Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 27 September

The minor league season is over, save for instructionals and the Arizona Fall League. Today concludes my daily coverage of the system. I’ll be back occasionally with some wrap-ups, 40-man/Rule 5 coverage, and other news. Thanks to those who donated (see bottom of email if still interested), and thanks to all for reading. Go Rangers.

Box Scores

AAA Pacific Coast League Championship
Round Rock 2, at Oklahoma City (LAD) 5
Round Rock loses best-of-three 0-2
Round Rock: 5 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts

SP Owen White: 4.1 IP, 8 H (2 HR), 5 R, 1 BB, 3 SO
RP Grant Anderson: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO
1B Blaine Crim: 1-4, HR
RF Sandro Fabian: 2-4

I suggested yesterday that four innings and three runs from Owen White would be acceptable. He worked four innings and allowed only two runs on a single and Jonny Deluca homer to open the second. I was out last evening and happened to check the score just after the 4th ended. Mission (as defined by me) accomplished, yes?

Unfortunately, White was not done, nor were the Dodgers. With one out, Hunter Feduccia doubled, Drew Avans singled, and Michael Busch homered the opposite way on on a 3-2 slider well outside the zone to put the Dodgers up 5-1. Had Busch taken the pitch for ball four, the bases would have been loaded with one out and the score still 2-1. Grant Anderson was warming and perhaps could have escaped the jam or at least mitigated the damage. Or maybe White himself could have allowed fewer than three more runs. Instead, the game was practically out of reach.

Round Rock’s game-defining opportunity at the plate came in the 1st. Elier Hernandez singled, and Wyatt Langford and Justin Foscue walked on a combined nine pitches. Blaine Crim then grounded into a forceout of Hernandez at the plate, and Sandro Fabian and Dustin Harris struck out. After loading the bases, OKC starter Gavin Stone missed six bats the rest of the inning, five on changeups. For the next five innings, Round Rock generated only one baserunner in the form of Blaine Crim jogging after a solo homer.  Two reached in the 7th, and Jax Biggers drove in one on a sac fly, but the Express would never seriously threaten afterwards. Ricky Vanasco retired five batters, and Wander Suero again closed out the 9th.

Round Rock was 4-16 with -59 run differential versus OKC and 85-46 with a +207 differential against everybody else.

Wyatt Langford was 0-5 with three strikeouts and four walks in the series.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 26 September

Box Scores

AAA Pacific Coast League Championship
Round Rock 3, at Oklahoma City (LAD) 8
Round Rock trails best-of-three 0-1
Round Rock: 4 hits, 7 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts

SP Robert Dugger: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 SO
RP Edwar Colina: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO
RP Triston Polley: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 SO
RP Scott Engler: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO
LF Wyatt Langford: 0-2, 3 BB, SB
3B Davis Wendzel: 2-4, 2B
RF Sandro Fabian: 2-4

I mentioned OKC’s favorable starting pitching yesterday in the preview, and it was indeed critical to yesterday’s result. In 29 starts, Round Rock’s most reliable starter Robert Dugger had failed to reach three innings only twice. Yesterday became the third. Dugger walked two and allowed four balls in play in excess of 97 MPH, all hits.

As for OKC’s Kyle Hurt, Round Rock had scored five against him in eight innings across two regular-season appearances, but on Tuesday Hurt matched his AAA-best eight strikeouts and limited the Express to a run in four innings. Hurt’s fastball hovered mostly around 96-97, and he added a highly effective changeup and a few curves.

Down 4-0 in the 4th, Davis Wendzel singled and later scored on a Sandro Fabian single. Another run came in the 5th when Wyatt Langford drew the second of his three walks, stole second, and scored on an error.

Round Rock had its best opportunity in the 6th. Wendzel began with a double and scored on another Fabian single following a Jonathan Ornelas walk. With two on and none out, the Express gained nothing more than another Langford walk, leaving the bases full. OKC catcher Hunter Feduccia rapped a solo homer off Kyle Cody in the 6th.

The 7th was a mess. With one on and one out, a hard grounder up the middle deflected off SS Ornelas’s foot (or maybe very hard off his glove) into center, ruled a hit. Then, reliever Antoine Kelly muffed a potential double-play comebacker. He retrieved the ball in time for a possible out at first but airmailed the throw. Instead of a 5-3 score heading into the 8th, OKC led 6-3 with two runners in scoring position and one out. Both runners would score on a subsequent single by leadoff hitter Drew Avans, 4-4 with a walk on the night.

The hits by Wendzel and Fabian that I mentioned were the totality of Round Rock’s batted output. The Express had one baserunner after the 6th. Ex-Ranger Ricky Vanasco threw a scoreless 8th despite throwing outside the zone on nine of 12 pitches.

Tonight, Owen White faces off against Gavin Stone, who has spent most of the last month in the Majors. Stone faced the Express three times during the regular season, twice dealing six scoreless innings in OKC and once allowing a lone run (on a Justin Foscue homer)  in 5.1 innings in Round Rock. I saw the Texas outing and had mixed feelings, as Stone had trouble with location but also induced a ton of whiffs against his changeup. Stone is good but not indomitable.

White faced the Dodgers on the road three times in August and never allowed fewer than five runs. If he can complete four innings with, say, three runs, that’ll be… okay. Fully rested bullpen members are Anderson, Bush, Church, Rodriguez, Slaten, and Speas. The roster also lists Josh Sborz on rehab.

Tonight’s broadcast is free per MiLB.tv, so everyone has a chance to watch. Or you could read a book, go for a walk, take a relaxing bath. It’s up to you.

Late news: IF Davis Wendzel was IL’ed, and IF Jax Biggers is active.

MiLB announced the AA Texas League award winners. OF Evan Carter is on the All-Star team along with LHP Antoine Kelly. The league MVP is IF Thomas Saggese, who batted .318/.385/.551 with 25 homers and 11 steals between Frisco and Springfield. Saggese was recently promoted to AAA Memphis, where he hit .207/.270/.345 in 13 games.IF Luisangel Acuna was named as a utility player.

Rangers Division Scenarios After Today’s Result

MLB eliminated single-game playoffs in case of regular-season ties, but that doesn’t make the situation any less complicated. More so, if anything, because Houston owns the tiebreak over Texas, Texas owns Seattle, and Seattle owns Houston, plus Seattle owns the three-way tiebreak, and there still a possibility that all three finish with 89 wins.

