Texas Rangers Back Field Photos: Saturday
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Texas Rangers Back Field Photos: Thursday and Friday
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Notes From Surprise: Monday
For the first time since 2019: Greetings from Surprise!
My original plan upon arriving Monday morning was to watch Texas’s A-level squads in neighboring Peoria, but one of the two games was cancelled, so I stayed in Surprise with the upper-level folks. (For those unfamiliar, the daily intersquad schedule consists of the low-A and high-A squads playing their opponents at one club’s complex, and the AA and AAA squads playing at the other. I favor the low-level guys because I won’t see them again for a year, and I can watch AAA during the regular season at my leisure.)
As always, and especially after missing three years, I was overwhelmed at the outset because I want to watch the players critically and get pitch readings off the computer and take notes and stills and video simultaneously, which is impossible, not that I don’t keep trying. Plus, I’m using new camera equipment for the first time in a dozen years and still figuring it out.
I’ve got video of Ricky Vanasco and pictures of him and others at scottlucas.com. Hopefully, I’ll have more video up during the week, but the internet at my hotel gets persnickety with tasks like actually using the internet.
Vanasco’s fastball ranged from 93-97, augmented with a decent number of curves, a few sliders, at least one change. He looked similar to last season’s end: aggressive, wavering control and command, with both the heater and curve tending to run high. Vanasco wears a collection of chains that fly up and hit him in the face on every pitch.
With impressive bat speed, Dustin Harris turned on an inside pitch for a double. In A games, he’s split almost exactly between outfield and first base, nearly only the former in the first week of spring training and almost exclusively the latter since. He played left field on Monday. If there was a play that shed light on his proficiency out there, I missed it. For some reason, my mental picture of him is always a little smaller and slower than he really is. He’ll break that bad habit of mine in Round Rock.
Lefty reliever Lucas Jacobsen tossed an inning. In 2022, Jacobsen entered his walk year as a virtual unknown to me because he’d been hurt so much. He relieved in Jack Leiter’s pro debut and immediately impressed with a fastball that touched 98, a mean, hard change, and a slow slider. Jacobsen missed a chunk of last season as well and became a free agent afterwards but re-signed.
1B Blaine Crim turned a 95 MPH pitch into a homer. 2B Luisangel Acuna (a late sub) rapped a double to left.
Lefty Joe Palumbo, signed back after a year with the Giants, was 91-93 with a 75-78 curve, all effective after an opening walk. Injuries have limited to Palumbo to 19 innings across all levels during the past three years.
One unexpected downside of the new MLB pitch clock: the Rangers-Guardians A game on Monday finished well before the minors were done, and in fact by the time I’d walked into the stadium from the back fields, the stands were nearly empty. Previously, I could count on an inning or two at the main field after the intersquad contest.
Tuesday was a camp day, meaning no games, just some workouts, so I’d planned to hike the Superstition Mountains to the east. That plan was thwarted by the most rain I can recall encountering in Arizona. It was raining when my alarm went off Tuesday morning. I got wet going to my car to grab lunch. It was raining at 9pm last night as I typed most of this and persisted through the night. Today’s back field schedule is limited to work in the cages. The intersquads are cancelled. My happiness is cancelled. Thursday and Friday are expected to be dry, so hopefully the next report will contain more on the Rangers and less whining.
Finally, I would like to extend all the positive energy at my disposal to Eric Nadel, longtime radio voice of the Rangers, who announced he will miss the start of the 2023 season. Per a statement from Nadel: “I now find myself dealing with anxiety, insomnia and depression which are currently preventing me from doing the job I love… I am receiving treatment as I go through the healing process and encourage others with similar issues to reach out for help.” His full statement is here.
Texas Rangers Back Field Photos: Monday
Thoughts On The Pitch Clock
Beat The Clock
You’ve probably seen or read any number of stories on how players, umpires, fans, and the media themselves will adjust to the clock. I wanted to offer my analysis and observations from watching plenty of games at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond and elsewhere in 2022.
