Rangers take 'special bat' Foscue with 14th pick

Texas drafts 2B with first selection for first time in club history

June 11th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Mississippi State second baseman Justin Foscue was not drafted out of high school, and he was not a big-time college recruit either.

So, Foscue took on the challenge of playing for a prestigious college powerhouse and proving people wrong in the highly competitive Southeast Conference.

Now he has a new challenge. He must prove the Rangers are correct in their assessment he will be an “impact bat” and worthy of the 14th overall pick in the MLB Draft.

The Rangers took him with that selection on Wednesday even though Foscue was rated as the No. 32nd overall prospect by MLB Pipeline going into the Draft. It also marks the first time in club history the Rangers have taken a second baseman with their first Draft pick.

“We just felt this kid’s bat was a special bat,” Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg said. “We truly believe in this kid’s bat. It has a chance to be an impact bat.”

There is still some question about his defense. He had good hands and instincts, but the arm and range are rated as average. The Rangers are also eager to begin working with Foscue on his footwork in turning the double play.

“Throughout my whole life I have never been the top-ranked kind of player,” Foscue said. “I had chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong. I believed in myself. I just went to work and put my head down and didn’t listen to the outside noise with the rankings and stuff … always believing in myself, that’s how I got to this point.”

Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis described Foscue as a pure hitter who can succeed against any pitcher regardless of the matchup. But Foscue’s hitting really took off after his freshman year, when he hit just .241 with a .353 slugging percentage. He also had just three home runs in 187 at-bats after coming to Mississippi State from Virgil Grissom High School in Huntsville, Ala.

Then, in 2019, he played in 67 games for the Bulldogs and hit .331 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs over 275 at-bats. He had .395 on-base percentage and .564 slugging. Foscue said there were some mechanical adjustments, but he was also determined to stop missing pitches he could hit.

“That’s what I changed, my mindset my sophomore year,” Foscue said. “I said I can’t miss those pitches if I want to be a better hitter.”

Foscue, who stands 6-foot and is a right-handed hitter, ended up as All-American and helped the Bulldogs reach the College World Series for the second straight year. He was the starting second baseman on the USA National Collegiate Team last summer and was hitting .321 with a .509 slugging percentage this spring in 16 games before the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We talk about things we identify in players who eat, breath, sleep the game,” Fagg said. “This guy is the epitome of that. He works his craft. He was undrafted out of high school and overlooked, and just killed it for three years at a big school in a big conference with impact. He impressed just how he goes about his business and the fiery nature he plays the game.”

This is the second year the Rangers have used their first overall pick to draft a college infielder with offensive potential. They did so last year with two first-round picks: Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung and Baylor third baseman Davis Wendzel.

The Rangers also passed on some attractive high school pitchers, including right-hander Jared Kelley from Refugio High in South Texas.

“I don’t think you can ever have enough bats,” Fagg said. “We have a lot of young pitching in our system I believe is going to take some jumps in the next few years. If we team up with these bats, we feel like we are going to have a formidable team we are building with the Texas Rangers.”

The Rangers expect Foscue to sign quickly. He has been working out in Huntsville during the shutdown and is eager to take advantage of the major improvements the Rangers have made to their farm system the past few years.

“I’ll wait for the Rangers to contact me about where I need to report and when I need to report,” Foscue said. “With my bat, I’ve always felt I’ve had the knack to hit at the highest level. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t like to listen to a lot of outside noise. I understand I have to get better defensively, but I also have to get better in all parts of my game.

“That’s one thing that stands out with me. With my game I can always improve on something. I pride myself on never being satisfied.”

The Draft continues on Thursday with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 3 p.m. CT, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 4 p.m. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.