Houston is eliminated from division contention with a loss today, no matter what Texas does. Houston’s path is complicated by Texas and Seattle playing each other this weekend, meaning Houston can only gain ground on one team on any given day. The best scenario for Texas today is a win plus a Houston loss, which eliminates the Astros and reduces Seattle’s path to a four-game sweep of Texas this weekend. The worst would be a Texas loss and Houston win, which eliminates nobody and leaves a path for the Astros to claim the division without a sweep.

Best as I can tell, there are 512 potential W-L permutations between the three teams, and Texas comes out ahead in 460 (89.8%). Fangraphs gives Texas an 87% chance of winning the division.

Here’s a really confusing chart with all the paths for a non-Texas team to win the division depending on today’s results.

Playoff Preview: Round Rock vs Oklahoma City

Pacific Coast League Championship Series (best-of-three)
Round Rock Express (89-60) vs.
Dodgers-affiliated Oklahoma City Dodgers (90-58)
Season Run Differential: RR +156, OKC +149
Last 20 Games: RR 10-10, OKC 12-8
Season Series: OKC 14-4

How They Got Here
In early May, 21-11 Round Rock hosted a series against 22-11 Oklahoma City. The Dodgers won all six games, then another four straight, then eight of 12. By the end of May, the Express were 10.5 games back. OKC posted a 50-23 first-half record with the Express a strong but distant 44-30.

The second half belonged to the Express, though with far more drama. Six games out of first after a 2-4 series at OKC, Round Rock proceeded to win 14 straight and stormed to a three-game lead by the last Sunday in August. A 4-8 road trip (including another bad series against OKC) plus three straight losses to rival Las Vegas had the Express down two games with nine to play. Round Rock then closed out with a 7-2 record, 45-30 in the second half, claiming the title on the final day with a victory plus a required Reno loss.

OKC won 14 of 18 games between the two, and not by sneaking away with a bunch of one-run wins. The Dodgers nearly doubled the Express in runs scored. I don’t like to put much emphasis on head-to-head matchups, but in this case, it’s hard not to.

Texas’ AAA team is in the postseason for the first time since 2015. That squad knocked off these same Dodgers in the semifinals but lost a 2-1 series lead and the title to Houston-affiliated Fresno. Texas’ best-regular-season team in 2011 (87-57) had unfortunately lost several keys players by the playoffs and was quickly dispatched in the semis. The last champion dates back to 1996 with the Oklahoma City 89ers. As I discovered this morning, the entire title-winning game vs. Indianapolis is available on Youtube.

In eight years as a Dodgers affiliate, OKC has seven winning seasons (including four with at least 80 wins) and four playoffs appearances but no titles. I think the last title-winning AAA team for the Dodgers was the 1994 Albuquerque Dukes.
Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America
Round Rock:
2 / 1. OF Wyatt Langford (#13 overall per MLB, 8 per BA)
5 / 11. RHP Jack Leiter
6 / 5. IF Justin Foscue
8 / 4. RHP Owen White (82nd per BA)
10 / 6. 1/O Dustin Harris
19 / 26. RHP Marc Church
21 / 25. IF Jonathan Ornelas
26 / –. LHP Antoine Kelly
28 / –. RHP Cole Winn
— / 23. RHP Zak Kent

Oklahoma City:
2 / 4. IF Michael Busch (44th overall per MLB, 66 per BA)
4 / 9. RHP Nick Frasso (65th overall per MLB) (on Dev List)
5 / 3. RHP Gavin Stone (78th overall per MLB, 61 per BA)
6 / 6. OF Andy Pages (hurt)
8 / 11. RHP River Ryan
9 / 7. RHP Landon Knack (hurt)
10 / 15. IF Jorbit Vivas
12 / 12. RHP Kyle Hurt
29 / –. C Hunter Feduccia

Offense / Position Players
Round Rock Offense: 4% above average runs scored, .270/.369/.456, 106 OPS+, 106 wRC+
OKC Offense: 2% above average runs scored, .269/.370/.444, 101 OPS+, 100 wRC+
Round Rock:
C Sam Huff / Jordan Procyshen
1B Blaine Crim / Dustin Harris
2B Justin Foscue
3B Davis Wendzel
SS Jonathan Ornelas
LF Wyatt Langford
CF JP Martinez
RF Elier Hernandez
Also 2/3 Dio Arias, OF Sandro Fabian, C Matt Whatley (hurt)

Round Rock’s batting roster might be the most stable I’ve ever covered. Five players (Hernandez, Crim Foscue, Wendzel, Ornelas) reached 500 plate appearances, and another four reached 300. From 2016-2022, the total number of Texas AAA batters with at least 500 plate appearances was five.

The Pacific Coast League is ridiculously hitter-friendly. A park-adjusted league-average line for a Round Rock hitter is .264/.360/.440 compared to .251/.322/.420 for a Ranger. Even so, this is a strong, deep group lacking weaknesses. In Sunday’s must-win game, the #8 and #9 hitters were Dustin Harris (.273/.382/.455, 110 OPS+) and Dio Arias (.286/.361/.422, 96 OPS+). The only regular hitter with an OBP below .360 was Sandro Fabian, and he hit .288/.331/.523 with 23 homers. The only regular seriously lacking in power was Jonathan Ornelas (.253/.368/.359), and even he has solid power when he elevates. JP Martinez had a career year (.298/.418/.543, 38 SB).

Oklahoma City:
C Hunter Feduccia / David Freitas
1B Justin Yurchak
2B Jorbit Vivas
3B Miguel Vargas
SS Bryan Brigman
LF Ryan Ward (also 1B) / Steven Dugger
CF Drew Avans / Jonny Deluca
RF Oscar Mercado
Also 2/3/S Yonny Hernandez, 1/3 Michael Busch, OF David Dahl

The Dodgers have a pretty good offense that doesn’t quite measure up to the Express. Well-regarded Michael Busch has yet to hit much in the Majors, but after being sent back to AAA he closed the season with a nine-game hitting streak and a line of .375/.475/.750. He and Jonny Deluca (.306/.397/.548) are the only .500 sluggers. Miguel Vargas hit .288/.407/.479. The busy Ryan Ward (.234/.324/.424) had 54 extra-base hits. Yonny Hernandez, as usual, gets on base (.395 OBP). Unlike the Express, the Dodgers have some guys who don’t excel at either reaching base or hitting or power.

