Frisco is where the stars come out to play

Per infamous D-FW hack, Gerry Fraley, prospect Jorge Alfaro has been promoted to Double-A Frisco. Last week Alfaro was named the Carolina League player of the week. 

Also, according to our favorite Rangers farm system guru -- Tepid Participation -- Nomar Mazara will be making the jump to Frisco as well, per his sources. This is particularly surprising, because Nomar has played the entire season at Low-A Hickory, meaning he will be skipping High-A Myrtle Beach altogether. The last Ranger prospect I remember making the leap from Low-A to Double-A was Martin Perez, with the thought being that the front office wanted to shield him from the hitter-friendly confines of the California League (back when Bakersfield was Texas's High-A affiliate).

Jorge Alfaro's ascension to the Texas League should come as no surprise; he's been on the short list of top-flight Ranger prospects -- along with Perez and Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo -- since he was an 18 year-old. This season in the Carolina League Alfaro has posted a .261/.318/.440 (118 wRC+) triple slash line with 13 HRs, which isn't all that remarkable until you factor in that he's a catcher who projects as a plus defender. Also, he's still only 21. 

Nomar Mazara is more interesting, because even though he's not in the same prospect class as Alfaro, his 2014 success has seemingly come out of the blue. As a 16 year-old, Mazara was given what, at the time, was the largest international free agent signing bonus in history ($5 million), but it's taken a few years for that initial promise to be realized. 

In the Arizona Rookie League in 2012, Mazara hit .264/.383/.448 (123 wRC+) with 6 HRs in about 250 plate appearances, a brilliant showing for a 17 year-old seeing his first action in the states. Then last year, having received the aggressive assignment to play at Low-A Hickory as an 18 year-old, Nomar experienced his share of troubles, which is expected at that age. He finished the season at a clip of .236/.310/.382 (101 wRC+) with 13 HRs in just north of 500 PAs, though his K rate (25.9%) left a bit to be desired. Still, he was only 18, so maybe I'm greedy for expecting more.

Then, this year -- repeating Low-A -- Mazara was slow out of the gates. After a lackluster showing in April (.205/.293/.307), he followed with a similarly mundane May (.238/.302/.410), though he carried with him a respectable 45:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those two months, suggesting his BABIP probably wasn't doing him any favors. 

Since June 1st, however, the light has come on. Something has clicked. Over the last two months, Nomar Mazara has been an absolute terror on Single-A pitching:

June (117 PAs) -- .311/.407/.544, 5 HRs, 26:16 K-to-BB

July (112 PAs) -- .287.402/.617, 9 HRs, 25:18 K-to-BB

All told, on the year he's batting .264/.358/.470 (129 wRC+) with 19 HRs and equally improved strikeout and walk rates (21.5% and 12.4%, respectively). A couple months ago the thought that Mazara would be playing up at Frisco in August was unfathomable; now it looks like where he belongs. At least in the eyes of Jason Parks. 

With the additions of Mazara and Alfaro, Frisco boasts arguably Minor League Baseball's most talent-rich club. Along with that tandem is top prospect Joey Gallo, newly acquired RHP Jake Thompson, starters Alec Asher and Chi-Chi Gonzalez, and potential bullpen weapons Wilmer Font and Keone Kela. With the exception of the precocious Nomar Mazara, to varying degrees of big league impact, all of these guys could see time at the show as early as next summer.

Texas Pitchers Enjoy Farts

No, that headline isn't a joke. I came across a piece this evening that was published on Friday. Apparently, Derek Holland went into detail on what the pitchers do in the bullpen to stay entertained. It would seem we may have found a possible cause for all of the pitching injuries. Don't take my word for it, I'll just post up the link here.

Just don't say I didn't warn you, and if you'd rather not know what Fart Bottle Roulette is, then perhaps you'd be better off pretending you never saw this post.

The Jeff Samardzija Trade, From The Rangers Perspective

Addison Russell is hitting .333/.439/.500 (175 wRC+) in limited action this season.The first significant domino of the trade season dropped a couple days ago, as the Cubs dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's for top shortstop prospect, Addison Russell, RHP Dan Straily, and 2013 first round pick, OF Billy McKinney. It's a massive haul for Theo Epstein and Chicago, though it makes sense for Oakland given where they are this year on the win curve. Samardzija not only strengthens their World Series chances in 2014, but he's under contract for 2015 as well. 

With that said, as a Ranger fan I'm thrilled about this trade. Keith Law writes that Russell is a top-five prospect in the game, indicating that the A's shipped away a sizeable portion of their future infield to go all-in this year and next. Being that Texas isn't going to compete in 2014 anyway, it spares them the prospect of having to face Addison Russell in Oakland longterm. Brian McKinney is someone I'm less familiar with, but Law suggests he's a future big league corner outfielder, and he's better at knowing these types of things than I am.

Jamey Newberg tweeted that the deal, for Oakland, "Widens the now window but accelerates its shutting," and that's probably the best way of putting it. The Athletics, damn them, are on the verge of doing something even the Rangers didn't accomplish during their dominant 2010-'14 stretch: win three consecutive American League West titles. Like the Rangers in 2010 when they unloaded their top prospect at the time, Justin Smoak, along with former first round pick Blake Beaven and a couple of throw-ins -- one who happens to be a rapist -- to get Cliff Lee, the A's have sold out for the now. Russell and McKinney were Oakland's two-best prospects in a farm system ranked 26th of 30 MLB teams heading into 2014, per Keith Law. 

In the short-term, over the next two years the A's should could have a top-5 MLB rotation, teaming two potential front-of-the-rotation starters (Samardzija, Sonny Gray) with a revitalized Scott Kazmir and a healthy Jarrod Parker at some point next season.

