Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 24 April

My video of Max Scherzer from last night.

Waiver-claimed lefty reliever Kolton Ingram. Ingram was a $1,500 senior sign out of Columbus State in 2019’s 37th round and summarily released along with hundreds of other unneeded minor leaguers during the covid summer of 2020, so from a cosmic standpoint he’s already playing with house money. He signed with the Angels and made his MLB debut last year, allowing five earned runs in 5.2 innings. He’s since bounced to the Tigers, Mets, and Rangers, all via waivers. Ingram has an unusually broad mix for a reliever, offering a 93ish fastball, cutter, slider, sweeper, and change.

Jared Walsh declined his AAA assignment and took free agency. What a strange arc. A job-winning.250/.368/.458 spring, a nine-start on-base streak with a .314/.385/.457 to begin the season, then a 1-for-21 with 10 strikeouts that cost his employment in the organization.

Johnny Cueto will presumably join what was already the second-oldest pitching staff in AAA and become the ninth member of its over-30 club. The “back end of rotation for good team” phase of his career might have ended in 2021 with the Giants, but we’ll see. In the meantime, he’ll provide some stability to a squad that has already used 27 pitchers including 12 starters in 23 games.

Houston fell to 7-18. I can’t find any record of a team starting 7-18 and finishing with a winning record. The Juan Gonzalez-led Detroit Tigers of 2000 lead the pack at 79-83.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 5, Salt Lake (LAA) 12
Round Rock: 12 hits, 4 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 14 hits, 4 walks, 15 strikeouts
Record: 10-13, 5 GB

SP Max Scherzer: 2.1 IP, 5 H (2 HR), 3 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 52 P / 32 S
LF Dustin Harris: 1-3, HR (4), 2 BB, .260/.322/.429
1B Blaine Crim: 3-4, 2B, BB, .217/.360/.391

The results don’t matter. The story is Max Scherzer pitched in a real game in April, on pace for a mid or late-May return to Arlington, at least a month earlier than the most optimistic forecast from last December. Scherzer allowed two homers, one on a centered change to Jason Martin (who homered off Owen White the night before) and a top-of-zone fastball to Cole Tucker. He also missed bats on 11 of 22 swings, in particular frustrating righties with the slider. His velocity topped at 93.8. There was some concern in-game about his velo being well below normal, but the readings on the new scoreboard at the Dell Diamond aren’t linked to Statcast and are at present wildly inaccurate.

Ex-Ranger Hans Crouse threw 0.2 innings for Salt Lake and allowed an inherited run to score. Jimmy Herget closed the 9th.

AA: Frisco 2, Amarillo (ARI) 4
Frisco: 8 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 9-8, 2 GB

SP Ben Anderson: 6 IP, 5 H (1 HR), 3 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 77 P / 56 S, 2.45 ERA
RP Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Andy Rodriguez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 3.60 ERA
LF Aaron Zavala: 2-3, HBP, .260/.433/.380

Ben Anderson produced a quality start on just 77 pitches. Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa was finally semi-mortal, surrendering his first run (albeit unearned) and walking two.

Hi-A: Hickory 4, Ashville (HOU) 1
Hickory: 9 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 6-10, 4.5 GB

SP Mitch Bratt: 6 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 8 SO, 88 P / 62 S, 6.75 ERA
RP Jackson Kelley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2.89 ERA
SS Sebastian Walcott: 2-4, .182/.262/.255
CF Anthony Gutierrez: 2-3, 2B, BB, 3 SB (8), .241/.268/.333
LF Yosy Galan: 1-4, HR (4), .229/.282/.629
RF Daniel Mateo: 3-4, 2 2B, SB (3), .300/.389/.367

Per Mark Parker, Mitch Bratt looked as good as he’s ever seen, relying more heavily on the fastball to thwart the Tourists.

Sebastian Walcott is hitting .296/.406/.370  in his last seven games, a vast improvement over the opening week-plus when taking pitches was only a 50-50 proposition for a ball and swinging was 50-50 for contact. Like almost everyone on the roster, Anthony Gutierrez’s line is still in recovery mode, but he’s produced three straight two-hit games. While he’s still looking for his first homer, he hit his fifth doubles, and surpassing last year’s 11 in 78 games seems assured.

Lo-A: Down East 10, @ Fayetteville (HOU) 4
Down East: 13 hits, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 11 hits, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 9-7, 4.5 GB

SP Brayan Mendoza: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 70 P / 37 S, 3.14 ERA
RF Tommy Specht: 1-4, BB, HBP, .237/.333/.263
C Jesus Lopez: 3-6, 2B, .261/.346/.457
1B Arturo Disla: 2-5, BB, .280/.419/.360
2B Erick Alvarez: 2-4, 2B, BB, 2 SB (2)

Six Woodies reached safely three times, those listed plus LF Marcus Smith (1-3, 2 BB) and newcomer 3B Esteban Mejia (02-, 3 BB).

Today’s Starters
AAA: Leiter
AA: Krauth
Hi-A: Ramirez

Five Years Ago Yesterday
The Rangers announced Taylor Hearn would make his MLB debut. My summary: “I wouldn’t say he’s ready. At times, he’s struggled to throw any of his pitches for strikes, and he’s walked or hit 13 out of 84 batters faced (15%). He’s been tough to hit (.200 opposing average), but many of the hits have been hard (.414 slugging percentage). The fear is that he’ll let an inning get away from him, forcing an early exit and further stressing the bullpen. On the other hand, Hearn has struck out 26 in just 20 innings (31% rate). Despite the control lapses, he has the stuff to defeat MLB hitters and is capable of producing a line that will have you calling for his permanent addition to the rotation. I’m hopeful that he can keep Texas in the game into the middle innings and give you an idea of what’s to come.”

Hans Crouse allowed a run in six innings for low-A Hickory.