Pitching / Possible Rotation
Round Rock: 14% better than avg. runs allowed, .253/.347/.404 oppo line, 88 OPS+, 13% BB/HBP, 24% SO
OKC: 15% better than avg. runs allowed, .249/.337/.405, 83 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 24% SO

Round Rock:
1. Robert Dugger (4.31 ERA, .262/.335/.407 oppo line, 10% BB/HBP, 23% SO)
2: Owen White (4.99 ERA, .264/.381/.467, 16% BB/HBP, 14% SO)
3: Cole Winn (7.22 ERA, .279/.398/.462, 17% BB/HBP, 20% SO)

The rotation is not a strength. As I mentioned recently, Robert Dugger led the league in ERA among qualifiers (of whom there were few). He’s the best bet to supply five solid innings, but he’s not really a shut-down type. Owen White’s ERA is actually slightly better than league average, but the peripherals are not. Similarly, Cole Winn has been better during the second half of the season, but not good. Assuming a third game, I would expect Winn’s leash to be short. Round Rock has a zillion relief pitchers.

Yerry Rodriguez leads the club with eight saves including five in the last month, but I’m not especially enthused. He’s as good as anyone in AAA when on, but since his last MLB appearance in late July, opponents are hitting .284/.370/.469.

Matt Bush has allowed three runs in 12.2 AAA innings with one walk and 16 strikeouts. Antoine Kelly and Justin Slaten have been worthy late-season additions who could both see a high-leverage situation. Marc Church appears on the prospect lists and has a marvelous slider, but he’s been walk-prone and generally out of form for a while. Extremely erratic Daniel Robert has been great the last month, while Kyle Cody hasn’t been able to build on a nice August. Chase Lee has been on the IL for two weeks. Alex Speas can mow down a side while giving you serious heartburn.

Zak Kent threw 71 pitches Sunday, so even a Game 3 appearance would be on three days rest. Jack Leiter pitched Saturday, and I suppose he could be available in an all-hands-on-deck situation, but there’s a real risk that it wouldn’t go too well. Remember, I’m talking purely about expected performance right now, not the future.

Oklahoma City:
1: Kyle Hurt (3.33 ERA, .198/.284/.333 oppo line, 11% BB/HBP, 39% SO)
2: Gavin Stone (4.74 ERA, .226/.309/.375, 11% BB/HBP, 28% SO)
3: TBA

Hurt has spent most of the season in AA Tulsa, where he posted a so-so 4.15 ERA but struck out 110 in 65 innings. He also had a scoreless two-inning MLB debut two weeks ago. Next is Gavin Stone, who likewise gave up more runs than his peripherals would suggest. My one in-person look at Stone back in May didn’t wow me, to be honest, but on the whole (including Game 3 possibilities), OKC’s rotation appears more promising than Round Rock’s.

In relief, rehabbing Wilton Suero has 17 AAA saves with a 3.26 ERA, .178/.278/.317 oppo line, and a solid but not overwhelming 26% K rate. Also around are Bryan Hudson, a strikeout machine who might also start, a steady John Rooney, ex-Ranger Tyson Miller, and more recent ex-Ranger Ricky Vanasco. Vanasco has 5.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts in AAA. Like the Express, OKC has numerous options of varying skills and quality.

Teams tend to run less when losing, and they can’t run without baserunners. OKC somehow allowed the league’s most steals by far (214) despite the league’s best record and fewest baserunners allowed. Primary catcher Hunter Feduccia nabbed only 15% of opposing runners, so the Express have an opportunity. Conversely, Round Rock allowed the fewest steals. OKC committed more errors but was more likely to turn batted balls into outs. Notwithstanding OKC’s bizarre issues with opposing runners, the two teams have the league’s best defenses.

Park Factors
OKC – 0.98 runs, 0.93 HR

OKC’s Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark favors pitchers relative to the league, but don’t you dare call it a pitcher’s park. OKC’s close-to-average offense scored 6.0 runs per game at home, and a very good pitching staff allowed 5.2 per game.

Advantages / Outlook
Offense – Round Rock
Pitching – OKC
Defense – Round Rock, because of the running game

Neither team snuck in. Well, Round Rock did sneak in on the last day, but the Express and OKC are the best teams in the league, and either would be a worthy champion. On paper, it’s very close, even though the Dodgers thoroughly dominated the series. I suppose the advantage goes to OKC because every game will be played in their house.

Playoff Preview: Down East vs. Charleston

Carolina League Championship Series (best-of-three)
Down East Wood Ducks (66-61) vs.
Tampa Bay-affiliated Charleston Riverdogs (66-65)
Season Run Differential: Down East +32, Charleston +17
Last 20 Games: Down East 7-13, Charleston 10-10
Season Series: Charleston 7-2

How They Got Here
Down East won the first-half division title with a 37-24 record. A good number of players moved on to high-A Hickory in early summer, and the Woodies would slump to 29-37. Down East won an taut three-game division series against 72-55 Carolina; all games were decided by one run, and two went to extras.

The RiverDogs had the league’s worst first-half record (27-39) but slowly improving after a poor start, and they ran off a stretch of 31 wins in 44 games en route to a 39-26 second-half mark and a three=game advantage over Myrtle Beach, which also win the first half. Charleston then knocked off the league-best Pelicans (75-55) in three.

The teams also met in the 2021 finals, when only two teams reached the playoffs. Charleston was the class of the league but needed all five games to vanquish the Wood Ducks. Charleston also won last year’s championship. Down East won a co-championship in a hurricane-shortened 2017.
Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America
Down East:
4 / 9. RHP Brock Porter
7 / 8. OF Anthony Gutierrez (hurt?)
12 / 13. OF Yeison Morrobel (hurt)
18 / 15. IF Gleider Figuereo
20 / 18. IF Echedry Vargas (hurt)
24 / 24. 1B/OF Marcos Torres
30 / 21. IF Danyer Cueva
NR / 30. RHP Joseph Montalvo
4 / 8. IF Xavier Isaac
5 / 5. IF Brayden Taylor
9 / 18. OF Colton Ledbetter
15 / 17. RHP Santiago Suarez
17 / 12. RHP Marcus Johnson
18 / 14. RHP Trevor Martin
24 / 23. IF Carlos Colmenarez
26 / 22. 1/O Tre’ Morgan (hurt)

Offense / Position Players
Down East Offense: 3% below average runs scored, .226/.317/.336, 94 OPS+, 94 wRC+
Charleston Offense: 2% below average runs scored, .240/.332/.359, 103 OPS+, 101 wRC+

Down East:
C Ian Moller / Konnor Piotto
1B Anthony Calarco / Marcos Torres
2B Devin Hurdle
3B Gleider Figuereo
SS Danyer Cueva
LF Miguel Villarroel
CF Jojo Blackmon
RF Quincy Scott
Also OF Wady Mendez, OF Tommy Specht

Check the division series for a deeper examination of Down East’s second-half misfortune at the plate. Short version: they were bad, exceptionally so after 1-2 hitters Scott and Blackmon.