Strange as it seems, players and umps may have the easiest task. The pitch clock has existed in upper minor league classifications since 2015, although it wasn’t enforced in its present form across all levels until 2022. Most players are already at least passingly familiar with the new rules. I analyzed lists of everyone who played in the Majors and minors in 2022 and found the following:
Number of MLB hitters in 2022: 694
Number who also played in MiLB: 475 (68% of all MLB hitters)
Number with 50+ PA in MLB and MiLB: 221 (32% of all MLB hitters)
Number of MLB pitchers in 2022: 872
Number who also pitched in MiLB: 591 (68% of all MLB pitchers)
Number with 10+ IP in MiLB and MLB: 300 (34% of all MLB pitchers)
The Rangers used 29 pitchers last year excluding Charlie Culberson. 23 threw at least one inning in the minors in 2022, and 15 of them threw at least ten. Similarly, 18 of Texas’s 26 hitters in 2022 also appeared in the minors, and 15 registered at least 100 plate appearances.
Assuming the rule is retained beyond 2023, the proportion of MLB players who will have worked under these conditions will quickly approach 100%. Admittedly, those who haven’t to date include many of baseball’s biggest names, but a significant number already have. 23% of MLB players with at least two wins above replacement in 2022 played in the minors last year.
My impression is that AAA umpires’ enforcement of the game clock was moderately strict but not punitive in 2022. Pitchers had plenty of time to retake the mound if involved in a fielding play. Hitters didn’t have to rush back to the box after running out a drive that landed foul. Pitchers could ask for a new ball, and occasionally something would happen to cause a pitcher to make a circular motion with his pitching hand, code for “restart the clock, pretty please.” Much of the time, these requests were granted. What pitchers couldn’t do was get set, let the clock dwindle to three seconds, and then claim the ball was too slick.
I did see one opposing pitcher on rehab accrue six or seven automatic balls, including two in one plate appearance. He was plainly indifferent to the clock, strictly in a rehab mindset and working at his preferred pace to the extent possible. Major Leaguers in town for the evening weren’t given leeway. When Jose Altuve played two games for AAA Sugar Land, the plate ump did not bow and say “enter the box at your leisure, my lord.”
Most of the time, the clock receded to the background, both for players and fans. Players internalized the pace it dictated. Games proceeded faster but didn’t feel rushed. As a fan or in my “official” capacity, I was never distracted by the clock even though it was almost always near my direct line of sight. The goal of the clock isn’t to saddle umps and players with nitpicky obligations. It is to create an environment in which the game flows faster organically. That said, I too had to adapt. More than once, I would study something I’d written down or glance at my phone after a pitch, only to miss the following pitch that came more quickly than expected. This year’s adaptation will be acceptance that by the time I get home from the Dell Diamond on a given night, the Rangers will probably also be done for the evening. Last year, the shorter games in Round Rock often allowed me to see an inning or two of the Rangers after I drove home.
Best as I can tell, I mentioned the clock or an automatic ball or strike only four times during the 2022 season. It just wasn’t newsworthy. Calls were rare. Calls that ended plate appearances were rarer still. Yes, an early spring game had a game-ending auto-strike, but I’d be surprised to see one in a real game, and if it happens, well, the hitter can’t say he wasn’t warned.
Undoubtedly, pitchers and hitters will try to use the clock to their advantage. Hitting is timing, pitching is disrupting timing. That type of gamesmanship has existed since the 1800s. Hopefully, pitch-clock craftiness won’t become overbearing and detract from the natural duel between pitcher and batter. Assuming clock infractions in MLB are as rare as in the minors, I don’t see the point in having the countdown clock as a tv graphic. It’s a distraction.
I’m a strong supporter of the clock rule, and I expect most of you will enjoy it too.
Jack Kruger, who caught for Round Rock in 2021-2022, offered his thoughts in a twitter thread.
MLB.com (free link) and Baseball America (subscriber link) released their top-30 prospect lists for the Rangers recently. As always, Jamey Newberg has his thorough and engaging top 72 at the Athletic (subscription link).
MLB.com rated Texas’s system the best in the division, noting the Rangers’ six top-100 prospects are one fewer than the other four teams combined. I’ll have more on these lists and others in the coming weeks.
