Alan Rangel is on fire for the Rome Braves as they prepare for a playoff run in the South Atlantic League.
The Braves farm system is rich in pitching prospects. Many of their youth are household names, finding their way to either Gwinnett or the big leagues not yet old enough to legally sip the victory champagne. Rangel is not one of those names, but there is just something that keeps you watching when he pitches.
While a lot is the same from our first viewing last season, some has changed. Here’s what to know about the Braves right-hander.
Rangel is now 20 years old on his second run through the Sally. While one should always be a little weary about a second go-round through the low levels, there are two factors to consider with Rangel. First, he is still just 20 years old, and while the Braves are ultra-aggressive with their pitching, not every pitcher progresses that way. Secondly, he was just settling in as a starter last season, the Braves likely wanted to makes sure that adjustment was for real.
The Braves signed him out of Mexico in July of 2014 and he went right to the bullpen for the GCL Braves the following year. He’s now listed at 6’2”, 170 and looks slightly more filled out than last season. Heading into Sunday’s start, Rangel is 4-6 with a 4.22 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and an 85-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 106.2 innings pitched.
His delivery is a bit awkward, and certainly not orthodox, but he gets it to work. He starts on the first base side and takes a slight step back with his lead foot. As he winds into his pitch, he tilts back, making it seem like there is certainly some effort in his pitches. The mechanics seem pretty sound, to the extent that he makes them work, but there are sometimes inconsistencies in the release, sometimes giving a pushing look to his pitch.
His fastball has seen an uptick in velocity since last season. In 2017, he was touching 91, sitting mainly 89-90. This season, hit hit 93 quite a few times, including in the sixth and seventh innings, showing he can hold that velocity. That’s likely because his fastball isn’t his primary pitch. His curveball is still his best weapon, although sometimes it betrays him with too much loop, and he’s not afraid to throw it anywhere in the count.
2018 (impressive strikeout of Pirates exciting prospect Oneil Cruz):
Rangel mixes in a change as well, giving him a three-pitch arsenal to work with. It has been successful in the lower minors, and will definitely be something to watch next season.
Rangel is heating up as the season does. He has allowed just one earned run over his last three starts (20 innings pitched) and has gone at least seven in his last two. He is a strike thrower who attacks hitters and though his walk rate is up from last season’s absurd 1.78-per-nine (it’s still a very good 2.45-per-nine this season), so are his strikeouts. He’ll never be a big strike out guy, but he seemingly always gets the big strikeout.
He’s a ground ball pitcher (43.2% in 2017 and 44.2% in 2018) and is sometimes very hittable. The Rome Braves infield defense behind him the past two seasons has not been stellar, and this has hurt him sometimes, making you wonder just how hittable he’d be at the upper levels. That said, his batting average against this season is .249, 50 points lower than last season in nearly 40 more innings pitched.
This isn’t saying Rangel is the Braves sleeper prospect of the year, but there is something that intrigues me about him every time I see him. He seems to have a confidence in his pitches that he is fearless in throwing anything whenever he wants. Rangel is never going to be a top 10 prospect in this deep Braves system, but he will be an interesting one to monitor as he climbs the ladder to judge just how real his stuff is. Guys like Rangel sometimes find themselves in a bullpen role, a la Ramiro Mendoza, and find success for a long time.
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