Rangers Farm Report: Games of Sunday 10 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, El Paso (SDG) 2
Round Rock: 8 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Record: 3-3, 2 GB

SP Jake Latz: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 78 P / 54 S, 3.00 ERA
LF Bubba Thompson: 2-4, SB (4)
CF Josh Smith: 1-4, HR (1)

Josh Smith has his first AAA homer and first professional start in the outfield. He’s also started twice at third after two days at his usual short. Smith caught two sharply hit flies. Both were plays any competent outfielder would make, but a misread on either might have spelled trouble. One can wait a long time to see even a small handful of 50/50 outfield plays that would provide some insight into the player’s quality, and one must wait in person, because the video feed rarely shows an outfielder’s reaction time and initial route.

I don’t start listing players’ slash stats until we’re around two weeks in. Also, nearly all Mondays in 2022 are off-days for the entire system. I expect many will be off-days for me as well, but I might pop in with news, summaries, or items I think deserve more coverage.

AA: Frisco 3, Arkansas (SEA) 5
Frisco: 10 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 8 hits, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 2-1, tied for first

SP Cole Ragans: 3.1 IP, 3 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 66 P / 44 S, 0.00 ERA
RP Fernery Ozuna: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Jonathan Ornelas: 2-4

Cole Ragans pitched well, spotting a 93-95 fastball, change, curve and slider. Per Grant Schiller of Baseball Prospectus, Ragans tallied seven swinging strikes with the fastball and six with his change. Ragans could be pitching in middle relief in 2030 and I’ll still consider him a “comeback player” because of the successive elbow surgeries.

Fernery Ozuna is a converted infielder who drew notice for his tripe-digit velocity a year ago. Ozuna has acceptable control but can be alarmingly homer-prone, and the velo tends to ebb and flow. Seth Nordlin (2.1 IP, 7 runners, 4 runs) took the loss.

High-A: Hickory 5, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 2
Hickory: 11 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 2-1, 1 GB

SP TK Roby: 3.1 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 55 P / 36 S, 2.70 ERA
RP Josh Smith: 1.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Chris Seise: 2-4, HR (1)
C Scott Kapers: 2-4, HR (1)

Sometimes pitchers in the lower levels try to work up but lack the location or spin, and sometimes the hitter is keyed on a high fastball. Yesterday, that hitter was Chris Seise, who smacked a Trey Jeans fastball over the fence in a hurry. Limited to 31 games the previous four years, Seise is only DHing for the time being. I have no idea what to expect of Seise and really don’t even care for now. i just hope he can stay in the lineup.

Roby pitched in a real game for the first time in ten months, having been sidelined since last June with elbow trouble. Roby deals a high-spin fastball, curve and change. He was the middle man in Texas’s five-pick 2020 draft.

Hickory placed infielder Luisangel Acuna on the IL with a hamstring strain, per MLB.com’s Kennedi Landry. He’s expected to miss a couple of weeks.

Low-A: Down East 9, at Carolina (MIL) 11
Down East: 9 hits, 8 walks, 13 strikeouts
Opponent: 12 hits, 3 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 0-3, 3 GB

SP Victor Santos: 3 IP, 4 H ,3 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 4 SO, 59 P / 40 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Destin Dotson: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Efrenyer Narvaez: 1-5, HR (1)
LF Yosy Galan: 2-4, HR (1), BB
2B Junior Paniagua: 1-3, 2 BB

Outfielder Yosy Galan hit the second-most homers in the Arizona League last summer. The 20-year-old also struck out at just shy of a 40% rate in 2021 and has four in nine plate appearances so far.

In the primer I mentioned hitters having such an inflated strikeout rate that even a high average on contact won’t compensate. Efrenyer Narvaez rolls his eyes at that statement: In nine at-bats, he has six strikeouts, a single, triple and homer. Can a hitter fan two-thirds of the time and hit 1.000 when he puts the bat on the ball? I’m going to say no, but it’s 2022, so who knows.

Down East scored four in the 9th on three walks, three hit batsmen and a Galan single.

Today’s Starters
AAA: off
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East won its inaugural home opener 4-3 in ten innings. 3B Josh Altmann doubled and then scored on an error. Brett Martin allowed a run and whiffed seven in 5.1 innings. Round Rock’s Ronald Guzman singled twice and drew a bases-loaded go-ahead walk.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Saturday 9 April

Video of Jack Leiter’s professional debut. My photo of Leiter’s first pitch, and a few more:

Podcast-mates Sean Bass and Michael Tepid got a rare one-on-one (well, two-on-one) interview with Leiter on Media Day. Podcast links are in my signature.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 3, El Paso (SDG) 1
Round Rock: 6 hits, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 3 hits, 1 walk, 15 strikeouts
Record: 2-3, 2 GB

SP Glenn Otto: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Matt Moore: 3 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Nick Snyder: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Leody Taveras: 2-4, HR (1)

I missed some fine performances Saturday. Glenn Otto held the chihuahuas to a single through three, Matt Moore’s initial tryout for future innings for the Rangers (or somebody else) went well, and Nick Snyder nailed down the 9th on six pitches. According to Statcast, Otto mixed in a fair number of curves and three changes. His curve runs at pretty much the same velo (80-82) as his extremely sweepy slider. My issue last year was a repertoire nearly entirely narrowed to fastballs and sliders. (I assume he was just following instructions, so that’s not on him.) If starting remains a possibility, working on and back end of the mix is critical, so yesterday was nice to see.

Leody Taveras hit a 413′ homer and a single off that bat at 105.6 MPH.

