Round Rock starts the season with 8 on the road. Anthony Ranaudo gets the start in the opener, w/Edwards, Patton, & Claudio in the 'pen.
Round Rock Express
Round Rock Express, I have faith in you this year. The last couple of seasons have been treacherous for top prospects in Round Rock. Last year the PCL smacked Luke Jackson in the mouth to the tune of a 10.35 ERA in 40 innings. The year before it was Mike Oltís eyes hanging up a now predictable .197 average. But no more! Chi Chi will break the Round Rock curse of Nolan! I apologize. I saw the opportunity and I had to take it. Chi Chi will start off the season a touch north of Austin and hopefully wonít be shattered by Kris Bryant in his first and last 2 weeks as a regular for the Iowa Cubs. If Chi Chi pitches anything like he did this weekend, he will force himself up to the majors in no time. No time coincidentally is how much time Iíd like to see him spend in AAA. Sadly, JD never returned my calls or random shoutouts to his twitter alter ego (assuming he follows me). I look forward more to the possible mid season call ups than the current roster, but Iím still fascinated by Hanser Albertoís magic leather. While the bullpen is loaded, the bench looks a little thin. This roster will probably change several times between Monday and Wednesday, but the big name dudes are relatively set in stone. Here are some of the major storylines to watch for in Round Rock this year.
What happened to Luke Jackson last year?
2015 will be an integral season in Luke JacksonĎs development. Last year Jackson dominated Texas League hitters and earned himself a promotion down 35. After that, things turned sour for Luke. AAA hitters donít swing quite as freely as AA ones. Jackson found that out the hard way. The BB/9 were more than doubled, and his HR/9 actually quadrupled after the promotion. This burrito loving man has looked different in spring training than the burrito loving man of 2014. His willingness to use his changeup more often, coupled with the emergence of a passable slider, helps his profile as a starting pitcher. From the video Iíve seen of Lujax, his mechanics appear more consistent. This was one of the main problems ailing Luke last year. Another correction writers noted about Jackson was his newfound ability to slow down the game instead of letting it get out of hand in key moments. If Luke repeats his 2014 season, a bullpen role is a near certainty. I donít expect that to be the case. Look for Jackson to regain the moxie he had in Frisco and push to steal starts from Nick Martinez.
Chi Chi flippin Gonzalez.
I donít need to say any more. But I will. Chi Chi Gonzalez will start a game for the Texas Rangers this season. If you didnít watch Chi Chiís outing on Saturday, you missed an absolute beauty. The biggest knock on Gonzalez is that he doesnít strike out enough hitters. When I talked with him last year, he was more concerned about missing barrels than missing bats entirely. Every pitch he throws has movement, nothing is straight. This induced many a ground ball, but scouts and observers didnít think Chi Chi could reach back and K hitters when he really needed to. In 18.2 spring training innings, Chi Chi racked up 23 strike outs. Yes, I know for the most part spring stats donít mean anything, but I watched him carve up hitters for eight Ks in five innings Saturday, and I couldnít look away. As much as we would love to see Gonzalez in the opening day rotation, we all know he could use a little polish in AAA finishing school. Donít worry though, Chi Chi will be in Arlington before you know it. He will be worth the wait.
As optimistic as I am about the Rangerís chances in 2015, the main reason I hold my hopeful tongue is because of the bullpen. I liked what I saw from Spencer Patton last year in limited big league action, as well as this spring. Patton has good promise (thanks, Royals), but needs to refine his command before heís ready to be an MLB bullpen regular. Iím disappointed, but not surprised at Claudioís demotion from big league camp. If Claudio is going to earn one of those limited lefty roles in the bullpen, heís going to have to learn to be more effective against lefties. His herky jerk delivery hides the ball well from righties, but allows lefties to pick it up early on in the delivery. I donít have faith in Ross Detwiler as a lefty specialist reliever. It isnít a role heís ever been in. Detwiler would have more success as a starter, where heís been the majority of his career. The bullpen is the most likely place for a AAA call up, so a successful Round Rock pen would mean great things for the Rangers.
When will Joey Gallo get here? Iím uncertain since Thad Levine never returned my snap chats, snail mail, smoke signals. Look for a similar time table to last season. If Gallo tears up Frisco early on, I wouldnít be surprised to see the front office wait a couple months to send him down south. If Joey sees Arlington before September, things are either in the crapper, or Joey has become a transcendent being who made a deal with the baseball Gods to be able to hit high inside heat. Who is Jared Hoying? Jared is a man who, if not for DeShieldsí speed, would be on the 25 man roster. He is a poor manís Joc Peterson. Jared doesnít draw as many walks, and isnít as aggressive on the bases, but he is overlooked by many. Why isnít Adam Rosales in Round Rock? Well, Greg Tepper, itís because you angered Jon Daniels somehow. Hanser Alberto has one of the slickest gloves in the minors, and isnít bad at the dish either. If he has a solid beginning of the season, or there is a significant injury to an infield starter not named Prince (knock on wood), Hanser could see time in The Show for a good portion of the year. Also, Iím not sure what to blame Michael Choiceís struggles on besides Billy Bean/Aís magic. There are legitimate reasons I will get into at a later date. If youíd like to know now, send me a morse code message, a homing pigeon, a tweet @80gradewhitt.
Whether the Rangers win 50 or 150 games this year, Iím going to enjoy the heck out of watching the farm this year. We will be with you all year squealing over ever Gallo bomb, Jorge back pick, and Nick Williams walk. All three of them. Rangers start in a few hours and the farm starts up on Thursday. Baseball is here and summer is within reach. So letís plant our rears on those bleachers before the Texas sun sets them ablaze. Letís go out and earn that opening day sunburn that puts us in a baseball frame of mind. Letís settle in for the long haul because finally: Itís time.
The Oklahoma City Dodgers kick off the season Thursday against the Round Rock Express at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Jacob Unruh and Jenni Carlson preview the opening game and talk about the excitement around the Dodgers brand.
Some names to keep an eye on according to Unruh: OF Scott Schebler, INF Kike Hernandez, P Joe Wieland, and opening night starter (and former Oklahoma State pitcher) Scott Baker.