Sean Bass of The Ticket, Michael Tepid of Lone Star Ball and I chatted this morning. Links in signature.
The Rangers lost 2018 4th-round righty Mason Englert to Detroit with the fifth pick of the Rule 5 draft.
Texas protected six at the 40-man deadline. Englert was seventh of 19 I mentioned in my November preview. What I wrote at the time: “I liked what I saw of Englert in person back in May, but he wasn’t on my crowded list of potential 40-man additions at the time. 13 consecutive no-hit innings and a promotion to AA later, he’s on my list. My potential list, not the final list. Englert has better control than most of his peers and a decent repertoire. A tough call. I’m leaning no, but he’s in a group of five or six pitchers in which I expect at least one to be added.”
An unfortunate (albeit perhaps temporary) loss for Texas. Englert is a well-rounded, genuine rotation candidate but doesn’t throw especially hard, has scant experience above high-A, and doesn’t seem the type you’d just toss into the bullpen, all reasons I thought his selection would be unlikely, if not remote. Best wishes to him.
Baseball America’s exhaustive Rule 5 preview mentioned four Rangers led by Antoine Kelly, the talented but erratic righty acquired in July for Matt Bush. Next on its initial list was a surprise to me in the form of reliever Grant Anderson, who I like but not enough to have mentioned in last month’s preview. Later, BA added 1B Blaine Crim and Englert. MLB.com’s shorter preview didn’t include any Rangers.
The Rangers declined to make a selection in the minor league phase of the draft, although they had room on their AAA reserve roster. They lost three, starting with high-A catcher Randy Florentino to the Orioles. Once fairly well regarded, Florentino’s bat didn’t make the trip with him from the Dominican Republic, although he hit better last year (.242/.332/.353). Next, the Dodgers nabbed OF Josh Stowers, acquired by Texas as part of the Rougned Odor trade. Stowers posted a 20/20 season in 2021 (.220/.311/.466) but traded half his homers for doubles last season (.222/.331/.374). Finally, the Twins selected righty swingman Seth Nordlin (2017, 13th round), who’d pitched effectively in a swing role for Frisco. Of the three, only Nordlin I half-expected to have been protected on the AAA reserve roster.
Texas was among the lucky contestants in the inaugural draft lottery instituted in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. To dissuade tanking, finishing with the worst record no longer guarantees the top pick in the draft, and every non-playoff team has a shot, from the 1-in-6 chances of Washington, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, to the 1-in-500 chance of Milwaukee. Texas had a 5.5% likelihood at the first-overall pick, slightly better odds than being dealt a blackjack from a fresh deck. The Rangers weren’t that lucky but managed to acquire the fourth pick despite the seventh-worst record. The Twins were the evening’s big winner, winning the fifth slot despite the 13th-worst record. Conversely, the A’s will pick two spots after the Rangers in 2023 despite their 102-loss season.
Critically, Texas’s draft pool money will increase as well. In 2022, the difference between the fourth and seventh picks was just shy of $1.3 million. That money may simply go to whoever Texas picks in that spot, but maybe some could be employed to coerce a later pick to forego college.
In the second and subsequent rounds, the draft order for non-playoff teams like the Rangers reverts to the old win-percentage method.
Baseball America already has a 2023 mock draft, placing Grand Canyon University SS Jacob Wilson wi the Rangers. If Texas wants a third consecutive Commodore, the choice would be OF Enrique Bradfield.
DeGrom / Heaney
For all the talk of Jake deGrom’s scary injury history, he’s actually thrown the 12th-most innings in baseball during the past nine seasons. (And struck out the third-most batters and accumulated the second-most wins above replacement.) Obviously, the recent history matters most, and I’m not remotely suggesting we should expect durability, but it’s not as though his entire career has been a struggle to stay on the field.
And when he’s on the field, well… sorry, had to dab the sweat off my forehead. 100th percentile SO rate, 99th percentile walk rate, 99th percentile fastball velocity, 97th percentile fastball spin, 93 MPH slider. deGrom has averaged 4.6 WAR per 150 innings. What popped into my head when I heard the news was something I wrote about Pudge Rodriguez back in my fantasy-writing days for ESPN. He’d missed roughly 100 games across 2000-2001, and estimating his draft value was a daunting task. My thought then was that 400 at-bats from Pudge plus 200 from a waiver-wire catcher was worth more than just about any other catcher. I think the same applies here. 120 innings (hopefully) from deGrom plus 60 from whoever’s pitching best in Round Rock (one of the Coles, perhaps) is more valuable than full seasons from most other starters.
Honestly, deGrom might pitch more innings than Andrew Heaney, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, has dealt with subsequent elbow trouble, and missed much of 2022 with shoulder trouble. Last year, Heaney ditched 100% of his curves and most of his changeups for a murderous slider that drew air in 44% of opposition swings. He remained extremely homer-prone, especially against righties. Globe Life will help some in that regard, but it isn’t the old Yankee Stadium with a 460’ deep left-center.
For now, the Texas pitchers who faced the second-most (Dunning) and third-most (Otto) opposing batters in 2022 appear to be outside the starting five. Given the risks of deGrom and Heaney, and of pitchers in general for that matter, Dunning might see little to no decline from last year’s 153 innings. As for Otto, how about a Taylor Hearn-like role?
RHP Nick Snyder became a free agent when the Rangers declined to offer him a contract. I’d noticed that when Texas churned through its minor league reserves down the stretch, Snyder was the only 40-man member with MLB experience not to get the call.
LHP Lucas Jacobsen topped my list of minor league free agents I’d like to return. The Rangers agreed, re-signing him last week.
RHP Drew Strotman remained a Giant after clearing waivers and briefly becoming a free agent. Earlier in 2022, The Rangers has previously claimed him off waivers from Minnesota and then tried to pass him through themselves.
Cleveland signed catcher Meibrys Viloria to a minor league deal.
Baltimore, as required by law, signed OF Nomar Mazara to a minor league deal.
Rule 5 Results, Draft, deGrom, Etc.