Get to know the Rangers' other second baseman of the future.
The Situation: Former no. 1 overall prospect Jurickson Profar is out for several more weeks and Donnie Murphy just landed on the disabled list with a neck strain. Josh Wilson, the Rangers’ Opening Day second baseman, was designated for assignment. The Rangers are looking for a jolt until Profar returns.
Background: The Rangers signed “Roogie” Odor out of Venezuela for $425,000 and he immediately found success in the states, slashing .262/.323/.352 in 258 plate appearances as a 17-year-old in Low-A Spokane. The promising start jumpstarted an accelerated path to the big leagues for Odor, as he landed in Hickory (A-Ball) in 2012 and again held his own. Often in the shadow of other highly touted middle-infield Rangers prospects, Odor finally got his time to shine in 2013. Across two leagues, he hit .303 with a .369 on-base percentage and raised his slugging to .474. In fact, in 144 Double-A plate appearances, Odor slugged an eye-popping .530. After the season, he was rated the no. 1 overall player in the Texas Rangers system and second-best second baseman in the minors according to Baseball Prospectus.
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Has the Rangers starter uncovered the secret of erasing his mistakes?
Back in the 2013 Annual, we wrote that Martin Perez’s “strikeout rate dropped off significantly last season, along with his ceiling. Once thought to be a potential front-end rotation arm, he’s now considered more of a third starter.” But he heads into his start tomorrow with the best ERA in the American League, while his strikeout rate hovers around the 15th percentile. There’s a contradiction there—those two statements aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are certainly opposed to each other. Perez has the career-low BABIP of an early-season fluke, and he has the pristine HR/FB rate of an early-season fluke. But what about the most magical part of his game thus far? Is it possible that Perez’s exceptional ability to induce double plays is a skill that he can carry forward?
To appreciate just how significant the 6-4-3 has been to Perez’s 1.42 ERA this year, consider: 31 times so far he has had a runner on first base (at least) and fewer than two outs. Those 31 at-bats have produced 12 double plays and three fielder’s choices, along with three caught stealings, six strikeouts, and just three singles. In those 31 chances he has turned about nine more double plays than an average pitcher should have, according to our NetDP stat, putting him more than four net double plays ahead of the next-best doubleplayer. A double play with a runner on first and nobody out is worth about three-quarters of a run, according to our 2014 run-expectancy matrix. In Perez’s 31 matchups with a runner on first (at least) and fewer than two outs, he has around 13 runs off his expected runs allowed. He has allowed six runs all year. The double plays alone have been roughly as valuable as Mike Trout's sixth-in-the-AL home run total.
With their roster low on left-side infielders, the Rangers turn to a top 101 prospect for help.
The Situation: The Rangers need a warm-bodied athlete to fill a temporary void on the 25-man roster, and Sardinas’ left-side-of-the-infield skills, speed—and more importantly—existence on the current 40-man roster make the call-up a simple solution.
The Background: Considered one of the slickest gloves available in the 2009 international amateur class, the Rangers made a sizeable investment in the Venezuelan shortstop with a $1.5 million bonus. Signed in the same class as former top prospect and current disabled list darling Jurickson Profar, Sardinas struggled to carve out his own identity in the early going, logging more time on the shelf than he did on the field, and his stock slipped as a result.
Thick and meaty reports on two high-profile minor-league teams.
Jason Knapp RHP, Texas Rangers
Got the back story on Knapp from Chi Chi Gonzalez and Cody Buckel. Knapp was originally in the Cliff Lee trade going to Cleveland, had two shoulder surgeries the next year and was cut by Cleveland. Has been out of pro ball since 2010, I believe. He met up with his old pitching coach at UPenn and started a throwing program. Paid for his own third surgery and started working hard. Since last surgery, Knapp said it took him roughly 16-18 months to feel healthy. Threw at UPenn for a full year and got noticed by a Rockies scout; explored his options and signed with Texas. He’s on a strict throwing program; every outing is 25 pitches or less, no throwing the next day after an outing, extreme running the next two days. He threw Wednesday during the day and I asked Chi Chi how he felt yesterday and everything was good. Knapp threw flat grounds from 45-60-75 feet yesterday; marked the first time throwing the day after an outing. The plan is to build arm strength until he feels 100 percent, then keep him in relief.
BP Visits Arlington to kick off the 2014 ballpark tour
Baseball Prospectus and the Texas Rangers invite you to join us for a great day of baseball on Saturday, April 12 at Globe Life Park.Thanks to the fine folks in the Rangers front office, we are proud to be able to offer our guests the following:
Eyes on Julio Urias, Nick Williams, Christian Arroyo and others.
