The Farm Report and Playoff Preview -- 9/21/2021

Down East hosts Charleston tonight at 6pm CDT in the opener of the Low A East championship. Gavin Collyer will take the mound for the Wood Ducks. Games 1 and 2 will be available on the radio, while the later games in Charleston are on MiLB.tv.

Rangers Farm Report: Games of Monday 20 September

Box Scores


AAA: Round Rock 10, at Sugar Land (HOU) 1
Record: 61-57, eliminated

SP Tyson Miller: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 SO, 3.00 ERA
RP Cole Uvila: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8.41 ERA
RP Matt Bush: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA
SS Ryan Dorow: 3-6, double, .228/.312/.420
3B Josh Jung: 4-5, double, .333/.416/.626
1B Curtis Terry: 1-5, HR (22), .284/.358/.560
RF Carl Chester: 4-5, .193/.244/.320

Josh Jung can hit. I get him for five more home games in my backyard, and then you can watch him in Arlington in 2022. Opening Day, I'd wager.

Matt Bush pitched for the first time since early April. I have no idea whether the Rangers intend to bring him back up to the Majors. They'd have to clear a spot on the 40. Bush is 35 and has thrown three MLB innings during 2019-2021.

Brock Burke is today's scheduled starter.

PLAYOFF PREVIEW
  
Low A East (best-of-five)
Down East Wood Ducks (72-48) vs. Tampa Bay-affiliated Charleston RiverDogs (82-38)

Season Run Differential: Down East +71, Charleston +263
Last 20 Games: Down East 13-7, Charleston 13-7
Season Series: Down East 8-4

How They Got Here
Down East played .500 ball for over two months after a 7-0 start. On August 4, the Wood Ducks were in fifth place, two games behind Delmarva and 3.5 behind Carolina and Salem. Thereafter, the Woodies went 29-12. From May 30 until the end of the season, they held a playoff spot to themselves for exactly two days, after Games 118 and 120.

Charleston has the second-best record in full-season ball  and third-best in the 31-year history of low-A. After splitting the first 18 games, Charleston won 16 of 20 to take over first place for good. From May 24 through September 10, the RiverDogs won over three-quarters of their games before losing six of eight (mostly to Down East).

History 
Down East joined the high-A Carolina League in 2017. In their inaugural season, the Wood Ducks nabbed a playoff spot on the season's final day despite a 62-77 record and won a hurricane-abbreviated co-championship. In 2019, Down East finished 87-52 but fell in the opening round to Houston's affiliate. This season, the team dropped to low-A.

Charleston has fielded a team continuously since 1980's reformation of the South Atlantic League. Known originally as the Rainbows, the team affiliated with several teams (including the Rangers in 1993-1996) before a 16-year partnership with the Yankees. In 2021, Tampa Bay took over. Charleston has never won a league title.

Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America
Down East:
8 / 7. IF Luisangel Acuna
19 / 11. OF Aaron Zavala
29 / 21. RHP Owen White

Charleston:
8 / 9. RHP Cole Wilcox (on IL)
11 / 30. OF Heriberto Hernandez (ex-Ranger, on IL)
16 / 17. RHP Seth Johnson
21 / --. RHP Sandy Gaston
26 / 21. IF Osleivis Basabe

As of late morning, I don't see any notable last-minute transactions except the placement of Charleston IF Tanner Murray (.339/.407/.523 in 27 games) on the IL.

Offense / Down East Position Players
C Xavier Valentin / Randy Florentino
1B Cristian Inoa
2B Luisangel Acuna
3B Cody Freeman / Thomas Saggese
SS Keyber Rodriguez
LF Alejandro Osuna
CF Jayce Easley
RF Aaron Zavala
Also IF Jose Acosta, OF Daniel Mateo, OF Angel Aponte

Adjusted for park, Down East had a 100 OPS+ and outscored the league average by 3%. It's an average offense goosed by incredible baserunning proficiency. The Woodies stole 290 bases, most per game in low-A history. The RiverDogs didn't permit a huge number of steals, but that's a function of being ahead most of the time rather than defensive prowess. Teams don't steal when losing by four runs in the 5th. Down East averaged 1.6 SB/game against Charleston and should find the basepaths inviting if the games are competitive. Typical leadoff hitter Jayce Easley has a .403 OBP and a minors-best 70 steals. Easley and rookie Aaron Zavala (.433 OBP) are most adept at earning free passes. Down East doesn't come close to matching Charleston's power, but Thomas Saggese (10 HR, .207 isolated power) and Cristian Inoa (11 HR, .177 ISO) do their part. About 80% of the team's plate appearances came from the current roster. With the exception of Dustin Harris, every departure of consequence was either a demotion or injury.

