Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 5 May

I know it’s Saturday, but don’t skim! Four of Texas’s best pitching prospects took the mound yesterday, and three were exceptional.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, at Reno (ARI) 9
Round Rock: 10 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 9 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 20-10, 0.5 GB

SP Cole Winn: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 1 SO, 66 P / 38 S, 7.53 ERA
RP Eury Rosado: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 3-4, BB, .244/.389/.326

“Disaster” starts (more runs than innings) are a part of life in the Pacific Coast League, but Winn didn’t help himself with five walks. He issued three in the 3rd and left after an uncommonly high 37 pitches. Winn’s BB/HBP rate is 15.5%, very slightly lower than last year’s 16.1%, but the contact has been harder. He reintroduced a few sliders last night.

Texas traded reliever Zack Littell to Boston for cash, an interesting move in light of the parent club’s bullpen troubles of late. Littell apparently had a contract clause that compelled a trade if another club was willing to place him on the MLB roster, with the Rangers having a right of first refusal to promote him themselves. Texas declined that option and accepted the trade. I’d mentioned him as the best of Texas’s offseason relief depth additions; opponents were batting only .196/.229/.283. His velocity was down slightly from prior years, and the batted ball data showed a little luck. His MLB career contains intermittent success with occasional control issues and persistent homer worries. Would he be better than Leclerc in general and Smith last night? Sure, but who wouldn’t? Would he be an improvement on typical outings from those two? Far less likely. An improvement on Josh Sborz? Heh, well, now maybe we’re getting somewhere. Perhaps Littell would have been a net improvement to the Texas bullpen, but I was never of the thought that keeping him in AAA was inexcusable.

Eury Rosado is a 22-year-old who hadn’t pitched above rookie level. He’s here to fill a gap. Rosado dealt a low-90s fastball and upper-70s curve.

AA: Frisco 4, at Midland (OAK) 1
Frisco: 8 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 13-12, tied for first

SP Jack Leiter: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 7 SO, 91 P / 60 S, 5.19 ERA
RP Alex Speas: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 2.79 ERA
LF Dustin Harris: 2-5, HR (2), .221/.382/.419
RF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, HR (1), .203/.323/.304

Jack Leiter produced arguably his best start as a professional. One outing last May was cleaner (no walks), but under the circumstances, last night’s might be more important. When I saw him in San Antonio last month, I said I’d 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.”

For the first time in a long while, Leiter had a solid foundation. By my count, 67 of 86 pitches that I saw* were fastballs. 46 were strikes, 18 of the swinging variety. They had a ton of ride, consistently scooting over opposing bats. Instead of most plate appearances being an exercise in frustration, Leiter had a plan and churned through hitters quickly. Admittedly, yhe plan wasn’t much more complicated than “ha ha, y’all can’t hit my fastball,” but he executed it. No inning got away from him. Four at-bats with runners in scoring position amounted to nothing. RF Kellen Strahm caught a medium fly on the line and delivered a strike to the plate to nab a runner.

Secondaries weren’t a significant part of the package, but he relied more on the curve early and slider late. His curve doesn’t look at all like his Vandy days, but it was functional. He gained three more misses with a the slider. If he threw a change, I missed it. I believe his total of 21 swinging strikes are a career high.

We’ve been through this process before with Winn, where a would-be “comeback” outing was followed by more troubles, so I don’t want to oversell this outing. Hopefully, it’s a building block. At the least, it’s evidence of the kind of pitcher Leiter can be and might become. Last night, Leiter was simply too good for an AA lineup.

The Rangers Player Development account has some highlights.

* Midland’s camera crew loves side views of hitters and mid-pitch cuts, so I couldn’t categorize a handful of pitches and took educated guesses on a few others.)

Hi-A: Hickory 6, Jersey Shore (PHI) 3
Hickory: 7 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 12-11, 5 GB

SP Kumar Rocker: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, 68 P / 47 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1.93 ERA
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, SB (7), .265/.284/.422
SS Max Acosta: 2-4, HR (3), .338/.400/.519
RF Alejandro Osuna: 0-2, 2 BB, 2 SB (8), .255/.456/.327

Hickory lacks an MiLB.tv feed, so I’ll outsource the observation to Mark Parker: “68 pitches, 47 strikes, 12 of 20 1st pitch strikes, 10 missed bats, 3 on fastballs, the rest mostly breaking balls, 2 on changeups. Fastball sat 94-95 much of the evening. pulled 2-seam out a little later, but not much.”

Rocker can simply overwhelm hitters with his slider and fastball, so in that respect I don’t think there’s much to be gained from analyzing his stats other than to say he’s too good for high-A. His strikeout rate is 42%. If Texas had the thought to fast-track him as a reliever, he’d be in Frisco. What matters to me are the progress of his curve, change and sinker. Maybe we’ll get a report on those in his road start next week.

Max Acosta needs one more homer to tie last year’s total of four.

Lo-A: Down East 15, at Fredericksburg (WAS) 9 (10)
Down East: 15 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 13-10

SP Brock Porter: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 60 P / 35 S, 1.69 ERA
RP Jackson Kelley: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 1.69 ERA
RF Jojo Blackmon: 2-4, 2 BB, .214/.362/.411
C Tucker Mitchell: 3-5, 2B, HR (2), .400/.508/.600
2B Miguel Villarroel: 3-6, HR (2), .247/.263/.370
LF Yosy Galan: 3-5, 2B, .254/.377/.524

Lo-A: Down East 2, at Fredericksburg (WAS) 1 (7)
Down East: 2 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 4 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 14-10, 0.5 GB

SP Dylan MacLean: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 78 P / 50 S, 3.57 ERA
RP Adrian Rodriguez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.80 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-2, BB, .162/.305/.250

In the opener, with two outs in the 9th and down to his last strike on three pitches, Miguel Villarroel eventually stubbed a grounder about 40′ toward third for a game-tying RBI single. The Woodies then sent nine to the plate in the 10th.

Brock Porter ended up starting the first game that began last night but was suspended by a faulty second base. Per usual, he was extremely hard to hit but had some occasional control lapses. Porter missed nine bats on a change, two breakers and six fastballs. According to the screen graphics, the heater ranged from 90 to 94, and the slowest might have had some cutting action. Unusually, his curve, slider, and change all ran in a the same, fairly narrow range, mostly 78 to 80. * Here’s highlights from the official account.

In the second game, Adrian Rodriguez entered the 6th with a one-run lead, three on, and none out. A strikeout of Elijah Green on a 100 MPH fastball and a double-play grounder ended that threat, and he worked a 1-2-3 7th for a tough save.

* The readings on the screen and by the announcer didn’t always match. During Adrian Rodriguez’s first batter, they varied by as much as 3 MPH in both directions. Per Eric Bach in Fredericksburg, the velos coming out of his mouth are from Hawkeye. The screen graphics might be from a conventional gun and less reliable.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Dugger
AA: White
Hi-A: Santos

Five Years Ago Yesterday
“Tim Lincecum will begin an assignment in Round Rock on Monday.”