It's a good value trade for the Cubs, and if Oakland makes it to a World Series over the next two years I don't think they'll regret Addison Russell. It has the feel of the Cliff Lee trade all over again, and I don't think any of us would take back that World Series appearance to have Justin Smoak as our first baseman.  

Gerry Fraley wants to see some action

Gerry Fraley supports professional pitchers throwing small, round projectiles coming in at high velocity at grown men. 

He admits as much in an article he wrote a couple days ago, a piece I imagine he multitasked while throwing darts at a large poster of Jon Daniels's face.

This is verbatim:

What he said: "The Rangers crossed paths with Ian Kinsler again on Wednesday night. In what could become the epitaph of their season, nothing happened."

What he meant: The stupid Rangers suck and they aren't giving me anything to write about this season.

What he said: "Kinsler played nicely and did not taunt, tease or incite his former team while reaching base four times and scoring twice. The Rangers pitchers minded their manners and did not disturb Kinsler or anyone else during an 8-6 loss to Detroit at Globe Life Park."

What he meant: Trololololol.

What he said: "The Rangers’ losing streak reached seven games. The Rangers lost seven straight last September while falling out of sight in the American League West."

What he meant: Yes! This team is finally losing again. What is this, three in a row now? Wait, seven?! Seven is good. Real good. Now how can I make seven sound really bad? I know! I'll mention another time they lost seven games in a row when they fell out of the race last year! Oh yeah. That sounds real bad. Good one, Gerry. 

[He talks to himself in the third person. Obviously.]

What he said: "Kinsler has had nine plate appearances since waving into his old dugout after a first-inning homer on Tuesday. For whatever reason, the Rangers have not come close to retaliating, even when there was a clear opportunity."

What he meant: Stupid Rangers. Why couldn't you just throw the stupid baseball at Ian Kinsler like you were supposed to? Do you see what you've done? Now I have nothing to write about. So instead I have to come up with an entire article about how you were being a bunch of Nancy's because you didn't have the onions to retaliate against that little twerp. I need stories, guys!

I can't be certain of the accuracy in my paraphrasing skills, but coming from someone who, too, used to be an aspiring writer and lost his fire along the way, I imagine I'm within point-blank range.

Fraley basically projects his frustration about the Rangers' season in the opening sentence: "Nothing happened." Nothing is happening. That's no fun for journalists. 

That's all besides the point, though. The really troubling part of this article is Fraley's insinuation that the Rangers failed -- as men -- to teach Ian Kinsler a lesson after he showed them up the night before by waving his hand at them. I get that retaliating against hitters is supposed to be "part of the game," but that doesn't make it defensible. 

It's just a lazy excuse to see some sport.

What Ian Kinsler did was a punk move, but it's things like that that made him my favorite baseball player while he was in Texas, so I'm not going to flip on him for it. I bet it felt damn good to hit that home run in his first at bat back in The Ballpark. Is it really something he deserved to get hit over? 

Mostly, it doesn't make any sense for the Rangers to get involved in any beef right now. It may make Fraley's job a little easier for a couple days, but all it would accomplish is showing how pathetic a bunch of professionals can look when their feelings get hurt on a baseball field. 

To that end, I'm glad nothing happened. And I'm proud of the Rangers for not succumbing to these ridiculous unwritten rules.

An excuse to write about Jorge Alfaro

Keith Law has a piece up this morning on (insider required) where he writes about Rangers' top prospect Jorge Alfaro, and the recent California/Carolina League All Star Game, among other things. In the article, beneath a large photo of Alfaro, reads:

Rangers prospect Jorge Alfaro was the best player in the California-Carolina leagues All-Star game.

Simple enough, right?

It shouldn't be a real surprise; scouts have long drooled over Alfaro's rare blend of tools for a catching prospect, which include (but are not limited to) an 80-grade throwing arm, plus speed on the bases and plus raw power at the plate. In a shade over 400 plate appearances in 2013, he had as many HRs as he did stolen bases (16). Jorge Alfaro is a catcher. 

If scouts were to make an all-tools Minor League All Star team, Alfaro would be in the starting lineup without a doubt. 

He's still only 21 (as of June 11th), so I'll say the same thing about Jorge that I would Joey Gallo, or Luke Jackson, or Rougned Odor or Luis Sardinas: He's not a finished prospect. There are holes in his game. It's a natural part of the prospect progression to improve on those gaps. Alfaro -- like Gallo -- has a chance of reaching a super-star ceiling at the major league level, so it behooves the Rangers to take their time with him. 

One of the gaps in Jorge's game is his plate discipline. It isn't very good, and it's never been very good. Over the last two years, he owns a walk rate of around 6.0% and a strikeout rate around 25%. Overall, though, he's been productive in his age-20 and 21 seasons:

2013 (Low-A) -- .258/.338/.452 (128 wRC+), 16 HRs, 16 SBs

2014 (High-A) -- .265/.321/.438 (113 wRC+), 8 HRs, 4 SBs

Again, Jorge Alfaro is young. He also plays catcher, so his offense matters much less than if he was, say, a corner infielder like Joey Gallo. If Alfaro's defense steadily improves, he'll be enough of an upgrade to see time in the big leagues by the end of 2015, and is the odds-on favorite to start Opening Day 2016. That gives the Rangers almost two years to continue working with him, and for Alfaro to shore up his free-swinging style at the plate. 

With the downward trajectory of the Rangers' 2014 season, it's a good time to focus on what the club has coming up on the farm, and Jorge Alfaro is one of the dudes to pay attention to.