Texas Rangers

Rangers comfortable drafting pitchers with injury histories

The third player the Texas Rangers selected Tuesday on the second day of the MLB Draft, Jake Latz, has barely pitched the past two seasons because of injury and the NCAA transfer rule.

The eighth player the Rangers selected, John King, is a possible candidate for Tommy John surgery. That’s right: He’s injured.

But this is nothing new for the Rangers, who have a history of drafting players whose draft stock has fallen because of injuries. Michael Matuella (2015) and Wes Benjamin (2014), both of whom had Tommy John, are recent examples.

The Rangers believe that both left-handers selected Tuesday will be premium prospects once healthy, and they will have come in a lower draft slot than had they been healthy.

“These do come back, and the success rate is pretty good when they come back,” said Kip Fagg, the Rangers’ director of amateur scouting. “It’s just time missed, but when they come back you have legitimate guys and not just organizational guys you might take.”

Latz, selected in the fifth round, and King, selected in the 10th round, were two of the eight players the Rangers selected Tuesday. The draft ends Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

Seven of the players drafted are from the college ranks, and five of the eight are pitchers. The Rangers used all three of their first-day picks on high school players, beginning with outfielder Bubba Thompson with the 26th overall pick.

Latz was selected from Kent State, where he didn’t play as a junior because of the rule requiring that a player miss a season when transferring from a Division I program. Latz originally signed at LSU, where an injury he suffered was misdiagnosed.

He threw bullpen sessions and simulated games this season, Fagg said.

“We scouted him this spring,” Fagg said. “He’s 90-94 with a four-pitch mix. He had an arm injury. It was misdiagnosed. His arm is clean. We did all the medical work. We’re very good with it right now.”

The Rangers want King to visit with the Rangers’ medical staff before deciding if he needs his elbow repaired. Even if he does, the Rangers are fine with their selection.

“We’ve got to do some more medical work,” Fagg said. “We didn’t see this guy as a normal 10th-round pick.”

The Rangers used their ninth-rounder on a local player, Tanner Gardner. The outfielder went to Texas Tech after graduating from Frisco Centennial High School.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram