Later today Rangers’ farmhand AJ Alexy will become the 26th Rangers rookie to make his Major League debut for this team in 2021. That’s right, the Rangers could now field an entire Major League roster with Class of ‘21 rooks.
Alexy’s promotion comes as a… half-surprise. He’s not a highly-touted prospect and he’d never pitched above High-A before this season, and his promotion of course is requiring a significant chunk of the Rangers’ roster hitting the COVID list in order to create an opportunity.
But the 40-Man Rules All, and if you’re assuming that the Rangers are trying to avoid adding guys to their crowded 40 before they need to (and assuming that they’re leaving Glenn Otto on it after his debut on Friday), the decision on who gets this emergency start was really between Alexy, Yerry Rodriguez, and Brock Burke. Rodriguez has gotten roughed up since his promotion to Triple-A, and Burke hasn’t pitched in two weeks and is like a vague, left-handed shape of a pitcher right now, so AJ...come on down.
AJM briefly touched up on Alexy’s path to the Rangers organization, and also on the amount of bubble-wrap that the Rangers encased him in before starting up his season in 2021. Impressive enough at the 2020 Alternate Site to be added to the 40-man last November, Alexy was assigned to Frisco to start the 2021 season, where he’d pitch in real games for the first time since May of 2019.
After a couple short-ish outings to get ramped up, he settled into a role as the “Sunday guy” for the RoughRiders, and he did what was one of the most important things for every minor league arm in this system to do in 2021: pitch a lot. After slotting into his spot in Frisco’s six-man rotation, Alexy didn’t miss an outing, and that’s continued with his promotion to Round Rock. He’s taken the mound every six to seven days since mid-May, and for a guy who had 27 innings under his belt since the end of the 2018 season, it’s incredibly encouraging to see him stay clean and healthy throughout the season. (Sidenote: AJ might be lucky his arm didn’t outright fall off after his high school career)
Alexy projects as a BORPy/bullpen tweener and that’s pretty much how the RoughRiders used him in his spin through Frisco, which chewed up the majority of his summer. Alexy has been used as a traditional starter 10 times this year, as a “follower” four times, and as a multi-inning late bullpen guy a couple times as well. Jared Goedert seemed to love having a Cole Winn or a Jake Latz pitch the first inning on their bullpen day in front of Alexy on Sundays.
AJ has responded well and shown a good deal of versatility through his mix of uses, allowing just a run or less in all but two of his 16 outings. Most significantly, he’s trimmed his walk rate down to 3.7 per 9 while maintaining a K rate in the double digits. If he’s reigned in the issues with control he had early in his professional career, he’s got the stuff to carve out a successful ML career. And his 2021 campaign has added some serious stock to his chances of remaining a starter. He’s averaged around 70 pitches per outing this year.
Combining his numbers from the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Alexy has posted a 1.66 ERA over 65 innings, striking out 76 and walking 27. He’s never had a problem striking guys out and he’s never had a problem with allowing home runs and both of those trends have held. Batters have only hit .175 against him in 2021.
Alexy’s a tall, lean righty who, funnily enough, always works out of the stretch (kinda like the dude he was acquired for). He slings a 92-96 mph fastball that he uses with a big 12-6 curveball that comes in around 77-80. He’ll mix in a change-up and a developing slider (that he’s using more and more) as well. Here’s a pretty sick video of his stuff, courtesy of the Rangers Player Development twitter (a most-follow, if you’re not already).
And here he is in game action, in what was probably his best outing of the season to date. Alexy allowed two hits and two walks in his second start at the Triple-A level, striking out nine over five shutout innings. There’s one of everything in here:
Chances are he’s sent right back down after tonight, as the Rangers should start to get some of their rotation back this week.
But it’ll be good for us, watching a team 40 games under .500, to see what the kid’s got, and good for Alexy as a sweet reward after a couple years of working to get his career back on track.