With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at righthanded pitcher A.J. Alexy.
When A.J. Alexy was added to the 40 man roster after the 2020 season, there were eyebrows raised. The righthander had come over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade, and while he had a successful 2018 season for low-A Hickory as a 20 year old, he missed almost all of 2019 due to a lat injury (and wasn’t particularly good when he was on the mound). Alexy had no official action in the 2020 season, what with the pandemic and all, and while he reportedly looked good at the Alternate Training Site that year, he still had less than 20 innings above low-A, and seemed like a candidate to be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
Alexy’s performance in 2021, however, was such that he showed he was worthy of a roster spot. The Rangers started him at AA Frisco, though they were cautious with his workload, particularly to start the year, given how little he had pitched the previous two seasons. Alexy excelled at Frisco, allowing more than one run in just one outing — a three run, four inning appearance against Midland on July 4 — and by the end of July he had earned a promotion to AAA Round Rock, having put up a 1.66 ERA with 57 Ks against 50.1 IP against 21 walks in the Texas League.
Alexy allowed three runs in his first AAA outing, at Sugar Land, then put up back to back scoreless five inning outings in his next two appearances for Round Rock. I don’t know if the plan was for Alexy to stay in AAA through the end of the season, or if the expectation was that he was going to be brought up to the majors in September, but the Boston COVID outbreak that waylaid so many Rangers pitchers meant Alexy was brought up to the majors at the end of August to fortify the pitching staff.
Alexy was sexy in his first two outings, throwing a combined 11 shutout innings at home against the Rockies and in Anaheim against the Angels, allowing just 2 hits and 5 walks while striking out 11. The Astros and the Yankees touched him up for 6 and 4 runs, respectively, in his next two appearances before he ended the season on a high note, with a two run, five inning performance against the Angels.
Alexy threw a four pitch mix while in the big leagues in 2021, going with his four seamer a little over half the time, mixing in his slider and changeup in roughly equal amounts, and using his curveball sparingly. Alexy mostly went fastball/slider against righthanders — over 85% of his pitches to righthanded hitters were one of those two offerings — with the changeup and curve shown occasionally. Against lefties, over 80% of his pitches were the four seamer or changeup, with, again, the curveball and slider mixed in.
The consensus is that Alexy has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher. If we look at the Statcast data, he doesn’t get much horizontal movement on his pitches — all four break horizontally a less than average amount, with his four seamer and changeup being particularly straight on the X axis — but his four seamer and breaking balls all have an above average amount of vertical movement. He averaged 93.3 mph on his four seamer, which Statcast has as being right at the 50% mark.
The issue with Alexy, as with so many young pitchers, is command. His future major league path, both whether it is as a starter or a reliever, and what kind of major league career he may have, is going to be determined in large part by whether he can show consistent and improved command of his pitches. He has the repertoire to be a potential starter, but, as of now, not the command. If he can’t stick in the rotation, his stuff would seem to play in the bullpen, but again, there are command issues that need to be worked through for him to have long-term success in a meaningful relief role.
All that being said, Alexy had a successful 2021 season, and entering his age 24 season he’ll be part of the mix of young arms who will be vying for some sort of role on the major league staff this spring. I’d wager Alexy starts the year in the AAA rotation, getting some additional polish and putting himself in position to be called up at some point in the season when reinforcements are needed.