According to the 2012 edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook the Texas Rangers have the American League’s best farm system—second only to the Washington Nationals in all of Major League Baseball.
After two-straight AL Championships, even the national media is beginning to understand just how great the Texas Rangers are…yet they sometimes overlook the team’s outstanding farm system.
The secret is out: the Texas Rangers draft well.
Last year’s top picks, left-handed pitcher Kevin Matthews (33rd) and outfielder Zach Cone (37th) are already excelling in the minor leagues.
Both are teammates for Class A Hickory of the South Atlantic League. Matthews is flourishing in relief with an 11.2 K/9 ratio and a 2.25 ERA. Cone is starting to fulfill his power potential with 10 home runs and a .274 batting average.
For tomorrow’s First-Year Player Draft, the Texas Rangers have one first round pick (29th) and two compensatory picks in the supplementary portion of the first round (39th and 52nd.)
So now we move on to the fun stuff…
Who will the Rangers add to their elite farm system with their top three picks? Here’s how I would pick ‘em if the honor were mine:
Pick # 29
My pick: RHP Lucas Sims, High School (GA)
Sims, ranked as the 16th best High School prospect by Baseball America and 32nd in Keith Law’s top 100 is the rarest of elite preparatory pitchers: he has three pitches that grade as “plus.”
At 6’2” and 190 pounds, Sims has elite command of a fastball, slider and curveball. He also throws a straight changeup that needs quite a bit of refinement.
• His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and touches 98 MPH on occasion.
• He is athletic (a trait the Rangers have coveted recently) and has a quick arm with smooth and clean delivery thanks to sound mechanics.
• Has verbally committed to play baseball at Clemson next season, but it doesn’t look like signability will be an issue.
The only knocks on Sims are:
1. His body frame doesn’t look to be projectible; making him on the “smallish” side for a pitcher.
2. There’s a good chance he’ll be off the board before the Rangers’ 29th pick.
Backup Plan: Tanner Rahier, SS, High School (CA)
Pick # 39
My pick: Anthony Alford, High School (MS)
Alford is a two-sport stud that excels at football even more than he does on the diamond. Committed to play both sports at Southern Mississippi starting this fall, he has power that projects as “plus,” and 70-grade speed.
6’2” 210 pound outfielder was ranked as the 44th best High School prospect by Baseball America and is currently 48th on Keith Law’s Top 100.
• Typical of two-sport stars, Alford’s skills are raw but his projectable skill-sets are off the charts.
• He could become a superstar in the mold of a Matt Kemp or he could never figure it out and struggle a la a Greg Golson-type bust.
The knock on Alford:
1. He has vehemently expressed his intent to go to college; this has marked him as a slight risk with a high draft pick due to signability issues.
Backup Plan: Shane Watson, RHP, High School (CA)
Pick # 52
My pick: Hunter Virant, LHP, High School (CA)
Virant doesn’t come up on many mock draft sheets. It has nothing to do with a commitment to play at a particular college or injury issues. Virant, simply put, was a late-bloomer.
In fact, his fastball sat in the invisible-to-Division I-scholarship-offer-zone of the mid-to-high 80s until relatively recently.
Virant can touch the low 90s but the most intriguing thing about this young southpaw is his advanced command of a cutter that hovers around 85-88 MPH.
• At 6’3” tall and 175 pounds, Virant’s build predicts projectability as he matures. This could mean added zip to his fastball.
• As indicative of his cutter-command, Virant has an advanced approach for a preparatory pitcher. Guys like this tend to rise through the ranks of the minor leagues in a hurry.
The only knock on Virant:
1. The word is out on this guy…he might be gobbled up before the Rangers’ 59th pick.
Backup Plan: Jon Gray, RHP, University of Oklahoma