MacKenzie Gore limited Round Rock to two hits and fanned seven without a walk in five innings. His 2021 was disastrous, so I’m glad to see a turnaround, even at Round Rock’s expense. (I’m a very low-key Padres fan because I’ve seen their system a fair amount over the years, and in general I like to see guys correct their problems.)

AA: Frisco 8, Arkansas (SEA) 7
Frisco: 9 hits, 6 walks, 4 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 10 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 2-0, 1 G up

SP Jack Leiter: 3 IP, 1 H ,1 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 3.00 ERA
RP Tai Tiedemann: 2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Luke Jacobsen: 1.1 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Ezequiel Duran: 2-3, 2B, BB
C David Garcia: 2-4, 2B
CF Kellen Strahm: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB
1B Blaine Crim: 1-3, BB, SB (1)

As you might’ve heard from my podcast partners and others, Leiter is Terminator-like in his focus. There are no extraneous movements or even facial expressions. He long-tossed aggressively before the bullpen warmup; as you can see in the picture above, his cap was drenched in sweat by the time he threw a real pitch.

Leiter’s fastball ranged from 93 to 98 with an 83-85 slider and 74-79 curve. He threw the fastball about 50% of the time with a roughly equal mix of the others. As was common in his college career, he did not present a changeup. By my count, Leiter had 12 swinging strikes: five each on fastballs and sliders plus two on curves. All were effective. The curve has uncommon depth; he emphasized it in the 3rd and received both called strikes and whiffs.

Leiter’s strike rate was a mediocre 55%. You might’ve read some comments about a tight strike zone, and it was, but I was behind the plate and didn’t have much issue with the calls. Leiter sometimes pulled his fastball out arm-side, and he reached three balls to the first three batters. Pinpoint control isn’t his thing; he’s always been able to fade the walks by being virtually unhittable.

All told, an impressive, exciting display, especially as a pro debut in front of a bumper crowd and host of media.

Lefty Grant Wolfram just didn’t have it: a three-ball count to the first batter followed by four walks. Next time. He dealt a 93-94 fastball and 83-84 slider.

Lefty Luke Jacobsen has been in the system since 2016 as a 27th-round pick. I don’t think I’ve ever known less about a home-grown player who’s reached AA. He’d thrown all of 53 stateside innings in five seasons, none during 2020 (covid) or 2021 (lat). Now I know. Jacobsen offered a 94-98 fastball, upper-80s change and a slider in the 79-82 range. A 19 MPH gap between fastball and slider is unusual. Jacobsen surrendered a firm liner to score two of Wolfram’s bequeathed runners, but on the whole he was impressive.

Grant Anderson allowed solo homers to three consecutive batters in the 9th to erase most of a four-run lead. I suspect Frisco was counting on two innings from Wolfram, who has starting experience, so when Anderson reached his pitch limit, the Riders had no pitchers to spare and turned to catcher Jordan Procyshen. He induced a towering popup for the final out.

Ezequiel Duran walked, hit a solid double and pushed a tricky slider up the middle for a single. He also swung through a pitch that hit him squarely. Catcher David Garcia doubled off the wall near dead-center. He’s up in Frisco after a sometimes trying year at the plate in Hickory, so that type of contact is much appreciated.

High-A: Hickory 8, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 4
Hickory: 8 hits, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts
Opponent: 4 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 1-1, 1 GB

SP Mason Englert: 3.1 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 4 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 10.80 ERA
RP Juan Mejia: 2.2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Jesus Linarez: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Marc Church: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
DH Evan Carter: 3-5, 3B, SB (1)
RF Aaron Zavala: 0-2, 3 BB, SB (1)
2B Cristian Inoa: 2-4, HR (1), BB

Mason Englert understandably hasn’t received Owen White’s level of attention, but he’s no slouch. Picked in 2018’s fourth round,Englert had the same interminably deferred debut as White but struck out 90 versus 26 walks in 80 low-A innings last year.

Marc Church made his first appearance since last year’s elbow issue that fortunately (like TK Roby) didn’t require surgery. Sometimes, resting actually works instead of simply delaying TJ. Church was the “Player A” in the ERA portion my primer: mediocre ERA, fabulous peripherals.

Lord help me, I hate cliches, but Evan Carter is a baseball player. He was born to do this.

Aaron Zavala is 0-4 with three strikeouts and six walks. 

Low-A: Down East 2, at Carolina (MIL) 8
Down East: 5 hits, 5 walks, 17 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 9 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 0-2, 2 GB

SP Larson Kindreich: 2 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Michael Brewer: 2 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0.00 ERA
RF Abimelec Ortiz: 1-3, 2B, BB
C Efrenyer Narvaez: 2-4, 3B
2B Jose Acosta: 1-1, 2B, BB, HBP, SB (1)

In his full-season debut, Larson Kindreich didn’t need fielders for eight of his 11 batters. Texas drafted him in last year’s eighth round. Clubs often deliberately draft cheaply in the 6-10 rounds to save money for other picks, but Kindreich earned a standard bonus out of California’s Bioal University.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Jake Latz
AA: Cole Ragans
Hi-A: TK Roby
Lo-A: Victor Santos

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Friday 8 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 11, El Paso (SDG) 3
Round Rock: 16 hits, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 1-3, 2 GB

SP Cole Winn: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 2 SO, 2.25 ERA
RP Tyler Thomas: 3 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3.00 ERA
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 2 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 13.50 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 2-5, SB (3)
LF Leody Taveras: 5-5, 2 2B, 2 SB (2)
RF Zach Reks: 1-2, 3 BB
DH Sam Huff: 3-4, HR (1), BB
2B Ryan Dorow: 2-3, 2B, BB

Leody Taveras had a perfect day, reaching all five times and scoring all the way from first on an errant throw during a steal attempt. Bubba Thompson also flashed the wheels. Sam Huff homered to left-center (just under 400 feet, modest by his standards) and hit a single even harder.