Transactions and Other News
Texas released top 2020 signing Bayron Lora a few weeks ago, and now the priciest signing from 2018 is also gone. When signed, Jose Rodriguez was described as a bat-oriented catcher, but he never played catcher in a real game, and, unfortunately, there wasn’t much orientation to his bat. Folllowing a decent opener in the Dominican Summer League, Rodriguez lost 2020 to covid and all but 15 games in 2021 to injury. After two years with little on-field action, he joined low-A Down East and hit .197/.280/.285 with four homers in 87 games splitting time between right, first, and DH. Texas also released IF Junior Paniagua, a noteworthy signing from the same period.
LHP Joe Palumbo is back. Once among the club’s most promising prospects, Palumbo tossed 19 innings for the Rangers across 2019-2020. In 2021, Palumbo had trouble staying on the field and lacked velocity and control, leading to the loss of his 40 spot. In 2022 as a Giant, Palumbo fared no better, limited to five innings and released in July. I think Palumbo’s last fully injury-free season was 2016. Hopefully, at the least, he’ll be healthy as a returning Ranger.
2016 2nd-rounder RHP Alex Speas is also back after a year out of the system partially spent as head coach at Georgia’s Combine Academy. Speas, Demarcus Evans, and Joe Barlow made some noise in 2018 as a Hickory relief trio with otherworldly strikeout rates. Speas unfortunately needed elbow surgery by June. In 2020, he was dealing 102 on the side and rumored to be a potential MLB addition. That call never came, and he slid through the Rule 5 draft unclaimed after being left off the 40. His always-iffy control worsened in 2021 at Frisco, where he struck out 23 in 12 innings but walked or hit 24.
RHP Avery Weems underwent Tommy John surgery. Last year’s commentary ahead of the 40-man deadline: “A hard-throwing lefty with a mean slider, better control than I had in mind when reviewing his stats. He’s started most of his career, but I’m inclined to forecast him as a reliever.”
Prospect Mitch Bratt threw 1.1 scoreless innings for Team Canada in a warmup against the Cubs. Bratt, who hasn’t pitched above low-A, retired Eric Hosmer, Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, and Nico Hoerner.
Former Rangers righty Mason Englert, swiped by Detroit in the Rule 5 draft, has allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings. I’ve not seen anything noteworthy about his likelihood of making the Tigers’ roster. One article said he “came to camp ready to compete,” reassuring to those of us concerned he might have spent all winter on the couch eating lard from a bucket. As of yesterday, the Tigers still had 32 pitchers in their Major League camp including 21 on the 40-man roster.
Mitch Moreland has retired.
Texas’s Most and Least Stable Year-Over Year Rotations
Acknowledging an inability to develop starting pitching and wishing to jump-start their return to competitive ball, the Rangers have purchased an entire rotation on the open market. An ostensible rotation, given the injury histories of its members, but let’s leave that aside for now. Added to last year’s signing of Jon Gray were Martin Perez (himself a free agent for only a few days as he pondered Texas’s qualifying offer), Jake DeGrom, Andrew Heaney, and Nathan Eovaldi.
With that in mind, I wondered about the most and least stable year-over-year rotations in team history. I looked the data two ways: percentage of starts in a season made by pitchers who started at least once for the Rangers the year before, and percentage of starts made by pitchers who started at least ten games the year before (or a proportional number in shortened seasons).
The 2023 rotation gives the appearance of huge turnover, but I seriously doubt it will rank very high in franchise history. That would require Jon Gray and Martin Perez to be nearly absent, and even then, much of the high-level depth consists of last year’s rotation (Dane Dunning, Cole Ragans, Glenn Otto).
