Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 30 March

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 8, Sugar Land (HOU) 6
Round Rock: 15 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 1-1, tied for first

SP Michael Lorenzen: 2.2 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 3 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 50 P / 34 S, 10.13 ERA
RP Jack Leiter: 5 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 3.60 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 9.00 ERA
2B Justin Foscue: 2-5
3B Davis Wendzel: 1-4, HR (1), BB
LF Dustin Harris: 2-4, SB (1)
RF Trevor Hauver: 2-4, 2B
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 4-4, HR (1)

Jack Leiter has a couple of outings that are statistically superior, but I’m here to tell you that last night was his best performance as a professional. Certainly, I’ve never seen him look more comfortable. So many of his nights have involved such struggle just to get by, with him seemingly having to recalibrate mentally and physically before every pitch. Last night, he made a difficult task look easy. 

Leiter fanned nine of 17 batters and missed 11 bats out of 33 swings. Yet what impressed me most is not that he simply blew the ball by people. Six of his nine strikeouts were looking, five of those on fastballs. He consistently got ahead, and instead of snapping off a slider as might be expected, he usually dealt another fastball, very consistently inside lefties and outside to righties. Sugar Land didn’t catch on. Across his 3rd and 4th innings, four consecutive batters stared dully at fastballs for strike three.

Leiter has always missed bats, and the Space Cowboys* swung through several elevated fastballs and diving sliders. But for him to succeed repeatedly with location is another matter.

Sugar Land finally did catch on in his final inning. He wasn’t quite so sharp. He retired two of the first three batters but needed seven pitches for each out. Then, on an 0-2 count to lefty slugger Joey Loperfino, Leiter again turned to the inside fastball. Loperfino sent it 420 feet the other direction. Leiter then worked another seven-pitch out culminating with Trey Cabbage’s swing through a high fastball.

Leiter’s fastball reached over 22 inches of induced vertical break on three occasions. That is truly elite, particularly for pitches thrown 96-97 MPH. In case that term is alien to you, for purposes of judging four-seamers, it represents the apparent ability to rise, and to the extent the ball differentiates itself from the average fastball, it is often harder to hit.

Leiter’s less frequent curve was most effective as a first-pitch strike-stealer, and one change (deemed a sinker by Statcast, but I think not) resulted in a groundout.

I have to provide the caveat that it’s just one night. If he belly-flops his next outing, we’ve got a different discussion.  But last night, living in the moment, I hadn’t been that excited since he was drafted. I’ll have video later. The Express have video now.

Michael Lorenzen didn’t have an attractive line, but for what was essentially a Spring Training start, he was fine. The velocity was typical. I didn’t see anything to worry about.

Unfortunately, Marc Church was closer to the 2023 version than the one who nearly claimed a bullpen job in Arlington to start the season. Called to protect a three-run lead in the 9th, he missed on seven of his first nine pitches, and three balls in play afterward were medium-hard or worse. With what already might be the defensive play of the season, CF Elier Hernandez pulled back what would have been a game-tying homer. Please watch.

I whined Saturday about Jonathan Ornelas continuing 2023’s trend of hard but fruitless grounders. Last night, he added three more balls in play of at least 100 MPH. All airborne this time, all hits, including a two-run homer.

* (that’s their actual name, not something I made up)

Sean Bass of the Ticket, Michael Tepid and I has resumed podcasting. Links to our first episode of the season are in my signature.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Adrian Sampson