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Rangers turn their eyes to arms on Draft Day 2

@Sullivan_Ranger
June 4, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went hard after pitchers on the second day of the 2019 Draft, using five of their eight picks on Tuesday on college arms to go along with second-round pick Ryan Garcia of UCLA from Monday night. The Rangers also took Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went hard after pitchers on the second day of the 2019 Draft, using five of their eight picks on Tuesday on college arms to go along with second-round pick Ryan Garcia of UCLA from Monday night.

The Rangers also took Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung and Baylor third baseman Davis Wendzel with their first two picks on Monday, so eight of their first 11 picks have come from the college ranks this year.

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“The strength of this Draft was the college players and pitchers,” scouting director Kip Fagg said. “We picked from the strength.”

Draft Central

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

Third round

Justin Slaten, RHP, 21, New Mexico

Slaten, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, hails from Longview and pitched at Hallsville (Texas) High School. As a junior at New Mexico, he made 13 starts and went 5-5 with a 2.51 ERA. In 82 innings, he struck out 98, walked 36 and allowed a .215 batting average.

He'll know the way to Rangers' complex in Surprise, Ariz. The Lobos opened their 2019 season against Oregon State at Surprise Stadium on Feb. 15, and Slaten threw five scoreless innings against the defending national champions. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Slaten.

“He was a projectable kid whose stuff in high school wasn’t quite ready for professional baseball and ended up in New Mexico,” Fagg said. “We are really excited about him. He has a chance to be a starter. ... Good breaking ball.”

Fourth round

Cody Freeman, SS, 18, Etiwanda High School, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

The 5-foot-10 Freeman hit .389 with a .516 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. He stole 16 bases in 17 attempts and was a four-year letterman in high school. His brother, Tyler, also an infielder, was a second-round pick of the Indians in 2017.

Freeman is committed to Baylor, but the Rangers expect to sign him, seeing him as an advanced defensive player with good offensive potential. The Rangers will start him as a shortstop and see how he handles it. Freeman has the arm strength, and is strong enough physically to handle the bat.

Freeman’s father, Greg, was a teammate of Rangers manager Chris Woodward at Northview High School in Covina, Calif. Woodward first saw the Freeman brothers play in a youth tournament in Phoenix when he was in Spring Training with the Mariners in 2009. Cody was 9 years old, playing in an 11-and-under tournament.

Fifth round

Kellen Strahm, OF, 22, San Jose State

Strahm played in 43 games for the Spartans and hit .382 to lead the Mountain West Conference, and also recorded a .487 on-base percentage and .546 slugging percentage. He hit six home runs and stole 14 bases, and the Rangers see him as a potential top-of-the-order spark plug. He is from Eugene, Ore., and was a three-sport star at Sheldon High School. As a quarterback, he was the Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year, and he was also captain of the basketball team.

Strahm originally signed to play baseball at the University of Oregon but sustained a knee injury and had to sit out a year. He lost his scholarship and ended up San Jose State, where he played three years.

Strahm’s parents went to the University of Oregon. His father, Curt, was an All-American wrestler. His, mother, Kim, a softball player, is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. His older brother, Connor, was a linebacker at the University of Montana.

Sixth round

Cody Bradford, LHP, 21, Baylor

Bradford only pitched in three games for the Bears while recovering from surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but he was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore, when he went 7-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 14 starts. He struck out 87 and walked 26 in 96 innings while holding opponents to a .240 batting average. He has a plus changeup to go with an 88-91 fastball, slider and curve.

“It’s big, it’s athletic, loose,” Fagg said. “He’s got four pitches, it’s very exciting. We had him rated very high.”

Bradford went to Aledo (Texas) High and pitched two seasons for the Bearcats. He was not heavily recruited out of high school, but really took off during his sophomore year in Waco before the injury. Fagg said Bradford has been cleared to start a throwing program soon. Bradford is studying engineering at Baylor and was also a high jumper in high school.

Seventh round

Brandon Sproat, RHP, 18, Pace (Fla.) High School

Sproat was the first high school pitcher taken by the Rangers. He has a commitment to pitch at the University of Florida after a three-year run at Pace, in the Florida panhandle. He made 27 starts and five relief appearances for the Patriots over three seasons and was 19-7 with a 1.83 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP.

Sproat didn’t pitch as much as a senior because he also played catcher, first base and the outfield. He batted in the middle of the order and hit .338 with a .438 slugging percentage. The Rangers plan to use him as a pitcher.

Sproat was selected to pitch in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Game. The Rangers expect to sign him rather than lose him to Florida.

Eighth round

John Matthews, RHP, 21, Kent State

Matthews made 11 starts and five relief appearances for the Golden Flashes and went 7-6 with a 5.45 ERA. He struck out 91 and walked 25 in 77 innings while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. He started at Kent State as an infielder before transitioning full time to pitching. He had a perfect 20-0 record pitching for Punxsutawney (Pa.) Area High School, helping his team win four straight district titles. He was 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA as a senior.

Ninth round

Zak Kent, RHP, 21, Virginia Military Institute

Kent is one of two big right-handers taken by the Rangers with their final two picks of the second day. Kent made 14 starts and one relief appearance for VMI and was 5-5 with a 4.64 ERA. He struck out 132 in 97 innings while walking just 30 and holding opponents to a .229 batting average. He is a hard thrower with a plus breaking ball who could end up as a late-inning reliever.

10th round

Joe Corbett, RHP, 22, West Texas A&M

Corbett is another big right-hander with big strikeout numbers. He went 12-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 13 starts and one relief appearance while striking out 136 against just 21 walks in 92 innings. His fastball was clocked at 95-96 mph. He started at Arkansas-Little Rock before ending up at West Texas A&M in Canyon.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.