By: Nicholas Gilanfar
The excitement meter is at an all-time high if you are a fan of the Texas Rangers organization. Starting in 2022 when the Frisco Roughriders won the Texas League Double-A championship for just the second time in team history, along with a spectacular season from the Texas Rangers in 2023 on the doorsteps of October baseball, and now another potential playoff run for the Triple-A Round Rock Express.
The Express will be starting a three-game series against the LA Dodgers Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers for the Pacific Coast League Championship starting on Tuesday, September 26, 2023.
The Round Rock Express has been the Triple-A affiliate since 2011 as this will be the third time in affiliate history that they have made the PCL playoffs, recording their best regular season record in franchise history at 89-60. The Express were consistent all year finishing in second place for the first-half standings and winning first place in the second-half standings which punched their ticket to the Pacific League Championship. They will be facing the first-half regular season champions in the Oklahoma City Dodgers as they had a record of 50-23 in the first half and finished the season with an overall record of 90-58. OKC will receive home-field possession as they had the best overall record between the two teams.
PCL Championship Schedule
Tuesday, September 26, 2023, 7:05 CT @ Oklahoma City
Wednesday, September 27, 2023, 7:05 CT @Oklahoma City
Thursday, September 28, 2023, TBD, @Oklahoma City (If Necessary)
Triple-A Playoff Format
Triple A is the last stop before you make the jump to Major League Baseball. The league is set up into two different leagues which are the Pacific and International Leagues.
The Pacific League has ten teams which are made up of the AL West and NL West. There are two divisions of five teams and each time plays 150 games.
The International League has 20 teams and consists of the AL East, AL Central, NL East, and NL Central. There are two divisions of ten teams and each team plays 150 games.
For both leagues, the season will be split into halves, each half-season winner will then take place in their respective league’s championship for a three-game series.
In the Pacific Coast League, the Oklahoma City Dodgers had the best record in the first half of the season and the Round Rock Express had the best record in the second half of the season.
In the International League, the Baltimore Orioles AAA Affiliate Norfolk Tides had the best record in the first half of the season and the Tampa Bay AAA affiliate, Durham Bulls had the best record in the second half of the season.
The Winner of each League series will face each other in another three-game series for the Triple-A championship.
Head-to-Head Matchups in 2023
Minor League series are vastly different than series in the MLB. Instead of a game series, AAA does a six-game series with all the games being in one location. Oklahoma City and Round Rock faced each other on three different occasions for a six-game series in 2023. The head-to-head matchup was very lopsided, to say the least as the two teams played 18 games and Round Rock Express managed to win only four.
While the head-to-head matchup is a telling statistic, there is no reason to count out the Express as they have called up many reinforcements since then and have developed more plate discipline over time. Both rosters are riddled with MLB talent and are both a top ten farm system in the MLB, this time around we are looking at a physical series that could be anybody’s game.
Key Round Rock Express Players
C #24 Sam Huff
Huff has gone back and forth from Round Rock to Arlington consistently for about three seasons since he made his major league debut in 2020. This year in Triple A Huff has had 17 home runs hitting a batting average of .298. Huff has a raw ability as a hitter and has shown that on every level in the Rangers farm system. This season Huff has had four different stints on the Rangers this year while both catchers Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver were injured at times. Huff has always been considered as a viable third catcher option, but the organization always decides to send him to Round Rock for plate appearances.
OF #2 Wyatt Langford (#2 Prospect)
In late June, Langford was competing in the college world series for the University of Florida where they lost to the LSU Tigers. Following that, Langford was drafted by the Texas Rangers for the third overall pick in 2023. What Langford has been able to do in the minor leagues in a span of two months is unprecedented as he holds a .360 batting average and has already made his way to AAA already knocking on the doorstep of the major leagues. At this rate, it is likely Wyatt Langford will be on the MLB roster on opening day.
RHP #49 Jack Leiter (#5 Prospect)
In 2021, the Rangers selected Jack Leiter as the second overall pick. The Rangers front office made a gutsy move by having Leiter forgo A-ball and go straight to AA Frisco where he has resided for two seasons. Leiter has had a tough go-around in Frisco posting a record of 5-16 with a 5.32 ERA. Due to back-to-back lackluster seasons, the Rangers still have faith in their farmhand, so they decided to promote him to AAA to find extended playing time in the playoffs.
2B/3B #7 Justin Foscue (#6 Prospect)
Foscue has been the Rangers’ highly touted infield prospect for many years and has always been on the bubble for his major league debut. Due to the acquisitions in 2022 of 2B Marcus Semien and SS Corey Seager, Foscue has yet to make his MLB debut but has been knocking on the door for some time. Foscue spent all season with AAA Round Rock as he has been the glue to their offensive production, hitting 18 home runs and a batting average of .268.
RHP #26 Owen White (#8 Prospect)
Throughout the course of the season, White was our #2 prospect and was actually able to make his MLB debut unexpectedly early in the season coming straight from AA. White had two appearances in the majors and had an ERA of 11.25. After his two-game stint with the Rangers, he was then sent to AAA where he has now put up a record of 4-5 with a 4.22 ERA now becoming a staple in Round Rock’s rotation.
Featured Image via Amy Smith/Round the Rock