The SANDbox: 5 Things I'm Curious About The Rest Of The Way

Jared Sandler
August 12, 2019 - 10:05 am
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The SANDbox

SPECIAL NOTICE

The Rangers are inducting Josh Hamilton and former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene into the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame this Saturday.  There’s a special ticket deal for those wanting to be there. For just $32 you can get two tickets in the Upper Box/Upper Reserved sections. The deal is only available online at texasrangers.com/hamilton.

LEADING OFF

Here are five things I am curious about the rest of the way…

Young Starters

Kolby Allard is in the Rangers rotation and soon he’ll likely be joined by Joe Palumbo with the chance of Brock Burke making an appearance before the year is over, too. How these youngsters perform is not a firm indication of what their career will look like, but I’m definitely excited to see these guys get some chances and go through the growing pains.

The Inner Circle

Joey Gallo established that he’s a viable part of the Rangers’ “core” moving forward but no one else has. Willie Calhoun is on his way but I want to see him finish strong. It’s been disappointing for different reasons for Maz and Rougie but I’m curious to see how they finish up their years. No matter what, Rougie needs to show more consistency but a strong finish can remind us that he isn’t as bad as some people make him out to be. Maz isn’t bad…he’s just average…against righties. But the Rangers think he can be more and need him to be more because unlike Rougie, who can run and defend, Maz isn’t a plus outside of the batter's box.

The Return of the King

Elvis broke out in 2017. Last year was interrupted by injuries so his dip in performance was understandable. He missed a lot of time and never seemed to regain rhythm upon his return. But this year was supposed to resemble 2017 and, at the start, it did. Elvis was very good before a hamstring knocked him out for 10 days in mid-May. Before the injury, Elvis slashed .325/.373/.510 (.882). Since the injury, he’s slashing just .260/.294/.364 (.658). The latter set of numbers looks like a bottom-of-the-orer bat. That’s okay, but Elvis turns 31 later this month. He’s not at an age where you get better defensively and he needs to show that he can get back to being an impact bat to really make a difference moving forward.

Clase and The Clerk

The Rangers might have a really dynamic 1-2 punch for the backend of the bullpen in Jose Leclerc and Emmanuel Clase. In what role, however, is still to be determined. The ninth inning appears to be Leclerc’s for now—and I don’t know that the 21-year old Clase is next in line—but if Leclerc can show he can handle the ninth, then you’re looking at potentially one of the best bullpen backends in baseball in 2020.

The Race for 20

In 1974, Ferguson Jenkins won 25 games while striking out 225 batters. No Ranger before Jenkins nor any Ranger since has won 20 games while striking put 225 in a season. Lance Lynn has a great chance. He’s sitting at 14 wins and 178 strikeouts with eight or nine starts remaining. I don’t champion the win and don’t think it is the best indication of a pitcher’s ability, but it would be cool to see Lance get 20.

(ST)RANGER THINGS

*Liked what I saw from Kolby Allard. He ran out of gas in the 5th and left the game with one out but the expectation wasn’t for him to secure a Cy Young on Friday night. I just wanted to see positives upon which Allard and the Rangers can build. With a fastball that lived in the 91-94 range, strong command until he ran out of steam, seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings with just three hits allowed, I’d say it was certainly a positive. It wasn’t perfect. Obviously, he needs to be able to go deeper into games moving forward, but there were definitely lots of good things. I’m excited for his next start in Toronto.

*Starting to think July was an anomaly and not a trend towards total regression for Mike Minor. He hasn’t allowed a run in August. I think that’s good…

*Jon Daniels discussed the difficult evaluation of Danny Santana who has come out of nowhere this year to help anchor the Rangers’ lineup

*Scott Heineman was sent back to Triple-A Nashville to clear space for LHP Kolby Allard. I don’t think it is the last we see of Heineman this year, but I do think it shows a little bit of how the Rangers view him. If they saw him as a candidate to be a starting outfielder next year, my guess is he’d be up here still. I think the Rangers probably view Scott as a fourth outfielder-type and maybe not even that, potentially. He’s a good kid and a good athlete but turns 27 in December so my guess is if the Rangers don’t view him as a likely 25-man guy next year, he’s in a different organization by Spring Training 2020.

*Farm system rankings don’t guarantee a darned thing but good to see the Rangers climbing as MLB Pipeline identified the Texas system as a Top-15 system in MLB.

*RHP Edinson Volquez has been sidelined since April 5 but it made clear that he wants to come back and pitch this year before retiring at the end of the year. He began a rehab assignment last Wednesday in Surprise. Really rooting for Volqy to go out on his terms.

*RHP Luke Farrell and LHP Yohander Mendez joined Double-A Frisco to continue their rehab assignments. Both have been at AZL Rangers.

*Taylor Hearn has been shut down from throwing with more elbow irritation. Doctors don’t believe it is UCL related which is a great sign. My guess is he gets some innings during instructs and comes to camp next Spring ready to compete for a rotation spot.

*Here are the Rangers players’ “Players Weekend” nicknames

STRATEGY NOTE OF THE WEEK

Willie Calhoun has been productive against left-handed pitching this year. Despite his .229 BA, he’s slugging .771. All eight of his hits versus lefties have been for extra bases—5 HR, 2 2B, and 1 3B. I recently asked Willie about his improvements this year against lefties and he said that he turns his head more against lefties so he can get two eyes on the pitcher and the ball. His traditional batting stance, as is the case for most lefties, makes it tough for him to see opposing lefties, especially those with odd angles. So instead of tucking his head on top of his right shoulder, he turns it more. Interestingly, he said he got the idea this off-season from Nomar Mazara who, unfortunately, has struggled mightily against lefties this year.

