Rangers won't fret over 'signability' this Draft

Rangers won't fret over 'signability' this Draft

Rangers won't fret over 'signability' this Draft
The Rangers will go into the 2011 First-Year Player Draft with all the usual objectives in play. They will look hard at both pitching and athletic, multi-talented position players, and they will look hard at drafting players from Texas.

They will not be afraid to gamble on high-ceiling athletes even if they do contain some risk rather than playing it "safe" with players who may not be quite as talented but considered more of a "sure thing."

Those have been fundamental principles guiding the Rangers through the draft over the past five years under general manager Jon Daniels. But there are a couple of other factors that have arisen in the past year that make this draft particularly intriguing for the Rangers.

First of all, their first pick won't be until the 33rd overall selection. That will be the latest for the Rangers since they took Colby Lewis with the 38th overall pick in 1999. They also have the 37th pick as part of compensation for losing Cliff Lee to free agency.

Draft Central

Secondly, the Rangers operate under new ownership that took control last August. A $15.5 million deal with Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin earlier this season showed how aggressive the new ownership can be when it comes to procuring highly-regarded amateur talent.

The Rangers, unlike other clubs, may not have to fret over "signability" as much this year as they had in past drafts, especially 2010. With the new ownership group in place, the Rangers may be able to use the 33rd or 37th pick to take a player who has dropped in the draft because of fears that clubs won't be able to sign him. Players represented by Scott Boras have a tendency to drop in the draft.

"Based on what has happened the past few years, we may be considering guys who slide back because of availability," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "I don't think we're going to have a multi-million-dollar player fall into our lap. We still look for value. But our philosophy is still to take the most talented player we can sign."

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging  your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Here's a glance at what the Rangers have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Rangers have the 33rd and the 37th pick in the draft. They lost the 26th overall pick to the Red Sox as compensation for Adrian Beltre, but gained the Phillies' pick and the fourth pick of the sandwich round as compensation for losing Lee.

The scoop
The Rangers often go heavy on pitching in the first round, but veered toward position players early last year. They had four of the first 49 picks in the 2010 draft and took three position players: outfielder Jake Skole, catcher Kelly Deglan and third baseman Mike Olt. The Rangers may be leaning toward restocking the system with more offense to balance out their pitching. But if they go for some college power pitchers, they could be interested in right-hander Anthony Meo of Coastal Carolina and left-handers Josh Osich from Oregon State and Chris Reed of Stanford. Two high school pitchers to watch are left-hander Henry Owens from Florida and right-hander Robert Stephenson from California.

First-round buzz
The Rangers, with their new ownership, could be in a position to take a player who slips in the draft due to signability issues. The player to watch is Dallas Jesuit Prepatory outfielder Josh Bell, who is represented by Boras. He is a gifted athlete with power. Two other high school players who could drop here are catcher Blake Swihart from New Mexico and outfielder Brandon Nimmo from Wyoming.

Shopping list
The Rangers, in the past few years, have an affinity for 1) power pitchers; 2) gifted athletes who can play up the middle at catcher, shortstop and center field; 3.) power-hitting corner infielders. They could use more offensive firepower in their system, and some college outfield bats that could help are Mikie Mahtook of LSU, George Springer from Connecticut and Jackie Bradley from South Carolina. There are also Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito, USC first baseman Ricky Oropesa and Utah first baseman C.J. Cron as players to watch.

Trend watch
The Rangers like to take players from Texas, but some of the best will likely be gone when they draft at 33: Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon and Texas pitcher Taylor Jungman. One possibility might be Texas A&M reliever John Stilson.

Recent Draft History

Rangers' recent top picks
Year Player Position Current team
2010 Jake Skole OF Hickory (A)
2009 Matthew Purke LHP Did not sign
2008 Justin Smoak 1B Mariners (MLB)
2007 Blake Beavan RHP Tacoma (AAA - SEA)
2006 Kasey Kiker LHP Myrtle Beach (A+)

Rising fast
Robbie Erlin, 20, was a third-round pick out of Scotts Valley (Ca.) High School in 2009 who won his debut in Double-A Frisco last Sunday. He was promoted after going 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts at Class A Myrtle Beach.

Cinderella story
Cody Eppley was a 43rd-round pick by the Rangers out of Virginia Commonwealth University. He was the Rangers Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and made his Major League debut this season. He pitched in 10 games with the Rangers and had an 8.00 ERA, but that's because he allowed six runs in one outing. Otherwise, he showed he can compete at the Major League level.

In The Show
First baseman Justin Smoak is the only other player from the Rangers' last three drafts who is currently in the Major Leagues, and he was sent to the Mariners in the Lee deal last July. The Rangers have had 12 first-round picks in the last nine years, and not one of them is in the Major Leagues with Texas.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.