Texas has the fourth pick in the first round of the draft, which starts today at 6pm CDT. Given the apparent certainly regarding the three picks, you might be thinking Texas is once again unlucky, a la 2015, but the new lottery system actually bumped the Rangers three spots above their 7th-worst record from 2022. By all accounts, this draft is exceptionally strong. I’ve seen opinions that any of the top five likely picks would be a worthy 1-1 pick in an average class.
Listed are these five in order of increasing likelihood of availability when Texas chooses:
RHP Paul Skenes (age 21.1, 6’6”, 235, LSU) – Even with the inherent risks of pitchers, especially those with ultra-premium velocity, I haven’t seen Skenes dropping any lower than second. Steady upper-90s heat with plenty 100 and above, a comically hard-to-hit slider, a walk rate under 5%.
OF Wyatt Langford (21.7, 6’1”, 225, Florida) – Crews has been the “household” name for some time, but some prognosticators have Langford going first, at least in part because of Crews’ alleged eight-digit bonus demands. (Technically, Texas could pay Crews an even $10 million but would be drafting a lot of college seniors in rounds 4-10.) The loose consensus is that Langford might have a slightly higher offensive upside than even Crews. A downside of Langford is that his plus speed hasn’t translated to solid defense in the outfield. He’s played mostly in left.
OF Dylan Crews (21.4, 6.0”, 205, LSU) – The top 2023 draft prospect for a long time, placed on this planet to play baseball. A tremendous combination of contact and power, improving strike-zone command, speed, and defense improved enough to make CF a long-term possibility.
OF Max Clark (18.6, 6’1”, 190, high school, Franklin, IN) – The major publications may disagree on order, but all have the previous three players taken in the first three picks, although some have at least mentioned the possibility of someone else sneaking in. That very likely leaves Clark and Walker Jenkins as the top names left on the writers’ boards. Clark is a pure line-drive hitter with terrific speed that translates to the bases and center field. The power profile lags slightly, but a couple of guys Texas has drafted with less flashy power (Jung, Carter) have worked out just fine so far.
OF Walker Jenkins (18.4, 6’3”, 205, high school, Southport, NC) – Bigger and more powerful than Clark, maybe a little less contact but still strongly plus, a little slower and probably more suited to right field in the long run.
Predictions from people who do this for a living:
Baseball America (Carlos Collazo) – Jenkins
MLB.com (both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) — Clark
ESPN (Kirby McDaniel) – Clark
Athletic (Keith Law) – Clark
FanGraphs (Eric Longenhagen) – Clark
Now watch the Rangers go and pick Rhett Lowder or somesuch. Last year was a shock.
AAA: Round Rock 11, Sugar Land (HOU) 6
Round Rock: 16 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts
Record: 7-4, 2 GB, 51-34 overall
SP Spencer Howard: 2 IP, 3 H (3 HR), 3 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 48 P / 29 S, 5.68 ERA
RP Daniel Robert: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 4.87 ERA
RP Chase Lee: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 3.27 ERA
LF Bubba Thompson: 3-4, 2B, BB, .267/.380/.367
CF JP Martinez: 4-5, 2 2B, SB (25), .351/.467/.603
1B Dustin Harris: 2-2, 2B, 2 BB, 2 SB (5), .319/.467/.553
Someone asked about JP Martinez. After years in the .400-.450 range, JPM is now slugging .603, which i wouldn’t have thought possible even in a modest 47-game span. I’d say some his improvement is real and some is luck. Martinez is getting 1-0 counts at a much better rate than his peers, walking more, and striking out less. He’s maximizing his opportunities for success. On the other hand, Martinez’s median and top-range exit velocities are actually slightly below the average of all participants in Round Rock’s games.
In all the negative baskets I created for velo/angle groups — grounders, anything over 45 degrees, soft contact, and “hard but usually caught by an OF” — Martinez has exceptionally high batting averages. For example, he’s hitting .356 on grounders (excluding bunts and balls hit exceptionally hard at barely negative angles). The team is hitting .165. Sure, he’s fast, but even Bubba Thompson batted .194 on grounders last year. All told, Martinez is batting .453 on balls in play (that is, excluding homers and strikeouts), which doesn’t seem sustainable. Remember Joey Butler? I would need to dig into the data deeper, but I just can’t help but be skeptical of a .351/.467/.603 line from him.
Sugar Land is 4-13 against the Express and 35-51 overall with by far the worst run differential.
AA: Frisco 4, Midland (OAK) 16
Frisco: 10 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Opponent: 18 hits, 14 walks, 9 strikeouts
Record: 5-6, 3 GB, 36-43 overall
SP Noah Bremer: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 54 P / 33 S, 7.56 ERA
SS Thomas Saggese: 3-5, 2B, .317/.385/.518
1B Josh Hatcher: 2-4, HR (2), .308/.310/.487
14 walks, 249 pitches. Pitching coach Jon Goebel was run in the 7th after an argument with the plate ump at the end of a mound visit. Goebel is a firmly built 6’5″, and I personally would avoid arguing with him when possible.
Thomas Saggese has 354 plate appearances compared to last year’s 441. Assuming identical production, when Saggese equals last year’s trips to the plate he’ll have three fewer singles, identical numbers of doubles, triples, and homers, and 12 additional BB/HBP, all while playing almost entirely at a higher level. He’s having a whale of a season and doesn’t turn 22 until next April.
Danny Duffy didn’t allow a run of his own in one inning but issued three walks, that last of which plated a runner walked by Nick Starr. I was keen on Duffy’s signing, thinking he had a chance at the kind of season Dane Dunning is now: middle relief progressing to the rotation if (when) someone got hurt. At the All-Star break, Duffy has more walks than innings pitched in AA.
Hi-A: Hickory 1, at Winston-Salem (CHW) 16
Hickory: 6 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Opponent: 20 hits, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts
Record: 12-2, tied for first, 39-36 overall
SP Larson Kindreich: 1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 40 P / 22 S, 5.70 ERA
RP Yohanse Morel: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 2.51 ERA
1B Griffin Cheney: 1-2, HR (1), .174/.291/.239
Larson Kindreich has been bumped early in his last two starts, and five of his 16 appearances have failed to reach two innings. The jump from low to high-A doesn’t receive attention like AA, but the A levels aren’t interchangeable, and Kindreich is still finding himself after dominating at Down East last year.
Lo-A: Down East 1, at Kannapolis (CHW) 2
Down East: 6 hits, 1 walk, 14 strikeouts
Opponent: 6 hits, 2 walks, 12 strikeouts
Record: 8-6, tied for first, 45-30 overall
SP Leandro Lopez: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 SO, 70 P / 46 S, 3.60 ERA
RP Gavin Collyer: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 0.00 ERA
CF Anthony Gutierrez: 2-3, 2B, BB, .247/.307/.315
Leandro Lopez allowed fewer than two walks for only the second time this year, and in the other game he permitted six hits in 3.2 innings.
Five Years Ago Yesterday
Texas acquired OF Austin Jackson, reliever Cory Gearrin, and LHP Jason Bahr for cash. Texas quickly released Jackson, in the middle of a two-year, $6 million contract, and accepted Gearrin, who was a decent reliever but not of consequence on a team well under .500. The prize was Bahr, a 2017 5th-round pick who’d impressed in his first professional season. Bahr fared best in 2019 between high-A Down East and AA Frisco, but in 2021 at Round Rock he was dispatched to an oddly infrequent relief role fairly quickly. In July 2022 he was released and hasn’t played elsewhere.