Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 14 May

Cody Bradford makes his MLB debut tonight after only seven AAA starts. This time last year, Bradford was sporting a 9.00 ERA with peripherals to match in AA. Not until August would he fully right the ship and head toward his current status.

Bradford hasn’t thrown a pitch over 92.0 MPH this season, and his average fastball velocity is 89.5 MPH. It plays up with his good extension, and he moves it around and works upstairs fearlessly. Indeed, the high fastball sets up the changeup and adds a little spice to a relatively ordinary breaker. The change is his best pitch, and the only pitch with substantial horizontal movement. It’s not purely a chase pitch; he will place it in the zone more commonly than the typical pitcher.

Most writeups describe Bradford as having a cutter, but I’m not seeing anything distinct from his slider and fastball in the statcast data, although the hardest sliders tend to break slightly less. Likewise, current descriptions of Bradford don’t include a curve, and I haven’t written about one this year, but looking at the data in more detail I’m seeing a 1.5 MPH gap in his velo range splitting an 83-88 slider and a 78-81 bender with more drop. If you want to say he throws a fastball, cutter, slider, and curve, that’s fine. If you want to say he throws a continuum in a 78-92 MPH range that acquires more drop and glove-side movement as the velocity decreases, that works too. Bradford generates the most misses on changes (17% of all pitches, 30% of swings), a slightly lesser proportion on fastballs, and less still on the breakers.

Bradford has above-average command and the ability to throw any pitch in any count. He’s thrown 50% fastballs, 27% changes, 18%, sliders, and 6% curves in 2023 per statcast. On first pitches, he’s dealt a fastball only 5% more often along with more breakers and fewer changes. Only 33% of plate appearances have begun with a 1-0 count compared to 53% at 0-1 and the other 14% in play. Although he has a respectable 25% strikeout rate, his game more about getting ahead and forcing bad-count swings that may or may not conclude with a strikeout. Bradford is actually among Texas’s most fly-prone pitchers (43%), but the median exit velocity off the bat is a meager 87.1 MPH, near the lowest among Express pitchers. A bunch of those flies are hit at a 50-degree angle about 200 feet.

Bradford has an 0.91 ERA and .156/.240/.200 opposing line in Round Rock, with good if slightly inconsistent control plus command that has probably never been better. Even so, expecting continuation of his AAA results is too much to ask, and it’s tough to project him as better than a back-end starter simply because of what he throws. (Hopefully that doesn’t come across as an insult. A consistent back-end starter can retire with a small fortune.) And by the way, he’s also facing the National League’s second-highest-scoring offense. Bradford’s job is to keep Texas in the game and not overburden the bullpen.

Here’s my video of Bradford in Round Rock and another from Surprise.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 5, Oklahoma City (LAD) 7
Round Rock: 8 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 21-17, 6.5 GB

SP Grant Anderson: 2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 39 P / 26 S, 4.73 ERA
RP Grant Wolfram: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Jonathan Ornelas: 3-5, 2B, .227/.359/.311
1B Blaine Crim: 2-4, 2 HR (4), .270/.367/.458

How thoughtful of Blaine Crim to homer twice the day after I said he was better than his stats would indicate. I was mostly referring to his poor luck on grounders, but I was also thinking about his relative lack of power and had typed and then deleted a trite sentence to the effect of “his performance would also improve with more homers.”

Grant Wolfram: 92-95 fastball, 82-86 slider, 78-82 curve. The 26-year-old had been the steadiest of Frisco’s relievers. Texas drafted him in 2018’s 18th round.

Elsewhere: The Mets purchased the contract of reliever Dennis Santana. The Marlins outrighted RHP Chi Chi Rodriguez.

AA: cancelled

Rain, or maybe 30-year-old IF Nick Tanielu pulled the Bull Durham sprinkler trick.

The farm was 3-20 with a -64 run differential last week, and all but Down East are sitting on losing streaks of at least seven games.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, at Bowling Green (TAM) 7
Hickory: 9 hits, 3 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 12-19, 10 GB

SP Larson Kindreich: 3 IP, 2 H (2 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 36 P / 26 S, 4.58 ERA
RP Brandon Webb: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 9.49 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.40 ERA
LF Geisel Cepeda: 3-4, 2B, SB (3), .268/.388/.324
3B Keyber Rodriguez: 2-4, 2 SB (7), .272/.320/.337
RF Angel Aponte: 2-5, 2B, 2 SB (3), .208/.263/.321

Hickory stole nine bases against various pitchers and catcher Nate Soria, who’d been acceptable so far this season (9 games, 9 steals, 3 caught), and Bowling Green as a whole was one of the better steal-prevention squads in the league. Hickory also had nine hits to Bowling Green’s eight, a 19-5 advantage in at-bats with runners in scoring position, zero errors compared to Bowling Green’s five, and one wild pitch to Bowling Green’s four. Hickory lost.

Lo-A: Down East 4, Delmarva (BAL) 5
Down East: 7 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 1 walk, 15 strikeouts
Record: 18-13, tied for first

SP Aidan Curry: 6 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 8 SO, 76 P / 49 S, 3.29 ERA
1B Abi Ortiz: 2-4, HR (6), BB, .296/.381/.593

Abimelec Ortiz ranks third in the league in homers and second in slugging. Last year at the same level, he hit 11 in 94 games and slugged .380, on the light side for a first baseman who dabbles on the outfield corners.

Here’s some video highlights of Aidan Curry’s fine start.

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Tyler Phillips shut out low-A Rome for five innings. Alex Speas nabbed a win with a scoreless 9th.