Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 7 May

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, at Reno (ARI) 11
Round Rock: 10 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 21-11, 0.5 GB
SP James Marvel: 3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 64 P / 42 S, 6.00 ERA

3B Dio Arias and LF Sandro Fabian had three hits apiece. Texas signed righty James Marvel out of the the indy Atlantic League. He’d spent eight years in the Pittsburgh organization, making four MLB starts in 2019.

I haven’t performed any park factor calculations yet because we’re barely a month into the season, but Round Rock almost certainly has the best pitching/defense (4.5 runs per game) and worst offense (5.3) in the Pacific Coast League. The league average is 6.3 runs per game, which would be the highest by a wide margin in modern PCL history (since 1998, when the American Association dissolved). The previous high was 5.9 runs in 2019, spurred by a ridiculous increase in homers. This year’s homer rate is lower than any of the past three seasons. The difference is walks and HBPs, which have increased to an ungodly 14.3% of all plate appearances.

Sugar Land defeated Albuquerque 24-8 yesterday, but poor control wasn’t much of a factor. Albuquerque walked five batters, not good but not terrible in light of the score. The Space Cowboys batted .536 and slugged 1.071 with eight homers, five of which traveled at least 432 feet. They put 20 balls in play with an exit velocity of at least 100 MPH. (The average per team in a Round Rock game this season is five.) ABQ starter Josh Rogers allowed ten runs on a single, four doubles and five homers in two innings.

AA: Frisco 2, at Midland (OAK) 13
Frisco: 5 hits, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 15 hits, 6 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 13-14, 2 GB

SP Wyatt Sparks: 1.1 IP, 7 H (2 HR), 7 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 40 P / 26 S, 14.54 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-4, BB, .301/.463/.452
SS Luisangel Acuna: 1-3, BB, .317/.366/.458

Baseball America updated its top 100 prospects, boosting OF Evan Carter from 26th to 11th and Owen White from 66th to 59th. No other Rangers appear, nor did they originally.

Hi-A: Hickory 2, Jersey Shore (PHI) 3
Hickory: 8 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 12-13, 6 GB

SP Gavin Collyer: 5 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 3 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 77 P / 44 S, 5.59 ERA
RP Josh Stephan: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.80 ERA
SS Max Acosta: 2-3, BB, .350/.416/.525

Max Acosta’s .350 average ranks fourth in the league and second in the organization (behind Tucker Mitchell’s .370 at Down East).

Lo-A: wet

The game against Fredericksburg won’t be rescheduled.

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Tim Lincecum pitched in a real game for the first time in 20 months on rehab with the Express. The results weren’t awful (1 IP, 2 runners, 2 runs, 2 strikeouts), but most of his fastballs were in an 85-87 range topping at 90. He had more success with a slider and change. Lincecum would make nine more appearances with Round Rock, but unfortunately he quickly established that he’d be of no help to the Rangers. Texas released him in early June, and he wouldn’t pitch professionally again.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 6 May

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 9, at Reno (ARI) 5
Round Rock: 12 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 21-10, 0.5 GB

SP Robert Dugger: 6 IP, 3 H (2 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, 82 P / 56 S, 4.63 ERA
RP Taylor Hearn: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.93 ERA
RF Rafael Ortega: 3-5, 2 2B, HR (3), .261/.358/.435
2B Diosbel Arias: 4-5, .317/.417/.366

I can’t say I’ve watched him closely, but Robert Dugger has been pretty good (if walk-prone) since allowing seven runs in just 0.2 innings on April 2. Dugger’s MLB career doesn’t inspire (7.17 ERA in 86.2 innings), but I suppose he’s somewhere in the mix if Texas needs a replacement starter, especially if the idea was to DFA that starter after he was no longer needed. He wouldn’t be my first choice, though.

Rafael Ortega is the likely replacement if Texas needs an outfielder.

AA: Frisco 4, at Midland (OAK) 5 (10)
Frisco: 7 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 13-13, 1 GB

SP Owen White: 6 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 81 P / 47 S, 2.93 ERA
2B Luisangel Acuna: 2-4, HR (2), .316/.362/.462
RF Kellen Strahm: 3-4, 2B, .229/.340/.337

I haven’t been able to see any of Owen White’s performance last night. Statistically, it fits well with his previous starts, although he did allow his first homer.

Midland turned an unlikely triple play in the 9th. With runners on first and second, Jax Biggers bunted to pitcher Chase Cohen (on an 0-2 count!), who deftly snared the ball. Both runners were moving on contact and easily doubled and tripled off.