First, the rotations with the most year-over-year turnover (Red/bold = 10+ starts in the initial year, red = 1-9 starts in the initial year):
1. 2006 (18% of starts by previous year’s starters, 0% of starts by those with 10 or more starts)
31 - Chris Young
30 - Kenny Rogers
20 - Chan Ho Park
12 - Ryan Drese
12 - Pedro Astacio
10 - Juan Dominguez
10 - Ricardo Rodriguez
9 - Joaquin Benoit
8 - Kameron Loe
6 - John Wasdin
6 - CJ Wilson
4 - RA Dickey
3 - Edinson Volquez
1 - Josh Rupe
34 - Kevin Millwood
33 - Vicente Padilla
23 - John Koronka
15 - Kameron Loe
14 - Rob Tejeda
13 - John Rheinecker
13 - Adam Eaton
8 - Edinson Volquez
5 - John Wasdin
2 - Kip Wells
1 - Rick Bauer
1 - RA Dickey
2. 2018 (26% of starts by previous year’s starters, 22% of starts by those with 10 or more starts)
32 - Martín Pérez
28 - Andrew Cashner
24 - Cole Hamels
22 - Yu Darvish
18 - Nick Martinez
15 - A.J. Griffin
10 - Tyson Ross
6 - Austin Bibens-Dirkx
5 - Miguel González
1 - Alex Claudio
1 - Dillon Gee
28 - Mike Minor
24 - Bartolo Colon
20 - Cole Hamels
18 - Yovani Gallardo
15 - Martín Pérez
12 - Doug Fister
12 - Matt Moore
8 - Ariel Jurado
6 - Austin Bibens-Dirkx
5 - Yohander Méndez
5 - Drew Hutchison
4 - Adrian Sampson
2 - Jeffrey Springs
2 - Connor Sadzeck
1 - Alex Claudio
3. 2019 (40% of starts by previous year’s starters, 20% of starts by those with 10 or more starts)
28 - Mike Minor
24 - Bartolo Colon
20 - Cole Hamels
18 - Yovani Gallardo
15 - Martín Pérez
12 - Doug Fister
12 - Matt Moore
8 - Ariel Jurado
6 - Austin Bibens-Dirkx
5 - Yohander Méndez
5 - Drew Hutchison
4 - Adrian Sampson
2 - Jeffrey Springs
2 - Connor Sadzeck
1 - Alex Claudio
33 - Lance Lynn
32 - Mike Minor
18 - Ariel Jurado
15 - Adrian Sampson
9 - Jesse Chavez
9 - Drew Smyly
9 - Kolby Allard
8 - Shelby Miller
6 - Brock Burke
4 - Pedro Payano
4 - Joe Palumbo
4 - Edinson Volquez
Next, the three most stable Texas rotations year-over-year:
1. 1990 (88% of starts by previous year’s starters, an identical 88% of starts by those with 10 or more starts)
32 - Nolan Ryan
31 - Bobby Witt
30 - Charlie Hough
28 - Kevin Brown
22 - Mike Jeffcoat
15 - Jamie Moyer
2 - John Barfield
1 - Brad Arnsberg
1 - Wilson Alvarez
32 - Charlie Hough
32 - Bobby Witt
30 - Nolan Ryan
26 - Kevin Brown
12 - Mike Jeffcoat
10 - Jamie Moyer
6 - Scott Chiamparino
6 - Brian Bohanon
3 - Kenny Rogers
3 - Craig McMurtry
2 - Gerald Alexander
2. 1979 (85% of starts by previous year’s starters, 81% by those with 10 or more starts)
33- Jon Matlack
30 - Fergie Jenkins
28 - Doyle Alexander
22 - Doc Medich
22 - Doc Ellis
11 - Steve Comer
9 - Jim Umbarger
4 - Paul Mirabella
2 - Roger Moret
1 - Danny Darwin
37 - Fergie Jenkins
36 - Steve Comer
19 - Doc Medich
18 - Doyle Alexander
13 - Jon Matlack
12 - John Henry Johnson
9 - Dock Ellis
6 - Danny Darwin
4 - Brian Allard
3 - Dave Rajsich
2 - Ed Farmer
2 - Jerry Don Gleaton
1 - Larry McCall
3. 1992 (81% of starts by previous year’s starters, 78% by those with 10 or more starts)
33 - Kevin Brown
27 - Nolan Ryan
25 - Jose Guzman
16 - Bobby Witt
12 - Oil Can Boyd
11 - Brian Bohanon
9 - Kenny Rogers
9 - Gerald Alexander
9 - Jon Barfield
5 - Scott Chiamparino
3 - Hector Fajardo
2 - Terry Matthews
1 - Mark Petkovsek
35 - Kevin Brown
33 - Jose Guzman
27 - Nolan Ryan
25 - Bobby Witt
12 - Roger Pavlik
10 - Todd Burns
7 - Brian Bohanon
4 - Jeff Robinson
4 - Scott Chiamparino
3 - Mike Jeffcoat
2 - Dan Smith
Rangers Farm Report: Offseason Action and Transactions
Sean Bass, Michael Tepid, and I found quiet spaces away from our weather-marooned kids to record the year’s first Diamond Pod. Rotation, left field, a look at prospect and system rankings, much more. Links in signature.
