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Friday newsletter time: Frisco, minors’ most talented club, opens with a bang

(Frisco RoughRiders)

 

Thursday was a big day for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Rangers’ long-standing Double A affiliate.

Frisco opened the day by being named the most talented team in minor-league baseball by MLB Pipeline. Frisco then opened the season and the defensive of its Texas League title with a 12-4 win over Amarillo.

Trevor Hauver, acquired in the Joey Gallo trade, provided the big blast with a grand slam. Evan Carter collected a two-clearing single. Thomas Saggese scored three times even though he was 0 for 2 at the plate.

Jack Leiter started and allowed all four runs as he pitched into the fifth inning. Three relievers, including right-hander Alex Speas, contributed 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

Carter, Leiter, Luisangel Acuna, Owen White and Dustin Harris are all at Frisco and all top 10 Rangers prospects by MLB Pipeline and most other outlets, and Carter, Acuna, White and Leiter are listed in the top 100 prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Right-hander TK Roby is just outside the top 10, and the general consensus is Kumar Rocker will be joining the team this season.

That is a lot of talent, but it might be a while before any players are in the majors. Acuna, White and Harris are on the 40-man roster and thus have an ingrained advantage over other prospects who might be needed. But they all need time at Double A before they are considered adequate fill-ins.

But there’s little doubting that Frisco will be fun to watch this season.

Bite at the Apple

The Rangers resume play this afternoon at Wrigley Field after a Thursday off day, and the game can be seen (in theory) on Apple TV.

Nathan Eovaldi will make his second start of the season, and his time with Boston will come in handy. It’s going to be a chilly one against the Cubs, with the forecast high in the mid-40s with a north wind blowing.

The Rangers made an April trip to Wrigley field in 2013 and weren’t quite as lucky with the weather. One game was postponed, and they had to return a few weeks later on an off day before a series at Milwaukee.

While Apple TV might be a pain in the butt for some, the game selection is another nod toward the Rangers and the work they’ve done the past two offseasons. They appeared on national TV on Saturday and Sunday, and will take part Sunday Night Baseball on April 16 at Houston for the second time this season.

Taveras on the mend

Center fielder Leody Taveras started a rehab assignment in Frisco’s opener, going 0 for 4 at designated hitter before being replaced by a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. The results aren’t important now as he faces live pitching for the first time since the ended of spring training.

His strained oblique is to the point where the Rangers feel comfortable turning him loose. There is no timetable for how long he will be on a rehab assignment, but the Rangers will want to see some results.

Results might be consistent hard contact, whether it results in hits or not. The at-bats need to be good.

The Rangers probably want to see Taveras uncork a few throws at game speed, too.

There is no rush. Taveras can stay on assignment for 30 days, though that’s not going to happen. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he doesn’t join the Rangers until they head to Houston next weekend, even though they will be home Monday through Wednesday for a series against the Royals.

Once healthy, he will be the everyday center fielder and the Rangers will have to decide if the best corresponding roster move is sending down Bubba Thompson for regular at-bats or designating Travis Jankowski for assignment.

Card of the Week

As mentioned above, Leiter surrendered four runs in 4 1/3 innings as he made his second straight Opening Day start for Frisco. The Rangers had him on a somewhat strict pitch limit last season after he didn’t pitch following the 2021 draft, but let him throw 79 pitches Thursday.

He continues to strike out hitters (five) but also walk more than he’d like (three). He surrendered two homers, including one to Arizona prospect Jordan Lawler from Dallas Jesuit.

He also continues to not have a Bowman baseball card. Leiter is not on the 2023 Bowman checklist. Gleider Figuereo, Anthony Gutierrez, Luisangel Acuna and Cam Cauley are part of the prospect set, and Rocker is among the autographs.

Leiter does have cards, but none in a Rangers uniform. My son got autographed on of them autographed at spring training. Leiter’s 2021 Leaf Draft is the Card of the Week.

Leiter’s prospect rankings sunk after his first season, but he could be a candidate for a quick promotion to Triple A Round Rock. He has to earn it, of course.

The Rangers like what Leiter did in spring training. He received a few lessons from Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, primarily where to find his strikes and how to throw a bullpen session.

Leiter also learned a few things from last season that he wants to apply to 2023. The guess here is he does it and that his stock is soaring by year’s end.

 

Doggy video!

When it’s Masters weekend. Enjoy.

Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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