The hardest-hit ball of the night was a double off Luis Liberato’s bat against Cole Winn’s first pitch. That and another hit scored the only run off Winn, although he did walk two straight in the 2nd. Winn dealt his fastball (91-95), slider (82-85) and changeup (83-87) in nearly equal amounts plus ten curves (75-79).

Tyler Thomas offers a sinker/slider mix augmented with changes, all of which have a healthy amount of horizontal movement. Thomas, now 26, was the return for Jesse Chavez back in 2018. Yerry Rodriguez’s fastball velocity slumped to 92-95 in his second appearance. He threw a ton of sliders and several changes, the latter a pitch I don’t recall seeing Tuesday. Even if Rodriguez is permanently in relief, his change is decent (usually better than his slider last year) and he need not discard it.

AA: Frisco 5, Arkansas (SEA) 4
Frisco: 7 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 8 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 1-0, 1 G up

SP Cody Bradford: 4.1 IP, 3 H ,2 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 4.15 ERA
RP Justin Slaten: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF JP Martinez: 1-4, HR (1), SB (1)
SS Ezequiel Duran: 1-4, 2B
C Matt Whatley: 2-3, 2B

Doubles by Josh Stowers and Ezequiel Duran in the 8th reversed a one-run deficit. Duran was 0-3 to that point, so his first hit in AA scored the go-ahead run. Earlier, Frisco scored three in 4.2 innings off George Kirby, a top-100 prospect. Chase “The Viper” Lee fanned two in a 1-2-3 9th. Last year’s 5th rounder was aggressively assigned to AA for his pro debut. Cody Bradford allowed one liner (caught by 3B Diosbel Arias) and one fly; everything else was on the ground or a strikeout.

RHP Kevin Gowdy is listed at Frisco after being announced on Hickory’s opening roster. Gowdy was part of the return for Kyle Gibson.

High-A: Hickory 5, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 7
Hickory: 10 hits, 12 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 13 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 0-1, 1 GB

SP Owen White: 3 IP, 6 H (2 HR), 2 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 6.00 ERA
RP Spencer Mraz: 1.1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Evan Carter: 1-5, 2B, BB
RF Aaron Zavala: 0-2, 3 BB
SS Frainyer Chavez: 2-3, BB
2B Thomas Saggese: 1-3, 2 BB
1B Cristian Inoa: 3-5, 2 2B

MiLB.tv is a good product overall, but not without its problems. It is seemingly always caught off guard by the start of the season, with multiple feeds either absent, subject to frequent buffering, or, in the case of Winston-Salem last night, audio-only. That is to say, my hope of seeing Owen White’s high-A debut was dashed. The two opposing homers matched his total from last year’s 35 innings.

Winston-Salem walked twelve and flung two wild pitches, but Hickory couldn’t capitalize, stranding 14 and losing another four on the bases. Frainyer Chavez had a great night. The downside is he entered as a replacement for SS Luisangel Acuna, who departed after hurting his lower leg crossing first on a grounder. Hopefully, it’s not serious. DH Chris Seise walked twice in his first action since last year’s injury.

Incidentally, if you do get MiLB.tv, you’ll see all the games of Round Rock and Frisco, road games for eight of Hickory’s 11 league opponents, and all of Down East’s road games. Unfortunately, Rangers-owned Down East is the only Carolina League team without video.

Low-A: Down East 3, at Carolina (MIL) 6
Down East: 5 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts
Record: 0-1, 1 GB

SP Josh Stephan: 4 IP, 5 H ,3 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 4.50 ERA

Undrafted South Grand Prairie righty Josh Stephan threw plenty of strikes in last year’s 12 low-A innings, but four homers vaulted his ERA to 8.25. Last night, the ball stayed in the park. Beyond that, well, LF Alejandro Osuna’s double was the only extra-base hit, nobody reached more than once, and relievers Luis Tejeda (3 IP, 2 R) and Gavin Collyer (1 IP, 1 R) were fairly nondescript.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Glenn Otto
AA: Jack Leiter
Hi-A: Mason Englert

Five Years Ago Yesterday
331 games into his minor league career, Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit his first professional homer.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 7 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 7, El Paso (SDG) 8
Round Rock: 8 hits, 4 walks, 12 strikeouts
Opponent: 9 hits, 12 walks, 11 strikeouts
Record: 0-3, 3 GB

SP AJ Alexy: 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 9.00 ERA
CF Bubba Thompson: 3-5, 2 SB (2)
LF Leody Taveras: 2-5
DH Yohel Pozo: 1-4, 2B
C Sam Huff: 1-4, 2B

Alexy’s overall strike rate of 62% was fine, but he walked three and needed 67 pitches in three innings. He relied heavily on the fastball (93-96) and slider (82-86) while sprinkling in changes and curves.

Daniel Robert missed on eight of 12 pitches and didn’t retire any of three batters. He’s walked three in two outings. Last year, he walked five all season. Offseason free agent Nick Tropeano, who aspires to be this year’s Drew Anderson, I suppose, allowed two runs and walked three in two innings. Two days after having nothing to offer, righty Jason Bahr completed a scoreless inning with two walks and a strikeout.

After the Express used their allotted pitchers for the night, infielder Nick Tanielu entered with bases juiced and a one-run deficit in the 8th. He induced an inning-ending double play and worked a scoreless 9th. Yes, even with 17 pitchers on the roster, their schedules dictate that a position player will take the mound in a meaningful situation during the season’s third game. Such are the times.