Hi-A: Hickory 1, Jersey Shore (PHI) 13
Hickory: 4 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 12-12, 6 GB

SP Winston Santos: 5 IP, 6 H (2 HR), 5 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 5 SO, 80 P / 52 S, 6.00 ERA
RP Jacob Maton: 1.2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 10.80 ERA

23-year-old RHP Jacob Maton signed with Texas as a free agent out of Coastal Carolina last summer. Last night was his pro debut.

Lo-A: Down East 9, at Fredericksburg (WAS) 4
Down East: 16 hits, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts
Record: 15-10, 0.5 G up

SP Aidan Curry: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 81 P / 51 S, 3.38 ERA
RP Jose Corneill: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 3.32 ERA
1B Abi Ortiz: 3-5, 2B, HR (3), .273/.346/.455
DH Miguel Villarroel: 3-5, .269/.284/.385
2B Danyer Cueva: 3-5, .231/.247/./333

Jose Corniell, whose Thursday start was eliminated by a malfunctioning second base, faced the minimum over four innings.

OF Yeison Morrobel is on the seven-day IL.

Today’s Starters
AAA: TBD (probably bullpen)
AA: TBD (another bullpen?)
Hi-A: Collyer
Lo-A: TBD (maybe DJ MacCarty)

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Ariel Jurado allowed two runs in six innings for Frisco. In two weeks, he would make his MLB debut. Jurado made 41 appearances in AA and none in AAA before reaching the Majors. Jurado had peaked as a prospect in 2016, after which his decreasing strikeout rate brought his upside into question. He’s succeeding in Korea in 2023.

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.”

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 4 May

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 4, at Reno (ARI) 3
Round Rock: 11 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 4 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 20-9, 0.5 GB

SP Kyle Cody: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 SO, 62 P / 36 S, 5.85 ERA
RP John King: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 2.20 ERA
RP Grant Anderson: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.17 ERA
RP Jake Latz: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 6.57 ERA
2B Justin Foscue: 3-4, 2 2B, BB, .289/.410/.495
C Sam Huff: 2-5, HR (5), .277/.330/.482

Grant Anderson struck out the side on 12 pitches. Anderson has spent part of the season in AA, so I lack the amount of Statcast data available for others, but so far he’s getting an impressive percentage of both swinging and called strikes. He’s fanned 12 of 21 batters since returning to the Express. In 2022, like Chase Lee, his occasional meltdowns were exceptionally melty, and avoiding them will improve his chances at a look in Arlington. Anderson’s money pitch is a slider that has generated a miss on 48% of opposing swings.

AA: Frisco 6, at Midland (OAK) 11
Frisco: 13 hits, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 12-12, 1 GB

SP Ryan Garcia: 0.2 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 5 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 33 P / 21 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Hever Bueno: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 5.06 ERA
DH Evan Carter: 3-3, BB, HBP, SB (4), .333/.495/.506
SS Luisangel Acuna: 2-5, 2B, SB (14), .324/.373/.444
1B Dustin Harris: 2-3, 3B, 2 BB, 3 SB (10), .210/.381/.383

Evan Carter reached safely five times, a feat he’s already accomplished three times in 2023.

Dustin Harris has a heady .381 OBP, but the contact is lacking so far. Remember, Harris batted .327 two years ago, albeit at lower classifications. He’s actually hitting for a higher average than last year when he makes contact, but the difference is strikeouts. His rate has climbed to 31% vs. last year’s 19%. That’s an extra 13 strikeouts in 22 games compared to last year’s rate.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, Jersey Shore (PHI) 7 (11)
Hickory: 10 hits, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 6 walks, 16 strikeouts
Record: 11-11, 5 GB

SP Mitch Bratt: 5 IP, 6 H (1 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 69 P / 54 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Eudrys Manon: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 3.86 ERA
1B Josh Hatcher: 1-4, HR (4), BB, .316/.373/.526
DH Liam Hicks: 2-3, BB, .342/.479/.447
C Cody Freeman: 3-5, 2B, SB (1), .236/.295/.491

Mitch Bratt missed a season-high ten bats and has walked only three in 16.2 innings. For the season, Hickory is close to average with runners in scoring position (.261/.361/.376), but not lately. Knotted at five in the 8th, the Crawdads loaded the bases with none out but couldn’t score.

