For the first time in more than a decade, the Texas Rangers have a top-10 selection in the First-Year Player Draft.
The Rangers have the No. 4 selection in Monday night’s draft, which begins at 6 p.m. on the MLB Network with the first and second rounds, along with the compensation picks Competitve Balance A and B rounds.
It’s the highest draft spot for the Rangers since 1986, when they selected right-hander pitcher Kevin Brown. The Rangers’ selection should come around 6:30 p.m.
They also have the No. 45 overall pick early in the second round, which should come around 9:45 p.m.
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The Rangers’ strategy? Pick the best player available.
This year, however, there’s no clear-cut favorite. Projections from reputable draft analysts are all pretty much eyeing the same crop of five to 10 players.
But no one seems to have a handle on which team is leaning toward which player, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies, who pick 1-2-3 before the Rangers.
With no obvious selections, at least not ones shared publicly, the Rangers’ No. 4 pick will generally be regarded as one of the top prospects in the nation. The Rangers, however, will lean toward the best player available who also comes with the best makeup, mental maturity and character.
“It starts at the ground level with the area scouts and them having relationships,” said Kip Fagg, Rangers senior director of amateur scouting. “This happens a year or more before the player becoming eligible.”
Rangers scouts and crosscheckers get to know most of the top 30-40 prospects well, which includes talking with their teachers, friends and family.
“Anything we can get our hands on and then we make an assessment at the end of the day,” Fagg said.
Two recent examples of high-character, top selections are pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (No. 23, 2013) and slugger Joey Gallo (No. 39, 2012), both currently on the big league roster.
The hope is, Fagg said, to find those players who have the work ethic and drive to do what it takes to fulfill their athletic promise. If two prospects are equal in terms of their baseball athleticism, they’re going to lean toward the one they deem with more aptitude.
Fagg credited general manager Jon Daniels with instilling that philosophy in the organization.
“A lot of times I’ve been guilty of maybe passing a guy that maybe we thought was a little bit more talented than the other guy, but maybe we didn’t have the comfort level that we had with the other guy … in terms of makeup, knowing the kid, et cetera,” said Fagg, who is in sixth year as amateur scouting director. “That’s a huge part of the process we have. I have a hard time taking a guy, pulling his name and feeling comfortable if we don’t really know the kid, know what he’s about.”
So whomever the Rangers take at No. 4 and No. 45, and throughout the rest of the three-day draft, for that matter, rest assured the Rangers will have a good idea of who they’re getting.
“I always tell the guys when he walks through this door and is a Texas Ranger there’s not going to be any secrets we didn’t know about,” Fagg said.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Five potential candidates the Rangers could take with their No. 4 overall pick on Monday (listed alphabetically):
SS Alex Bregman, LSU: The junior is one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which honors the nation’s top collegiate baseball player after batting .318 with nine homers and 22 doubles and a .414 on-base percentage this season.
LHP Tyler Jay, Illinois: Had a 0.60 ERA in 29 appearances this season, going 5-1 with 14 saves. The junior struck out 70 and walked just seven in 60 1/3 innings. Batters hit just .151 against him.
SS Brendan Rodgers, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS: The 6-foot-1 slugger has scouts drooling about his smooth swing and tremendous bat speed. Baseball America had the Rangers taking him in one of its mock drafts.
SS Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt: Batting .348 with 14 homers, 22 doubles, six triples and 61 RBI. Has 42 walks and 43 strikeouts in 247 at-bats in 2015.
RHP Dillon Tate, UC Santa Barbara: Has a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings this season with an electric fastball clocked in the upper 90s and an effective slider in the high 80s.
Other possibilities: RHP Kyle Funkhouser, Louisville; RHP Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt; OF Daz Cameron, Eagle Landing Christian Academy (McDonough. Ga.); RHP Walker Buehler, Vanderbilt; OF Kyle Tucker, Plant (Tampa, Fla.) High School; OF Garrett Whitley, Niskayuna (NY) High School; LHP Brady Aiken, IMG Academy; SS Kevine Newman, Arizona; RHP Jon Harris, Missouri State.
Four on the floor
The past 10 No. 4 picks in the First-Year Player Draft, and where they are now:
Pos. Players, Team
3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
RHP Brandon Morrow, Mariners
Padres Double AA
LHP Daniel Moskos, Pirates
Released by Dodgers Triple A, May ’14
LHP Brian Matusz, Orioles
C Tony Sanchez, Pirates
Pirates Triple A
SS Christian Colon, Royals
RHP Dylan Bundy, Orioles
Orioles Double A DL
RHP Kevin Gausman, Orioles
RHP Kohl Stewart, Twins
Twins High A
C Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Cubs Double A
Rangers’ Top 10 picks
The Rangers’ top-10 picks since the club moved to Arlington:
RHP Thomas Diamond
LHP John Danks
SS Drew Meyer
3B Mark Teixeira
1B Carlos Pena
RHP Jonathan Johnson
OF Donald Harris
SS Monty Fariss
RHP Kevin Brown
RHP Bobby Witt
SS Jeff Kunkel
RHP Ron Darling
SS David Hibner
RHP Tommy Boggs
LHP David Clyde
3B Roy Howell