Texas’s major signing was Bahamian shortstop Sebastian Walcott for a report $3.2 million, accounting for roughly three quarters of a bonus pool that had been reduced by $1 million for signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien the year before. More famous than Walcott, if not nearly as amply compensated, is OF Pablo Guerrero ($200k), son of Vlad. Texas also signed 25-year-old Cuban outfielder Geisel Cepeda.
Per local reports, the Rangers released OF Bayron Lora, the marquee signing from the 2019-2020 period. Lora received a $3.9 million bonus, higher than for all but three players outside of Japan and Korea. In early 2021, he was the driver in an auto accident that resulted in injuries to himself and the death of one passenger. He didn’t come stateside or play anywhere in 2022, and now we know why: a two-year suspension related to allegations of domestic violence.
Even ignoring all that, Lora’s brief professional career was disconcerting. Reviews were polarized from the get-go, with all acknowledging his massive power potential but many skeptical of his likelihood of achieving it. Lora batted .218/.431/.401 in 2021’s Dominican Summer League, superficially productive but with many more walks than hits and a 38% strikeout rate. Not that DSL stats are trustworthy, but my analysis of a dozen or so years of batter data revealed exactly zero successful big-leaguers who’d struck out that often at that level.
It’s not uncommon for international prospects of his stature to lose luster quickly. The nature of the system, in which players are scouted and unofficially signed at such a young age, practically guarantees early flameouts. Indeed, of the five highest paid international signings of 2019-2020, only one currently ranks among his organization’s top ten prospects: Jasson Dominguez of the Yankees. Unlike Lora, however, the rest are at least employed.
Back with the Rangers: LHP Lucas Jacobsen, RHP Jean Casanova, RHP Scott Engler, RHP Fern Ozuna, RHP Nick Snyder, C David Garcia, OF Sandro Fabian, OF Elier Hernandez, OF Josh Sale.
Among Texas’s minor league free agents, I had Jacobsen, Engler and Garcia atop a mental list of who I’d like to see return, so thanks to the Rangers for thinking of me. Engler is recovering from TJ surgery but should be available for a majority of the season assuming a typical recovery.
New to the organization: LHP Danny Duffy, RHP Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Jacob Barnes, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Zack Littell, RHP Reyes Moronta, C Sandy Leon, 1B Yoshi Tsutsugo, OF Jackson (fka Clint) Frazier, OF Travis Jankowski.
Kennedy hasn’t pitched that well since being traded by the Rangers in July 2021: 20 saves also but 18 homers and 110 runners in 74.1 innings. The Royals traded Duffy to the Dodgers mid-2021, but he’s pitched only a handful of minor league innings since then because of a flexor tendon injury. In the Majors, he’s worked almost exclusively as a starter. Known best as a 4th outfielder with the Padres, Jankowski has bounced around four organizations in the past three years. A top-100 prospect for several years, the 28-year-old Frazier has struggled to reach his potential. The Yankees and Cubs have outrighted him the past two seasons.
Some Texas minor league free agents signed to deals elsewhere: RHP Demarcus Evans (Yankees), LHP James Jones (Dodgers), RHP Ryder Ryan (Seattle), C/1B Yohel Pozo (Oakland), C Meibrys Viloria (Guardians).
And more signings by former Rangers: OF Willie Calhoun (Yankees), 1B/P(?) Ronald Guzman (Giants), OF Nomar Mazara (O’s), RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (Marlins), IF Hanser Alberto (White Sox), RHP Robbie Erlin (Dodgers), RHP Joe Wieland (A’s), RHP Reed Garrett (O’s), RHP Wilmer Font (Pads), LHP Alex Claudio (Brewers), 1B Curtis Terry (O’s), LHP Locke St. John (Twins).
RHP AJ Alexy was traded to the Twins after being designated for assignment by Washington. Then, the White Sox claimed him on waivers. IF Yonny Hernandez was traded to the Dodgers after Oakland DFA’ed him. The Giants traded outrighted OF Steele Walker to Detroit for cash.
RHP Grant Anderson, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – In 19 innings across 14 appearances, Anderson fanned 24 (38% rate) against just three walks with just two runs allowed. Anderson received more attention as a potential 40 addition / Rule 5 loss than I envisioned, but he remains a Ranger and will try to crack the Rangers’ bullpen during 2023.
OF Angel Aponte, Leones del Caracas (VEN) — .238/.304/.333 in 16 regular-season games, .333/.385/.500 with two doubles and a triple in nine postseason games. Caracas made the Serie Del Caribe which is being hosted in that very city, but Aponte isn’t on the current roster.
OF Jax Biggers, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) – Playing entirely in the outfield, Biggers batted .278/.390/.313 with 21 walks and seven steals in 34 regular season games. He added three singles and a double in three postseason games, but his Tuatara were eliminated in the semifinals.
Tuatara are indigenous only to New Zealand, and despite the resemblance, they are not lizards. Thank you, Wikipedia.
1B Blaine Crim, Indios de Mayaguez (PR) – Crim joined at the end of the regular season and was hitless in eight trips to the plate. In the postseason, Crim batted .217/.308/.370 with one memorable homer that sent his squad to the league finals. Mayaguez won again to reach Serie del Caribe in Caracas, but like Aponte, Crim’s winter excursion is over.
IF Ezequiel Duran, Aguilas Cibaenas (DR) – .255/.283/.431 with two homers, three doubles and a steal in 13 games. Starts in left (5), right (3), second (2), third (2), and center (1).
RHP Josh Gessner, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) – Gessner enjoyed the southern hemisphere less than his two Texas teammates, surrendering six runs on nine hits and four walks in four innings while fanning six. Gessner did not appear in the postseason.
OF Abi Ortiz, Gigantes de Carolina (PR) – Ortiz played only twice but delivered, collecting a single, double, and walk in five plate appearances.
IF Keyber Rodriguez, Auckland Tuatara (AUS) — .265/.289/.434 with five homers, six other extra-base hits, and six steals in 34 games, mostly at short. Rodriguez added five singles and a walk during the three-game playoff.
IF Chris Seise, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – Seise batted .158/.179/.211 in 16 games. In addition to his usual shortstop, Seise started one game and third and another in center.
OF Kellen Strahm, Cangrejeros de Saturce (PR) – A teammate of Seise, the outfielder hit .180/.317/.200 with seven walks in 17 games.
Rule 5 Results, Draft, deGrom, Etc.
Sean Bass of The Ticket, Michael Tepid of Lone Star Ball and I chatted this morning. Links in signature.
The Rangers lost 2018 4th-round righty Mason Englert to Detroit with the fifth pick of the Rule 5 draft.
Texas protected six at the 40-man deadline. Englert was seventh of 19 I mentioned in my November preview. What I wrote at the time: “I liked what I saw of Englert in person back in May, but he wasn’t on my crowded list of potential 40-man additions at the time. 13 consecutive no-hit innings and a promotion to AA later, he’s on my list. My potential list, not the final list. Englert has better control than most of his peers and a decent repertoire. A tough call. I’m leaning no, but he’s in a group of five or six pitchers in which I expect at least one to be added.”
An unfortunate (albeit perhaps temporary) loss for Texas. Englert is a well-rounded, genuine rotation candidate but doesn’t throw especially hard, has scant experience above high-A, and doesn’t seem the type you’d just toss into the bullpen, all reasons I thought his selection would be unlikely, if not remote. Best wishes to him.
Baseball America’s exhaustive Rule 5 preview mentioned four Rangers led by Antoine Kelly, the talented but erratic righty acquired in July for Matt Bush. Next on its initial list was a surprise to me in the form of reliever Grant Anderson, who I like but not enough to have mentioned in last month’s preview. Later, BA added 1B Blaine Crim and Englert. MLB.com’s shorter preview didn’t include any Rangers.
The Rangers declined to make a selection in the minor league phase of the draft, although they had room on their AAA reserve roster. They lost three, starting with high-A catcher Randy Florentino to the Orioles. Once fairly well regarded, Florentino’s bat didn’t make the trip with him from the Dominican Republic, although he hit better last year (.242/.332/.353). Next, the Dodgers nabbed OF Josh Stowers, acquired by Texas as part of the Rougned Odor trade. Stowers posted a 20/20 season in 2021 (.220/.311/.466) but traded half his homers for doubles last season (.222/.331/.374). Finally, the Twins selected righty swingman Seth Nordlin (2017, 13th round), who’d pitched effectively in a swing role for Frisco. Of the three, only Nordlin I half-expected to have been protected on the AAA reserve roster.
