It's that time of year again...Draft Time. The time of year, especially recently, that we see the Rangers front office of JD and his Super friends reload the farm system. But not just reload, it's more like a re-loading while shooting off the big guns.
This year the Rangers will have five selections in the first 93 picks. And as a bonus jab, the Rangers will be done with all those selections 21 picks before the Angels are on the clock. That is tied for the sixth most, with the Blue Jays and Padres running away with the prize and having seven selections in the first 112 picks.
Texas will be selecting in the first round, 29th overall, then 39th, 52nd, and 83rd as compensation picks for offseason signings of CJ Wilson (LAA) and Darren Oliver (TOR). Side note, love how JD plays the system perfectly as Texas gets to select the 52nd available player for allowing the Blue Jays the honor of signing 41-year-old Darren Oliver. Thank you JD...and thank you Robbie Ross for picking up the slack.
Obviously I don't know exactly the direction the Rangers plan of taking with their draft selections, but I can give you a quick guide into the midnset of what I believe the team is going to be doing.
Select the "Best Player Availabel": The Rangers, like any smart team in baseball don't select based upon Major League need. If there is a star 2B/SS available when Texas picks, say Gavin Cecchini (no, not Carlos Correa, he'll be gone before the picks reach 7th), the Rangers will select him. Even though this is a Major League product with years remaining of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler and a farm system full of the likes of Jurickson Profar, Leury Garcia, Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, and even Yangervis Salerte, you still select the "best player available."
Draft "Up The Middle":This is a strategy we saw the Rangers employ of a heavy scale in 2011. Drafting up the middle means taking players that play P, C, SS, and CF. Though Texas did select some 1B, 3B, and corner OFs, we will likely see the team concentrate on these "key positions" yet again. The reason for drafting up the middle. Prospects, especially in high school, that have Major League potential play the more athletic positions, or the "Up the Middle" positions. Not to say that the other positions are NOT athletic, just the beyond obvious positional charts will tell you the "star potentials" mainly play up the middle. And down the road, it's a lot easier to turn a C into a 1B, a SS into a 2B, or a CF into a corner OF.
Draft "High Ceiling" High School talent: There are some very good college players eligible for this draft, believe me I would love to have Mike Zunino, Kevin Gausman, or Kyle Zimmer on my team. But NOT going to happen. The Rangers are currently set at the Major League level, therefore the strategy I believe will be used again in 2012 is Texas will draft a ton of "high ceiling" high school prospects. Though doing so opens yourself up for more risk than reward, when a "high ceiling" high school prospect develops into a stud, it can be franchising defining. This draft has a decent amount of college players, but compared to recent years, it's much more shallow. Watch for the Rangers to reload by selecting potential over proven talent, selecting projects over pro-ready.
With all that said, here is a quick list of players who I'd love to see the Rangers target come Monday's First Round and Tuesday's following rounds.
Zach Eflin (pictured above) - RHP, 6-4, 200 lbs., R-R (Hagerty HS, Oviedo, FL)
Zach projects to be selected between the 25th and 31st picks, but as of recently it feels like his draft stock is rising, good for him, not for us. Eflin is a high school pitching project who needs some good ole fashion, minor league pitching instructor TLC. This kid has tons of talent and the right mind for the job, he just needs to refine some skills, continue to develop, and gain experience. Eflin's fastball sits around the low-90s (can touch 94-95mph), but what sets it above the rest is the movement. Eflin's fastball movement is one of the best in the draft, which makes it deadlier than a low-90s pitch would suggest. Along with amazing movement on his heater, he has one of the best changeups in the draft as well, which is extremely rare coming from a high school pitcher. He also commands a curveball, which I read is more "slurvy," but this is part of the project of Eflin. The young man throws strikes and that's what I like about him too, plus as one scout said, he displays a great mound presence.
Stryker Trahan- C/OF, 6-1, 215 lbs., R-R (Acadiana HS, Lafayette, LA)
Stryker, who already commands the perfect baseball name, projects to be selected in the mid-to-late 20s. Can play outfield, but has the body that projects him to be a long-term catcher. If durability becomes any type of issue then a move to first base, instead of the outfield is more likely. Outside of Florida Gators backstop Zunino, this is the next best weapon available. And even with the likes of Jorge Alfaro, Kellin Deglan, and Jose Felix, Texas would be very wise to snatch up Stryker if still available. In his latest mock draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has the Rangers doing exactly that (also noted that he has Eflin already off the board at that time). Offensively, Stryker projects to be a very powerful hitter with already above-average plate discipline, simply said...a stud. Defensively, Stryker has already been calling his own games behind the plate and has a strong arm, simply said...a stud. Leadership wise, he is considered one of the best potential clubhouse leaders of all high school products in 2012, so...simply said, a STUD! Eflin is my first choice, but after that, I'd love to add this young man to our ranks.