The Woodies didn’t hit well overall against Carolina (.217/.288/.274, five extra-base hits but no homers) but did in the crunch, recovering from deficits in all three games. From an observer’s perspective, counting on continuation of that success is dubious, but perhaps the series was a morale boost for the hitters.  

C Bryan Broeker / Raudells Martinez
1B Xavier Isaac
2B Cooper Kinney
3B Braden Taylor
SS Ryan Spikes
LF Cristopher Barete
CF Colton Ledbetter
RF Jhon Diaz
Also IF Odalys Peguero, IF Carlos Colmenarez,

The nine most commonly used hitters in the playoffs had an average regular-season line of .236/.329/.374. It’s a decent if unexceptional bunch on the whole, although it did score 18 in the deciding game of the division series. In the second half, they haven’t hit for a high average but have bettered Down East in terms of walks and power.   

Much of said power comes from newcomer Braden Taylor, who hit five homers and slugged .512 in 22 games. Taylor also had a monster playoff series (.417/.533/.917) Xavier Isaac follows with 10 homers and .266/.380/.462 line in 90 games. Beyond them, no playoff starter slugged .400 in the regular season. Chandler Simpson (81 SB) took one-third of the team’s stolen bases with him to Bowling Green. Barete and Spikes can run, but neither excels at reaching base.

Pitching / Possible Rotation
Down East: 9% better than avg. runs allowed, .218/.309/.327 oppo line, 89 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 27% SO
Charleston: 5% better than avg. runs allowed, .237/.324/.363, 103 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 26% SO

Down East:
1: Brayan Mendoza (3.60 ERA, .228/.322/.321 oppo line, 13% BB/HBP, 22% SO)
2. Brock Porter (2.47 ERA, .160/.304/.202, 17% BB/HBP, 32% SO)
3: Joseph Montalvo? (2.83 ERA, .211/.300/.331, 11% BB/HBP, 27% SO)

Pitcher usage generally matched my division series preview, I’m pleased to say. Porter and Montalvo started as expected, and four potential starters tossed two or more innings in the finale. Adrian Rodriguez, who had a rough second half, never appeared with a game on the line despite leading the team in saves.

Instead of Rodriguez, 2023 picks Paul Bonzagni and Izack Tiger took the mound in the 9th or later. Alberto Mota also entered in some stressful situations, although he did surrender a homer in Game 3.

19-year-old Bryan Mendoza will throw the first pitch of the series. Mendoza was a little more walk-prone down the stretch and topped out at 73 pitches, so expect one or two other pitchers who usually start to contribute today. Porter will start Game 2, and Game 3 is TBD. I listed Joseph Montalvo, who started the middle game of the division series.

Both Porter and Montalvo pitched capably last week, and Down East has plenty of additional starters and relievers who offer a good chance at multiple quality innings. To repeat myself: effective if not flashy.

1: Jonny Cuevas (4.93 ERA, .281/.348/.435, 10% BB/HBP, 17 % SO)
2: Trevor Martin (3.52 ERA, .185/.227/.305/.370, 10% BB/HBP, 29% SO)
3: Marcus Johnson (3.74 ERA, .258/.292/.413, 5% BB/HBP, 21% SO)

Charleston had the league’s best second-half run prevention by far, 3.8 runs per game or 19% better than average. The opposing OPS+ was a good-but-not-amazing 95, however, and no team stranded a higher percentage of runners, so some of that dominance has an element of luck.

The well-rested Cuevas will open for Charleston. He had a better second half than the stats listed above. Martin and Johnson pitched the first two games of the prior series. Santiago Suarez and Jake Christenson were solid starters who are likely to appear in long relief.   

The bullpen is deeper than Carolina, led by save leader Drew Sommers (2.72 ERA, 35% SO) and Gerlin Rosario (1.96 ERA, 33% SO), who pitched three scoreless innings in Charleston’s series-opening one-run win. Cade Halemanu and Jack Hartman had nice second halves.

I mentioned in the division preview that Down East might have the league’s second-best defense after Carolina. Charleston is modestly above average, less adept at converting balls in play into outs.

Park Factors
Down East – 0.97
Charleston – 1.00 (but not homer-friendly)

Advantages / Outlook
Offense – Charleston
Pitching – Down East, small margin
Defense – Down East, small margin

If you think a handicapping MLB playoff series is a fool’s errand, try the minors. The teams are closely matched, and all I can predict with even the slightest confidence is a likelihood of close, low-scoring games. As with the division series, Down East is dealing with a team that played much better in the second half. A third consecutive championship for the RiverDogs would be selfish on their part, so let’s go with the Wood Ducks.

Playoff Preview: Down East vs. Carolina

Carolina League Division Series (best-of-three)Down East Wood Ducks (66-61) vs. Milwaukee-affiliated Carolian Mudcats (72-55)

Season Run Differential: Down East +32, Carolina +88
Last 20 Games: Down East 6-14, Carolina 11-9
Season Series: Carolina 13-9

How They Got Here
Down East and Carolina battled for the first-half title, always within two games of one another until a fateful week in June in which Down East won five of six at Delmarva while Carolina was swept at home by Fayetteville. After the 39-24 first half, the Woodies were 29-37 in the second. I believe the Woodies’ second-half record of 29-37 is the worst by any playoff-bound Texas affiliate since 2007, when the low-A Clinton LumberKings finished 29-41 after a 41-26 start. 

The Mudcats would not be denied in the second half, finishing 39-25 with a four-game lead. I wasn’t paying too close of attention, but I believe they were never in serious trouble once they opened up the lead.

Down East has made the postseason in four of six seasons since joining the Carolina League in 2017. In their inaugural season, the Wood Ducks nabbed a playoff spot on the season’s final day despite a 62-77 record and won a hurricane-abbreviated high-A co-championship. In 2019, an 87-52 squad, one of the best of Texas’s minor league history, fell in the opening round to Houston’s affiliate. In the 2021 low-A finals, the Woodies took a ’27-Yankees-esque Charleston (82-38, +263 run differential) to a deciding fifth game before succumbing.