Lo-A: suspended

In the top of the 1st, second base became unsecured and couldn’t be repaired. I am not kidding. They’ll finish this one and add a seven-inning game tonight.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Winn
AA: Leiter
Hi-A: Rocker

Five Years Ago Yesterday
AJ Alexy carried a no-hitter into the 6th at low-A Hickory. This season, Alexy has fallen apart at AAA Charlotte, walking or hitting 40% of his opponents and losing his 40-man spot.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 3 May

We should have a new podcast up later this afternoon.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 0, at Reno (ARI) 2 (7)
Round Rock: 7 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts

SP Cody Bradford: 5.14 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 SO, 91 P / 56 S, 1.07 ERA
3B Justin Foscue: 1-3, BB, .269/.393/.462
1B Blaine Crim: 1-3, BB
2B Davis Wendzel: 2-3, .200/.333/.338
Cody Bradford allowed multiple runs for the first time in 2023. Bradford has an 11% BB/HBP rate, better than the league average but not up to his usual standard. He also began last year with slightly impaired control. A major difference in 2023 is homers. Bradford allowed eight in last year’s first six starts, but over the same period this season, he’s surrendered just one, plus only two other extra-base bases.

AAA: Round Rock 7, at Reno (ARI) 3 (7)
Round Rock: 7 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 19-9, 1.5 GB

SP Nick Krauth: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 57 P / 34 S, 0.00 ERA
DH Blaine Crim: 1-3, 3B, BB, .300/.404/.463
C Sam Huff: 2-4, 2 HR (4), .269/.326/.449

Nick Krauth acquitted himself in his AAA debut. He hadn’t spent much time in AA, and he might hop back and forth as needed. Both of Sam Huff’s homers were 20-degree lasers hit well over 100 MPH.

AA: Frisco 0, at Midland (OAK) 7
Frisco: 2 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Record: 12-11, tied for first

SP TK Roby: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 84 P / 49 S, 7.04 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Luisangel Acuna: 1-4, BB, 3 SB (13), .320/.372/.437

A romp for the home side. Ryan Cusick, picked 21st overall in 2021 and part of the Matt Olson trade, one-hit the Riders for six innings.

Hi-A: Hickory 4, Jersey Shore (PHI) 0
Hickory: 11 hits, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 11-10, 5 GB

SP Larson Kindreich: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 58 P / 36 S, 2.57 ERA
RP Seth Clark: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1.74 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, 2B, BB, .274/.295/.452
SS Max Acosta: 3-4, 2 2B, .353/.421/.515

Four Crawdads combined for a six-hit Education Day shutout. Undrafted Seth Clark made his high-A debut. The 23-year-old allowed ten runners and struck out nine in eight innings for Down East. It’s early, but Larson Kindreich’s control has been a revelation. He’s walked four of 51 batters (7%), a rate less than half of 2022.

Lo-A: High Desert 15, at Lancaster (WAS) 9
High Desert: 12 hits, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 12-10, 1.5 GB

SP Leandro Lopez: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 2 SO, 73 P / 36 S, 4.50 ERA
RP Florencio Serrano: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 3.18 ERA
RP Alberto Mota, fka Jeferson Espinal: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RF Jojo Blackmon: 2-4, 2B, 2 BB, SB (5), .204/.350/.429
DH Tucker Mitchell: 1-4, 2B, BB, HBP, SB (2), .378/.491/.511
C Ian Moller: 2-4, HR (2), BB, .241/.339/.426

On a warm Antelope Valley evening with the wind gusting to center at 24 MPH, Ian Moller hit a three-run homer and RBI single in the same inning.

Okay, this game did not take place in California or involve now-defunct High Desert or Lancaster, but with 24 runs scored, I thought I’d have a little fun with the recap. Moller truly provided those highlights of Down East’s nine-run 3rd.

Anthony Gutierrez and Gleider Figuero singled twice, and Yosy Galan and Cam Cauley reached safely twice.

A late highlight was backup OF Jeferson Espinal being entrusted to hold a six-run lead in the 9th. Now in his 5th pro season, Espinal had never pitched professionally, so I was a little dumbfounded to see a steady 94 MPH fastball. I was especially dumbfounded to see Espinal shake off the catcher after his fifth straight fastball and then deliver an 80 MPH curve with solid depth.

As it turns out, I was watching the 2023 debut of Alberto Mota, a genuine pitcher wearing the same #14 as Espinal (and if in fact Espinal wasn’t active, Mota might have been wearing Espinal’s actual jersey.) Fredericksburg’s announcer correctly identified Mota, but I had the sound down at first, and both the screen graphic and MiLB.com listed Espinal as the pitcher. The 20-year-old Mota fanned 43 and walked 18 in 31.1 innings between rookie league and Down East last year.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Dugger
AA: Garcia
Hi-A: Bratt

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Jonathan Hernandez allowed four runs and fanned nine in seven innings for Down East. His 37 strikeouts for the season led the organization and his league.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 2 May

Box Scores

AAA: wet, cold

Two today.