The Express did take their bats out of storage last night. Sam Huff’s 110.5 MPH lined double is the hardest-hit ball by the good guys this season. Huff also hit a groundout nearly as hard.
Friend of the Newberg Report and Hickory fixture Mark Parker has a preview of this year’s Crawdads.

According to the official transaction page, the Rangers have promoted Future Considerations from Down East to Hickory. Long overdue, in my opinion.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Cole Winn
AA: Cody Bradford
Hi-A: Owen White
Lo-A: Gavin Collyer

Five Years Ago Yesterday
Down East allowed six in the 9th to lose 11-10, a night after they’d scored six in the 9th to win. Frisco’s Ariel Jurado allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 4.1 innings. Jurado was considered Texas’s second-best pitching prospect at the time, after Yohander Mendez. I’d place the early 2017 version of Jurado somewhere in the 5-10 range of Texas’s current pitching crop. Jurado missed 2021 (no idea why) and signed with the Twins during the abbreviated Spring Training.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Wednesday 6 April

The Rangers finalized their Opening Day roster. Officially up, as expected, are pitchers Matt Bush and Greg Holland plus infielder Charlie Culberson. To clear three 40-man spots, the Rangers placed RHP Jose Leclerc on the 60-day Injured List, designated IF Sherten Apostel for assignment, and traded IF Yonny Hernandez to Arizona for non-40 OF Jeferson Espinal.

Back to my thinking from the other day, Leclerc was the obvious first choice to make room on the 40. I thought OF Zach Reks was next in line. Nothing against him, but I’ve just not heard much about the 28-year-old in terms of a potential active-roster role. My two “make[s] me sad but I get it” players were Apostel and RHP Demarcus Evans, who’s currently not assigned to a team. Next, Hernandez headed my “interesting territory” group.

I expect that the front office had their collective minds decided before Round Rock’s first game, but to the extent Apostel had a chance to make them second-guess, he definitely did not: 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, eight swinging strikes out of 15 pitches, insecure fielding at first. Acquired along with lefty Taylor Hearn for reliever Keone Kela, Apostel was the prize of the pair for a while. Multiple leg ailments limited him to 68 games last year, and he never acclimated to either Frisco or Round Rock. He’s still just 23, so there’s still time.
I’m always fond of guys like Hernandezwho receive scant attention on prospect lists but you can gauge as having a real chance when you see them in person. Hernandez runs well, can play multiple positions capably and possesses an exceptionally keen eye for the strike zone. He’s not much of a hitter, but he could put enough balls in play to create an eye-popping OBP, and he was able to maintain enough of that ability as he faced increasingly tough pitchers. The 19-year-old Espinal will head to Arizona for now. He split last year between the rookie league (.352/.446/.507) and low-A Visalia (.216/.288/.288). Baseball America recently ranked him Arizona’s #27 prospect. “Toolsy and raw” seems a good thumbnail description.
Texas also simply assigned offseason pickup Joe McCarthy to AAA without adding him to the 40. Per the beats, the outfielder is exploring potential options in Japan. Generally, clubs and MLB as a whole will permit players like McCarthy to seek greener pastures, but at the same time, Texas wouldn’t want to release him only for him to latch on with rival.

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 2, El Paso (SDG) 6
Round Rock: 3 hits, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts
Opponent: 7 hits, 6 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 0-2, 2 GB

SP Kohei Arihara: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 60 P / 36 S, 9.00 ERA
RP Ryder Ryan: 2 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Hever Bueno: 2 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4.50 ERA
RP Nick Snyder: 1 IP, 0 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA

I didn’t see anything in March to suggest Kohei Arihara had improved on 2021’s rough introduction to MLB, and last night didn’t help. Maybe that’s harsh, as only two balls were hit especially hard, and Arihara himself was hit on a comebacker by the opening batter. Regardless, there’s much work to be done to renew the possibility of rejoining Texas.

Nick Snyder swatted away three Chihuahuas in short order with a 96-98 fastball and 83 MPH downhill slider. His presence in AAA doesn’t bother me, but I’d say he’s got better odds of finishing 2022 and starting 2023 in Texas than a good number of current Texas bullpen occupants.

Round Rock has three runs and seven hits in two games, and that honestly oversells the performance. Just not much to say yet. Leody Taveras broke a string of 20 consecutive batters retired with a one-out 9th-inning walk but was doubled out attempting to advance on a deep Yohel Pozo flyout.

IF Matt Carpenter and pitchers Glenn Otto and Matt Moore are active. We’ll see how Carpenter’s situation plays out. Elier Hernandez is the only non-catcher I’d consider more of a sub/rotation guy than a regular, and Sam Huff and Yohel Pozo may DH frequently when not behind the plate, so Carpenter’s plate appearances are always going to come at someone’s expense.

Hickory lost a friendly to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University 3-1. The Bears’ Wayne Cuda hit Ricky Vanasco’s first pitch over the fence.

St. Louis released IF Anderson Tejeda. Tejeda was an extreme high-variance prospect, but being released twice before his 24th birthday wasn’t a future I’d ever contemplated. He’d made tangible improvements in his hitting and fielding during 2018, and I was probably higher on him than most, but 2019 was shortened by injury. It’s easy to blame his premature MLB debut in 2020 (along with Apostel, Leody Taveras and Sam Huff) for subsequent events, but he could have just as easily stalled in AA/AAA if afforded a typical development path. 2020 and 2021 were tough on players, evaluators, everyone.