ANECDOTE OF THE WEEK

Thanks to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News for sharing this…

The Little League team from Maracaibo, Venezuela won their regional and earned a berth to Williamsport, but didn’t have the money to obtain visas. Upon hearing that, Rougned Odor decided to pay the fee. He also sent each member of the team an autographed hat.

Way to go, Rougie.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"I told [Woodward> not to worry about me. We went through this earlier when I didn't play opening day and I think it made our relationship better. What I've come to learn is that he really cares about his players. That's what I've seen. And I told him, it's hard to trust people, but when I do, I trust them no matter what. And he's earned my trust.” -Shin-Soo Choo on Chris Woodward via Evan Grant’s story in the DMN

"We are getting some weird looks from opposing hitters going back to their dugout." -Chris Woodward on Emmanuel Clase’s 99-101 MPH cutter

“Obviously, I was getting into too many deep counts and the pitch count got a little high. Then in the fifth, I almost got into that mode of nibbling a little bit rather than just going at them and attacking them like I was the first two times through the order. I made it a little bit harder on the bullpen. All in all, it could have been better, but it wasn’t bad.” -Kolby Allard on his first start with the Rangers

STATS OF THE WEEK

*There have been 45 cutters thrown at 98+ mph this year. Emmanuel Clase has thrown 43 of them.

*When Kolby Allard made his MLB debut in 2018 his fastball averaged 89.4 MPH over three starts. In Allard’s first Rangers start on Friday, his fastball averaged 92.9 MPH.

*Rougie has 11 walks over his last 12 games. His previous 11 walks came over a 52-game stretch.

*Rangers LH batters have hit 31 HR off of LHP, most in MLB.

*Last year, Rangers pitchers posted a K% of 18/0%, last in MLB. This year, Rangers pitchers have a K% of 22.0%, 20th in MLB. Steps in the right direction!

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*When was the last time a team so clearly had the best roster in the league after the trade deadline to the degree the Astros have the best roster in MLB this year? Wow.

*Mike Trout is leading the AL in OPS this year. If he ends the year in the top spot in this category, it’ll be his third straight year leading the AL in OPS. How rare is that? According to Jayson Stark, the last player to lead the AL in OPS at least three years in a row was Ted Williams who led the AL for four straight years from 1946-1949.

*Martin Perez got off to a great start this year but he’s now back to reality with a 4.80 ERA. It seems like, contrary to narratives woven early in the season, it is more of a Martin Perez thing than a Rangers thing.

*Bo Bichette joined Derek Lee and Yadier Molina as the only players in the live-ball era to record a double in eight straight games and then claimed the record to himself by doubling the next day in his ninth straight game. He broke the Blue Jays franchise record of seven set by Carlos Delgado in 2000. He also set a new MLB record in extra base hits in the first 11 games of his career with 13. Finally, he is also the first rookie with 9 straight games with extra base hits since Ted Williams in 1939.

*We really haven’t talked much about the Rockies in this space. It’s been a very disappointing season for them. After winning 90 games last year, they’re 53-65 and in last place in the NL West.

*I was wrong about the Indians. Before the year I predicted the Twins would win the division—and they still might—but Cleveland appears to be the better team. What’s so impressive is that they are where they are in spite of injuries to Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco’s battle with leukemia, Trevor Bauer’s inconsistent performance while still with them, and Jose Ramirez playing like one of the worst hitters in baseball through mid-June. They aren’t as good as the Astros—who is?—but they might actually be better than the Yankees when you consider the Yankees current slew of injuries and challenges on the mound in their rotation.

*Juan Soto is 20-years old. He debuted last year as a 19-year old. I’m not sure enough people, especially in AL cities, are giving him the love he deserves for his production at such a young age. After a .923 OPS last season, Soto’s OPS is .942 and is on pace for a 30-100 season. Really impressive.

MINOR LEAGUES

*The Rangers promoted LHP Brock Burke to Triple-A and his debut went very well. In the very hitter-friendly Chukchansi Park, home to the Fresno Grizzlies, Burke allowed 1 run over 5 innings with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks. Over his last six starts, Burke has a 2.20 ERA with an opponents BA of .202 and 38 K over 32.2 IP.

*Joe Barlow, a right-handed reliever, has not had the same success since his promotion to Triple-A. After dominating Double-A to the tune of 2 runs over 16 innings with 27 strikeouts and 6 walks, Barlow has allowed 9 runs on 13 hits over 10 innings. He has 12 Ks but he has 8 walks, which has gotten him in trouble.

*C.D. Pelham has had a very rough year. He was a fringe Opening Day roster guy and certainly someone expected to return to the bigs this year. That typically doesn’t happen when your ERA is north of 13. That’s how rough the year has been for the hard-throwing lefty. It’s a small sample, but it seems like something has clicked of late. Pelham has gone 4.1 straight scoreless with 10 K and just 1 hit. Hopefully, he can keep it up.

*I mentioned Luisangel Acuna a few weeks ago. He’s the 17-year old brother of Ronald Acuna Jr. and a shortstop for the Rangers Dominican League team. Acuna is the biggest name on that team, which is just running a train through the league to the tune of 48-12 record, 10 games better than the second-place team in their division. For his part, Acuna is slashing .353/.445/.467 (.912).