Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 18 April

Had you not seen Jack Leiter professionally until yesterday, he offered a reasonable facsimile of his career to date. Periods of dominance, period of missing control and command for which he was punished.

I was amused to see him retire the first batter on two low fastballs and a change, a stark contrast to his AAA method of attack. I wasn’t expecting many cutters as Detroit offered only three lefties in its lineup, but he didn’t throw a single one. Leiter instead dealt a higher percentage of curves and changes. Leiter hadn’t recorded a called or swinging strike on a changeup in three AAA starts, but he notched two of the former and one of the latter yesterday. It’s been such an inconsequential part of his repertoire that I’ve wondered if he might ditch it, but instead it was a decent-looking and useful pitch, and in his MLB debut of all places. A notable absence was any misses on sliders. And even though he’s a power pitcher with good movement, he needs his command. The upper third of the zone (or just above it to induce swings) belongs to him. Anywhere else is a ball or potential trouble. While nothing left the yard, Detroit’s hard-hit rate against Leiter was a lofty 67%.

Although it sounds homerish in light of seven runs in 3.2 innings, I was pleased with his MLB debut. He showed what he’s capable of.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 6, @ Sugar Land (HOU) 7
Round Rock: 11 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 7-11, 6 GB

SP Danny Duffy: 2 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 48 P / 24 S, 5.06 ERA
DH Blaine Crim: 2-4, HR (3), HBP, .170/.274/.358
RF Elier Hernandez: 2-3, 2B, 2 BB, .306/.424/.469
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 2-5, 2B, .271/.314/.417

Relievers Marc Church (shoulder strain) and Daniel Robert are on the IL, joining righty Tim Brennan and lefty Antoine Kelly. Jack Leiter and Cole Winn are with Texas. So, who is pitching for the Express these days. New to the organization and team are righties Collin Wiles and Shaun Anderson and lefty Jimmy Robbins.

Wiles is the familiar face, Texas’s 2012 supplemental first rounder and a Ranger for ten seasons, after which he joined the A’s and tossed 9.2 MLB innings with a 4.66 ERA. He does not appear to have pitched anywhere in 2023. Anderson is one of several hundred players the Rangers claimed and re-waived during their fallow period. He was in the organization for two weeks and made two appearances for the Express in 2021. He’d been a free agent since last November. Anderson has a 5.84 ERA in 135.2 MLB innings, most of them occurring in 2019. Texas acquired the 26-year-old Robbins for cash from the Blue Jays. The 2019 20th-rounder has limited experience in AAA, compiling a 15.00 ERA in nine innings. Walks have troubled him at the upper levels.

Blaine Crim’s poor slash line caught my eye because didn’t I realize he’d started in such a slump. On further review, he really hasn’t. All the underlying data are solid, or at least not out of the ordinary. The problem is Crim doesn’t have any base hits on grounders and is hitting only .200 on velo/angle combinations that should yield a single more often than not. That’s some seriously bad luck.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Ornelas has one of the best hard-hit rates on the team and a 90th-percentile exit velo of 104.6, but 60% of his balls in play have had a negative angle. He’s batting and slugging .278 on those, compared to a .500 average and 1.000 slugging percentage on the rest.

AA: Frisco 1, @ Arkansas (SEA) 6
Frisco: 2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 7 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 7-5, 1 GB

SP Kohl Drake: 1.1 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 4 R, 6 BB, 3 SO, 68 P / 37 S, 27.00 ERA
RP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.86 ERA

Facing its own staffing issues, Frisco needed LHP Kohl Drake to start last night. Now 23, the 2022 11-rounder hadn’t pitched above low-A. Unfortunately, Drake’s occasional control issues at the lower levels were persistent last night, and both his innings exceed 30 pitches, a rarity in the minors.

Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa is off to a fine start including no walks and eight strikeouts in four scoreless innings.

Hi-A: Hickory 6, @ Greensboro (PIT) 9
Hickory: 6 hits, 6 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 7 walks, 7 strikeouts
Record: 4-9, 4 GB

SP Joseph Montalvo: 2.1 IP, 5 H (6.75 HR), 4 R, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 65 P / 35 S, 6.75 ERA
RF Yeison Morrobel: 1-3, BB, HBP, .250/.386/.333
LF Quincy Scott: 1-4, HR (1), .143/.211/.257
C Ian Moller: 2-3, 2B, BB, .174/.240/.261

Yeison Morrobel is tracking closely to his 2023 so far: plenty of walks (or HBPs), a respectable strikeout rate, not so much power. He’s a young 20 and fairly inexperienced for the level, having missed most of last season in low-A to injuries.

Lo-A: Down East 8, Delmarva (BAL) 2
Down East: 11 hits, 4 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 5 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 7-5, 3 GB

SP Jose Gonzalez: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 64 P / 43 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Case Matter: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3.86 ERA
3B Gleider Figuereo: 1-3, 2 BB, .231/.423/.513
1B Arturo Disla: 2-5, 2B, .281/.452/.344
DH Jesus Lopez: 1-3, HR (1), BB, .212/.297/.364

22-year-old Jose Gonzalez struck out nine of 13 batters. Last year, he threw four pitches in low-A. I’m not describing his repertoire. I mean he threw four pitches, retiring the one batter he faced. Prior to that, he posted a 5.40 ERA in 30 complex innings, but the peripheral were better.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Sampson
AA: Acker
Hi-A: Santos

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Texas recalled lefty Brett Martin for his MLB debut. He would throw a scoreless 9th in a 7-2 loss to Houston. Martin missed all of 2023 with a shoulder injury and became a free agent. Best as I can tell, he remains unsigned.