Reintroduction / Rangers Farm Report

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Welcome to (tries to think of a clever name, fails) the Lucas Report!*

If you’ve been receiving these reports over the years, nothing for you should change. I still plan to email daily reports during the season and intermittent updates in other months. Really, the only difference between now and the previous report is the name change and a different email service. I’ve archived reports at the past two seasons.

I’d considered starting a new subscriber list from scratch but decided instead to port the existing list** to the new site. I hope I’ve correctly discerned that if you hadn’t unsubscribed during Jamey’s six-year stint at The Athletic, you’re willing to keep following. If not, unsubscribing is easy: just click the “unsubscribe” text at the bottom of this email and then confirm in a separate email that you’ll receive. Or just email me and I’ll remove you from the list once I stop crying.

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And now, a report.

Rangers in the Top 100
Six publications I follow or subscribe to (Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, ESPN) have published their top-100 prospect lists. Below are the ranges of Texas players on their lists:

OF Wyatt Langford – high of #2, low of #6, median 4.5
OF Evan Carter – high of #4, low of #12, median 5.5
IF Sebastian Walcott – high of #40, low of #91, median 62.5
RHP Brock Porter — #88 on one list (MLB Pipeline)

Would you choose Carter or Langford? Fortunately, if you’re a Rangers fan, you get cake and ice cream for dessert and won’t gain a pound. But if you had to pick one? Not easy. Four of six publications rank Langford higher, but except for one case, they’re pretty much #1 and #1A relative to each other.

Despite his .573 slugging percentage in 122 MLB at-bats (including playoffs), the limiting factor on Carter is probably power. Still, he doesn’t turn 22 until August and has already established a reasonable floor of “average MLB regular.”  He could be an elite leadoff hitter (complicated by the presence of Marcus Semien, but let’s leave that for another time).

Texas lucked into the 4th pick in the 2023 draft and might have lucked into the best player. Langford could be a star. He’s probably good enough to play in the Majors today, although (pending Cactus League results) I wouldn’t automatically deem a spell in AAA a cynical ploy to game his eventual free-agent status. Some time in the minors might not hurt, particularly on defense, which drew some alarming pre-draft reviews despite strong tools. (Not that I got a lengthy look, but what I saw in the minors didn’t frighten me.) Getting Langford instead of Max Clark, who may well be a terrific Major Leaguer but not for a while, was a sudden tailwind for the franchise.

Some years ago, I would have taken Lewis Brinson into my house and raised him as a son. Now, I try to be more circumspect about young, ultra-toolsy players. Meet Sebastian Walcott. As a 17-year-old, Walcott introduced himself to America with a 13-game hit streak in the complex league, then struck out at a 58% (!) rate over his next eight games, then found a middle ground. Arizona is such a wacky, high-variance environment I wouldn’t worry too much about last year’s strikeouts, but I am looking forward to how he adapts to what will probably be a heavy dose of breaking pitches in A ball.    

Brock Porter snuck onto MLB’s top 100. The good news is “can he learn a changeup” isn’t a question that applies to him like so many would-be starters. The bad is his control varied from adequate to cataclysmic. Both his Opening Day start and final playoff start resulted in a first-inning departure. Overall, though, he maintained his high status.

International Signings
Notable players signed by the Rangers last month (rankings by MLB and FanGraphs are part of their top 50 prospects, Baseball America ranked in order of expected bonus):

OF Paulino Santana (#2 MLB, #30 FanGraphs, #29 Baseball America) – BA bestowed a “trending up” arrow on Santana, indicating he’d rank higher than 29th on perception of pure talent. Highly favorable reports including the possibility of enough power to play a corner if shortstop doesn’t work out.

SS Curley Martha (#29 MLB, #48 BA) – Curley from Curacao, a star at the 2019 Little League World Series.

Also SS Yolfran Castillo (#46 MLB, #62 BA), SS Nathaniel Palacios (#83 BA), SS Daniel Flames (#84 BA), and IF Joaquin Arias Jr.

Minor Signings
LHP Danny Duffy – Duffy spent most of his Age-34 season with AA Frisco. Injuries have limited him to just over 100 innings the last three seasons.

RHP Jose Urena – The 32-year-old was under contract to Colorado, Washington, and the White Sox last year. That alone should tell you how his season went. He recovered somewhat with the Sox, and as depth starters go, he’s okay. Last year he threw a mid-90s fastball, sinker, slider, and change in nearly equal proportions.

RHP Adrian Sampson – Since his release from the Rangers after 2019, Sampson spent a year in Korea followed by three with the Cubs, the earliest two of which were fairly productive.

RHP Austin Pruitt – Now 34, the ex-A Pruitt leans heavily on a slider that doesn’t miss many bats but manages to limit damage. Opponents hit .243/.291/.370 with a 6% walk rate last year.

LHP Chasen Shreve – 4.63 ERA in 44.2 relief innings with Detroit and Cincy last year. Peripherals were slightly better. Opponents have tagged his low-90s fastball lately, but his splitter and slider have been fairly effective.

LHP Blake Taylor – Fairly successful if often control-averse in three seasons with the Astros. He spent all of last year in AAA and offered a 90-93 fastball and 83ish slider against Round Rock. Released by Houston last August.

RHP Jonathan Holder – The 30-year-old last pitched in the bigs in 2020, and he spent last year with the Angels’ AAA affiliate in Salt Lake. The fastball reaches 95, and his repertoire is especially broad for a reliever.