Carolina hasn’t reached the postseason since 2008 as a member of the AA Southern League, which is astonishing. Irrespective of the parent club or situation, minor league teams tend to put together a solid-enough half-season to reach the playoffs every few years. (Even the Bakersfield Blaze, every parent club’s grudging afterthought, never went more than eight years without a playoff appearance in the 1990-to-present modern era.)
Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America
Down East:
4 / 9. RHP Brock Porter
7 / 8. OF Anthony Gutierrez (hurt?)
12 / 13. OF Yeison Morrobel (hurt)
18 / 15. IF Gleider Figuereo
20 / 18. IF Echedry Vargas (hurt)
24 / 24. 1B/OF Marcos Torres
30 / 21. IF Danyer Cueva
NR / 30. RHP Joseph Montalvo

12 / 21. IF Daniel Guilarte
18 / 22. RHP Logan Henderson
19 / 23. OF Dylan O’Rae
21 / 27. IF Jadher Areinamo
22 / 16. IF Luke Adams
24 / NR. IF Juan Baez
30 / NR. OF Jace Avina
NR / 30. RHP Patricio Aquino

Offense / Position Players
Down East Offense: 4% below average runs scored, .226/.317/.336, 94 OPS+, 94 wRC+
Carolina Offense: 3% above average runs scored, .250/.348/.363, 104 OPS+, 104 wRC+

Down East:
C Ian Moller / Konnor Piotto
1B Anthony Calarco / Marcos Torres
2B Devin Hurdle
3B Glider Figuereo
SS Danyer Cueva
LF Miguel Villarroel
CF Jojo Blackmon
RF Quincy Scott
Also OF Wady Mendez, OF Tommy Specht

Over the last few weeks I’ve tried not to belabor Down East’s second-half malaise. Now, it’s labor time.

The season-long stats for Down East are lying shamelessly. Gone are Abi Ortiz, Cam Cauley, Yosy Galan, and Tucker Mitchell, drivers of a strong first-half attack. Also missing after what appeared to be a hand injury from sliding into second base is Anthony Gutierrez (.259/.326/.338, 97 OPS+). In the second half, Down East batted .216/.305/.297 (79 OPS+) and scored 3.7 runs per game, 17% below average. The aggregate line among players presumed healthy is an even lower .214/.302/.285 (74 OPS+). Only Jojo Blackmon (.254/.371/.393) and 2023 pick Quincy Scott (.376/.444/.412) were above average. The rest batted a collective .196/.282/.261. In the second half, Down East was last in runs, hits, doubles, and homers (just 22), and next-to-worst in walks and strikeouts.

C Jose Sibarian / Blayberg Diaz
1B Jesus Chirinos / Tayden Hall
2B Jadher Areinamo
3B Luke Adams
SS Gregory Barrios / Daniel Guilarte
LF Jace Avina
CF Dylan O’Rae
RF Kay-Lan Nicasia

Comparatively, Carolina has lost little to promotions or injuries. The offense had a 110 OPS+ in the second half, and seven of nine likely starters were above average. They aren’t great and more oriented to doubles than homers, but they lack glaring weaknesses.

Power sources are OF Jace Avina (.233/.372/.442, 14 HR), Luke Adams (.233/.400/.401, 11 HR), Jose Sibarian (.278/.358/.481, 9 HR), Jesus Chirinos (.291/.438/.460, 7 HR). As you can see from the OBPs, all three can also take a pitch.

Pitching / Possible Rotation
Down East: 9% better than avg. runs allowed, .218/.309/.327 oppo line, 89 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 27% SO
Carolina: 11% better than avg. runs allowed, .229/.332/.341, 93 OPS+, 14% BB/HBP, 26% SO

Down East:
1. Brock Porter (2.47 ERA, .160/.304/.202, 17% BB/HBP, 32% SO)
2: Joseph Montalvo? (2.83 ERA, .211/.300/.331, 11% BB/HBP, 27% SO)
3: So many choices

Porter is one of the league’s best pitchers when his control is under control. When not, his appearances can get out of hand. I don’t know who’s starting after him, but Montalvo seems the obvious choice, and while not as dazzling as Porter, he’s less likely to have a messy day. The Woodies have used a quasi-tandem system much of the year, and choices abound for Game 3 if needed: Dylan MacLean, DJ McCarty, Leandro Lopez, Bryan Chi, Luis Ramirez, Bryan Mendoza, perhaps some others.

Adrian Rodriguez is Down East’s save leader at nine, but he comes in with a 5.08 ERA, more walks pus HBP than strikeouts, and a .392 opposing OBP. He’s also allowed multiple runs in four of his last five outings, and I wonder if management might look elsewhere in a tight situation. The only others on the roster with a save during the second half are 2023 12th-rounder Paul Bonzagni and Alberto Mota. Skylar Hales would have been a closing option, but he was promoted to Hickory today. All of the Game 3 starting options I mentioned could also relieve, potentially in critical situations. It’s an effective if not flashy group.

1: Logan Henderson (2.75 ERA, .185/.259/.322, 9% BB/HBP, 35% SO)
2: Patricio Aquino (2.75 ERA, .244/.325/.351, 11% BB/HBP, 23% SO)
3: Will Rudy (3.46 ERA, .257/.328/.406, 10% BB/HBP, 21% SO)

Carolina suppressed runs slightly better than Down East on the whole, but they’ve lost some players, and apparently the defense played an outsized role. Tonight’s starter Logan Henderson is the standout, Carolina’s best combination of control and strikeouts. The Mudcats haven’t announced beyond the opener and were rained out the last two days, so I picked who I liked for the other games. Both have adequate control and aren’t especially easy to hit, although Rudy will give up his fair share of extra-base hits.

Closer Yerlin Rodriguez has 11 saves but is far from indomitable (.248/.382/.326, 18% BB/HBP rate), and on the whole the pen is ordinary in terms of strikeouts and control.

Carolina committed 29 fewer errors than any other team and 57 fewer than average. To be honest, my first thought was generous scorekeeping, but the Mudcats also excel at turned balls in play into outs, turning double plays, holding and catching runners, etc. They’re the best in the league. Down East might be second best, not in Carolina’s class but solid in all respects except slight error-proneness.

