Selecting the best player available has been the party line for the Texas Rangers and their draft philosophy under the Jon Daniels regime.
But who the organization determines is that best player remains a guessing game and something that it will decide as the First-Year Player Draft unfolds Thursday night.
The Rangers don’t select until pick No. 30, but the depth of this year’s draft is similar to 2012. That year, Texas landed players such as Joey Gallo (39th overall) and Nick Williams (93rd overall), who have gotten off to promising starts in their professional careers.
Maybe they’ll have similar fortune this year.
“I’m real excited with what our scouts have done, the makeup part, the evaluation part,” Rangers director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg said. “I think we’re going to be put in a good position to make a very good selection.”
The Rangers lost their first-round pick when they signed Shin-Soo Choo in December but recouped a compensation round “A” pick, 30th overall, when Nelson Cruz signed with Baltimore. They have the 59th overall pick in the second round.
The draft will air live on MLB Network with 74 selections scheduled to go Thursday night, spanning the first round and two compensation rounds. Rounds 3-10 will take place Friday, and Rounds 11-40 will be Saturday.
“This is a deep draft that is slightly more high school-heavy, with right-handed pitching being at the top and also a pretty good draft for left-handers,” said Todd Gold, the scouting supervisor/director of high school coverage at Perfect Game. “As far as position players, there are several with superstar potential, but they each come with significant risk.”
The Rangers go into the draft with a variety of options. They have one of the more limited draft budgets with $4.82 million to sign their picks within the first 10 rounds.
That could lead the Rangers to possibly “reach” for a lower-round talent with their first pick and sign him for below slot, allowing the team to allocate more resources to later rounds in the draft.
“Each year is a little different,” assistant general manager A.J. Preller said. “With the new draft rules and new international rules, you’re trying to figure out the way to get the most bang for your buck and the most players for the amount of money you have.”
The Rangers have been linked to several players in mock drafts. Spencer Adams, a high school right-hander from Georgia, is projected to go to the Rangers in Perfect Game’s latest mock draft. And it would make sense, given the Rangers’ fondness for Georgia-bred players.
They took Georgians with their first-round picks in 2010 (outfielder Jake Skole) and 2011 (left-hander Kevin Matthews). They drafted another Georgia player with the 30th overall pick last year — shortstop Travis Demeritte.
Or don’t be surprised if the Rangers continue to search for up-the-middle talent with upside. MLB.com has the Rangers linked to Florida high school infielder Forrest Wall, and another high school infielder, Cole Tucker from Arizona, is gaining late steam. Ti’Quan Forbes, a high school infielder from Mississippi, is a name to watch as well.
Another dark-horse candidate the Rangers could consider is right-hander Joseph Gatto from New Jersey.
The Rangers also could find themselves in an interesting position if a highly regarded pitcher slips to them because of injury concerns. Maybe UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, a potential top 10 pick before undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, will be there to tempt them.
An even more intriguing possibility would be if East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, a possible No. 1 overall pick at one point before undergoing Tommy John surgery, somehow falls to Texas.
The Rangers have shown they aren’t afraid to take a pitcher coming off an injury, as they selected — and signed — Cole Wiper out of Oregon last year. Wiper, their 10th-round pick, underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2011.
The Rangers are well aware of how medical concerns can impact a player and are even more so now with the rash of injuries to the big league club. They hope they’re getting ahead of the curve, though, in that department.
Jamie Reed, promoted to senior director of medical operations during the off-season, has taken on an increased role in the scouting department to give his medical input on certain players.
“It seems like more and more, the medical issue and the health of these players is becoming a bigger part of things,” Preller said. “[Reed] has definitely taken on an even more increasing role, and hopefully it’ll be a difference-maker for us here as we go forward on the scouting side.”