Today’s Starters
AAA: AJ Alexy
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Five Years Ago Yesterday
The high-A Down East Wood Ducks won their inaugural game 7-6, roaring back from a 6-1 deficit in the 9th. RF Jairo Beras capped the scoring with a homer. The very expensive and notorious prospect would hit three more homers in his pro career and switch to the mound by season’s end. Down East was technically a new team but in essence the relocated High Desert Mavericks, which played in the most hitter-friendly park in the US, and that was the only thing friendly about the situation. The Rangers paid several million dollars to get out of that jackpot. I digress. Lefty Joe Palumbo walked three and struck out five in his high-A debut.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Tuesday 5 April

Box Scores

AAA: Round Rock 1, El Paso (SDG) 13
Round Rock: 4 hits, 2 walks, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 16 hits, 6 walks, 14 strikeouts
Record: 0-1, 1 GB

SP Jake Latz: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 4.50 ERA
RP Tyson Miller: 1 IP, 2 H ,0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
RP Yerry Rodriguez: 0.2 IP, 3 H ,3 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 40.50 ERA
RP Daniel Robert: 1.1 IP, 1 H ,0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0.00 ERA
LF Bubba Thompson: 1-4, HR (1)

Surveys show most fans don’t pay attention to the score when visiting a minor league park. Neither do I, albeit for different reasons. Ignorance was bliss last night.

In his AAA debut, LF Bubba Thompson homered to left-center on a fastball. Thompson actually got under the pitch just a little, but his strength and a favorable wind teamed to carry his moonshot over the fence. Thompson’s had Round Rock’s only other very hard-hit ball of the night, a groundout off the bat at 102 MPH. The team’s other three hits consisted of an opposite-field blooped double by CF Leody Taveras (1-4), a soft single by RF Zack Reks (1-3, BB), and a topped grounder by C Sam Huff (1-4) that might’ve traveled 30 feet.

SS Josh Smith turned an 0-2 count into a nine-pitch walk in his first AAA plate appearance. Smith was hitless with a strikeout afterwards. El Paso starter Jesse Scholtens leaned on a looping curve to great effect; 21 of 23 registered strikes, with only Reks’ single causing damage. Grant Gavin’s changeup-heavy approach and Jordan Brink’s “I dare you” heat combined for nine strikeouts in four innings. The Express just didn’t have much to say offensively.

On the pitching side, starter Jake Latz was his boringly solid self, offering a fastball that reached 94, a good changeup, a decent curve, and a slider that didn’t do as much. 26 on Thursday, Latz was a candidate for the 40-man roster over the winter and remains one for the rotation or in long relief if needed.

Yerry Rodriguez maintained last year’s switch to relief, dealing a 95-98 fastball and 82-84 slider. The heater has excellent movement, although the Chihuahuas did hit a couple squarely. Rodriguez’s breaker has been a work in progress. He switched from a curve last spring, and the slider’s efficiency varied quite a bit. Last night version was pretty easy to spot out of his hand but looked tighter that usual, and it’s a very different look than his running fastball.

I’d never seen righty Daniel Robert in person, and what I saw on MiLB.tv at Frisco was a 92-93 fastball. Last night, the range jumped to 94-97, so that’s noteworthy. It’s straighter than Rodriguez’s but he places it well. Robert also delivers a tricky 79-82 slider that wasn’t as consistent as what I saw last year. The better ones tease the strike zone but sneak outside (against righties). Last night, he was “behind” several of them, so they sort of looked like attempted backdoor sliders but missed inside every time. Robert was a senior sign out of Auburn and missed a years to surgery and covid, so he’s a Triple A newcomer at the age of 27.

Apparently, automated umpiring won’t reach the Pacific Coast League until mid-May. The human ump shaved off the top of the zone but didn’t get much grief from either team. As I’d hoped, the advanced stats for the PCL do appear at Baseball Savant, although some manual URL input is needed to find them, and I don’t know if season-long stats will be compiled. I was happy to see my observations about Rodriguez’s and Robert’s respective fastball movement confirmed. Rodriguez’s horizontal break ranged from 7″ to 13″, Roberts 1″-7″. Statcast struggled badly to categorize some pitchers, calling most of Latz’s output in a broad 84-94 range a cutter.

Note: Most individual game reports won’t be nearly this long, so if you’re thinking this is overkill, don’t worry. With just one game on the schedule that I attended in person, I expanded a bit.

Righty Jake Lemoine made the Opening Day roster of the A’s. Texas’s 4th-round pick in 2015 because a free agent after last season. Recently released pitcher Mason Cole and ex-Rangers IF Ti’Quan Forbes and LHP Brady Feigl have signed with the indy Atlantic League.

Today’s Starters
AAA: Kohei Arihara
AA: off
Hi-A: off
Lo-A: off

Daily Report Primer Part II: The Stats That Matter

Per local media, pitchers Matt Bush and Greg Holland and IF Charlie Culberson have made the team. The Rangers also may appear of a state of mind to upgrade OF Joe McCarthy from his current minor league contract to a 40 spot. If the move doesn’t also include an active roster spot, I’m not sure what that’s about. I seriously doubt McCarthy, who has very limited MLB experience, has an opt-out clause. Perhaps he has a gentleman’s agreement. I’m missing info and context and the time gather them, so I’ll leave it there.

Garrett Richards, IL’ed with a blister. Glenn Otto, optioned. Spencer Patton, optioned (but on the taxi squad, which I found out was still a thing about five minutes ago). Brandon Workman, released. Not all moves are official; I’ve only seen the Rangers themselves issue the Otto and Workman transactions.

So, at present the Rangers require four 40-man moves assuming McCarthy joins, too. As I tweeted over the weekend, If Texas’s thinking jibes with mine, moves 1 and 2 are easy, moves 3 and 4 (as needed) will make me sad but I get it, and moves 5 and beyond (if needed) get into interesting territory. Yes, that’s vague. No, I’d rather not elaborate right now. All in due course.