RHP DJ Peters – Former Ranger, former Lotte Giant, former outfielder. He pitched for Detroit’s rookie squad last year. According to Statcast he throws five pitches, but his wildness might have broken Statcast’s pitch-categorization algorithm. Peters walked or plunked 30% of his opponents and tacked on 19 wild pitches in just 21.2 innings. His fastball reaches 95, and the slider has serious bend.

RHP Braden Shipley – Arizona’s top pick from 2013 hasn’t appeared in MLB since 2018. He spent 2022 with Seattle’s AA squad but didn’t take the mound last year.

RHP Steven Jennings – 2017’s 42nd-overall pick has spent most of the past three seasons as an AA reliever.

1B/OF Jared Walsh – The Angels non-tendered the 30-year-old after an injury-hampered .125/.216/.279 in 39 games that followed a subpar 2022. Should he recapture some of his dandy 2021 form, Texas conceivably has a DH/substitute 1B.

IF Matt Duffy – His second stint as a Ranger, and with Josh Jung out, a decent chance at a more memorable stay than the first. Texas signed him prior to 2020, but with no minor league games to be played, he was released that June. The semi-versatile Duffy (third, second, first, a little short and left) had a nice 2021 with the Cubs while hovering around replacement level the past two years.

C Jose Godoy – Texas is his eighth organization since late 2020. He can handle AAA pitching well enough but seemingly ranks behind both Sam Huff and Andrew Knapp on the minor league depth chart.

IF Alex De Goti – De Goti batted .180/.333/.276 between AAA Jacksonville and St. Paul last year. He’s better than that and has the advantage of shortstop proficiency over Duffy. De Goti earned a shot of espresso with the Stros in 2021.

OF Zion Bannister – One of Texas’s pricier 2019 signings, Bannister was well-regarded but never hit especially well at any level. He spent some of 2023 filling the “we need a guy” role in Frisco and Round Rock.

LHP Josh Smith – The original Josh Smith, drafted in 2018’s 25th round three years before the arrival of the other Smith in the Joey Gallo trade. Hurt nearly all of 2023.

RHP Gerardo Carrillo – Signed as a minor league free agent under two months ago, injured most of past three seasons.

Also, RHP Matt Brosky (2022 8th-rounder), 1B Anthony Calarco (2023 American free agent), IF Frandy Almonte (2021 int’l free agent), RHP Eury Rosado (2019 int’l free agent)

IF Ryan Dorow – Texas’s 2017 30th-rounder missed all of last season with a shoulder injury suffered in a spring game. He’d become a free agent and re-signed. In 2021, Dorow batted .255/.333/.461 in 102 games among Frisco and Round Rock. That August, he became a Major Leaguer, joining the Rangers briefly under special covid rules that permitted placement and removal form the 40-man roster without going through the waiver process. Dorow played in three games, drawing a walk in seven trips to the plate.

Elsewhere – Minor Signings
LHP Ronald Guzman, Orioles (no longer in a dual role)
IF Jurdrick Profar (younger brother of Jurickson and Juremi), White Sox
IF Nick Solak, M’s
RHP Joe Barlow, White Sox
RHP Carl Edwards Jr., Cubs
RHP Hans Crouse, Angels
OF Willie Calhoun, Angels

IF Rougned Odor signed with Japan’s Yomuiri Giants. And poor Bubba Thompson was designated for assignment for the fifth time in six months and the third time in a six-week period. He’s a Cincinnati Red, again.

Per Baseball America, the rookie complex season will begin in early May and conclude in late July, mere days after the summer draft. Since the lost season of 2020, the league has evolved into more of a graduate-level Dominican Summer League, and the new schedule should cement this change. Since the Great Reorganization of 2021, fewer draft picks are playing real games in their initial seasons (especially pitchers), but of those that do, more are reaching a full-season level. During 2017-2019, 51% of Rangers’ playing time came from draft picks or undrafted free agents subject to US rules. During 2021-2023, that percentage dropped to 33%. Conversely, appearances by international free agents increased from 45% to 61%. (The small remainder consisted of more experienced players on rehab.)

2021 also instituted a cap on the number of domestic minor leaguers under contract, and in 2024 the number of in-season players will decrease from 180 to 165. The minors have their own 60-day Injured List, and players on that list don’t count against the total, but the cat-herding exercise of keeping every squad fully staffed will be harder than ever. In 2019, nine MLB clubs fielded multiple rookie-level squads. Last year, only two. In 2024, I don’t see how an extra squad is possible.

I didn’t notice an obvious change in Texas’s offseason habits; as ever, they’ve signed more players than they could possibly stash in AAA, and cuts will come. On the opposite side, however, some former Rangers farmhands who I expected to find employment by now have not.

* My previous blog was called The Ranger Rundown, and while the Rangers never gave me any trouble, I decided against having the team name in my title. Plus, a podcaster asked me permission to use that title since I hadn’t in several years, and I said fine. My wife suggested Lucas Lowdown, which isn’t bad. Ultimately, I settled on the simple and clean Lucas Report. I won’t have to type “Scott Lucas of [Name of Blog].”

**I surely can’t complain about the original Newberg Minor League Report listserv, as it’s handled tens of thousands of subscribers ably over the years, but it’s acted increasingly flaky recently, with some folks not receiving reports or getting unsubscribed for unknown reasons. Regardless, I’m eternally grateful to Jamey Newberg for letting me continue to use the listserv during his time at The Athletic (and maybe using it again temporarily if I encounter difficulties with the new setup).