Burning Draft questions for Rangers' brass

Texas sees opportunity for success with 'strong' Draft class

June 1st, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg said the 2019 MLB Draft has a chance to be a “strong one,” meaning the talent level is relatively high compared to other years.

That’s why he is confident the Rangers will get a top prospect with the Nos. 8, 41 and 50 pick of the Draft, which starts Monday. Here are the burning questions surrounding the Draft.

Why do the Rangers lean so heavily on high school picks?
Fagg said the Rangers adhere to the policy of taking the best available player, whether he is high school or college. It just happened to work out that the Rangers’ top five picks last year came from high school, as well as their top three in both 2016 and ’17. But it is also true that guys who could have been huge impact players in college often sign out of high school. That tends to dilute the overall talent level available from the college ranks.

Who are the best players from Texas? Do the Rangers have a chance at them?
There are five who stand out: Colleyville Heritage shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., TCU left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, San Jacinto JC left-handed pitcher Jackson Rutledge, Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers and Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung. The Rangers have no chance for Witt, but Lodolo and Rutledge could be available depending on how the first seven fall.

Another interesting guy is Lake Travis High School third baseman Brett Baty. He is supposed to be one of the best high school bats in the Draft, but some are turned off because he is a little older (19 1/2) than the usual prep players. Why that is a big deal is a bit strange.

Can the Rangers find a way to avoid high school pitchers who end up needing Tommy John surgery?
This is an issue that vexes the Rangers and other organizations going into the Draft.

“We spent a ton of time thinking about it: Is it something we could have prevented or not?” general manager Jon Daniels said. “We have taken a lot of high school arms at the top of the Draft. You look at the numbers. There is a different historical risk associated with that. When we take more of them, we are more exposed to it. But we are not going to stop taking the player we think is the best and ultimately take the best care of them.”

Are college pitchers less of a risk?
“You just have a longer runway to get them through some of the natural attrition,” Daniels said. “There is more of a performance track record to analyze as you go through it. We are not going to shy away from high school players and high school pitchers. It depends on the individual.”

What’s the biggest need within the farm system?
Daniels said the Rangers are thin at third base, but that’s not going to drive their Draft approach. They could also use more offensive power, and it’s interesting that MLB Pipeline’s mock Drafts consistently have the Rangers taking Arizona State outfielder Hunter Bishop. He is a left-handed power hitter, and that would be a huge plus for the Rangers’ farm system.

Who are some of the best players taken with the eighth overall pick?
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (2011) and Rockies first baseman Todd Helton (1995) were the two best. Other notables were Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland (2014), White Sox pitcher Carson Fullmer (1995), Royals infielder Hunter Dozier (2013) and Reds pitcher Mike Leake (2009). Delino DeShields Jr. was taken by the Astros in 2010.

Can clubs trade Draft picks?
No, unless it’s a competitive balance pick. That’s how the Rangers acquired the No. 41 pick in exchange for pitcher Alex Claudio. But Daniels would be in favor of it.

“I guess there’s some concern over you get the John Elway, Eli Manning-type situations where if you can trade a pick, there’s some leverage that an agent or the player may have,” Daniels said. “But I think, all in all, when you give a club options to build teams and create strategies the way they want to build a team, generally speaking, it’s something I’d be in favor of.”

Rangers beat:
• Outfielder Hunter Pence has been named the Rangers’ Player of the Month for May. He hit .299 with eight home runs, 26 RBIs and a .678 slugging percentage. The 26 RBIs were tied with Jose Abreu of the White Sox for the most in the American League. His 1.026 OPS was the sixth highest.

• Saturday was Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas’ birthday. He is in his 20th season with the Rangers.

• Adrian Sampson will be the Rangers’ starting pitcher on Sunday. The Rangers have used an opener for him in his past three outings, but manager Chris Woodward said he wants to see how Sampson handles a starting assignment.

• Right-hander Jesse Chavez pitched 17 1/3 scoreless over 13 games, including three starts, in May. That is the most scoreless innings in a single month in Rangers history.