AAA: Jake Latz vs. El Paso

Wednesday and Thursday will feature Kohei Arihara and AJ Alexy on the mound, respectively. Beyond that, including Cole Winn’s first start, I cannot say. The strange timing of the Rangers beginning their season after Round Rock has left the Express without an official roster a mere four hours before the first pitch. I’ll be in Round Rock tonight, and if you’re interested in my thoughts during the game, follow on twitter @scottrlucas.

The other teams begin Friday.

Part II of the Daily Report Primer: Stats I Love and Loathe

The best prospects tend to receive aggressive assignments and are young for their levels. Down the road, they’re often omitted from my annual 40-Man / Rule 5 preview because they forced their way onto the MLB squad months earlier. If all you know about a player is his age, you actually know quite a lot. So, for example, when the Rangers assign 19-year-old OF Evan Carter to high-A, they’re were telling you something.

One shouldn’t get carried away with age, though. Of course, players drafted out of college will be older, and dismissing them for being (gasp) 23 by the time they reach high-A would be ridiculous. However, those players are expected to perform better at the low levels and are on shorter leashes. (Incidentally, that a good many college players don’t handle A-level ball reinforces just how hard the pro game is.) Catchers tend to take more time, as do many pitchers.

The Rangers aren’t quite as aggressive with promotions as a decade ago. Promotions feel more player-tailored and less driven by organizational culture. Even so, they had the youngest hitters in the Triple A West and youngest pitchers in the Low-A East in 2021.

Slash Stats (Average / On-Base Percentage / Slugging)
In the Majors, batting average isn’t a useless stat, but it matters far less than on-base percentage and slugging. In the minors, I like to keep an eye on it. Putting the bat on the ball with frequency and authority is what gets players noticed and moves them up the ladder.

Let’s look at a couple of made-up players with 500 plate appearances. Both have a .360 OBP and .440 slugging percentage:

A)    100 hits, 10 doubles, 25 homers, 80 walks, 160 strikeouts
B)    150 hits, 33 doubles, 8 homers, 30 walks, 60 strikeouts

Same OBP, same slugging percentage, very different hitters. Player A is kind of a cut-rate Joey Gallo, batting .238 with huge number of walks and good-but-not-elite power. Player B batted .319 but doesn’t walk much or offer much more than doubles power. There aren’t many Player B type nowadays. Michael Brantley last year. Elvis Andrus in 2016. Point is, knowing the batting average in addition to OBP and slugging can be surprisingly informative. That said, even in the minors, OBP and slugging are much more useful.

These stats mean the least at lower levels and gain importance as players advance. They also matter more to offense-oriented positions. Except at the extreme margin and probably not even then, a first basemen cannot compensate for weak hitting with outstanding defense. He has to hit.

Walks (Hitters)
Laying off iffy pitches can be career-defining. Walks mitigate inevitable slumps. In the Luisangel Acuna example from yesterday, he drew six walks and an HBP during that 0-for-30 slump. That’s a .189 OBP. Not good, of course, but reaching nearly 20% of the time without a hit means he’s at least giving his teammates some chances with a runner on first.

Walks are a means, not an end, though. I do worry about players who rely too heavily on walks, which is easier to do at the lower levels where control is often absent. Selectivity is great. Passivity, not so much. Eventually, the hitter will rise to a level at which most pitchers not only have control but a semblance of command, and the hitter will have to adjust.

Automated strike zones are coming to the Pacific Coast League in 2022. I am very much looking forward to seeing robo-umped balls and strikes called in person.

Strikeouts (Hitters)
To some extent, we can ignore hitters’ strikeouts. What really matters is how they perform when they don’t. Not to be flip, but strikeouts for hitters don’t matter until they do. At some point, they reach a level that forces a herculean batting average on contact just to get by. For example, Adolis Garcia. Early last April, I gamed out what he’d need to reach a .300 OBP with so many strikeouts. As I tweeted: “Let’s say he can manage a 5% BB+HBP rate (well below league average) and a 30% K rate (well above, even in 2021). That means he needs to bat .263 for a minimum .300 OBP. And with all those Ks, that requires a .376 average on contact, about 50 points above the league average and better than what he’s done in AAA.”

Garcia ended up with a 6% BB+HBP rate and struck out in 31% of his plate appearances, close to my guesses. He also batted .364 when he made contact, roughly the 75% percentile among AL batters with at least 400 plate appearances. So, very good in that respect. And what did that high average on contact get him? A .286 OBP, 9th-worst among that same set of batters.

Some hitters are exceptionally good at avoiding strikeouts, but not particularly to their benefit. Most of the time, weak contact on marginal pitch isn’t any better than a strikeout.

Runs, Runs Batted In

I do list ERA when recapping pitchers. Much of the time, it’s a handy stat, but it’s not the end-all and sometimes is lying to you. Let’s take two pitchers in low-A last year:

Player A: 4.28 ERA, 43% SO rate, 7% BB rate, .272 opposing OBP, 16.5 pitches per inning
Player B: 3.68 ERA, 33% SO rate, 23% BB rate, 429 opposing OBP, 23.5 pitches per inning

Player B had the better ERA, but I’d pick Player A in a critical situation without question. B had a terrific strikeout rate but a bunch of innings marred by walks (mostly stranded, luckily) and elevated pitch counts. Pitcher A combined good control with an otherworldly strikeout rate, but the batters that reached were much more likely to get home. Usually, situational performance (such as runners in scoring position) tends to even out in the long run.