Park Factors
Down East – 0.97
Carolina – 1.04

Kinston’s Grainger Stadium is a low-run park in a low-run league. Five County Stadium in Zebulon favors the offense.

Advantages / Outlook
Offense – Carolina by a wide margin
Pitching – Down East
Defense – Carolina

With the caveat that anything can happen in a short series, the matchup strongly favors Carolina, and if you had to put $100 on the winner at even odds, you’d pick the Mudcats.

Playoff Preview: Hickory vs. Greenville

South Atlantic League Division Series (best-of-three)
Hickory Crawdads (70-55) vs. Boston-affiliated Greenville Drive (63-69)

Season Run Differential: Hickory +51, Greenville -44
Last 20 Games: Hickory 12-8, Greenville 7-13
Season Series: Greenville 8-7

How They Got Here
In Hickory’s case, weirdly. During the first half, the Crawdads lost 13 consecutive games but were 27-21 otherwise. They won three straight to close the first half and 12 more to open the second, opening a lead that would never dwindle below 2.5 games. Additional win streaks of seven and a season-closing six resulted in a 43-21 second-half record and 5.5-game margin.

Greenville won the first half with a reasonable 36-30 record but only a +14 run differential. The Drive had a half-game lead with three to play and lost all three, but so did railing Winston-Salem. Greenville lost six straight at the end to finish 27-39 in the second half.  

Hickory is back in the playoff for the first time in three years in the high-A classification. The Crawdads lost the low-A Sally league finals to Lexington in 2019. A game-ending homer off Tyree Thompson would be the last action by a Texas affiliate in a real game for 19 months, and Lexington would be relegated to indy status in the Great Reorganization. Hickory won the Sally in 2015.

Greenville won the league championship in 2017 but was one the worst teams in three of the next four years. The Drive also won in 1998 under the helm of current Round Rock manager Doug Davis.

Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America

3 / 3. IF Sebastian Walcott (on development list)
9 / 12. RHP Kumar Rocker (hurt)
13 / 10. IF Cam Cauley
14 / 19. 1B Abimelec Ortiz
16 / 17. RHP Aidan Curry
17 / 22. LHP Mitch Bratt
22 / 20. RHP Emiliano Teodo
23 / 27. RHP Jose Corniell
27 / NR. RHP Winston Santos
29 / NR. OF Alejandro Osuna

7 / 19. IF Mikey Romero (hurt)
10 / 7. RHP Luis Perales
21 / 16. IF Eddinson Paulino
22 / 29. RHP Yordanny Monegro
27 / NR. LHP Dalton Rogers
30 / 27. OF Allan Castro

Offense / Position Players
Hickory: 2% above average runs scored, .250/.329/.391, 96 OPS+, 97 wRC+
Greenville: 3% above average runs scored, .260/.342/.411, 103 OPS+, 105 wRC+

C Cody Freeman
1B Abi Ortiz
2B Max Acosta
3B Ben Blackwell
SS Cam Cauley
LF Yosy Galan
CF Daniel Mateo
RF Alejandro Osuna
Also IF Jayce Easley, OF Geisel Cepeda, C Cooper Johnson

Hickory had several exciting individual performers, but on the whole, the offense was surprisingly average. Abi Ortiz (.290/.363/.624) lords over the Carolinas, raking third in homers in all of minor league ball through last week. Alejandro Osuna (.259/.381/.385) returned recently, and relative newcomers Cam Cauley (.248/.336/.424) and Ben Blackwell (.290/.355/.406) have helped.

C Ronald Rosario / Kyle Teel
1B Tyler Miller
2B Brainer Bonaci
3B Karson Simas
SS Eddinson Paulino
LF Nick Decker
CF Allan Castro
RF Gilberto Jimenez
Also OF Kristian Campbell, IF Cutter Coffey, OF Bryan Gonzalez

Greenville is missing some firepower (Roman Anthony, e.g.); the active roster has a slugging percentage 25 points lower than the team as a whole. Statistical standouts are Allan Castro (.283/.355/.446), Eddinson Paulino (.257/.338/.420), and Nick Decker (.218/.325/.422).

Pitching / Possible Rotation
Hickory: 6% better than avg. runs allowed, .244/.337/.392 oppo line, 99 OPS+, 13% BB/HBP, 25% SO
Greenville: 10% worse than avg. runs allowed, .254/.335/.427, 105 OPS+, 11% BB/HBP, 27% SO

1: Jose Corniell (3.09 ERA, .208/.274/.363 oppo line, 9% BB/HBP, 27% SO)
2: Emiliano Teodo (4.52 ERA, .231/.337/.410, 14%  BB/HBP, 21% SO)
3: Winston Santos (6.29 ERA, .295/.360/.500, .10% BB/HBP, 20% SO)

Corniell emerged as the staff ace. Teodo is wildly erractic and erratically wild, but he was on more often than not down the stretch and is the team’s most dominant pitcher when in form. Santos had a tough year, and I’d expect someone (perhaps Mitch Bratt) to be ready at the first sign of trouble.

Hickory’s 19 second-half saves were spread amongst 12 pitchers, with hard-to-hit but walk-prone Seth Clark (1.78 ERA) earning a small plurality of chances. Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa should see a high-leverage inning or two. The bullpen as a whole is okay and misses plenty of bats, but everyone has a weakness, usually wildness.

1: Zach Penrod (2.18 ERA, .205/.303/.256, 12% BB/HBP, 22% SO)
2: Yordanny Monegro (1.80 ERA, .222/.317/.333, 12% BB/HBP, 32% SO)
3: Luis Perales (4.95 ERA, .275/.371/.493, 14% BB/HBP, 26% SO)

Penrod was an undrafted free agent out of Idaho who pitched for the Rangers in 2018. Boston grabbed him out of the indy Pioneer League only last month. Monegro joined the team only 11 days ago after throttling low-A (2.43 ERA, 34% SO). Perales jumped from low-A in mid-July and saw his homer rate skyrocket.

Greenville hasn’t had many leads to protect lately, but Felix Cepeda has four second-half saves since joining in mid-July, holding opponents to a .152/.219/.242 with a 28% K rate. Beyond him, Brock Bell, and Robert Kwiatkowski, the bullpen looks distressingly thin.

Hickory is so-so on turning double plays and holding runners but solid in other respects. Greenville committed more errors (although they were fine at turning batted balls into outs ), didn’t stifle runners as well, surrendered more wild pitches and passed balls. Roughly, I’d put Hickory in the top third of the league and Greenville in the bottom third.

