The way the runs scored was frustrating, but I have no complaints about 6.1 innings and four runs from a back-end starter on short rest and a newcomer from AA. Bradford and White did their jobs.
AAA: Round Rock 8, El Paso (SDP) 5
Round Rock: 7 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 36-28, 10 GB
SP Glenn Otto: 3 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 36 P / 25 S, 6.00 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4.70 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 SO, 3.41 ERA
SS Davis Wendzel: 1-3, HR (14), BB, .260/.377/.552
RF Elier Hernandez: 2-4, 2B, HR (10), .341/.419/.576
C Sam Huff: 2-4, HR (9), .273/.363/.473
Rehabbing Glenn Otto tossed three largely successful innings in his 2023 debut. A slider he wants back was pummeled by Matthew Batten. Otherwise, he was on point, generating four swinging strikes on seven sliders, averaging 93 with a maximum of 94.8 with the fastball.
Brad Miller was hitless in two at-bats. Texas has some tricky 40 and 25-man roster decisions upcoming.
Nothing against him, but Davis Wendzel had one of the unlikeliest homers ever: 356 feet despite 89.9 MPH off the bat. The Express and their opponents have combined for only five homers all season hit at under 95 MPH, and Wendzel’s is by far the slowest (assuming the reading is accurate). The Dell Diamond is pitcher-friendly relative to the average PCL, but it’s extremely inviting to right-handed batters on warm, windy nights. No park outside of the Polo Grounds or the original Forbes Field was containing Huff’s and Hernandez’s blasts.
AA: Frisco 11, at NW Arkansas (KAN) 6
Frisco: 16 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 8 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 26-31, 4.5 GB
SP John Matthews: 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 1 SO, 35 P / 18 S, 9.23 ERA
RP Danny Duffy: 2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 5.79 ERA
RP Eudrys Manon: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 4.26 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 4.09 ERA
SS Luisangel Acuna: 2-5, 3B, BB, SB (26), .300/.370/.429
RF Aaron Zavala: 2-5, 2B, BB, SB (2), .238/.376/.338
2B Thomas Saggese: 2-5, HR (8), BB, .280/.340/.453
CF Kellen Strahm: 3-5, SB (6), .224/.340/.322
C Scott Kapers: 2-3, 2B, 2 BB, .283/.361/.509
Frisco scored early and often enough to preempt any problems caused by a bullpen night. Every Rider save Nick Tanielu reached safely at least twice.
Hi-A: Hickory 2, Bowling Green (TAM) 1
Hickory: 8 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 7 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 22-32, 8.5 GB
SP Dane Acker: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 57 P / 32 S, 1.38 ERA
RP Luis Tejeda: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 3.97 ERA
RP Robbie Ahlstrom: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 5.56 ERA
SS Max Acosta: 2-4, 2B, .280/.328/.387
Dane Acker lacked the control of his two prior outings but was once again solid. While there’s no reason to rush, I’d expect the 24-year-old to reach Frisco before too long. Acker is part of an unusually small list of first-time Rule 5 eligibles truncated by the five-round draft of 2020. Justin Foscue is the only eligible Ranger drafted by Texas that year; the other four picks were high schoolers.
Lo-A: Down East 4, Kannapolis (CHW) 2
Down East: 5 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 3 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 34-20, 5 G up, magic number 4
SP Jose Corniell: 6 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 9 SO, 80 P / 52 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Jackson Leath: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.55 ERA
RP Alberto Mota: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 6.75 ERA
2B Danyer Cueva: 2-4, HR (3), .257/.311/.400
C Ian Moller: 1-3, HR (3), BB, .170/.298/.270
Six innings are a career best from Corniell, who’s always been of interest but has really improved of late. He spent all of last year at this level. That wont happen again, I’d expect.
Catcher Ian Moller is a better hitter than his line, but to date in 2023 I don’t even have a small silver-lining stretch to point out. He draws a ton of walks, and his swinging strike rate rate isn’t terrible, but he strikes out frequently, leading me to believe he’s taking a large number of called strikes. Also, one of six balls in play have been popups.
Belated Arizona Complex League Preview
I stopped covering the rookies on a daily basis a few years ago because of time constraints and the changing nature of the league. Especially with the abolition of short-season ball, rookie leagues are filled over the brim with youngsters vying for limited playing time. In just seven games, the Rangers have used 22 pitchers and seven different starters. Also, the draft used to occur in early June followed by the start of play, so the league served to introduce us to many current picks. Now, the league begins six weeks before the draft, so most of the current roster consists of Dominican Summer League graduates, most of whom I know little about. Furthermore, a good many teams use their rookie squads as a live-action tryout camp for older, undrafted players, indy league signings or players who just can’t find a home elsewhere, and their rosters are actually older on average than their low-A squads. Some clubs field two teams, some play only seven-inning games. Control is worse than ever, with a combined BB/HBP of over 16% in the early going. These factors strain the concept of a competitive league.
All that to say: While I observe the league on a daily basis, my intention is to cover them only weekly, plus some additional notes as needed.
Making Professional Debut:
RHP Nick Bautista (21 years old, 2022 16th rd.)
RHP Bryan Chi (24, 2022 intl. FA)
RHP Kolton Curtis (19, 2022 domestic FA)
LHP Kohl Drake (22, 2022 11th rd.)