Texas was among the lucky contestants in the inaugural draft lottery instituted in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. To dissuade tanking, finishing with the worst record no longer guarantees the top pick in the draft, and every non-playoff team has a shot, from the 1-in-6 chances of Washington, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, to the 1-in-500 chance of Milwaukee. Texas had a 5.5% likelihood at the first-overall pick, slightly better odds than being dealt a blackjack from a fresh deck. The Rangers weren’t that lucky but managed to acquire the fourth pick despite the seventh-worst record. The Twins were the evening’s big winner, winning the fifth slot despite the 13th-worst record. Conversely, the A’s will pick two spots after the Rangers in 2023 despite their 102-loss season.
Critically, Texas’s draft pool money will increase as well. In 2022, the difference between the fourth and seventh picks was just shy of $1.3 million. That money may simply go to whoever Texas picks in that spot, but maybe some could be employed to coerce a later pick to forego college.
In the second and subsequent rounds, the draft order for non-playoff teams like the Rangers reverts to the old win-percentage method.
Baseball America already has a 2023 mock draft, placing Grand Canyon University SS Jacob Wilson wi the Rangers. If Texas wants a third consecutive Commodore, the choice would be OF Enrique Bradfield.
DeGrom / Heaney
For all the talk of Jake deGrom’s scary injury history, he’s actually thrown the 12th-most innings in baseball during the past nine seasons. (And struck out the third-most batters and accumulated the second-most wins above replacement.) Obviously, the recent history matters most, and I’m not remotely suggesting we should expect durability, but it’s not as though his entire career has been a struggle to stay on the field.
And when he’s on the field, well… sorry, had to dab the sweat off my forehead. 100th percentile SO rate, 99th percentile walk rate, 99th percentile fastball velocity, 97th percentile fastball spin, 93 MPH slider. deGrom has averaged 4.6 WAR per 150 innings. What popped into my head when I heard the news was something I wrote about Pudge Rodriguez back in my fantasy-writing days for ESPN. He’d missed roughly 100 games across 2000-2001, and estimating his draft value was a daunting task. My thought then was that 400 at-bats from Pudge plus 200 from a waiver-wire catcher was worth more than just about any other catcher. I think the same applies here. 120 innings (hopefully) from deGrom plus 60 from whoever’s pitching best in Round Rock (one of the Coles, perhaps) is more valuable than full seasons from most other starters.
Honestly, deGrom might pitch more innings than Andrew Heaney, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, has dealt with subsequent elbow trouble, and missed much of 2022 with shoulder trouble. Last year, Heaney ditched 100% of his curves and most of his changeups for a murderous slider that drew air in 44% of opposition swings. He remained extremely homer-prone, especially against righties. Globe Life will help some in that regard, but it isn’t the old Yankee Stadium with a 460’ deep left-center.
For now, the Texas pitchers who faced the second-most (Dunning) and third-most (Otto) opposing batters in 2022 appear to be outside the starting five. Given the risks of deGrom and Heaney, and of pitchers in general for that matter, Dunning might see little to no decline from last year’s 153 innings. As for Otto, how about a Taylor Hearn-like role?
RHP Nick Snyder became a free agent when the Rangers declined to offer him a contract. I’d noticed that when Texas churned through its minor league reserves down the stretch, Snyder was the only 40-man member with MLB experience not to get the call.
LHP Lucas Jacobsen topped my list of minor league free agents I’d like to return. The Rangers agreed, re-signing him last week.
RHP Drew Strotman remained a Giant after clearing waivers and briefly becoming a free agent. Earlier in 2022, The Rangers has previously claimed him off waivers from Minnesota and then tried to pass him through themselves.
Cleveland signed catcher Meibrys Viloria to a minor league deal.
Baltimore, as required by law, signed OF Nomar Mazara to a minor league deal.
Rangers Farm Report / 40 Man Additions
Sean Bass, Michael Tepid and I should have a new podcast up later this afternoon. Links in signature.
The Rangers added six players to the 40-Man roster yesterday:
RHP Owen White
IF Luisangel Acuna
IF Dustin Harris
RHP Cole Winn
IF Jonathan Ornelas
RHP Zak Kent
I feel good about my thought process yesterday, if I may say so. Four sure things, a belief that Ornelas seemed the type to be picked if unprotected, and “a group of five or six pitchers in which I expect at least one to be added.” I improved on 2021, when Texas selected only three of the six I expected, omitting OF Bubba Thompson and lefties Cole Ragans and Jake Latz.
Winn, White, and Ornelas are Texas’s top three picks from 2018. Kent is a 9th-rounder from 2019. Harris was acquired with OF Marcus Smith for Mike Minor in 2020, and Acuna was an international free agent.
Available in the Rule 5 draft will be RHP Mason Englert, RHP Antoine Kelly, RHP Avery Weems, LHP Cody Bradford, and 1B Blaine Crim, among others. If any of these names concern you, at least know that they’ll have plenty of company. This MLB Pipeline article shows which top-30 prospects were selected and omitted from every team. 177 top-30 prospects were eligible, but only 78 were selected, leaving 99 top-30 names on the market. Another 35 protected players weren’t in a top 30. Beauty lies in the eye.
Entering yesterday, ten clubs had full rosters, meaning they couldn’t add anybody without jettisoning someone else. The median number of available slots per team was three. Texas, with six open slots, was an outlier.
Lefty Martin Perez accepted Texas’s qualifying offer and will be paid the handsome sum of $19.65 million in 2023. I saw some nationally-oriented writers gobsmacked at the idea of extending that offer to him, and I get it. Perez could very easily devolve to an earlier version of himself, meaning a 150-or-so innings with a 4.75 ERA. Texas could scrounge that up on the open market for much cheaper, and in no universe would Perez get $19 million per year as a free agent. On the other hand, whew, you saw Texas’s rotation last year, right? Plus, the Rangers have several prospects who could help in the not-too-distant future, but nobody in April. The situation is such that Perez’s innings just might be that valuable. An overpay, yes, but just for one year, and not a big deal unless it restrains spending elsewhere.
Texas also traded reliever Dennis Santana to Atlanta for cash.
Tampa Bay protected IF Osleivis Basabe but declined to protect OF Heriberto Hernandez. Both were part of Texas’s trade for Nathaniel Lowe. Basabe had a whale of a season, reaching AA and batting .333/.399/.461 as 21-year-old. Hernandez, 23 in December, spent the entire season in high-A and hit .255/.368/.499 with 24 homers in 119 games.
I neglected to mention that Hans Crouse’s 40-man spot is now occupied by RHP Luis Ortiz, Texas’s 1st-rounder from 2014 and a reliever in Round Rock last year. Ortiz moved on to the Giants in 2022 and returned the Majors in September.
RHP Matt Bush was so-so for Milwaukee after being traded: 4.30 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 16 hits including six homers in 23 innings. Hard to hit, but hit hard. Now 36, he remains arbitration-eligible.
OF Steele Walker was outrighted by San Francisco in August. He struggled in Sacto: .247/.287/.393. Yesterday, the Giants traded him to Detroit for cash.
OF Willie Calhoun was outrighted in mid-September and became a free agent last month.
OF Zach Reks batted .330/.410/.495 for Lotte in Korea.
I’d mentioned Ronny Henriquez’s MLB debut last month. After that first, rough outing, he allowed a lone run and struck out seven in 7.2 innings divided across two appearances.
To my knowledge, relievers Garrett Richards and Spencer Patton haven’t signed anywhere since being released in-season. Nor has Greg Holland, released back in April.
OF Lewis Brinson was traded from Houston’s AAA affiliate to San Francisco in late August, batted .167/.211/.472 in 16 games as a Giant, and became a free agent.
SanDiego released OF Nomar Mazara in August. Minnesota released 1B Curtis Terry in August.
More minor league free agents: LHP C.D. Pelham, RHP Tyler Ferguson, RHP Ronald Herrera, RHP Ariel Jurado, RHP Keone Kela, RHP Pedro Payano, RHP Connor Sadzeck, RHP Collin Wiles, C Tomas Telis, IF Michael de Leon, IF Ti’Quan Forbes, OF Delino DeShields Jr.