Sometimes a single terrible outing can wipe out a reliever’s ERA. My favorite example is John Smoltz back in 2002. He allowed eight runs in 0.2 innings in early April and needed three months of quality outings (including 37 saves!) just to drag his ERA below 4.00.

So, you’ll occasionally read something like “h;e spitched better [or worse] than his ERA would suggest.” If Players A and B continue to pitch as they have, Player A is far more likely to have the lower ERA eventually.

Wins and Losses
A pitcher’s win-loss record was a decent stat when horses kicked up dust in city streets and laudanum was available over the counter. In the modern game, it’s meaningless.  

Homers, Walks, Strikeouts (Pitchers)
These are better indicators than ERA, which is often tied to luck on balls in play and how well relievers strand runners left behind.

Homers are trickier to analyze. More fly balls equal more homers, of course, but HR rates can bounce around crazily from year to year for no other reason than variance. Walk and strikeout rates tend to stabilize more quickly.

Walk rates ballooned in Low-A in 2021, courtesy of a missed year, the eradication of short-season ball, and hundreds of max-effort throwers with control in various stages of (under)development. Also: robo-umps:

Low-A Combined Walk/HBP rate:
2019, human umps: 10.5%
2021, human umps: 12.2%
2021, robo-umps: 14.3%

For 29 years, the worst combined BB/HBP rate in low-A (14.5%) belonged to the 1991 Augusta Pirates. Six teams were worse last year, five of them in the robo-umped Low-A Southeast. The other was Down East’s division opponent in Fayetteville, a Houston affiliate. The Woodpeckers walked or plunked 17.1% of opposing batters and set a all-time record of 196 wild pitches despite a schedule shortened 20 games by the pandemic. (Fayetteville also used an amazing 55 pitchers in 2021, including 30 different starters.)

There seems to be more pitchers who can abide the higher walk rate because they’re darn near unhittable otherwise.

Strikeout have risen so much that I constantly have to remind myself what constitutes an acceptable rate. In 2007, my first year on the job, the best team in the Midwest League (which contained Texas-affiliated Clinton) had a strikeout rate of 21.3%. Last year, the worst team in Texas’s low-A league had a rate of 22.6%. The league average has increased 6% in that span, about 2.2 strikeouts per game per team.

HBPs are kind of an afterthought in typical stat-watching, but they’ve risen greatly in recent years, and some pitchers are plunk-prone enough to seriously degrade their performance.

I tend to refer to these stats in rates per batter faced rather than per nine innings. Per-nine accounting can be skewed by the number of runners allowed. If two pitchers strike out a batter per inning, they obviously are striking out an identical amount per nine innings, but if one is allowing one runner per inning and the other two, the stingier pitcher has a 25% strikeout rate compared to the other guy’s 20%. That 5% is meaningful.

Opposing Slash Stats
The opposing batting line relates closely to the pitcher’s core peripherals. I mention them often and think they’re interesting. Opponents batted a minuscule .146/.239/.259 against Cole Winn last year. Essentially, Winn turned everyone into a hitter in danger of losing his job. Winn’s combined walk/HBP was so-so, but really suppressed hits and power. Incidentally, Winn’s opposing average on balls in play was .199, which I seriously doubt is sustainable over the course of his upcoming time in Round Rock. Nothing against Winn, but some of those balls are going to find an opening.

Fielding is trickiest to evaluate from an outsider’s perspective. Fielding percentage rarely tells the whole story.

For example, over the course of a season, let’s pretend two infielders share shortstop duties equally. On their first 400 grounders, they’re identical statistically. But then on their next 20 grounders apiece, Shortstop 1 never a single one, but Shortstop 2 reaches all of them and turns 15 into outs and throws 5 into the stands, allowing those hitters to reach second. Shortstop 2 will have a worse fielding percentage, but he also turned 15 more balls into outs. Would you rather an opposing batter reach first safely 20 times, or reach second 5 times but get put out the other 15 times? Shortstop 2 is far more effective despite making more errors.

Even with no stats, you can learn plenty simply from where someone plays. For example, Frisco had a quartet of Bubba Thompson, JP Martinez, Josh Stowers and Steele Walker for last season’s first 80 games. Who played CF the most? Thompson with 40 starts, followed by Martinez with 28. Walker made about three-quarters of his corner outfield starts in right, while Stowers worked each corner equally. The guy getting the most starts in center might not necessarily be the best on his team in that role, but at the least he’s who the front office wants to see there the most. (In this case, Thompson is actually is the superior defender.)

Clubs have advanced stats (exit velo, launch angle, spin rate, etc.) on minor leaguers, but to date they’re not readily available to the public. I’m hopeful that some info will be available for the robo-umped Pacific Coast League. If so, I’ll incorporate it into the reports.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Thursday 5 April

The minor-league system opened 4-0. By and large, the players you’d want to see in the highlights had highlight-worthy games. Enjoy your morning, Ranger fans! Then pray for a win by the parent club.

AAA: Oklahoma 5, Memphis 4
Win — Eyre
Save — Murray

Oklahoma rallied with two runs in the ninth to overtake the Redbirds. Down 4-3, 3B Tug Hulett and CF Fast Freddy Guzman walked with one out. A wild pitch and groundout plated Hulett, then RF Victor Diaz doubled with two out to bring home the go-ahead run.

Willie Eyre had retired six straight and erased former Ranger Ryan Ludwick on a fly-out to start the ninth, but a walk to Tagg Bozied and a single by Nick Stavinoha put the losing run at first. A.J. Murray replaced Eyre, induced a groundout from Rick Ankiel, and struck out Travis Hanson swinging to end the game.

