The Texas Rangers stocked up on pitchers on Day 2 of the draft.
That group of eight selections, which includes five right-handed pitchers, is led by Duke’s Michael Matuella, who had been considered a potential No. 1 overall pick before he had Tommy John surgery in April. The junior could be a steal if he returns from surgery healthy and previous back issues are behind him.
“It is a non-issue today,” Matuella said of his back. “I’m totally confident in that. I don’t ever see it being a problem.”
First, however, he has to work his way back from surgery that pushed his draft stock out of the first round. Matuella, who was celebrating eight weeks since his surgery Tuesday, said he’s making substantial progress.
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“Everything is going really well. The range of motion has come back really well, the arm itself feels great,” said Matuella, who has been rehabbing his arm an hour and half a day. “I’m focused on getting everything strong in the shoulder and the forearm so I come back in the best shape of my life.”
Matuella had a career 3.19 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 141 innings at Duke. He was 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 25 innings this spring.
Having him available in the third round (78th overall pick) left Rangers senior director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg overjoyed.
“Prior to [the injuries] this guy was in high consideration for the straight up pick 4 we had, that’s the reason I met with him [in January],” Fagg said. “He was rumored to be the top pick in the draft so to get this guy were we got him, I’m ecstatic, it’s probably one of the better scouting moments in my 24 years with the Texas Rangers.”
If Matuella makes a full recovery, Fagg considers him to be a front of the rotation starter.
“He has that kind of arm, that kind of stuff,” Fagg said. “There’s always a risk. It’s a concern. You have to weigh the concern with what you know, what your gut is telling you, and what your regional scout is telling you.”
The Rangers selected four more right-hander pitchers between Rounds 4 and 9 — Houston’s Jake Lemoine, Vanderbilt’s Tyler Ferguson, Angelo State’s Blake Bass, and Missouri’s Peter Fairbanks. They selected high school outfielder Chad Smith in the fifth round, Central Florida shortstop Dylan Moore in the seventh, and Rice shortstop Leon Byrd in the 10th. The draft concludes with Rounds 11-40, beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“The first four guys were in the top 20 on our board,” Fagg said. “Very rarely do you get a chance to have four guys in your top 20. I can’t remember that happening in my career. That alone sets it apart. Plus, some of the guys we got a little later are some of the guys we targeted, and we did not think we were going to get them in that part of the draft, so that’s what kind of makes it special.”
Here’s a look at the Rangers’ picks through Day 2 of the draft:
UC Santa Barbara
West Columbus (NC) HS
South Gwinnett (GA) HS