure thing until it cleared. Everyone in the park knew the second would exit the moment he connected. Carter saw 31 pitches in five trips to the plate. His plate composure is superb. I’ve seen previous criticism of him being passive at the plate, and perhaps that was the case, but I certainly didn’t get that impression yesterday. He’ll walk all day if pitchers oblige, but he’s not simply taking until forced to swing. Here’s my video of those plate appearances.
Antoine Kelly’s first inning reminded of why Texas traded for him: a 94-97 fastball matched with a mid-80s slider that could both nip the outer edge and bore into righties. The lefty Kelly stands on the right side of the rubber, but his pitches still seem to arrive from first base. His second inning reminded of why Texas didn’t place him on the 40: increasingly troublesome location concluding with three plate appearances of 11, seven, and seven pitches, all walks.
Alex Speas relieved Kelly with the bases loaded. This might be an example of a player pitching on schedule rather than situation, because the situation definitely called for someone with better than Speas’s historically scary control. Nevertheless, Speas induced a 1-1 popup to end the threat and then worked a clean 8th almost exclusively with low-90s sliders. Not bad for a guy coaching high-schoolers last summer.
Hi-A: Hickory 5, at Wilmington (WAS) 7
Hickory: 7 hits, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
SP Gavin Collyer: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 69 P / 42 S, 2.70 ERA
C Cody Freeman: 2-4, HR (1)
DH Josh Hatcher: 1-3, 2B, BB
RF Angel Aponte: 1-4, HR (1)
The first three Blue Rocks would reach against Leury Tejada in the 5th, and all plus one more would score off Andy Rodriguez. The Cuban-born, 24-year-old Andy is a 2022-signed free agent out of Miami Dade Community College. The Rodriguez I recently mentioned in reference to praise from Baseball America is Adrian, currently at Down East. The Rangers deliberately sign similarly named players to make my like difficult. I’ve been dealing with this since 2007, when low-A Clinton had 23-year-old, college-drafted outfielders Craig Gentry and Grant Gerrard.
Brooklyn has already allowed 21 stolen bases versus just one caught. Hickory’s total of six (including four last night) ranks in the league’s lower half. Successful steals are up 61% over last year so far.
Lo-A: Down East 1, at Augusta (ATL) 0
Down East: 4 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 2 hits, 6 walks, 13 strikeouts
SP Josh Gessner: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 69 P / 40 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Leandro Lopez: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Adrian Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-3, 2B, BB
20-year-old Leandro Lopez recorded seven of ten outs via strikeout using a 92-94 fastball and especially a 74-79 curve that runs tighter than the speed would suggest. Control is not Lopez’s specialty, but he can pour it in for called strikes as well as misses. Most Carolina League hitters are not equipped for this sort of pitch. Lopez spent 2021-2022 in the Dominican Summer League under the name Leandro Calderon. He fanned 59 and walked 16 in 32 innings last year.
Gleider Figuereo scored the game’s only run in the 7th. He reached by being hit, advance to second on an error, to third on a groundout, and home on a wild pitch.
Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East defeated Myrtle Beach 16-14 in the home opener. The teams combined for 31 hits, 14, walks, two HBPs, and eight more reaching on errors.