Rangers Farm Report: Owen White Recalled

I was going to write about the rookie league, but something came up.

RHP Owen White will be in on the active roster in Arlington tonight. While not starting, he seems destined for his MLB debut.

White is Texas’s best pitching prospect, offering a five-pitch mix of four and two-seam fastballs, slider, curve, and change. His most effective breaker is a slider that averages mid-80s but will occasionally ramp to 90 when he’s in the mood. An 80ish curve ranks close behind. The two-seamer is less common and might not appear at all. The change trails his breakers but is more than a show-me pitch.

White was slowed this spring by neck tightness and is still not throwing at last year’s velocity. The fastball typically described as “mid-90s, touching 98” has more often been 91-94. White doesn’t live or die with a rising fastball — he’ll move it around — but the lower velocity appears to have affected his bat-missing ability. Among the 23 Texas minor leaguers with at least 30 innings, White’s 11.0% swinging strike rate ranks 18th, just behind Cody Bradford. White is also 18th of 23 in strikeout rate at 21.1%. Last year’s numbers in AA were 14% and 27%, respectively. He’s been effective this season, but not as dominant.

As such, I have mixed feelings. In full transparency, someone on twitter floated the possibility of bringing up White or Jack Leiter three weeks ago, and my response was “I think they’d both get clobbered.” Maybe a hasty exaggeration, but I certainly loathed the idea of White as a bullpen addition at that time. As for the current, more pressing situation, there’s no easy answer. White obviously has the requisite determination and confidence, and he will kneel before no one, but at this particular moment in time, that might not be good enough. As ever, the Angels are a weird, flawed team, but they’ve got some hitters you might have heard of. As you’ve seen from the debuts of Cody Bradford and Grant Anderson, the range in possible outcomes is too broad to offer a comfortable prediction of how he’ll do. I hope he can get by.

White is not tonight’s starter. That would be Bradford, coming off three days rest following a season-high 99 pitches. Although he’ll have a restricted pitch count, this is still almost unheard of. Certainly, I can’t recall any Texas pitcher in the minors reappearing on three days rest after a lengthy start, even 15 years ago, with the exception of someone older and rubber-armed like Tim Dillard. The short-rest examples I found in MLB this season were almost exclusively opener-type outings from relievers.

That said, I spent a fair amount of time staring at my org chart last night, and I don’t know that I have a better solution. Actually, I thought Bradford would be off the table, having pitched on Friday, and that White would be the likely starter. The other 40-man options are untenable for various reasons, and no off-40 ideas appealed. Round Rock’s rotation is alarmingly thin at present. Robert Dugger has a poor MLB track record but at least he has one, but he pitched on Saturday. Adding an off-40 reliever like Chase Lee might not provide even two innings. I would pick White over Jack Leiter.

Texas optioned Yerry Rodriguez and Cole Ragans to Round Rock.