The RiverDogs have one of the best offenses in low-A history. Their 6.3 runs per game are the fourth-highest ever, and they outscored the park-adjusted league average by an otherworldly 32%. They've lost some top performers to promotions, but those left behind have close to the same overall production. Charleston ranks first in average, first in isolated power, and slightly above average in walks and HBP. September's busiest player, CF Beau Brundage, has a .340/.440/.638 line. The other major power source is C/4C Matt Dyer (.336/.383/.598). OF Garrett Hiott (.268/.368/.463) and ex-Ranger Osleivis Basabe (.284/.347/.385) shared leadoff duty in the recent series against Down East. The ten busiest hitters in September have an average OBP of .371. The RiverDogs aren't as run-oriented as Down East but can swipe a base.

Pitching / Possible Rotation
1: Gavin Collyer (3.33 ERA, .236/.360/.348 opposing line, 17% BB/HBP rate, 26% SO rate)
2: John Matthews (6.78 ERA, .289/.376/.484, 13% BB/HBP, 25% SO)
3: Nick Krauth (4.30 ERA, .258/.320/.406, 8% BB/HBP, 18% SO)
4: Owen White (3.24 ERA, .205/.281/.287, 10% BB/HBP, 40% SO)
5: maybe Mason Englert (4.35 ERA, .242/.319/.361, 11% BB/HBP, 26% SO)

The first four starters are confirmed. Game 5 is TBD. Mason Englert had been starting the fourth of each six-games series lately but is being skipped, at least temporarily.

In the bullpen, quasi-closer Eudrys Manon is the apotheosis of the walk-heavy, impossible-to-hit reliever. In his last dozen outings, hasn't allowed anyone to cross the plate aside from one extra-inning zombie runner, and opponents are hitting .080/.217/.100. Leury Tejeda might close when Manon isn't available. Destin Dotson (3.95 ERA, .188/.272/.307 oppo line) has no saves and and has only finished two games, but he's acquired a more prominent role recently. Michael Brewer has pitched well in September. Asking for consistency in a low-A staff is too much, but on the whole Down East pitched well and rated slightly better than the offense.

Charleston had the league's best pitching, if not by the same gigantic margin as the offense. The solid rotation has no major weaknesses. Ben Brecht (3.23 ERA, .206/.245/.330 oppo line, 23% SO) and Seth Johnson (2.88 ERA, .243/.314/.359, 29% SO) are announced starters. The bullpen tends to have fewer high-K pitchers than Down East but superior control. Relievers Joe LaSorsa (2.41 ERA, 7% BB, 31% SO) and Andrew Gross (1.66 ERA, 5% BB, 25% SO) have better BB/SO profiles than anyone Down East can offer.

Defense
Charleston was by far the best in the league in opposing BABIP (.296) and turning potential double plays into reality, while Down East was slightly better than average in both respects. Charleston was slightly more mistake prone.

Advantages
Offense – Charleston, huge margin
Pitching – Charleston
Defense – Charleston

Park Factor
Down East – 0.97
Charleston -- 0.94

Outlook / Prediction
Down East is a good team. Charleston is one of the best low-A teams of the last 30 years and the obvious choice between the two. That said, the Wood Ducks won 60% of their games and 70% over the final third of the season. They won the season series. Charleston scored only 4.3 runs per game against them compared to 6.5 against everyone else. Winning the championship would not at all be a fluke.

Most Recent Texas-Affiliated Championship Teams
AAA: 1996 Oklahoma City 89ers
AA: 2004 Frisco RoughRiders
Hi-A: 2017 Down East Wood Ducks (co-champion)
Lo-A: 2015 Hickory Crawdads
Short-A: 2008 Spokane Indians
Rookie: 2019 Rangers
DSL: 2014 Rangers

--
Scott Lucas
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title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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