Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 30 August

The Cleveland Guardians executed successful waiver claims on pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore. Cincinnati nabbed OFs Hunter Renfroe and Harrison Bader. The first four players were waived by the Angels. Bader was a Yankee.

Rosters expand to 28 tomorrow. Eligible choices from the 40-man roster are pitchers Cody Bradford, Zak Kent, Yerry Rodriguez, Alex Speas, Owen White, and Cole Winn (pitchers Grant Anderson and Jonathan Hernandez were optioned too recently to return).C Sam Huff, 1B/OF Dustin Harris, and IF Jonathan Ornelas are eligible batters. Just for fun, I gave myself the task of adding two non-40 players. Who isn’t on the 40 now who could help the Rangers most down the stretch? (I’m ignoring having to designate others to make room. Let’s just pretend we can raise the roster to 42.)Pitcher
Choices are Matt Bush, Marc Church, Kyle Cody, Antoine Kelly, Ian Kennedy, Jake Latz, and Chase Lee. 

Bush and Kennedy have plenty of MLB experience and would comfortably enter a high-pressure environment. However, both were released during 2023, not without reason. Would they be helpful? If the Rangers could answer that affirmatively, one of them would already be up, I think. Also, performing this exercise and landing on someone like Kennedy (no offense to him) is boring. Kyle Cody also has MLB experience and is in the midst of his best stretch in ages: a scoreless 15.1 innings with four walks and 11 strikeouts.

Antoine Kelly has pitched as well as any reliever in the system, especially during the past six weeks. He’s still in AA though, which gives me pause, and I also have seen the least of him in person.

Lefty Jake Latz’s recent stretch outshines Cody: just 12 scoreless innings but 18 strikeouts (a 38% rate) and four walks. He’s been the team’s primary high-leverage reliever lately, notching four saves in his last eight outings. On the downside, earlier in the season he mixed these kinds of recent performances with some really rough outings, and righties are hitting .309/.378/.489 against him.

Lee has a 32% strikeout rate, and the rest is acceptable, including good-enough control, an oppo line of .247/.336/.385, and a 3.25 ERA. At times he’s invincible. Sometimes, not so much. I think I’d put him in the same bucket as Grant Anderson. He could really befuddle hitters at times, but in the longer run there’s a limit to what he could accomplish.

If I could bring up a pitch as opposed to an entire pitcher, it would be Marc Church’s slider. 23% of all his sliders and 51% of swings against them have been strikes. On plate appearances concluding with a slider, opponents are hitting .145/.232/.194 with a 42% strikeout rate. Unfortunately, the fastball, while speedy, is the polar opposite: more walks than strikeouts and a line of .351/.493/.543, plus a 47% hard-hit rate. Alarming.

Hmm. I have changed my mind half a dozen times than on this, and part of me wants to say “eh, just pick Bush.” He is the safest pick, even though he’s not at all his former self and would be best in lower-leverage situations. But that’s no fun (no offense to him). I wish I had a better grasp on Kelly. At long last, I am going to choose the hot hand in the form of Jake Latz, who can’t be a LOOGY under current rules but could hopefully succeed against lefty-heavy portions of opposing lineups. His fastball is a steady 95, reaching 98, and he’s mixed in an effective change plus a slider and curve. Obviously, the Rangers lack a clear choice in this matter, because if the choice were clear that person would already be in Arlington.

Position Player
Choices are OF Evan Carter, IF Cam Cauley (hear me out), 1B Blaine Crim, OF Sandro Fabian, 2/3 Justin Foscue, OF Elier Hernandez, and IF Davis Wendzel.Sandro Fabian and Elier Hernandez are having terrific seasons in Round Rock, both hitting around .300 and slugging over .500. Fabian has more raw power but surprisingly fewer strikeouts. Hernandez gets the nod in defense and speed. They’re best regarded as power-oriented bat-first role players.

Blaine Crim has the best exit velo data outside of Sam Huff. He’s slightly more inclined to liners than flies, aiding a .292 average but robbing a little power, although he is slugging a hefty .505. He also has a superior plate approach, which would lead me to take him over Fabian or Hernandez even though he’s restricted to first.

Davis Wendzel has appeal as a power-hitting middle infielder. He’s as likely as anyone not named Sam Huff to aim the ball at the cheap seats. He’s also improved his miss rate. He still hits a ton of high flies, so 36% of his plate appearances end in a strikeout or gimme out.

Justin Foscue is the former first-rounder, and his plate approach bests everyone. Unfortunately he’s not hitting the ball that hard since late June (.238/.370/.366), doesn’t offer much defensively, and while he’s a clever runner, he’s not who you’d turn to in time of need.

