Rangers could refocus on pitching in Draft
Texas has shown a preference lately for taking high school players
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers will have the 23rd and 30th overall picks on Thursday when the 2013 First-Year Player Draft begins in New Jersey. A good bet suggests the Rangers will use at least one of those picks to take a high school pitcher.
There are several reasons why it's worth speculating in that direction. First of all, the strength of the Draft may be in the pitching.
"I think pitching is going to be what's most on your board," said Kip Fagg, the Rangers' director of scouting. "I think this is a deep pitching Draft with a lot of left-handed pitchers. There are some players too, probably a little light on the top-end type player, but the depth is in the pitching."
Secondly, the Rangers have shown a preference lately for taking high school players with their top picks in the Draft. Since 2006, after Jon Daniels became general manager, the Rangers have had 25 picks in the first, supplemental and second rounds of the Draft.
Of those 25 picks, 17 were high school selections, including 10 pitchers. The other seven were position players. Of the eight remaining picks out of college, three were pitchers and five were position players. So the trend has been high school players taken early, although the Rangers' stated philosophy is to take the best player available.
"As an organization, we want impact players," Fagg said. "Sometimes that's [high school] where it's been for us and where we felt those players are. Not to say this year might be a little different. It's all about my philosophy and the organization's philosophy, which is the best player available. That's how we've gone about it with our scouting group."
Finally, the Rangers have been going hard after position players the past few years in an attempt to address a lack of high-end offensive prospects within their farm system. Having addressed that in multiple ways, it might be time to refocus their efforts on pitching.
"I would hate to sit here and say I'm going to do something just out of reaction," Fagg said. "I just think everything works out in the end. Pitching, yeah, you're always going to need pitching. That's probably where the depth in this Draft is, and we're going to get pitching in this Draft, trust me. It's just the players are sometimes harder to find. We won't say we won't take a pitcher with the first one either. It all depends on which player we deem we like the best."
The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Rangers will be represented by former All-Star catchers Jim Sundberg and Ivan Rodriguez at Studio 42.
Here's a glance at what the Rangers have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Rangers look for talent, but they also put a premium on character and makeup. Their scouts spent much time with potential picks off the field as well as watching them play.
"It's a very important piece," Fagg said. "It makes it very easy to take those guys when we've done the work, we know the kid, we know the family, we know what makes them tick, and plus they're talented. It makes it easier to take them because there's not going to be issues, plus they're talented players."
The Rangers are just glad to have the 23rd overall pick. It was in jeopardy this offseason when the Rangers flirted with free-agent pitchers Zack Greinke and Kyle Lohse. The Rangers would have had to give up the pick if they had signed either one. Instead, they added the 30th overall pick when Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels.
"From my personal standpoint, I was glad to have a pick in the first round," Fagg said. "It's always fun to be playing there as opposed to not. I mean, look at the Angels."
There should be a sufficient number of high school pitchers available at either the 23rd or the 30th pick of the Draft. A couple of other names could intrigue the Rangers, who always like to defend their Texas turf. Outfielder Billy McKinney of Plano West is the best local high school player in the Draft and should be available to the Rangers at least with the No. 23 pick. Cavan Biggio, an infielder from Houston St. Thomas High, might be a second-round guy, but he's the son of former Astros infielder Craig Biggio.
Rangers' bonus pool
The Rangers have $6,553,800 allotted in their bonus pool for the first 11 picks through the first 10 rounds. That includes $1,920,600 for the 23rd pick and $1,731,200 for the 30th pick.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
"I think, like anything else, once you've been through it once you've got a better feel for it," Fagg said. "The rules are pretty straight forward the way you go about it. You've got 'X' amount of dollars to spend, and I think everyone is playing under the same rules."
The Rangers want pitching. That's always on their shopping list. They also love great athletes who can play in the middle of the diamond, whether it's a catcher, infielder or center fielder with great speed. The Rangers are always on a quest to find a catcher with an impact bat. They have had a need for offensive firepower but have satisfied that appetite with a rush of Draft picks and international signings.
Only the first two rounds of the Draft will be televised on June 6. But don't ignore the next two days when the rest of the Draft is held. The Rangers have been known to pluck gems in the later rounds. They have plucked two gems in the 17th round in second baseman Ian Kinsler (2003) from the University of Missouri and Mitch Moreland (2007) from Mississippi State.
Most of the best high school players go early in the Draft, and then scouts comb the college ranks for mid-Draft steals.
"For me, that's a very prideful thing," Fagg said. "We have a staff that works very hard. We're out there a lot. I can't imagine there's one staff in baseball that works as hard or harder than we do. We push our guys to go the extra mile and find the extra information. I think that's attributed to getting some of these guys in the later rounds that have done well for us."
• Recent Draft History •
The 2010 Draft may go down as one of the most memorable for the Rangers as far as pitching. They took Justin Grimm in the fifth round out of the University of Georgia and Nick Tepesch in the 14th round out of the University of Missouri. Both weren't coming off great years in college and there were concerns with both. Scouts were concerned about Grimm's mechanics and there were also worries about the ability to sign Tepesch.
But the Rangers did extra homework on both. They liked Grimm's arm and his makeup, and their Midwest scouts knew Tepesch well. The Rangers targeted both players on the board and came away with two pitchers who are currently in their rotation.
Right-hander C.J. Edwards was taken in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft out of rural Prosperity Mid-Carolina (S.C.) High. He is 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts at Class A Hickory. In 56 innings, he has allowed 38 hits and 23 walks while striking out 66, and is ranked the as the No. 17 prospect in the Rangers' system by MLB.com.
In The Show
The Rangers' current 25-man roster is loaded with former Draft picks, including pitcher Derek Holland, who was a 25th-round pick out of junior college in 2006 and one of the last draft-and-follow picks under the old rules. Robbie Ross is a rare commodity. He is the only one of the last 10 players taken in the second round of the Draft by the Rangers who has reached the big leagues going back to 2001. The Rangers have had four fifth-round picks make it to the big leagues in that time: C.J. Wilson, Chris Davis, Michael Kirkman and Grimm.
Rangers recent top picks
2012: Lewis Brinson, OF, Class A Hickory
2011: Kevin Matthews P, Disabled list, extended spring camp
2010: Jake Skole, OF, Class A Myrtle Beach
2009: Matt Purke, LHP, Did not sign
2008: Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.