It doesn’t take long to see what the Texas Rangers see in right-hander Dillon Tate.
The junior from UC Santa Barbara sounds mature and wise beyond his 21 years.
The Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick Monday night in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, where he was considered by many to be the top pitching prospect. He’s slotted to earn a little over $5 million as the No. 4 pick.
It was the highest selection for the Rangers since they took right-hander Kevin Brown with the No. 4 pick in 1986.
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With No. 45 overall pick, the Rangers selected Eric Jenkins, a high school outfielder. Jenkins (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) bats left and throws right. He stole 66 bases in his career at West Columbus High School in North Carolina.
He had seven doubles and four homers as a senior.
Tate (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) has a fastball routinely clocked in the mid-90s, and mixes it well with a hard slider and changeup.
“This is a huge honor. Texas is a great organization and I’m really fortunate to be in this spot,” Tate said during a conference call. “A lot of kids don’t get this opportunity, and I’m just very blessed to be in this situation I am now.”
Tate was not drafted three years ago out of Claremont (Calif.) High School and only had a couple of scholarship offers. One of those was from Oral Roberts — where he met eventual Rangers right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez during an official visit — but he decided UCSB was a better fit.
Tate’s stock began to rise between his freshman and sophomore seasons at UCSB. He joined MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., in the summer of 2013. He also hit the gym, growing from 165 pounds as a freshman to 200 pounds.
“They really helped me make big steps in the right direction,” he said of the UYA, a nonprofit developed by MLB in 2006. “I’m really grateful for what they’ve done for me.”
During that summer, Tate said the repetitions on the field helped improve his command, and the weight training helped increase his power. In high school, he threw only in the mid-80s to low 90s.
“I didn’t throw a ton of strikes when I was a freshman [at UCSB],” he said. “I only threw three innings my freshman year.”
He had 12 saves as a sophomore and moved to the rotation this season, going 8-5 with a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings.
“I actually really liked [starting],” he said. “I have four pitches, and it was a great opportunity for me to develop them and bring them to the next level.
“I didn’t know if it was going to go as smoothly as I hoped. I had a whole lot of help from teammates and coaches, who helped create that smooth transition, so credit to them for helping me out in that direction.”
The Rangers were as impressed with Tate’s personality and character as they were his athletic ability.
“We feel really good about the kid, the work ethic, the talent,” Rangers amateur scouting director Kip Fagg said. “We think we’ve got a power pitcher — he’s a starter.
“He’s the top guy that we identified right there at that pick. We’re very excited about some of the intangibles he brings.”
For the first time ever, three shortstops were the top three picks, including Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson — who was taken No. 1 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Astros selected LSU’s Alex Bregman with the No. 2 pick, and the Colorado Rockies took Brendan Rodgers from Lake Mary High School in Florida.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
The Dillon Tate profile
Age: 21 (Born May 1, 1994, Harbor City, Calif.)
Personal: Parents Anthony and Lenora Tate; Older brothers David and Douglas
Vitals: 6-foot-2; 200 pounds; Throws right, bats right
High School: Claremont (Calif.) High School
College: UC Santa Barbara
2015 superlatives: All-Big West First Team; D1Baseball.com Midseason Pitcher of the Year; Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist; Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American; Perfect Game Preseason All-American; Baseball America Preseason All-American; Louisville Slugger All-American.
Favorite team (before being drafted): Boston Red Sox
Favorite athlete: David Price (Tigers pitcher)
Favorite film: Friday
Favorite hobby: Table tennis