● One of my many early-season reservations about Alexi Ogando's occupation of a rotation spot -- and one I'm certainly not ready to throw into the wind after only 10 successful weeks -- related to his workload, and whether he could maintain stamina and stave off exhaustion after having entered this season with just three professional starts to his name. There really hasn't been an issue on this front yet, but consumers of Eric Nadel's radio-side commentary are no doubt familiar with the way in which he has questioned some of Ogando's longer, triple-digit-pitch outings, to the extent that he's wondered aloud on the air why Ron Washington and/or Mike Maddux are leaving him out there in a game that otherwise seems well in hand.
There's the counterargument that the bullpen isn't trustworthy, of course, and it's also conceivable that this is all part of the plan to increase his pitching stamina baseline rather than wear him down and that the Rangers aren't that worried about overusing him -- but what does the data indicate? His average Leverage Index (1.04) is only four percent higher than the league average, whereas his average pitches per inning (15.0) is five percent lower than the league average, and both are fairly close to the middle of the pack; in other words, he doesn't seem to be throwing an excessive number of "stress pitches" (indicated by pitches thrown in high-leverage situations; these correlate with added velocity and more stress on the pitcher's arm), and, anecdotally speaking, he's had such an easy time of it on the whole that I think you can somewhat downplay the concerns about burning him out. Operative words: think and somewhat.
● Realignment talk seems to be all the rage right now, and there are any number of solid articles out there right now that take a good, incisive look at the main issues surrounding it ... but the more I look at those issues, the more I begin to think that this proposal is going to die on the cutting-room floor. Right now, the Rangers benefit immensely from the major divisional alignment inequity that require them only to beat out three teams over 162 games for a trip to the playoffs, and, given that, most Rangers fans are less than receptive to this talk of giving them even more competition, but that's obviously not a consideration that could end up undermining this proposal.
On the one hand, increasing the level of fairness is beneficial to the game. On the other, you have (a) the necessity of pairing these revised, fairer 15-team leagues (the Diamondbacks are the new hot pick to be moved to the A.L.) with balanced scheduling, which could especially affect viewership numbers on the two coasts and possibly undercut gate receipts as high-profit rivalry games are reduced in number, (b) the killing-off of the division races that create great drama (and profitability) for contending teams during the second half of the season, and (c) the dilution of the post-season talent pool with a possible fifth playoff team, which might be able to offset some of those other profit-related concerns but also may not necessarily be in the best interest of baseball, as the bar for post-season entry would be lowered on the order of 1-2 wins.
None of these are insurmountable issues, of course, but we've seen far less complicated proposals killed over far less than these, and I'm anything but convinced at this stage that the gains from realignment would offset the losses -- or that baseball's power brokers could pull off realignment without doing something really stupid in the process
● There's a good Star-Telegram story out there today on No. 37 overall draft pick Zach Cone, the Georgia outfielder who inadvertently crippled friend and teammate Johnathan Taylor during a violent outfield collision in early March, and part of the narrative leads me to think that this pick is going to function as a kind of referendum on the Rangers' ability to "fix" apparent buy-low, high-upside talent. Jeff Wilson writes that part of Cone's plan for improvement is to curtail some of his aggressiveness and improve at pitch recognition, with the suggested fix being that he should allow pitches to come deeper before pulling the trigger, and the Rangers seem emphatic in their belief that any and all flaws in his swing can be corrected without hampering his development.
And yet, one can feel justified in their concern that this constituted not only a reach, but also a very iffy proposition from even a "fixability" standpoint. Jason Parks wrote this past weekend that he had struggled to find a backer for the pick, and that while the talent and raw physical tools and athletic qualities were big, the refinement was minimal, with Jason classifying his swing as downright "ugly." There's a lot of reason to be confident in the Rangers' player development team, but there's also a lot of reason to be skeptical that a non-elite draft prospect -- who, like every other non-elite draft prospect, was always going to face an uphill battle to reach the majors -- is going to work out well when, on top of everything else, multiple changes to his swing have to be prescribed, and those changes have to stick in such a way that he's both effective and comfortable afterwards. The story is great and I'd like to believe that it's going to have a happy conclusion, but I'm also not going to hold my breath.