Rangers Farm Report: Days 2 and 3 in Surprise

I watched the AA/AAA squads, as the lower levels were at Milwaukee’s complex near central Phoenix, and I wasn’t in the mood for that drive.

Consensus #3 Texas and top-100 overall prospect Sebastian Walcott (video) rewarded me with a stellar day: a single, double, walk, and two steals in five trips to the plate. Both hits were lined to left-center, the double gapping the outfielders and reaching the fence with serious haste. Walcott struck out again against a slider-heavy approach, but he also laid off a few to draw a walk. In addition to the steals, Walcott raced from first to third on an Anthony Gutierrez hit and beat the throw.

Walcott played with the AA group. Note that assignment to a particular team in intersquads doesn’t foretell where the player will be assigned next week. Among Monday’s lineup, only catcher Scott Kapers had significant AA experience, and I expect most of the starting nine to be at a lower level to start the season.  

Walcott shifted to third base in favor of Cam Cauley. 21 as of last month, Cauley (video) smacked a homer to the opposite field. Yes, we’re in Arizona, but he had the necessary oomph regardless. Cauley has much more power than his 5’10”, 170-lb. frame would leave you to believe. He also strikes out nearly a third of the time (and 44% in an admittedly aggressive Arizona Fall League stint), something to watch as he climbs the ladder. Cauley added an infield single. After sharing splitting short and second with Max Acosta in 2022, he spent about 80% of his time at short last year.

CF Anthony Gutierrez (video) grounded up the middle for a single and hit a fly that seemed promising off the bat but didn’t carry. He also snagged a deep fly with his back to the plate.

RHP Skylar Hales (video), 2023 4th-rounder, very likely Major Leaguer. The stuff will play, certainly. Hales’ fastball ran 96-98 but has touched 100 previously. Irrespective of top speed, it also has serious rise and run. Hales adds a tight slider at 85-86. The delivery is short and funky. With the bases empty, he starts his motion fairly slowly, but then the ball rockets out from just over his right shoulder. In 2023, Hales pitched a handful of innings at the complex and Down East before concluding with two scoreless innings and four strikeouts during High-A Hickory’s playoff series. A concern with someone like Hales is control, and he did walk and hit a batter in two innings, but the results in real games have been stellar so far. He walked or hit only two of 46 batters last year, and 6% of his opponents in his final college season.

Converted outfielder DJ Peters (video) offered a 93-95 fastball with intermittently impressive run and 79-81 slider with well-above-average sweep. In his first attempt at pitching with the Tigers last year, Peters had truly dreadful control, but yesterday’s strike-throwing seemed no worse than adequate.

Pictures from Monday and Tuesday are here.

Echedry Vargas (video) drew an elongated walk to start the low-A contest and added a single and two doubles, one a laser to right, the other a medium grounder just inside the 3B line. The first double would have been a triple had not runner Yeremy Cabrera hesitated on whether the RF would have a chance. Vargas isn’t an imposing specimen but sure swings hard. He led the complex league last year with 11 homers, 27 extra-base hits, and 112 total bases on hits while moving between short, second, and third. Vargas played second yesterday. I didn’t get a good look at his arm. He botched an easy grounder (might have been a slightly bad hop) but otherwise looked very comfortable at the position. He turned 19 last month and I expect will be headed to low-A Down East and earning plenty of coverage from yours truly.

Brock Porter didn’t have a good day. I’ve provided video out of a sense of duty, but you’d be better off spending a minute or two meditating or thinking about what you want for dinner instead. Some individual pitches were dandy, but on the whole he had poor control, leading to a bunch of lengthy, labored duels even when successful. In the 1st, a hard fly missed being a homer by perhaps two feet, and the next batter was thwarted by LF Edgar Basabe’s catch up against the fence. Porter then walked the next two, and the inning was rolled.* His second and final inning was quicker although marked by another walk. Porter is a promising pitcher but has some days where it’s just not happening, and Tuesday was one.

As a 19-year-old in low-A, OF Yeison Morrobel’s season was nasty, brutish, and short. A shoulder injury ended his campaign in early June, but before then Morrobel (video) somehow slugged only .313 with three extra-base hits, a drastic decline from his rookie season. Best as I can tell, Morrobel decided every day last winter was leg day, arm day, ab day, and everything else day. He’s pretty cut. If he slugs .313 again I’ll eat my Myrtle Beach cap. Morrobel drew a walk the same inning as Vargas off control-averse Seattle prospect Brandyn Garcia (TAMU alum) and later tripled to center.

1B Arturo Disla (video) was born in the Dominican Republic but played college ball at Wayland Baptist in Plainview. Signed as a free agent, Disla returned to the DR to bat .274/.416/.468 in 19 Summer League games. He homered late. Disla is listed at 240 but I have my doubts. He’s also as much a “have bat, will travel” prospect as you’ll find.

IF Max Acosta has two triples in 218 full-season games. He hit two on Tuesday. Honestly, the first stat is the greater surprise, as Acosta has a combination of some pop (11 homers last year) and speed (26 steals) to suggest three-baggers should be more frequent. Acosta has produced two decent seasons at the lower levels, but Cauley has surpassed his prospect status, and whenever they’re on the same squad, I’d expect Cauley to receive a higher proportion of the starts at short.

* For those unfamiliar, in intersquad games coaches have the right to terminate the inning when the pitch count reaches an excessive level, and the yelled phrase is “roll it!” Occasionally, a pitcher will try to get a fourth out of an inning if the first three proceed too quickly, and sometimes a batter hit by a pitch will stay in the box.

Philly optioned LHP Kolby Allard to AAA. He’d signed a Major League deal with the Phils after Atlanta declined to offer a contract.