Gil LeBreton

Draft remains just a different roll of the dice for Rangers

Alabama high school outfielder Bubba Thompson was the Rangers’ first draft pick on Monday. Only two first-round picks are on the Rangers’ current 40-man roster.
Alabama high school outfielder Bubba Thompson was the Rangers’ first draft pick on Monday. Only two first-round picks are on the Rangers’ current 40-man roster. AP

Of all the things they have done in the Jon Daniels era, from trading for Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to signing Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish, from the two World Series to the uncorked champagne therein, none rattles the brainpan as much as the Texas Rangers’ performance in the MLB draft.

Here in football country, as Josh Hamilton once called us, the June baseball draft perennially fails to compute.

Wait, the pitcher they drafted is only 17?

We’ll see this draft’s group in Arlington, maybe, in 2023?

Where’s the Dak Prescott? Where’s even the Yogi Ferrell in this year’s draft class?

Sometime during the next homestand, the Rangers likely will bring the headliners of their draft – Bubba Thompson, Chris Seise and Hans Crouse – to Globe Life Park, put jerseys on them and formally introduce them to the local media.

Maybe one day we’ll see them again. Maybe we won’t.

First-rounders Zach Cone (2011) and Travis Demeritte (2013) won’t be making it back, it appears. And they’re not alone.

The only first-round draft choices still on the Rangers’ 40-man roster are Joey Gallo (2012) and injured Chi Chi Gonzalez (2013).

The tag most often applied is crapshoot, as in, “The MLB draft is a crapshoot.” But in truth, your odds are better with dice in your hand than with the pitching arms of high school seniors.

Curiously, general manager Daniels and his scouting staff, headed by Kip Fagg, may have found a quarterback. Thompson, as starting QB, led his Mobile high school to the Alabama state championship and also was a Crimson Tide baseball commit.

The consensus scouting reports all trumpet Thompson’s athleticism and speed, which unfortunately often suggests that his bat remains a work in progress. The club’s second first-rounder, Seise, is a shortstop that some scouts say may have to be an outfielder.

And right-hander Crouse throws in the upper 90s, but has a delivery that appears composed of lots of moving, angry-looking parts.

A crapshoot.

Not all that long ago, of course, Daniels and the Rangers were being hailed for having the best farm system in baseball. But no trophy comes with that.

The distinction was also fleeting.

Rangers fans may wince at the memories of Cristian Guzman, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Adam Eaton (the bad one, not the good one). All came to the club via trades for once-coveted draft choices.

That No. 1-ranked farm system saw its shelves depleted. But you can’t have it both ways.

Teams can’t horde young players and still try to compete for the postseason every year, as Daniels has mostly done.

A couple of flushed, 90-loss seasons might have helped the Rangers’ draft position a few years (see ASTROS, Houston), but Daniels instead properly added Beltre and Darvish.

Young prospects became trade currency, and no longer building blocks. Meanwhile, it’s hard to fault the organization for finding the likes of Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman and Yohander Mendez in the international player pool.

A strong argument can be made that it’s far more cost-effective to play to win every year, filling the holes in your team’s draft with international signings and with major league free agents that somebody else paid good money to develop.

Of course, you could always wait until 2023.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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