LHP Thomas Ireland (20, 2021 13th rd.)
RHP Daniel Keaney (18, 2022 domestic FA)
RHP Kyle Larsen (hurt) (19, 2021 18th rd.)
LHP Justin Sanchez (19, 2022 18th rd.)
LHP CJ Widger (hurt) (24, 2021 10th rd.)
IF Chandler Pollard (19, 2022 5th rd.)
Chandler Pollard is the only 2022 position-player draft pick. In the days before the roster announcement, the only position players listed were Pollard and IF Beycker Barroso, meaning either the roster would be filled by a huge number of incoming internationals or the pitching staff would need to miss a ton of bats. Pollard is .250/.438/.333 with seven walks and nine strikeouts. He’s the team’s primary shortstop.
Ireland, Larsen and Widger are 2021 picks coming off injuries. The younger Larsen, paid well over slot, has struggled in the early going, walking four of 12 batters and allowing three singles in 2.2 innings, although he’s yet to allow a run. Ireland, a Polk State alum, has seven strikeouts, one walks, no runs allowed in 6.1 innings.
Juco pick Nick Bautista has fanned eight of 15 batters, but all five runners who’ve reached in his three innings have scored.
Per this story, Keaney was initially intended to be a late-round pick by the Rangers last summer, but he decided on college at Marist. When Marist’s coach departed, Keaney signed as a free agent. Neither he nor fellow America free agent Kolton Curtis has appeared.
The older, Cuban Chi leads the team with 8.1 innings, allowing one run with one walk and 11 strikeouts.
Making US Debut:
RHP Willan Bornie (20, 2019 intl. FA)
RHP Wilfredo Cordero (20, 2021 intl. FA)
RHP David Davalillo (20, 2022 intl. FA)
RHP Dianye Florentino (23, 2020 intl. FA)
RHP Aneudis Mejia (19, 2022 intl. FA)
RHP Jesus Mosquera (20, 2022 intl. FA)
C Alfredo Espinoza (18, 2022 intl FA.)
C Danell Figueroa (19, 2022 intl FA.)
C Jesus Lopez (18, 2022 intl FA.)
C Miguel Ojeda Jr. (22, 2021 intl FA.)
C Josue Romero (20, 2021 intl FA.)
IF Erick Alvarez (18, 2022 intl FA.)
IF Esteban Mejia (18, 2022 intl FA.)
IF Echedry Vargas (18, 2022 intl FA.)
OF Edgar Basabe (19, 2021 intl FA.)
OF Jose de Jesus (18, 2022 intl FA.)
OF Wady Mendez (18, 2022 intl FA.)
OF Marcos Torres (18, 2022 intl FA.)
Everyone on this list played in the DSL last year. C Jesus Lopez, IF Echedry Vargas, and OFs Wady Mendez and Marcos Torress are some of the noteworthy names in this group. Vargas was signed for a nominal $10,000 but ranks 30th on Baseball America’s prospect list, mainly for his power, and he batted .301/.368/.510 in last year’s DSL with 28 extra base hits in 55 games. A shortstop there, he’s mostly played second in the US. Mendez is looking for his first domestic XBH (.118/.348/.118) but slugged .509 in the DSL last year. Torres (.250/.419/.375) already has a couple of extra bases hits and six walks.
Basabe is the younger brother of former Ranger Osleivis Basabe, traded with others for Nate Lowe.
Repeating the Level:
RHP Ismael Agreda (19, 2021 intl. FA)
RHP Michael Alfonso (20, 2021 17th rd.)
RHP Biembenido Brito (20, 2021 intl. FA)
RHP Evan Elliott (22, 2021 15th rd.)
RHP Jose Gonzalez (21, 2019 intl. FA)
LHP Bryan Magdaleno (22, 2019 intl. FA)
IF Beycker Barroso (20, 2019 intl FA.)
Almost to a man, the repeating pitchers have had trouble keeping opponents off the bases in their initial appearances. The Floridian Alfonso does have three strikeouts in his lone inning. Brito struck out 55 in 34.2 innings last year.
Has Some Full-Season Experience:
RHP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa (22, 2019 30th rd.)
LHP Brayan Mendoza (19, 2021 intl. FA)
RHP Ivan Oviedo (20, 2021 intl. FA)
RHP Eury Rosado (22, 2019 intl. FA)
IF Yenci Pena (22, 2017 intl FA.)
OF Anthony Gutierrez (18, 2022 intl FA.)
The heralded Gutierrez began 2023 with an aggressive assignment to low-A, where he batted .246/.299/.303. That isn’t that bad relative to the pitcher-friendly league and park, particularly for someone his age, but the Rangers decided more time in Surprise was in order. Gutierrez has started five games, mostly in center, and batted .375/.412/.625.
Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa made a name (a lengthy name) for himself as a high-leverage reliever for Down East last year. My understanding is a spring setback delayed his 2023 debut, although I wasn’t expecting this long a wait. He has yet to appear. Assuming he’s healthy, he shouldn’t be there long.
Ivan Oviedo began the season at Down East but had a bear of a time getting anyone out. He’s improved in Surprise, fanning nine versus one walk in 4.2 innings with two runs allowed.
Five Years Ago Yesterday
Hans Crouse introduced himself at Spokane’s fan fest with “Hi, I’m Hans Crouse. And I’ll be bringing that gasoline.”