Cam Cauley? 20-years-old-in-high-A Cam Cauley? Yes. Because he can fly on the bases.

That leaves Carter. Over and over, whenever I would identify a positive trait about one of the players listed above, I would then say “but Carter does that just as well or at least well enough and brings defense,” or “… and speed,” or “… and approach.” While I’m not sitting here thinking Carter is fully ready for MLB as of this minute, I do think he’s the most complete package. Carter can pinch-run, he can replace a weaker defender, and he’d probably offer some credible plate appearances if needed. He’s the one. An easier decision than the pitcher, thank goodness.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, at Oklahoma City (LAD) 6
Round Rock: 5 hits, 8 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 34-19, 2 G up, 78-49 overall

SP Zak Kent: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 66 P / 43 S, 1.45 ERA
RP Scott Engler: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 6.35 ERA
LF Evan Carter: 1-4, HBP
SS Davis Wendzel: 1-3, 2 BB, .239/.367/.491

Evan Carter had a soft single and two hard outs.

Zak Kent’s slider was all business on Wednesday. Of 22 thrown, 20 were strikes and seven of those were swinging.

Cole Winn’s first inning: 18 pitches, 11 strikes (5 swinging), 0 balls in play, 3 strikeouts
Cole Winn’s second inning: 34 pitches, 18 strikes (1 swinging), 7 balls in play (6 for hits), 2 walks, 0 strikeouts

The Yankees released RHP Spencer Howard, acquired at the beginning of the month from the Rangers for cash. Howard was roughed up in two of three outings for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He’ll latch on somewhere, but not at the expense of a 40 spot.

Lefty John King is doing what he does with the Cards, inducing a bunch of grounders and living with the consequences, which have been good (1.93 ERA).

Joe Barlow is having 2019-in-Nashville level troubles retiring batters in KC-affiliated Omaha: 8.49 ERA, .400/.452/.800 oppo line in 11.2 innings. Teammate Bubba Thompson is hitting .250/.357/.417 in 12 games. Up with the Royals, Taylor Hearn has eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings but an 8.22 ERA and a bunch of hard hits allowed.

And then there’s Cole Ragans. Ragans just had the best month of his life at any time and level. In six starts and 36.2 innings for the Royals, Ragans had a 1.72 ERA with nine walks and 53 strikeouts.

AA: Frisco 1, Corpus Christi (HOU) 2
Frisco: 5 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 5 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 27-26, 3 GB, 58-63 overall

SP Dane Acker: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 78 P / 48 S, 3.08 ERA
RP Justin Slaten: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 3.23 ERA
DH Liam Hicks: 1-3, BB, 2 SB (3), .275/.402/.390

Dane Acker had his best start as a professional. Two runs off Reid Birlingmair (an in-season free agent) in the 8th proved costly. Frisco put the leadoff runner aboard in the last two innings to no avail.

Hi-A: Hickory 2, at Greensboro (PIT) 6
Hickory: 8 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 35-20, 3.5 G up, 62-54 overall

SP Winston Santos: 0.2 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 3 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 29 P / 16 S, 6.46 ERA
RP Florencio Serrano: 4.1 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 5.02 ERA
RF Alejandro Osuna: 2-4, .267/.380/.394
3B Jayce Easley: 2-3, BB, .208/.364/.263

Winston Santos wasn’t pitching well but wasn’t pulled per se. After fielding a grounder, Santos lost his footing running to first, fell and banged his knee. Hopefully he’s okay, because the play was pretty comical, featuring limbs askew and the ball popping straight up from his glove as he tagged the base.

Alejandro Osuna returned from a lengthy absence. Wyatt Langford did not play.

Lo-A: rain

Two Friday.

Today’s Starters

Five Years Ago Yesterday
I attended what I thought would be my final game at the Dell Diamond with Round Rock as a Texas affiliate. The Express were certain to sign with the Astros for 2019 and beyond, leaving the Rangers the possibilities of San Antonio, Nashville, or (gulp) Fresno, the AAA affiliate of last resort since all the western clubs had secured homes elsewhere. I was fortunate to have the Rangers in town for so long. The break between Ryan and the organization occurred soon after the Rangers and Express had signed a four-year extension.

As for the game itself, OF Scott Heineman was tossed early (again!), so the understaffed squad placed reliever Tayler Scott in left for two innings, followed by catcher Tony Sanchez in his first-ever appearance on the grass. Round Rock still won 9-3.

My pictures preceding the first home game and following the last home game as a Texas affiliate: