Greetings all. Matches is busy trying to take over the greater Dallas business scene, so it's up to me to provide you with a few minutes of baseball/music entertainment.
After one of the most positive opening months in Texas Ranger history, this past week has brought quite a bit of bad news. From injuries to Hamilton and Beltre to a frustating series loss in Toronto to resurgent Leonys Martin injuring his thumb right as the Rangers could really use some OF depth to the loss of the air of invincibility of the starting rotation to the awkward 48+ hours off after a bad loss, we Ranger fans could use some good news and positive vibes heading into this weekend and a visit to Cleveland. So, in no particular order, here are some things to be happy about:
- Yu Darvish. We have officially hit the point where I am counting the days between Yu Darvish starts. I know that it's still an ongoing process and that he's just as likely to take a step back in his fastball command in any given start as he is to take a step forward, but he's just a delight to watch. He pitches with the confidence who knows that he can throw at least 4 different pitches for a strike at any given point in time and perhaps as many as 8. I sense that his Rookie of the Month award is a portent of things to come...
- The return of Josh Hamilton. Lost in all of the local talk about whether or not the Rangers will/can/should sign Josh Hamilton at the end of the year is how remarkable a first month he just had. How great was it? In addition to posting a .395 AVG (best in the AL) and .438 OBP (3rd-AL), he slugged .744 for an OPS of 1.182. To give that some context, Josh Hamilton's April SLG (.744) is higher than Albert Pujols's OPS (.539)...and the OPS of more established hitters like Yorvit Torrealba (.558), Nelson Cruz (.691), Elvis Andrus (.711), Mitch Moreland (.716), and Craig Gentry (.732). His .403 BABIP and 36.0% HR/FB are unsustainable, of course, but if he's healthy and 90% of this, he has a very good chance of winning his second MVP in 3 years.
- While Leonys Martin is out 6-8 weeks with an injured thumb, there are some high points from the Rangers farm system. JurickSOON Profar, he of barely 19 years, was aggressively promoted to AA out of Spring Training and understandably struggled in making what many consider to be the second most difficult leap in a prospect's path to the majors. It's important to remember how big a difference in competition JurickSOON is seeing and adjust your expectations accordingly. It's only natural for him to struggle and struggle he did...for all of one week. In his first week, Profar hit 0.077 AVG/0.225 OBP/ 0.192 SLG for a paltry .417 OPS. Since then? 0.323 AVG/ 0.371 OBP / 0.614 SLG for a robust .986 OPS. According to FanGraphs, he has a 125 wRC+ on the season, which means that he's more than overcome the poor start to be 25% above average in the Texas League. JurickSOON, indeed.
- In addition to Profar, the farm system has seen continued developmental goodness from Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, and Barret Loux along with bounceback performances from Leonys Martin, Tanner Scheppers (!) and Engel Beltre (!!!) and breakout performances in Justin Grimm. That's more than enough, in my book, to overcome fairly lackluster starts from Martin Perez, Christian Villanueva and a few others. Most importantly, all of those good performances I listed were from players in AA or AAA. I think it's safe to say that the Rangers minor league system is once again going to rate highly at midseason.
Finally, I adroitly ascend to the height of gaucheness to give you this; make of it what you will.