Reliever Dominic Leone opted out of his minor league deal. He’s pitched well but apparently not well enough to force a 40 move. OF JP Martinez is on the IL.

AA: Frisco 11, at Midland (OAK) 2
Frisco: 15 hits, 8 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 9 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 12-10, tied for first

SP Grant Wolfram: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 33 P / 18 S, 0.90 ERA
RP Wyatt Sparks: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Theo McDowell: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 5.40 ERA
SS Luisangel Acuna: 2-6, 2B, .320/.367/.440
2B Thomas Saggese: 4-6, SB (3), .271/.333/.376
3B Jax Biggers: 3-5, 2 SB (3), .250/.431/.500
1B Josh Sale: 2-4, HR (1), .160/.300/.320

Righty Wyatt Sparks pitched for the first time since July 2021 following Tommy John surgery. He also pitched for the first time in AA. Now 23, Texas drafted him in 2018’s 23rd round. Fortunately, Sparks was good to go, as spot-starter Grant Wolfram had to be pulled after 33 pitches in the 1st. Low-A Down East’s opening week rotation in 2021 was Owen White, Sparks, Dane Acker (also recovering from TJ), TK Roby, Nick Krauth, and Mason Englert.

Joining Sparks in Frisco is lefty Juan Mejia, while righty Nick Krauth has jumped to AAA.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, Jersey Shore (PHI) 7
Hickory: 8 hits, 8 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 10-10, 5 GB

SP Josh Stephan: 4 IP, 3 H (2 HR), 4 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 82 P / 47 S, 2.05 ERA
RP Spencer Mraz: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1.86 ERA
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, 3B, BB, 2 SB (6), .261/.274/.435
SS Max Acosta: 1-3, 2 BB, 2 SB (8), .328/.403/.469
DH Geisel Cepeda: 2-4, BB, .234/.357/.298

17 baserunners, five steals, five runs? Hickory lost three runners on the bases and stranded four more at third.

Mark Parker interviewed Kumar Rocker at length. I was happy to see him mention an emphasis on changeups in spring training as well as a curve and sinker (although evidence in games has been fairly limited to date). Ben Spanier at Baseball Prospectus noticed a little cut to his fastball in his most recent start ($ link). Rocker’s fastball/slider combo is too good for high-A, but overwhelming hitters with those pitches alone is of limited utility.

Lo-A: Down East 3, at Fredericksburg (WAS) 4
Down East: 9 hits, 2 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 11-10, 1.5 GB

SP Luis Ramirez: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 74 P / 46 S, 2.35 ERA
RP Joseph Montalvo: 4.2 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 3.06 ERA
C Ian Moller: 1-2, 2 BB, .220/.316/.360
LF Jojo Blackmon: 3-4, 3B, .178/.315/.400

Down East scored twice off 2022 45th-overall pick and Oklahoma alum Jake Bennett and led the game from the 2nd inning until the final pitch. A softly lined single to left-center scored the tying and winning runs off Jackson Kelley. Kelley also balked in a run in the 8th and committed another balk before competing that inning. He had cruised through April, a little wild but nearly impossible to hit (7 IP, 2 H, 5 BB, 12 SO). Kelley uses an adjustable side-arm slot to deliver weirdly bending stuff in a 71-83 MPH range. I suppose he offers a fastball, slider, and curve, but categorizing him might be a pointless task. I’ve seen him clocked as high as 89 MPH, but nothing approached that last night.

Starter Luis Ramirez’s fastball sat 92-93 with some sink plus with a slider and plenty of changes around 84-85. He sells the change well. Joseph Montalvo, who grabbed some attention for a scoreless six innings last week, offered a 91-93 fastball with rise and run, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s change. In a way, Montalvo has better command than control, able to move around the fastball and slider with uncommon effectiveness for a low-A 20-year-old, but simply throwing strikes is an occasional problem.

Ramirez and Kelley were selected last year in the seventh and 12th rounds, respectively. Montalvo was 2021’s 20th and final draft choice.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Cody / TBD
AA: Roby
Hi-A: Kindreich

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East and Buies Creek (now known as Fayetteville) combined for nine homers that were the impetus for every run in Down East’s 15-3 victory. 3B Charles Leblanc improved to .310/.349/.520 with a double and homer. Leblanc made the Majors with Miami last year and batted credibly (.263/.323/.404) but was designated for assignment and unclaimed in January.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 30 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 13, Albuquerque (COL) 8
Round Rock: 15 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 8 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 18-8, 2 GB

SP John King: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 23 P / 16 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Taylor Hearn: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.17 ERA
CF Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4, 2B, .243/.400/.311
3B Justin Foscue: 4-4, 2 2B, HBP, .276/.394/.483
LF Sandro Fabian: 2-3, 2 2B, HBP, .188/.246/.297

Justin Foscue reached safely five times. His statcast data is solid, if not dazzling. Foscue is no Hanser Alberto, but he tends to strike out much less than most hitters, so his batted-ball data is dragged down a little by some contact that would be swinging strikes for a typical hitter. He’s spent three-quarters of his time at second base, the rest at third. I’m debating my preference among the two. Mainly, I prefer that he keeps hitting.