RHP Cody Buckel: Half-windup; over-the-top slot; showed a lot of effort generating his velocity; fastball worked 89-91; lacked movement; very flat and visible up in the zone; plane when he worked down; found plenty of barrels; dropped several slow lollipop curveballs to steal a few strikes; loose and easy to track; not a legit pitch against better bats; fringy slider in the 82-84 range; lacked sharp break; body language was poor (slumped shoulders and sulked); didn’t record an out in his first inning of work; required several mound visits and encouragements; airmailed a few balls to the backstop; didn’t get a “yips” vibe despite some wildness; pitched with trepidation; find optimism in the fact that he was able to throw some strikes but the stuff and the body language on the mound left a lot to be desired. Didn’t look like a future major-league pitcher. –Jason Parks
OF Nomar Mazara: Lanky; a solid 6’4” at least; very lean and muscular; seemed very comfortable in the box; knew his strengths; laid off some spin down in the zone; got himself into good hitting counts; has big-time bat speed; hitchy timing mechanism; the way his hands load is reminiscent of Chris Davis; timing needs to be perfect, but when it works it’s explosive; pulled a middle-in fastball for a 420-plus-foot bomb; raw power is near elite; game power is starting to actualize; loved the way he hit—he looked for a pitch in a certain spot and demolished it when it came; in his third and last at-bat, he hit one over Terrance Gore’s head in CF for an inside-the-park homer, another fastball over the heart of the plate that he didn’t miss; showed off solid-average speed around the bases as well.
Eyes on Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Ronald Guzman, and others.
OF Albert Almora: Mixed production at the plate; squared a 95 fastball up in the zone for an opposite-field RBI single late in the game; fast hands and aggressive; loved the way he attacked the ball; earlier in the game, was sawed off by a fastball inside and hit an infield squib; clocked a 4.4 time to 1B. I like the setup and swing, with an open stance and very good balance through his load and stroke. Swing is more linear without a lot of lift at present, but he can make hard contact with the ball, especially against quality fastballs; in the field, looks the part of a plus center fielder; glides naturally to the ball; effortless ability to make quality reads.
Example: On a high sky, sun field, tracked a high fly ball that was tailing toward the right field side. It would be common to see young center fielders make a poor opening read and struggle to adjust to the ball because of the sky and tail on the ball. My eyes focused on Almora upon contact, and he glided to the spot on his initial read and made a catch at his left hip, which looked as effortless (and cool) as his route to the ball. For most outfielders, the appropriate response to the flair of this particular catch on a backfield would be, “Nice catch Hayes, don’t ever do it again.” But for Almora, its just natural baseball. –Jason Parks
Getting hit by a pitch is a skill, but how repeatable is it, and what should we look for?
The hit by pitch—or at minimum the threat of one—is supposed to be a tool for pitchers to use against hitters. Not just in the Bob Gibson sense, but in a nuanced understanding that goes something like this: humans can only be so accurate when throwing a projectile over long distances. Accidents happen, regardless of intent, and both sides know it—but only one side faces the projectile on each pitch. As Roger Angell writes in Five Seasons, "Most pitchers seem hesitant to say so, but if you press them a little they will admit that the prime ingredient in their intense personal struggle with the batter is probably fear."
If fear buys the pitcher another inch on his fastball, or causes the batter to bail on his breaking ball, then he becomes more likely to realize success than he would otherwise. Instilling fear is an unhealthy aspiration, but nonetheless passes as legitimate strategy. Most hitters react like normal beings; after all, getting drilled by a firmly thrown ball hurts no matter the location. Yet there are some batters who have turned the hit by pitch into their own weapon against pitchers. These batters fear not getting hit; instead, they embrace it—some even hunt for pitches to throw their limbs toward. These batters are the stupidest smart guys in the game.
Chris Davis' amazing journey is the story of a swing, broken and put back together.
Chris Davis came into the major leagues in 2008 as a highly touted slugger from East Texas who was expected to hit monster home runs in bunches. He hit 17 home runs in a little less than half a season, but the next three seasons were the most frustrating three years of his baseball career. That began a stretch during which his swing was under heavy scrutiny and suffered numerous ill-advised changes. Davis was chosen for this article because the swing changes he made or was encouraged to make are some of the “go-to” changes hitting coaches will push upon their players.