Park Factor
Hickory — 1.00
Greeneville – 1.01

Advantages / Outlook
Offense – Even
Pitching – Hickory
Defense – Hickory

Hickory doesn’t grade out quite as well statistically as you might expect given the exceptional second-half record, but the Crawdads have several advantages over the Drive and are more likely to advance to the finals.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 10 September

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 14, at El Paso (SDP) 4
Round Rock: 11 hits, 12 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 38-25, 1 G up, 82-55 overall

SP Kyle Cody: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 39 P / 24 S, 5.03 ERA
RP Alex Speas: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 4.24 ERA
1B Dustin Harris: 2-4, HR (7), 2 BB, .273/.389/.440
SS Davis Wendzel: 2-4, 2 BB, .234/.364/.467
DH Dio Arias: 1-3, 2 BB, HBP, .280/.356/.420
2B Jax Biggers: 2-5, BB, .364/.481/.364
C Matt Whatley: 1-4, HR (6), 2 BB, .207/.300/.336

The Express split the series and reclaimed sole possession of 1st with a trouncing of El Paso. Opposing starter Glenn Otto, lost by Texas on waivers, opened his San Diego career with one of his worst outings, watching two reach on errors and following with a wild pitch, three walks, and a grand slam surrendered to Matt Whatley, who caught Otto’s last appearance with the Express.

Fernery Ozuna (0.2 IP), Jake Latz (0.2), Matt Bush (1), and Alex Speas (1) held El Paso scoreless.

This week, the Express host Las Vegas (one game back) followed by a season-ending trip to Tacoma (three back). Round Rock needs to win nine of 12 to become Texas’s best-ever AAA squad.

AA: Frisco 11, NW Arkansas (KAN) 2
Frisco: 14 hits, 8 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Record: 31-32, 62-69 overall, eliminated

SP Nick Krauth: 7.1 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 2 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, 94 P / 66 S, 5.56 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 4.24 ERA
SS Keyber Rodriguez: 1-4, HR (3), .236/.327/.386
LF Wyatt Langford: 2-4, 2B, BB, .300/.444/.450
DH Liam Hicks: 2-4, BB, .271/.402/.377
CF Kellen Strahm: 2-4, BB, .245/.356/.336
2B Devin Hurdle: 3-5, 2B, SB (1)

Frisco can’t win the division, or reach .500 for the season, or ruin the season for upcoming Amarillo (five games up with six to play), but they can… I don’t know what they can do. They had one of their best all-around games of the season last night, so that’s pretty good.

In a fantasy-oriented article, Baseball America had the following to say about Wyatt Langford: “Amongst hitters in Hi-A w/ barrel% above 20%, no one has a higher contact% than Langford & he does it while chasing less than all but 5% of Hi-A hitters. This is an elite data profile and there is a high likelihood that I would select him over Crews.”

Undrafted free agent Devin Hurdle, just promoted from Down East, had a swell debut.

Hi-A: Hickory 14, Winston-Salem (CHW) 6
Hickory: 9 hits, 9 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts

Regular Season Over
First half: 27-34, 6.5 GB, 5th of 6 teams
Second half: 43-21, +5.5 G, division champion
Overall: 70-55, +1.5 G, best record in league

SP Winston Santos: 2 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 38 P / 25 S, 6.29 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 4.00 ERA
RP Yohanse Morel: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2.49 ERA
1B Abi Ortiz: 0-2, 3 BB, .290/.363/.624
2B Max Acosta: 2-4, BB, .260/.312/.390
3B Cody Freeman: 1-4, HR (12), BB, .236/.304/.403
LF Yosy Galan: 2-4, 2B, .247/.296/.456

Hickory celebrated its second-half crown in fine fashion. Dash starter Norge Vera affirmed his terrible control by walking five of six batters, after which Yosy Galan doubled and Cooper Johnson homered to pin a 7 on the board.

I’ll have a playoff preview tomorrow.

Lo-A: Down East 0, Augusta (ATL) 8
Down East: 4 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 6 walks, 10 strikeouts

Regular Season Over
First half: 37-24, +5 G, division champion
Second half: 29-37, 11 GB, 4th of 6 teams
Overall: 66-61, 6 GB, 2nd of 6 teams

SP Luis Ramirez: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 3 SO, 42 P / 25 S, 4.03 ERA
RP Paul Bonzagni: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 2.61 ERA
CF Wady Mendez: 1-2, BB

Let’s just leave this one alone.

As with Hickory, I’ll have a playoff preview tomorrow.

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Spokane lost Game 2 of the Northwest League finals 4-0. Eugene scored three in the 1st off Yerry Rodriguez (4.2 IP, 1 BB, 7 SO) and coasted. Julio P. Martinez was 2-4. Spokane’s season would end the next day. It was a doozy.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 9 September

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, at El Paso (SDP) 3
Round Rock: 9 hits, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Record: 37-25, tied for first, 81-55 overall

SP Owen White: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 87 P / 53 S, 4.70 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 2.79 ERA
1B Blaine Crim: 1-3, 2 BB, .285/.387/.488
LF Dustin Harris: 2-5, .268/.382/.424

Round Rock batted around in the 10th, aided by timely first first hits of the night from Blaine Crim, Dio Arias, and Elier Hernandez. Owen White’s data wasn’t any better than usual — more walks/HBPs than strikeouts, three whiffs out of 40 swings — but in El Paso, a run in six innings on fewer than 15 pitches per inning earns a gold star regardless.

AA: Frisco 4, NW Arkansas (KAN) 7
Frisco: 6 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 10 hits, 7 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 30-32, 8 GB, 61-69 overall, eliminated

SP Jack Leiter: 5 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 75 P / 49 S, 5.17 ERA
LF Wyatt Langford: 2-4, 2B, BB, .250/.409/.375

Jack Leiter pitched well again. Both runs came in the 1st. After a two-out walk, Leiter’s centered first-pith fastball to Cayden Wallace rocketed the other direction over Wyatt Langford’s head and into the stands. Leiter also walked the leadoff in the 2nd, but afterward he retired 12 of 13. I haven’t seen much of it because MiLB.tv is balky this morning.

Langford hit another double that looked no more than a single off the bat. His firm shot to right-center was cut off, but Langford raced into second to beat the return throw.

