ARLINGTON -- Four years ago, the Rangers drafted a 5-foot-11 left-handed high school pitcher from Kentucky. The year before that, they took a 6-foot-2 first baseman from Mississippi State.
The southpaw, Robbie Ross, was a second-round pick in 2008. He is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his rookie season, striking out 20 and walking just six in 30 innings this year. Ross became the first Rangers rookie reliever to win five games since 2005 and the first Major League player on any team to record five victories in his first 15 career appearances since 1985.
The other, Mitch Moreland, is fourth in this year's All-Star Game voting for American League first baseman, trailing only Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko. He was the 530th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, taken by the Rangers in the 17th round. Moreland is batting .269 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs this season.
"It's a scout's dream to see a guy that's a late-round pick make it to the big leagues," said Kip Fagg, the Rangers' director of amateur scouting. "Most of the players in the big leagues were mostly higher picks, with an exception of a guy like Moreland on our squad. But they were mostly higher picks."
There are several other players making an impact at the Major League level for the Rangers that weren't high Draft picks. Ian Kinsler was a 17th-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2003 and has flourished as the team's second baseman. A two-time All-Star, Kinsler is batting .277 this season and leads the American League with 20 doubles and 45 runs.
Derek Holland was not taken until the 25th round in 2006 while Scott Feldman was selected by the Rangers in the 30th round in 2003. Both are members of the Rangers' pitching staff.
"Pitching can come from anywhere," Fagg said. "Feldman was a late-round Draft pick. Derek Holland was a late-round Draft pick. We're confident in the process here, not just knowing their talent but knowing their makeup, their drive, and their work ethic."
As far as the players picked by the Rangers in the first few rounds over the last few years, many are making good progress, with Ross leading the way. Third baseman Mike Olt, the third-ranked
Rangers prospect, was taken in the first compensation round in 2010 while right-handed pitcher Justin Grimm was selected in the fifth round that year.
Both Olt and Grimm are playing for Double-A Frisco. Olt is batting .317 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs and was recently named Texas League Player of the Week. Grimm is 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA in 12 starts this season, striking out 59 and walking only 13 in 70 innings.
Grimm signed with the Rangers out of high school. The Rangers used their first five picks this year on high school players, beginning with Coral Springs (Fla.) High outfielder Lewis Brinson, before taking just five high school players in the next 28 rounds.
"There's ups and downs in baseball. It's a tough sport," Fagg said. "When you play in the arena of young high school players, drafting them, signing them, there's going to be a learning curve. It's going to take time. You have to be patient. Some guys are doing better than others but ... at the end of the day, they'll end up being where we thought they'd be at. But I'm very pleased with where we're at."