The new episode available on Apple podcasts or player.fm. Sean Bass, Michael Tepid and I discuss roster moves, whether Adolis Garcia is for real, draft thoughts, alternate site performances, much more.
Alternate Site Report
On Monday, Curtis Terry homered on a 3-0 pitch in his first at-bat (video). Last week, Terry smashed a 3-0 pitch hard but foul. The light is always green. Prior to Carl Chester’s heroics (see below), Terry took a two-strike fastball just barely off the plate for a ball, then clubbed a more favorable offering for a single. The next day, on a 1-2 count, he shrugged off two tempting outside breakers followed by an inside slider for a walk. Terry still struggles against ordinary breaking stuff at times, but his eye and plate coverage are much improved from years past. He has ample power but profiles as more of an all-around hitter.
Anderson Tejeda played third Monday, singling once and striking out three times. As you probably saw, Tejeda isn’t ready for MLB pitching. I wasn’t thrilled to see him in Arlington, much less batting second, but such were the circumstances. Active rosters have expanded, but teams are using all the extra room on pitching and keeping several more hurlers at the ready in the minors. Meanwhile, the 40-man roster remains at 40, leaving precious little room for substitute position players. Perhaps if the Rangers hadn’t protected catcher David Garcia, who hadn’t played above short-season ball and was a borderline decision (in my opinion), they’d have more options. Perhaps. The Rangers aren’t alone in this regard. When I checked last week, Texas’s division opponents on average had even fewer position players on the 40.
Yonny Hernandez smacked a double off the wall in left center and drew two five-pitch walks against hard-throwing but sometimes control-averse prospect Shawn Dubin. Hernandez is batting .389/.522/.500 in the alt-site series. Infielder Diosbel Arias went 5-for-9 with two doubles in the two games. The Cuban has more oomph in his bat than Hernandez and a keen if not Yonny-esque batting eye but is less suited to short.
On Monday, DH/LF Carl Chester (part of the Nate Lowe trade) singled, walked, and ended the game with a three-run opposite field homer (video). Chester homered again and doubled on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Miami alum hasn’t shown much game power as a pro (13 HR in 306 games) but will get a chance to improve on that at AA (my guess, and all guesses are wild in 2021).
Righty Blake Bass befuddled several hitters with an 87 MPH slider (video).
I was hesitant to write much about RHP Jason Bahr’s previous outing because I had trouble deciphering his non-fastballs. With some professional assistance, I have a better idea. Bahr throws an upper-70s slider (although it sometimes looks like a tilty curve), a low-80s cutter, and what I saw as a changeup is a split-finger that also runs low 80s (video). Nothing he throws has much lateral movement, so even against Houston’s all-righty lineup he tends to works high-low instead of trying to get hitters to chase away. At times, he mixed the splitter and fastball to great effect, getting hitters to focus low and then swing under his high fastball. He did struggle with his control, not for the first time, and an intended high heater on 0-2 instead caught the middle and became a souvenir. Bahr has 17 strikeouts and six walks in nine alt-site innings.
Reliever Joe Barlow looked like his old self when I saw him two weeks ago. On Tuesday, the more problematic version returned. Barlow couldn’t locate his four-seamer and allowed a walk and homer in short order. He then began dealing a new (to me) and effective 90-91 MPH cutter. Last time out, Barlow offered a respectable slider. The repertoire that elevated him to AAA in 2019 consisted of a mid-90s fastball and a curve with terrific depth.
As a group, the opposing Astros have a bunch of hard throwers with fringy or worse control. Houston’s lineup Monday and Tuesday was entirely right-handed. They lost top infield prospect Jeremy Pena for months to a wrist injury suffered last week in Corpus Christi.
The Express will host three games next week, and tickets are available to the general public. I was told about 1,800 were expected for last Monday’s game. Aside from a closed-off outfield and outer bowl, the park looked close to normal for a Monday in April. For what it's worth, I’d rate my people-averseness as well above average during the past year, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable down in the seats. (I am two weeks past my second shot.) The majority of fans were unmasked while sitting, but most had drinks and food.
MLB.com’s latest mock draft has the Rangers landing Dallas Jesuit shortstop Jordan Lawlar with the #2 pick after Vandy righty Jack Leiter. Jamey Newberg, whom you may know from such publications as the Newberg Report, has a terrific feature on Lawlar at The Athletic that details Lawler’s apparently unshakable commitment to Vanderbilt. We’ll see. He can confirm that commitment by removing his name from the draft. Absent that, I expect him to sign.
Internal opinions among clubs will vary, of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that Lawlar and Vandy hurler Jack Leiter are the clear top-two choices on draft day. (Leiter’s teammate Kumar Rocker has slid a little, and others such as Louisville catcher Henry Davis and prep shortstops Marcelo Mayer and Brady House may warrant consideration in July.) In that respect, Texas’s decision is easy: pick who Pittsburgh doesn’t. I’m fine with either. It’s not as though one is a 7-level prospect and the other a 5. The draft doesn’t contain a Harper or Strasburg.
Choosing between the two is trickier. Position players are less risky. Arms can explode at any time. On the other hand, Leiter is a polished prospect with a relatively small gap between current performance and potential, while an investment in Lawlar probably doesn’t produce returns before 2025. Grabbing a player with a quicker payoff has to be tempting.
Also under consideration is Texas’s recent inability to select and develop MLB starting pitching. The last pitcher drafted by Texas who threw 150 innings as a Ranger is Derek Holland in 2013. In the past three seasons, the most starting innings by a Texas-drafted pitcher is 18 by Kyle Cody in 2020. Should that background impel Texas to favor hitters? I don’t think so. You (in the role of GM) have to have faith in the people you’ve hired to develop pitching. They’re your people, after all. If you feel a pitcher is the better pick but you’ve lost faith in the development staff, the answer isn’t to pick a hitter, it’s to replace the development staff. Your organizational policy can’t be “we’re bad at doing pitching, let’s look elsewhere.” It’s like Amazon saying “we haven’t done distribution well lately, so we’ll focus on the website.” No! It’s too important not to fix. (I haven't carefully studied the SP development success of Texas's division mates as a comparison, but I will.)
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs.com has a glowing eyewitness report on righty Cole Winn and video.
Reid Ryan, CEO of Ryan-Sanders Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Round Rock Express, will be a member of the new Minor League Executive Board. The nine-member board includes a representative from each of the four full-season minor league levels, four from MLB at the club or league level, and one neutral member. Per Baseball America, the board “will handle disputes between teams from minor and major league baseball, advise on the licensing, marketing and sponsorship sales around the minor leagues and recommend tweaks and alterations to the PDLs [professional development licenses; i.e., affiliations].”
The Astros purchased the AAA Sugar Land Skeeters. Houston bought the AA Corpus Christi Hooks from Ryan-Sanders several years ago.