Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 1 August

Texas acquired catcher Austin Hedges for international pool money. Hedges is batting .180/.237/.239 this season. He’s at 187 plate appearances now, and assuming he reaches 250 and hits the same, his OPS+ of 28 would be the seventh worst in the 55 years of division play among hitters with at least 250 PA. His career OPS+ of 55 is fifth worst among hitters with at least 2,000 PA in the divisional era. Hedges used to be good for a homer every ten games or so, but he doesn’t even do that anymore.

So why bother? Hedges has 5.8 career WAR despite that awful batting. He’s still among the very best in baseball at framing and blocking. His caught-stealing rate is only 14%, but his teammates aren’t much better at a collective 17%, and the Bucs have allowed only five more steals than the league average. On the whole, he remains one of baseball’s premier defensive catchers.

Texas understandably made this trade despite cautiously optimistic news on the likelihood of Jonah Heim’s return. Optimism doesn’t equal certainty, and Heim’s availability, role, and quality could be significantly curtailed. The trade doesn’t speak highly of Sam Huff, although that may be too harsh an assessment. Had Heim’s injury occurred at this time last year, Huff would be getting all the action he could handle. In 2023, he remains a third catcher, fourth if Heim returns.

Texas traded RHP Spencer Howard to the Yankees for cash. I still believe Howard could figure it out and become a useful MLB pitcher, but I’m fine with no longer having to report on that process. The Gibson trade didn’t work out well for either side. Free-agent-to-be Ian Kennedy did his part, at least. Gibson chewed innings but was barely above replacement and wasn’t a consequential part of Philly’s 2022 postseason roster. I remember the shock of learning Hans Crouse’s inclusion in the trade after the initial announcement. By then, the guy with the upper-90s fastball and wipeout slider was gone, but he’d surprisingly built himself into a well-rounded starting candidate. High risk remained, though, and despite a stunningly quick MLB debut, his production above AA has been uniformly poor and interrupted by injuries.

New York optioned Howard to AAA.
Per local reports, OF Wyatt Langford is headed to high-A Hickory. Langford batted .385/.429/.846 in three games at the rookie complex. Nothing official yet.

OF Willie Calhoun elected free agency after being outrighted by the Yankees. OF Rafael Ortega, an offseason signing who played 44 games for Round Rock before taking free agency, has been called up by the Mets. The Mets also traded righty Dominic Leone to the Angels. Another Texas offseason signing who eventually departed after not being called up, Leone had a 4.40 ERA with a good BB/SO ratio but seven homers in 30 MLB innings.

On the whole, Texas hasn’t missed any of the experienced relievers who took elected agency during the season when a call-up wasn’t forthcoming. Zack Littell probably comes closest. After leaving the Rangers, Littell had a short, unsuccessful spell with the Red Sox and then joined the Rays. He’s struck out 28 versus only two walks in Tampa Bay, but he’s been hittable (.299/.313/.443). He has pitched well enough lately to join the rotation, however. I suppose there’s an alternate universe in which he joins the Rangers and pitches well enough to obviate the need for Chris Stratton. Ex-Angel Ryan Tepera joined St. Louis after leaving the Express; he’s allowed four runners and two runs in two innings.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 4, at Oklahoma City (LAD) 2
Round Rock: 10 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Record: 15-13, 3 GB, 59-43 overall

SP Seth Nordlin: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 63 P / 41 S, 4.79 ERA
CF JP Martinez: 3-4, HR (11), BB, 4 SB (32), .323/.435/.579
LF Dustin Harris: 2-5, 2B, 3B, .271/.407/.448

JP Martinez continues to hit, and I’m occasionally asked about him. July’s .268/.358/.549 was actually his worst month.

Martinez’s batted-ball stats are decent but hover near the mid-range of the team. They don’t leap off the page. As I’ve mentioned, his hit rate on poorly hit balls (grounders, soft airborne shots) is far above his teammates. Speed accounts for some of that but not all. Part of the problem is that for how he’d be likely be used, his skill set is largely redundant with Bubba Thompson’s. Would Martinez be better than Thompson? Possibly. Is that worth someone else’s 40 spot? Not an easy decision. For the Rangers in 2022 or on some other bad club this year, he’s probably getting a look in the Majors. Texas’s current situation would seem to preclude that.

AA: Frisco 5, Midland (OAK) 6 (10)
Frisco: 6 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 15-13, 3 GB, 46-50 overall

SP Ryan Garcia: 3 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 4 R, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 74 P / 44 S, 7.24 ERA
RP Grant Wolfram: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.30 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 7.88 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 2.29 ERA
1B Josh Hatcher: 1-4, HR (7), BB, .322/.360/.567

IF Keyber Rodriguez replaced Luisangel Acuna in Frisco. I’ll confess that the first time I saw him, from the back while Frisco was in the field, my immediate thought was “… Guilder?”

Hi-A: Hickory 5, at Aberdeen (BAL) 2
Hickory: 6 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Record: 20-10, 2.5 G up, 47-44 overall

SP Nick Lockhart: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 62 P / 40 S, 2.20 ERA
RP Luis Tejada: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 SO, 4.91 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.15 ERA
SS Cam Cauley: 1-3, 2B, BB, SB (6), .310/.356/.619
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, 3B, .252/.263/.392
2B Jayce Easley: 0-1, 3 BB, 3 SB (21), .191/.350/.241

Cam Cauley spent the first ten games of the season rousing himself from a deep slumber (.132/.175/.211) but has batted .272/.357/.472 since. In Hickory, he’s still striking out more often than you’d like but is batting .481 with a .962 slugging percentage on contact.

Texas released RHP Spencer Mraz, drafted in 2019’s 33rd round. Mraz saved 12 games over the course of three A-level seasons, but his walk rate kept moving in the wrong direction. RHP Jackson Leath was promoted from Down East.

Lo-A: suspended in 1st

Two today. Some good news: IF Danyer Cueva was back in the lineup. Cueva suffered a head injury in a collision on the bases 12 days ago and was carted off to the hospital with a possible concussion.

12th-round righty RHP Paul Bonzagni was promoted to Down East after one single-inning performance in rookie ball.

Today’s Starters
AAA: White
AA: Krauth
Hi-A: Corniell
Lo-A: McCarty / TBA

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Chris Tillman threw 1,145 MLB inning for Baltimore and only Baltimore, but he (probably) finished his career as a Texas Ranger. Texas signed him to a minor league deal after his release back in 2018. He pitched sparingly for Round Rock and became a free agent again. Tillman had shoulder surgery in 2019 and has sporadically attempted comebacks ever since but hasn’t signed a contract to my knowledge.