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Rangers keeping their options open

Rangers keeping their options open

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' recent trend in the First-Year Player Draft has shown an emphasis on drafting pitching.

Do not look for history to repeat itself -- entirely.

The organization enters the June 7-8 Draft with the 19th overall pick and in search of the best player available at the time. That player could be a pitcher, but it does not have to be.

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"There is no agenda other than to get the best guy to help the organization," said Rangers scouting director Ron Hopkins. "We are not preoccupied with whether a guy is in high school or college or whether he is a position player or a pitcher. We will see what's available and pick."

During last year's First-Year Player Draft, the club selected 51 players, including junior right-handed pitcher Thomas Diamond from the University of New Orleans with their first pick, 10th overall. Right-handed pitcher Eric Hurley from Wolfson High School in Florida was also selected in the first round by the Rangers with the 30th pick.

Overall, the club selected 29 pitchers, 10 outfielders, eight infielders, and four catchers in the First-Year Player Draft. The club drafted 10 out of high school, 41 from four-year universities and junior colleges. In the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, the club selected a total of 44 players, headlined by ninth overall selection John Danks, considered the top high school left-hander in the class. The total included 23 pitchers, 12 infielders, six outfielders and three catchers.

"The last couple of years we have concentrated a lot on pitching because the consensus was that this organization needed pitching," Hopkins said. "This year, we want the best available and that's a sign we have made improvement throughout the organization. In the Minors, we have good rotations and people who have been successful."

Part of the reason the Rangers needed to add players to the system was the fact that the club did not have picks in the second, third, fourth or fifth rounds on the first day of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft and in 2001, the Rangers did not have a second or third-round selection after selecting Mark Teixeira in the first round with the fifth overall pick.

Things have changed for the better. However, Hopkins remains mostly diplomatic in his evaluation of the players and talent available in this year's First-Year Player Draft.

"In my opinion, this is an average draft," Hopkins said. "I don't want to say it's weak, but I'm not going to say it's strong either. I think if you choose to take an infielder, you better take him early because pitching will be available throughout the draft. The arms are there."

But for how long? There will be 18 players selected before the Rangers get a chance to choose one. Who will be available?

"You have an idea of who will be there and who will be off the board when we pick," Hopkins said. "It's tough and a little difficult because different organizations have different agendas and draft differently. We have prepared for everything. Even though we pick at 19, we have scouted everybody and we know who is out there."

Indeed. The best man will win.

LAST THREE TOP PICKS

The Rangers have been pleased with the progress from the top picks in the last three First-Year Player Drafts.

The need for the past two seasons was pitching and the Rangers made strides in fulfilling that need by drafting left-hander John Danks with the first pick in 2003 and Diamond with the first pick last year. Both have shined at the lower levels and will be counted to provide depth in the organization in the future.

Infielder Drew Meyer, selected first in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, has overcome his initial struggles and regained favor in the organization. He has had injury problems and frustrated the organization with his physical fitness in the past.

Both are not problems anymore.

2004: Thomas Diamond, P, #10: A power pitcher, Diamond is 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA for the Bakersfield Blaze in High-A. He has allowed 37 hits and 20 walks while striking out 55 in 48.2 innings.

2003: John Danks, P, #9: Still developing physically, Danks is 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA for the Bakersfield Blaze in High-A. A 6-foot-2, 190 pound pitcher, Danks has given up 50 hits and 16 walks while striking out 53 in 57.2 innings.

2002: Drew Meyer, SS, #10: Meyer is hitting .316 with six doubles, one triple and 17 RBI so far this season with the Frisco Roughriders in Double-A. Additionally, Meyer has drawn 12 walks and struck out 19 times with four stolen bases.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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