Joe Palumbo’s 2023 debut couldn’t have gone worse: four batters, four walks, a total of two strikes thrown.

The Express took five of six from Albuquerque. Round Rock visits third-place Reno this week and hosts league-leading OKC the week after.

AA: Frisco 12, at Amarillo (ARI) 7
Frisco: 11 hits, 10 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 12-9, tied for first

SP Owen White: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 6 SO, 43 P / 30 S, 2.91 ERA
RP Marc Church: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1.74 ERA
DH Evan Carter: 1-4, 2 BB, .343/.500/.543
SS Luisangel Acuna: 0-4, 2 BB, 3 SB (10), .319/.369/.436
LF Dustin Harris: 1-4, 2B, BB, SB (7), .203/.378/.377
3B Thomas Saggese: 2-4, BB, .241/.311/.354
RF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, 3B, BB, .164/.291/.224
1B Trevor hauver: 2-3, 2B, BB, .217/.390/.333

Owen White struck out a season-high six batters, all swinging. His repertoire was the usual: 91-94 fastball, an 84-90 slider, a handful of curves at 77-80, and a very occasional change at 87. Several batters had mid-swing epiphanies that they weren’t catching up to his high fastball but couldn’t check in time. By my count, he threw four curves, two of which ended at-bats with misses.

Why only three innings? I don’t know. My guess is because he was pitching on four days rest for the first time. In any case, yesterday was his most impressive outing, all the more so for occurring in Amarillo against a lineup that had already seen him twice in April.

Evan Carter batted a paltry .280/.455/.440 in the series, a disappointment compared to his .435/.567/.870 showing against San Antonio two weeks ago. Hopefully he won’t embarrass himself and the organization with another lackluster .895 OPS this week against Midland.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 6
Hickory: 10 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 10-9, 4 GB

SP Gavin Collyer: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 38 P / 18 S, 5.65 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Max Acosta: 2-4, SB (6), .328/.388/.475
DH Josh Hatcher: 1-4, HR (3), .323/.382/.516
RF Alejandro Osuna: 2-4, .289/.477/.378

Down East recovered from its early offensive slumber this week but apparently infected Hickory, which scored 16 runs in its six-game series. The Crawdads lack the highest-regarded offensive prospects present at other levels, but two of the youngest, Alejandro Osuna and Max Acosta, are off to fine starts.

Incidentally, Hickory played Winston-Salem last week, not Salem. That’s a typo I corrected on my organizational charts but not my report template.

Lo-A: Down East 2, at Fayetteville (HOU) 6
Down East: 7 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 11-9, tied for first

SP DJ McCarty: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 59 P / 34 S, 0.87 ERA
RP Jackson Leath: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.23 ERA
RP Jackson Kelley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Yosy Galan: 2-4, HR (4), .216/.333/.510

DJ McCarty started for the first time. In my annual primer, I’d mentioned Houston’s more fluid roles for its low-level pitchers, with few working exclusively as starters or in relief. In the early going, Down East has imitated that system, using 12 starters for the first 20 games. Brock Porter is the only pitcher to work exclusively as a starter, and six of the other 11 have also finished at least one game.

Yosy Galan spent about one-third of last year’s games in center or right, but in 2023 he’s yet to venture from left.

League-wide stolen base attempts are 24% higher than last year, but the success rate has fallen from 79% to 75%.

Top 100 Prospects To Be Faced This Week
AAA: #53 RHP Brandon Pfaadt
Hi-A: #15 OF James Wood
Lo-A: #40 OF Elijah Green

Five Years Ago Yesterday
The system’s 35-60 record in April was the worst month since at least 2005, the earliest the monthly stats were readily available at the time. I haven’t updated that spreadsheet post-covid because MiLB changed its UI to make that particular stat harder to look up, but April 2018 probably retains that dubious title. Frisco’s 6-18 record was its worst month in team history. Five of Texas’s top nine prospects (JPM, Crouse, Ragans, Thompson, Cody) weren’t playing because of youth or injury.