Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 6 August

The Texas Rangers have recalled Jonathan Ornelas from AAA Round Rock to replace the injured Josh Jung.

Texas drafted Ornelas in 2018’s third round, and he’s climbed one organizational level each subsequent year. Only three other high schoolers were taken that round, and Ornelas is the first to reach the Majors.

Where he’s played has sometimes depended on his teammates, but he’s spent 72% of his AAA starts and 57% of his professional career at short. In 2023, he’s manned third less than ever, only four starts out of 88 in the field, but again, I think the roster composition is at least partly driving that. Second base is another option, as is center field, although his experience there has been limited to just 11 games during 2022-2023. He’s favorably resolved questions about his positional flexibility.

Entering 2022, Ornelas was a marginal 40-man candidate, absent from the top-30 rankings of Baseball America and MLB.com. He’d received an aggressive assignment to AA as 21-year-old after a .261/.310/.394 season at high-A Hickory. In Frisco, he began making a case for himself immediately, hitting .370/.387/.452 in April, and ended up leading the team in average, hits, and runs. My 40-man preview write-up: “The thought of Ornelas facing MLB pitching next April doesn’t inspire confidence quite yet, but he sure seems like the type who’d get swiped and hang on in a utility role. A contact-oriented bat, some power, some speed, positional flexibility including proficiency at short and center that extends beyond ‘he can play there if he has to.’ “

In AAA, Ornelas has been reasonably successful at the plate (.250/.360/.348), albeit more than a little strange. His walk/HBP rate in full-season ball has jumped from 9% in 2019-2022 to 15% this season, an astounding jump for anyone, much less a 22-year-old in AAA for the first time. Perhaps Ornelas has been able to take advantage of the automated AAA strike zone. Ornelas will try to work the count, arguably to a fault. He’s swung at only 13% of first pitches, easily the lowest on the team, and has seen the most called first strikes. The additional walks have fueled the same .360 OBP as the year before despite a 49-point decline in batting average.

Ornelas’s hard-hit rate of 34% and other exit velo stats are near the middle of the Express pack. He has become an extreme ground-ball hitter, leading the Pacific Coast League in that category. Ornelas is batting .225 and slugging .241 in the 55% of his plate appearances with a launch angle of +4 degrees or lower. When he elevates to +5 degrees or better, he’s hitting .477 and slugging .761. No, Ornelas is not  Adolis Garcia, and not every hitter should be aiming for the cheap seats every swing. But Ornelas can drive the ball capably, and all the extra grounders have cost him some hits and extra-bases.

Ornelas isn’t the bat-first choice among potential call-ups but offers the most flexibility. Other 40-man options were OF Bubba Thompson and 1B/OF Dustin Harris. Thompson is a reasonable bench choice but obviously doesn’t aid the infield situation. Harris is fairly new to AAA and best suited to 1B. Off the 40, Justin Foscue has hit better than Ornelas but has less defensively proficiency and at fewer positions. Davis Wendzel is the anti-Ornelas, an extreme fly hitter. He’s improved on 2022 but not enough to justify a 40 move, I don’t think.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, at Oklahoma City (LAD) 17
Round Rock: 11 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 22 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 16-17, 6 GB, 60-47 overall

SP Cody Bradford: 3 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 66 P / 50 S, 2.74 ERA
3B Blaine Crim: 2-5, 2B, HR (15), .276/.385/.489
SS Davis Wendzel: 1-4, HR (19), .229/.355/.461

OKC has the league’s best offense (adjusted for park) and took advantage of a Cody Bradford who threw more center-low strikes than I’m accustomed to seeing. Good as he’s been, Bradford is going to have occasional days like this. Danny Duffy (1.1 IP, 2 R), Jonathan Hernandez (2 IP, 1 R), Yerry Rodriguez (0.2 IP, 4 R), and Chase Lee (0.1 IP, 3 R) couldn’t do much more than watch the fire, although the latter two were also hurt by the defense.

The Dodgers won the first half and are leading the second. If that holds, the team with the next-best record gets the other playoff spot. Right now, that would be the Express.

AA: Frisco 2, Midland (OAK) 4
Frisco: 7 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 18-15, 2 GB, 49-52 overall

SP Seth Nordlin: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 74 P / 47 S, 5.63 ERA
RP Grant Wolfram: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 2.10 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 7.00 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 2.18 ERA
LF Aaron Zavala: 2-3, HR (5), BB, .203/.362/.304

Antoine Kelly hasn’t allowed an earned run in 18 appearances covering 20.1 innings. Three unearned runs have scored, consisting of an extra-inning gift runner and two who originally reached on errors. Honestly more impressive are the three walks in this span. He’d walked or hit 19 in the previous 21 innings.

Hi-A: Hickory 7, at Aberdeen (BAL) 1
Hickory: 9 hits, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Record: 25-10, 4 G up, 52-44 overall

SP Nick Lockhart: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 38 P / 22 S, 1.86 ERA
RP Luis Tejada: 3 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 4.76 ERA
RP Larson Kindreich: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 HBP, 3 SO, 5.40 ERA
DH Wyatt Langford: 1-2, 3 BB, SB (2), .375/.524/.688
2B Max Acosta: 2-4, 2B, HR (7), .255/.303/.370
RF Geisel Cepda: 3-4, SB (8), .287/.371/.367
3B Jayce Easley: 2-3, 3B, BB, SB (23), .194/.356/.252

Hickory swept the six-game series. Wyatt Langford has six hits and five walks in four high-A games.

Larson Kindreich walked or hit six batters in a stretch of ten faced, but none scored.

Lo-A: Down East 0, Myrtle Beach (CHC) 2
Down East: 8 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 18-18, tied for first, 55-42 overall

SP Brayan Mendoza: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 73 P / 45 S, 3.12 ERA
RP Bryan Chi: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 6.00 ERA
RF Tommy Specht: 3-4, .248/.363/.331
1B Anthony Calarco: 2-4

Down East’s offense:
1st half: .237/.329/.380 (111 OPS+), 4.9 runs per game
2nd half: .217/.310/.311 (85 OPS+), 3.6 runs per game

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Northwest League All-Stars: 1B Curtis Terry and 3B Dio Arias (starting), C Francisco Ventura, pitchers Hans Crouse and Emmanuel Clase.