Four runs by the Naturals in the 9th resulted in a third straight loss, elimination of Frisco’s minuscule playoff hopes, and certainly of a sub-.500 overall record. The Riders were in first at 22-15 on August 11th but are 8-17 since.

Hi-A: wet

Good of Hickory to clinch the division early, preventing the need to make up an earlier rainout plus tonight’s game. This won’t be rescheduled, and they’ll try to fit today’s 1pm contest in before late-afternoon showers arrive.

Lo-A: Down East 3, Augusta (ATL) 6
Down East: 9 hits, 3 walks, 19 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 5 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 29-36, 66-60 overall

SP Brayan Mendoza: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 67 P / 37 S, 3.60 ERA
RP Damian Mendoza: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 4.83 ERA
RP Alberto Mota: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 4.97 ERA
RF Quincy Scott: 2-4, BB, .383/.453/.420
3B Gleider Figuereo: 2-4, SB (8), .220/.300/.323
2B Chandler Pollard: 1-3, BB, SB (1)

Texas promoted IF Chandler Pollard to Down East from the rookie complex. The roster lists 32 active players (two more than allowed) plus three on the temporary inactive or development list. Not suggesting any chicanery, just more transactions than I or perhaps even the Rangers can track. It’s late in the season and we’re all just trying to get by. Combined with the team’s second-half offensive slumber, Tuesday’s playoff preview will be one of the strangest I’ve written. Per Friday’s box, Quincy Scott was replaced mid-at-bat due to injury, but he returned today.

Today’s Starters
AA: Krauth
Hi-A: TBA (final regular season game)
Lo-A: TBA (same)

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Spokane lost the opener of the Northwest League championship 3-2 to Eugene. JP Martinez and Dio Arias homered, and Scott Engler allowed two run in five innings. A two-out, two-strike homer by Eugene in the 8th off Jesus Linarez provided the difference.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 8 September

Hickory has won the second-half division title in the South Atlantic League.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, at El Paso (SDP) 4
Round Rock: 4 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 2 walks, 15 strikeouts
Record: 36-25, tied for first, 80-55 overall

SP Robert Dugger: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 SO, 90 P / 54 S, 4.34 ERA
RP Jonathan Hernandez: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 1.16 ERA
RP Antoine Kelly: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 1-3, HR (8), BB, .250/.364/.359
C Matt Whatley: 1-4, HR (5), .206/.293/.322

Jurickson Profar was called up by the Pads and can no longer pester the Express, but Daniel Johnson walked the Chihuahuas off victorious with a 9th-inning homer. For the first time in three weeks, Round Rock does not stand alone atop the PCL.

Antoine Kelly made his AAA debut. His fastball averaged 97 and topped at 98, and the slider ranged from 83 to 87. Including last night, Kelly has allowed one earned run (and six unearned, a few of them extra-inning gift-runners) in his last 30.2 innings over 27 appearances. There’s almost always a little luck involved in such a streak, but Kelly has five walks and 41 strikeouts over that span. He’s been dealing. When Texas acquired him last summer for Matt Bush, his 40 placement seemed assured, but his already worrisome control collapsed, and he slid through the Rule 5 draft unclaimed. This year, the control is much-improved. Adding relief prospects to the 40 is always tricky. If teams protected every reliever with a decent shot, they’d run out of space in a hurry.

AA: Frisco 3, NW Arkansas (KAN) 6
Frisco: 6 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts
Record: 30-31, 7 GB, 61-68 overall, elimination number 2

SP Ryan Garcia: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 8 SO, 80 P / 53 S, 6.92 ERA
RP Justin Slaten: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 3.16 ERA
1B Liam Hicks: 2-3, BB, .271/.399/.376
LF Aaron Zavala: 1-3, BB, .199/.352/.288

Wyatt Langford walked twice in four trips to the plate.

Hi-A: Hickory 6, Winston-Salem (CHW) 2
Hickory: 12 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts

SP Mitch Bratt: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 40 P / 29 S, 3.54 ERA
RP Jackson Leath: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 1.02 ERA
RP Seth Clark: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2.53 ERA
1B Abi Ortiz: 1-3, HR (26), BB, .292/.360/.628
LF Geisel Cepeda: 1-3, 2B, BB, .268/.343/.344
CF Daniel Mateo: 2-4, SB (30), .259/.274/.406
2B Ben Blackwell: 3-3, BB, .290/.355/.406Resuming in the 4th after yesterday’s suspension, Hickory couldn’t add to six early runs but didn’t need to. The Crawdads have clinched the second-half title and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2019, when they lost in the finals as Texas’s low-A affiliate. Abimelec Ortiz hit his 33rd homer (including seven at Down East).

Hi-A: Hickory 4, Winston-Salem (CHW) 0 (7)
Hickory: 6 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 2 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Record: 42-21, 5 G up, 69-55 overall

SP Jose Corniell: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 6 P / 6 S, 3.09 ERA
RP Emiliano Teodo: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 6 SO, 4.52 ERA
RP Larson Kindreich: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 5.14 ERA
DH Alejandro Osuna: 1-2, BB, .262/.380/.389
3B Cody Freeman: 2-2, HR (11), BB, .236/.303/.397

Hickory would appear to be lining up Jose Corniell for a Game 1 start. Corniell had an outstanding regular season, aiding Down East’s first-half division title and joining Hickory just before the start of the second half.
Corniell will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft unless added to the 40. He falls into that always troublesome group of young international players who aren’t ready for MLB but are probably too risky to leave unprotected. This year’s group is especially difficult, as they signed in 2019 and probably didn’t play in real games that year, but then they missed 2020 to covid, so they’ve got far less real-game experience than usual.

Lo-A: Down East 2, Augusta (ATL) 5
Down East: 6 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 29-35, 10 GB, 66-59 overall

SP David Davallilo: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 SO, 63 P / 50 S, 1.93 ERA
RP Skylar Hales: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.16 ERA
DH Konnor Piotto: 2-3, BB, SB (7), .263/.358/.356
3B Gleider Figuereo: 2-3, BB, .217/.298/.321

20-year-old David Davallilo had a creditable low-A debut. For the season, mostly at the rookie complex, Davallilo fanned 27 versus just four walks in 23.2 innings. 2023 4th-rounder Skylar Hales, Texas’s top non-Langford pick, finished his 2023 regular season (I presume) with a 2.16 ERA, two walks and seven strikeouts in 8.1 low-A innings.

Today’s Starters
AAA: White
AA: Krauth