Starter John Koronka went six, allowing three runs in the first inning and one in the sixth. He allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five. 1B Nate Gold’s first three appearances in AAA consisted of a double, a walk, and a two-run, game-tying homer. LF Jason Botts hit a double in four at-bats. Hulett singled in his first AAA at-bat and drew that crucial ninth-inning walk. Diaz also hit a solo homer.

AA: Frisco 3, Arkansas 2
Win – Bumstead
Save — Ingram

Frisco likewise mounted a late rally to beat the Travelers in front of 8,458 at Dr Pepper Ballpark. With one out in the bottom of the eighth, SS Casey Benjamin singled and advanced to second on an error. RF Kevin Mahar promptly homered off reliever Jose Arrendondo to put the Roughriders ahead for good. In the ninth, Jesse Ingram earned a save by retiring the side with relative ease despite an error by 2B German Duran.

Jamey Wright did not pitch as effectively as you’d prefer. He allowed a single by former Roughrider Adam Morrissey and an RBI double by Aaron Peel to start the game, then permitted another run in the second on three consecutive singles. After two more innings and just one hit, he was done for the night. Per Richard Durrett of the Dallas Morning News, Wright claimed he felt lethargic and didn’t have his usual velocity. He “assured Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington, both in attendance, that his arm was fine.” Wright walked none and struck out two.

Wright will make his next start against Tampa Bay on the 10th. In years past the Angels’ Double-A affiliate might have presented a greater challenge to a pitcher than the Major League D-Rays, but that’s no longer the case.

After Wright departed, relievers Steven Rowe, Randy Williams, Michael Bumstead and Ingram combined on five hitless innings with four strikeouts. Only a walk issued by Bumstead marred the perfection.

Traveler starter Nick Green held Frisco in check for six innings, permitting only one run on an Emerson Frostad double that scored LF Steve Murphy. Benjamin hit a double in addition to his ninth-inning single, and Mahar also singled. Travis Metcalf, Kevin Richardson and German Duran were hitless, though Metcalf did draw a walk.

High-A: Bakersfield 9, Lancaster 7
Win – Giles
Save – Wilson

Seemingly discontent with mere ninth-inning heroics, Bakersfield rallied from deficits of 3-0, 5-3 and 6-5 to defeat the Boston-affiliated Jethawks.

Down 3-0 in the third, RF John Mayberry atoned for an earlier strikeout by homering to center to score SS Matt Smith and CF Terry Blunt. Losing 5-4 in the 7th, consecutive doubles by 3B Chris Davis and Mayberry retied the game. And, facing a one-run deficit in the ninth, 3B Chris Davis walked, 1B Freddie Thon singled, and LF Brandon Boggs homered to give Bakersfield the lead. A double by DH Jake Blalock and RBI single by Smith provided insurance.

Davis, who bypassed low-A Clinton and switched from first base to third, went 1-4 with a double, walk, run and RBI. Mayberry was 2-5 with his aforementioned success. Thon finished 3-5 with a run and two RBI, and Boggs hit a double and walked in addition to his homer. Catcher Taylor Teagarden was hitless with two walks in his high-A debut. The Blaze had 20 baserunners on the evening

Starter Michael Schlact allowed three earned runs on five hits in five innings, walking one and fanning two. Two singles and a Scott White homer in the second furnished all of the damage. In his other four innings, Schlact limited the Jethawks to two harmless singles. Patrick Donovan struggled in his high-A debut, permitting his first four opponents to reach base and surrendering two runs in two-thirds of an inning. Kevin Altman put out Donovan’s fire, and Josh Giles and Jon Wilson each allowed a run in an inning of work.

Low-A: Clinton 8, Quad Cities 4
Win — Poveda
Save – Gudex

Omar Poveda pitched five very strong innings and led the LumberKings to an Opening Day victory before 745 hot-chocolate-infused souls at Alliant Energy Field. Temperature at game-time was 39 and dipped to the low 30s at the conclusion. Midwest League openers in Lansing and Beloit were postponed due to cold and snow.

Poveda’s one blemish came on a solo homer by Daryl Jones in the fifth, by which time the L-Kings already held a comfortable lead. During the first four innings he allowed only two hits and a walk. In the third inning, a double followed by consecutive errors by SS Marcus Lemon and 3B John Whittleman loaded the bases. Poveda didn’t let the miscues hurt him, getting Mark Shorey to pop out to short and then striking out Omar Falcon to end the threat. The sequence was a welcome change of pace for a team that granted 116 unearned runs in 2006. Poveda allowed three hits and a walk and struck out two. 10 of his 13 outs were fly balls.

John Slusarz made his A-ball debut in relief of Poveda and allowed three runs in 1.2 innings. He struck out three. Tim Gudex, a University of Iowa product also appearing in the Midwest League for the first time, stamped out a rally in the seventh and completed the final two innings for an old-fashioned save.

Clinton’s batters started with a flourish. After a Craig Gentry pop-out, 2B Jose Vallejo singled and DH Chad Tracy reached on an error. 1B Mauro Gomez then deposited a pitch from Brandon “Cotton” Dickson (a 22-year-old and low-A newcomer) beyond the left-field fence. Another four runs in the fourth chased Dickson.

Tracy finished 1-5 with a triple that bounced off the left-field wall. Marcus Lemon was 0-4 with a walk. RF Grant Gerrard had two singles, a double, a walk, two steals, a run and an RBI. Gentry and Vallejo added two hits apiece. John Whittleman was 0-1 with four walks. Catcher Manuel Pina had a run-scoring single, and LF K.C. Herren walked twice and singled. Collectively, the LumberKings pelted the Swing with 11 hits and nine walks.

Defensively, the game resembled a contest from 1907. Clinton committed four errors including two from Whittleman, who had 34 last year. The Swing made five of their own.