Lewis Brinson- OF, 6-3, 170 lbs., R-R (Coral Springs (Fla.) HS)
Brinson is currently being projected 39th-52nd overall pick. Raw, toolsy, athletic, young, fast high school centerfields...LOVE these prospects! And since Byron Buxton, Albert Almora, David Dahl, and maybe even D.J. Davis will all be gone before Texas selects, I introduce Lewis. This young man screams, franchise-centerfield, just like Dexter Fowler and Cameron Maybin did 3-5 years ago. Selecting Brinson, would be very similar to Texas 2009 first round selection of OF Jake Skole, it means you are selecting for 5-7 years from that point. Brinson is a project, and it'll take time for him to learn the professional game of baseball. But with what tools he currently possessions and the body frame he has, this risk is well-worth the potential reward it could have.
Hunter Virant- LHP, 6-3,175 lbs., R-L (Camarillo (CA) HS)
Virant currently is being projected to go around the 45th - 55th picks. Normally high school lefties that go in the first three rounds are heaters. They can light it up with the best of the arms in the entire draft. That's not Hunter, he is more the crafty lefty. This is an area that the Rangers don't have a long history in selecting, but for me it's a new field to tap into. Also, my motivation behind Hunter is who else is sick and tired of the Ranger bats struggling against crafty lefties...me too! Therefore let's put one on our side.
Adam Brett Walker- 1B/OF, 6-5, 222 lbs., R-R (Jacksonville)
Mr. Walker projects to be selected between the 50th and 60th pick. This young man spells the world power, on the scouts scale of 20-80 grades, all scouts gave his power 70-80, with a vast number selecting 80. Quick translation, an 80 grade (aside from being the highest score) means the prospect has the potential to hit 35+ HRs a season. The issues surrounding Adam are the usual when speaking about power prospects, high strikeouts and plate discipline. Therefore, enter the minor league hitting instructors. I know it's very eary, but young Mr. Walker has already drawn a ton of comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton. Not to mention the positive marketing strategy behind Adam, seeming that his father was a pretty good football player here in Dallas. Yep...you guessed it.
Jake Barrett- RHP, 6-4, 225 lbs, R-R (Arizona State)
Barrett currently is projecting to be selecting around the 53rd to 69th pick. Let's start with the one downside, because it is a legit concern and let's get it out of the way. Barrett's body frame is already compared to that of Heath Bell and Jonathan Broxton. Maybe not the best for Texas, but the good news is that his future projects the same...closer. Currently he is a starter for the Sun Devils, and likely after being drafted would stay in that role to forward his development. But it is strongly agreed that this young man's future lies in the ninth inning. He commands a plus-Fastball (upper-90s), a plus-Slider, and a plus-Change Up. I'm sold!
Mitchell Traver-RHP, 6-7, 240 lbs., R-R (Houston Christian (Texas) HS)
Traver currently is projected to be selected between picks 83 and 110. Another reason for the larger range is because of how raw this young man is and who wants to take on that project. An 18-year-old who is 6-7 and 240 lbs, I'd say most pitching and strength & conditioning coaches are getting pumped about that body frame. Mitchell has PLUS-PLUS arm strength, but is still fairly wild and incredible raw. His fastball already sits at 93mph and he maintains that velocity throughout the entire game. His off-speed, secondary stuff are all considered below-average, and he doesn't prefer to thrown them. I'll venture to guess, based upon knowing the district he pitches in, that's because he didn't have to rely on that stuff. His command and control are also below-average, and this is being attributed to an inability to "repeat his delivery consistently." Therefore, add this all up and this could be a bust pick if the young man's heart is not in it. If it is, then Mitchell has the potential for everyone to one day scratch their heads and say, "How did he drop to #93 overall." I love this project and think he is well worth the draft pick.
Next week I will have a breakdown of each of the three days of drafting. Here's to another fun evening and two days of reloading the farm.