Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 12 April

PCL umpire James Jean, who called the plate in Round Rock last night, would make a fine replacement for Angel Hernandez. I would love to know the accuracy scores of AAA umps versus the worst in in the Majors. One interesting aspect of the challenge system is confirmation that most umps are quite good at their jobs. A sizable percentage of overturned calls are close enough to justify the ump’s decision. Very few are embarrassing. I’ve never seen an overturned call on a “strike” six inches off the plate. I’m very strongly in favor of automated calls in the Majors, but not because I think most umps are incompetent. And while I’d prefer the computer handling everything, the challenge system would afford the opportunity to have Hernandez publicly humiliated, assuming he hangs around long enough to see it implemented, and assuming he’s capable of that emotion.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 1, Oklahoma City (LAD) 7
Round Rock: 6 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 7-6, 3 GB

SP Jack Leiter: 6 IP, 6 H (3 HR), 3 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 10 SO, 83 P / 53 S, 3.77 ERA
1B Dustin Harris: 2-4, .350/.372/.600

Jack Leiter surrendered homers on three of his first 18 pitches, yet I came away very pleased with his outing. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

The homers came on a fastball, slider, and curve. The fastball to a righty clipped the inside corner above the belt, not where Leiter has lived in 2024 but not a terrible location (absent info about the hitter’s tendencies). The slider was unique, the only one high and arm-side of 26 thrown. The curve, well, it was a cookie, but context is key. As a rule, minor league hitters hate early curves. The swing rate on first-pitch curves in Round Rock’s games so far is only 22%, and only 20% of swings are put into play. Until hitters adjust, it’s a pretty safe way for a pitcher to grab a favorable count. Instead, OKC’s Ryan Ward bounced  Leiter’s curve off the warehouse roof well beyond the 400 sign.

Leiter’s location wasn’t as sharp in the first two innings. In the 3rd, he recovered the impressive command of his first start, focusing on the glove-side edge of the plate (irrespective of batter handedness). Leiter tallied 18 swinging strikes, 13 with the fastball, which peaked at 98.2 MPH and 20″ of induced vertical break. OKC missed an enormous 59% of fastballs offered at. The Baseball Club (remember, they don’t have a nickname) even missed on 44% of in-zone fastballs, plus all of the eight outside the zone. That’s domination.

The slider wasn’t as effective but had several strong moments. The curve and change are mostly just along for the ride. This was an old-fashioned power performance. The pitch mix looks relieverish, but let’s let leave that aside for now. Ten strikeouts, zero walks (and a hit batter). A ratio of 6.25 Ks per BB/HBP for the season. We can’t wish away the homers, but on the whole, Leiter performed well again, and his 2024 has been highly encouraging.

I don’t have video because I left my camera battery at home, but Texas’s player development twitter account and the Express have come through.

AA: Frisco 7, Corpus Christi (HOU) 1
Frisco: 8 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 5-2, tied for first

SP Dane Acker: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 75 P / 43 S, 1.04 ERA
RP Robby Ahlstrom: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2.08 ERA
RF Abi Ortiz: 2-3, 2B, BB

Frisco has a bunch of holdovers from 2023 trying to prove they deserve a locker in Round Rock. Among them are Dane Acker and Robby Ahlstrom, both off to strong starts.

The offense spread out the hits; only Ortiz had two. Ortiz has taken well to AA so far, batting .333/.500/.625 with five extra-base hits in seven games and more walks (8) than strikeouts (6).

With a walk in four trips to the plate, Aaron Zavala now has more combined walks and HBPs (206) than hits (205) in his career. Only three other Rangers farmhands with more than 500 career plate appearances during 2007-2024 share that distinction: current players Jayce Easley and Ian Moller, plus IF Nick Vickerson from years gone by. Those that have done so in single seasons in the Majors have tended to be older, all-or-nothing types, and/or in steep decline: Rickey Henderson, Adam Dunn, Yasmani Grandal recently.

Hi-A: Hickory 0, Jersey Shore (PHI) 4 (7)
Hickory: 1 hit, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

SP Joseph Montalvo: 4.1 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 71 P / 45 S, 2.08 ERA
RP Larson Kindreich: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA

Hickory was shut out for the third time in six games and fell to 0.5 runs per game for the season. Sebastian Walcott drew his first walk.

Hi-A: Hickory 5, Jersey Shore (PHI) 0 (7)
Hickory: 5 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-5, 3 GB

SP Winston Santos: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 SO, 78 P / 53 S, 0.84 ERA
RP Seth Clark: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
C Tucker Mitchell: 1-3, 2B
SS Sebastian Walcott: 1-3, 3B
DH Quincy Scott: 1-2, BB

An onslaught! Hickory scored three in the 1st, equaling its output in the first six games combined. Doubles by Tucker Mitchell and Quincy Scott plated the runs. Later, Sebastian Walcott tripled and scored on a double-play grounder, and Ben Blackwell advanced a base at a time on a walk, steal, wild pitch, and sac fly.

Winston Santos offered a second consecutive strong start. Last year, Santos was the talk of Surprise (talk of the back fields, at least) but just didn’t miss many bats and surrendered a bunch of extra-base hits. In 2024, hope of a rebound is panning out so far.

Lo-A: Down East 0, @ Carolina (MIL) 6 (7)
Down East: 2 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts

SP Kyle Larsen: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 51 P / 34 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Jose Gonzalez: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA

Lo-A: Down East 0, @ Carolina (MIL) 2 (7)
Down East: 2 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 4-3, 2 GB

SP Wilian Bormie: 4 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 2 R, 3 BB, 2 SO, 55 P / 29 S, 4.05 ERA
RP Brayan Mendoza: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1.50 ERA

Oh, dear. Down East caught whatever has been afflicting Hickory, getting shut out on four hits across 14 innings.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Sampson
AA: Teodo (vs. Justin Verlander)
Hi-A: Curry